Review: Glitchpunk – Do Androids Dream Of Early Access?

Glitchpunk is a top-down action game with a neon-soaked cyberpunk aesthetic and a whole boatload of technical shortcomings. Developed by Polish studio Dark Lord and published by Daedalic Entertainment, it derives inspiration from games like Grand Theft Auto 2 in terms of its perspective and gameplay mechanics. You assume the role of an android bounty hunter who is immediately given the role of “special debt contractor”, which is basically the game’s way of telling you to start taking on contracts for money/upgrades. You’ll be interacting with several different gangs with their own stories and quest lines along the way, and how you approach these tasks can influence the ending you get, giving the game a sense of non-linearity to its progression.

Before I go further, let me make it absolutely clear that this game is in early access at the time of writing this, and my thoughts merely reflect its current state. There’s only one playable city at the moment with three more in the pipeline, and several crucial features in the works like autosaving. It is with this in mind that I say that it might be for the best to wait for these updates before picking this game up. Glitchpunk isn’t completely unplayable, but it’s a technical mess that’s constantly seeking to undermine it’s more engaging elements.

But first, let’s talk about the good stuff. Glitchpunk’s presentation is amazing. The combination of 2D sprites with 3D environments gives the game a distinct look, and the lighting and texture work create an intoxicatingly moody atmosphere. I’m pretty sure I spent the first hour of the game just wandering around New Baltia, soaking in my surroundings and admiring the rundown architecture. It’s not a large map, but it doesn’t need to be. There aren’t a ton of things to do at the moment, but the town is filled with plenty of weapon shops and item stores to check out, and in true Grand Theft Auto fashion you’re free to unload on everything to see how high you can get your wanted level up.

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You don’t receive the warmest welcome upon entering the city.

Glitchpunk’s sound design is also worth mentioning, as it goes a long way in wrapping the presentation in a neat little bow. Droning synths, ringing church bells, and the general ambience of vehicles and townspeople mix into a potent cocktail of excellent sound design. It can be a little overwhelming sometimes, especially by what feels like the hundredth church bell, but I truly think it works wonders in bringing the city to life. There are a couple of radio stations to cycle through while driving, but most of the music didn’t quite land for me and I found a lot of the skits to be downright obnoxious.

Mechanically, Glitchpunk is a pretty standard top-down action game. There are a multitude of guns to play around with and they all sound and feel good. The driving takes some getting used to but once you get acclimated to the controls it’s not so bad either. As you progress through the game, you can get modules to equip your character with that can improve stats and grant new abilities. One of the first modules I received allowed me to hack other citizens to induce frenzy in them, which can come in handy when cops are on your tail and you need a quick distraction. This also resulted in a particularly hilarious instance when a frenzied person didn’t do that at all and turned on me instead. It’s little things like that where I really appreciate the moment-to-moment gameplay and the calamity that often erupts from a mission going horribly wrong.

Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of my praise stops. Although Glitchpunk has a lot going for it, it’s constantly undercut by a myriad of performance issues and glitches (and not the cool cyberpunk kind). One of the most consistent issues I encountered was the framerate degrading over time. Exiting out of the game and restarting seemed to fix the issue, but the fact that it happened so consistently is a huge problem that I hope is addressed soon. I experienced a handful of crashes and numerous instances of clipping into buildings and glitching through environments, forcing me to exit out completely and restart. A particular escort mission had to be repeated over and over because the escortee kept getting stuck (although running into them would sometimes get them unstuck). I could keep going and list every single problem but that would necessitate its own article. I imagine you get the point now though—Glitchpunk is a bit of a mess, and it’s bad enough to completely derail an otherwise enjoyable game.

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You’ll be interacting with all sorts of unique characters on your journey.

What makes these issues worse is the lack of an autosave feature. It seems like such a blatantly obvious thing to have in your game from the beginning, but it’s not here and it’s utterly baffling. You can save manually by going to your hideout, but imagine hauling over there as fast as you can while the framerate steadily plunges into the lower 20s, hoping for the best that the game doesn’t crash before you get a chance to save your progress, and you’ll see why an autosave feature is so important. As of writing this review, it’s on the way, and I really hope it’s sooner rather than later.

I can’t help but emphasize this, but Glitchpunk is in early access, so a lot of the issues I have with this game thus far could be resolved. As of now, however, I can’t really recommend it. And it pains me to say that, because this game is absolutely brimming with potential. I have faith that we’ll see a lot of improvements and additions over the course of the next few months, but for now you might want to consider indulging in your cyberpunk addiction elsewhere.

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2 years ago

Is it April the 1st?