When we think about the term RPG, that is the role-playing game, often we think about mechanics over the more personal. Statistical considerations, abilities with numbers attached, as opposed to where you are and what stories you’ll discover. In catch-all genre terms Cyberpunk 2077
is the latest RPG from CD Projekt RED
, the talented studio behind the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Witcher
series of games.
As its title suggests it shifts the setting to the not-so distant future of the year 2077, and a digital world bathed in the neon glow of a bustling retro-future metropolis where corporations and gangs vie for control. Here, flying cars are real and augmenting both your physical and mental attributes with a little cybernetic boost is but a quick visit to your local tech dealer. It’s a fantastical world; escapism at its best. But like any world, it still needs management.
With a story taking place in and around Night City, in Cyberpunk 2077 you take control of V, an agnostic avatar with the “V” name perhaps being ironical to the devs, but importantly you still craft who
you are based on dynamic RPG rules, and in Cyberpunk 2077 this aspect alone is a bit different.
Choose Your Upbringing
We mentioned The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
and all previous entries from series-handler, and best New Kid on the self-management Gaming Block, or the “Donny” of gaming, CD Projekt RED. What’s different this time around is in antithesis to how the studio lauded their previous efforts -- “The World Doesn’t Need a Hero, it Needs a Professional”. That marketing line rang truest in The Witcher, because you played as an established character with a full backstory. In Cyberpunk, however, you are master of your origins domain.
You take control of V, an agnostic avatar with the “V” name perhaps being ironical to the devs, but importantly you still craft who you are based on dynamic RPG rules, and in Cyberpunk 2077 this aspect alone is a bit different.
In the truest RPG sense, you create your character; male, female, binary, fluid… the choice is yours. But expansive to this oldest of gaming options for the truly hardcore out there, is a prefabricated starting point. You can choose between three distinct cultural allegiances. And these will reflect your starting point in the game. If you consider another very popular RPG series, The Elder Scrolls
, your intro regardless of allegiance was always the same. Your story started *here*. In Cyberpunk 2077, depending on said allegiance you start elsewhere, and your path to becoming a Cyberpunk in the year 2077 is unique and different not only based on all of the above, but also on decisions you make along the way. In many ways, this opens the massive game up to replayability -- a slice of design brilliance that will no doubt keep eager Nomads, Street Kids or Corpos coming back for more.
Choose Your Allegiance
In deeper divulgence of the above, you align yourself with a part of Night City that will define your experience through it. This isn’t binary, either. And you don’t have to blow up Megaton to get a unique playthrough based on in-game decisions. Your friends, your stature and more will all be defined by your decision-making. It’s not a “you get X-amount of endings” kind of game. Your entire journey is dynamic, but you drive it. And that’s the hardcore clincher for Cyberpunk 2077. Here’s a world with rules, hierarchies and multiple paths. It’s cosmetic and specific all at once, and all over the shop when it’s not, and the complexity of that multilayered statement is intentional, and serves as a metaphor for the full gaming journey in front of you.
You don’t have to blow up Megaton to get a unique playthrough based on in-game decisions. Your friends, your stature and more will all be defined by your decision-making.
But let’s talk about “specifics” while we’re here. Choosing the Nomad Lifepath nets you a beginning outside of Night City. One of a rural-esque upbringing where the only real neon you ever saw was off in the distance; a mirage masquerading as an oasis of opportunity. As a Nomad, your entry into the dynamic world we’ve so emphatically emblazoned above is different, and sets a tone unlike the one you’ll face when you finally fire up the old dust bucket and set your sights on towering success.
As a Street Kid though, you’re a savvy on-the-feet-thinker. Heywood was your stomping ground, and the mean streets of this cultural mishmash shaped you as someone not only connected to the pavement, but capable of listening to it. A sort of “streets whisperer”, if you will. Loyalty was, and is, akin to royalty. But at a defined price -- who and what you know is privileged and this either gives you an edge, or draws a moat around your perceived castle of knowledge.
Of course, what skyward-stretching metropolis wouldn’t be complete without the funds and smarts to Jack your way to the cyber-heavens? Corpos, or the “Corporate Lifepath” choice, sees you as a knife ready to be thrust into the first, most convenient sycophant in your way. The sky’s literally limitless in this life trajectory, but the foundations of your onward journey are built on lies, mistrust, secrets and chrome-coated backscratchers. There’s no alliance or ‘backup’ in a Corpo world. And the bigger issue beyond dealing with the idea you’re essentially on your own is -- can you even trust the person reflected in the mirror?
Having had the privilege of chatting to lead quest designer
for Cyberpunk 2077, Paweł Sasko
, we’re acutely across the dynamic and emergent ‘structure’ of life in Night City. Nomad, Street Kid or Corpo choices won’t stop the city’s heart beating, and within that beat exists stories for your engagement. These aren’t main story missions, and they’re entirely optional, but Night City is a living, breathing organism. And like your real-world balance of white and red blood cells, requires care and attention.
These aren’t main story missions, and they’re entirely optional, but Night City is a living, breathing organism.
What the Street Stories do is flesh out the world. There’s no point rising to the top of a Corpo-driven lifestyle if you don’t know what you’re treading on in the first place, right? And as Sasko explained to us exclusively “when I'm walking around here and there; when I talk to this guy, suddenly something happens that wouldn't be happening otherwise”, adding “[so] suddenly something happens and that takes them to a quest that has its own story with a smaller resolution, and so on. [And we do this] to show how lively the world is”.
In short, Night City is more than just neon signs, depressing news and RTX-driven shaders, colours, reflections, refractions and ambient particles. It’s a place full of life to explore, but in equal and balanced part; life to engage, change and enliven your own experience.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
An outlier idea within taking Cyberpunk into the first-person realm is that CD Projekt RED has remained true to its RPG roots. In the simplest of terms, this means a headshot in Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t an instant kill, instead the values attributed to you, your skill and ability tree, your aforementioned alignment, your weapon and your twitch or controller skill make the overall outcome happen in the quality measurement you’re hoping for. It’s not a bad thing, but Call of Duty
-like punters should go in aware of this. That CD Projekt RED is even considering a multiplayer option down the track with such a system in place is kind of interesting, but what all of this means is they’re confident in the systems and algorithms they set in place.
That CD Projekt RED is even considering a multiplayer option down the track with such a system in place is kind of interesting, but what all of this means is they’re confident in the systems and algorithms they set in place.
However, none of the above is to suggest the game’s action lean is in any way based on the roll of a dice. Instead, the way to consider this is investment: how you consider the value of your gainables and distributables and what that means for your personal play experience. You might never have played a pen and paper RPG, and that’s fine. But Cyberpunk comes from that world, but a good GM and DM (Game Master and Dungeon Master, respectively) in a P&P run will leverage each person’s investment to dynamically craft an experience reflective of both the world and its players. An RPG isn’t a skill-tree, it’s an experience, and CDPR has you covered here, without taking away from a personal jaunt through the world -- just remember, the streets finds its use for numbers.
Cyberpunk 2077 is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. It’s also be playable on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles. Content provided by Swear Jar Editorial and Media.