Glitchpunk was described to me by one of its creators at Dark Lord as being like Cyberpunk 2077, but not as hopeful, and I wasn’t sure how to even begin computing that. The game has all the trappings of the dark alternate future common to cyberpunk, with dim lighting contrasted by spots of bright neon. It’s a world where “all the bad things already happened,” say the developers, and it looks like it’s trying to be a commentary on social issues — trying very hard, in fact.
I got a chance to see gameplay footage of Glitchpunk thanks to Daedalic Entertainment, and it was intriguing. You play an android roaming the world, seeking to destabilize the world order by joining various gangs. You have something called the “glitch” that allows you to go against your programming. The game explores stories about “transhumanism, xenophobia, and religion as well as an all too human story about relationship, self-discovery, and betrayal” according to its Steam page — and if at any point that becomes too much for you, you can grab the nearest car and start driving all around the city in a frenzy of chaos.
Gameplay is very much like in Grand Theft Auto 2, almost to the level of evocation. You steal cars, commit crimes, interact with NPCS — all from a strictly top-down perspective. Doing the crime will raise your wanted level, which will make police chase you all over the city. You can listen to in-game radios accompanied by wacky fake ads. Your character can hack devices and evade people in a manner the developers said was superficially similar to Watch Dogs. Players can upgrade their modules, which give them special abilities and increase their skills.
The game is heavily inspired by the likes of classic cyberpunk fiction like Blade Runner, Transmetropolitan, and Ghost in the Shell, and it shows. The world of GTA2 might provide a template for that of Glitchpunk, but developer Dark Lord felt it lacked social commentary, which is what it’s adding with Glitchpunk. The developers also say the story is about “regret, failure, and toxic relationships,” which sounds like it might be trying to cover too many different societal ills at once. Toxic relationships, transhumanism, xenophobia, betrayal — the combat better be even more fun than it looks, because otherwise the game might be too much of a downer to play for long.
What caught my attention was the fact that the game developers claim it has a sprawling, branching narrative. There are 12 gangs across the four major cities you can hang out in, and you can side with any of them, which will change the way your story plays out. You can make several different allies within the gangs and potentially even start romantic relationships.
The branches won’t be incredibly deep, but your choices do have immediate consequences and affect the missions you can play. At the end of every gameplay episode, you’ll have to handle some kind of a crisis that results from your choice. This choice unlocks several different chapter endings.
If you’re interested in top-down Grand Theft Auto 2-style combat and car chases, Glitchpunk looks like it was made specifically to scratch that itch. If that doesn’t really float your boat, I’m not sure you’re going to get much out of it. It looks like it wants to tell an expansive story about a dark alternate future, and hopefully it can. It may be worth checking out if you want a cyberpunk-style story and the recent Cyberpunk 2077 was a little too bright for you.