Game experience: Cyberpunk 2077


Cyberpunk title screen.

Oh, wow! This one is late! I've been sleeping on writing this post for quite some time. The original plan was to get to it right after finishing the game, still fresh in memory. But, as you can see, it didn't work out.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a long-awaited second coming of Christ from CDProjekt Red, a well-known and well-regarded developer behind The Witcher series. Or ex-well-regarded developer, since Cyberpunk changed everything. Mostly for worse.

In CP77 we play as a character named V, so similarly to The Witcher, we are a specific person within the game, and not a completely custom one. This time, though, we can select gender, looks, life path and a couple of other details about V. Customisability of our character is mediocre at best, and, once done, can not be changed. Apparently all of the barber shops in Night City have gone out of business.

Depending on our life path choice, the game will begin with a different introduction. Corporate, Street Rat and Nomad paths are very different from each other, and each is interesting in it's own way. Unfortunatelly, (spoilers :P) they do not matter at all. Aside from about 30 minute at the beginning of the game, there is barely any difference. Once we are out of the prologue, the game always presents player with the same cutscene and lands V in the same place.

The first mission of the game is the same one, that has been presented in the early gameplay reveals. It is a well-polished part, that gives the player quite a lot of choice and freedom in how to approach enemies and challenges. It also introduces player to many game mechanics and provides some starting equipment. However, even these first moments are not bug-free, as I encountered unpickable items as soon as I started this mission.

Ah, bugs. Yes, I know bugs, I do CP77 bugs all the time. After this first mission, the game experience goes downhill very quickly. The chace scene that happens afterwards is heavily scripted, and not very pleasent to play. After that, the introduction to the open world begins, and all of the bugs start showing up. Now, to be honest, my playthrough was, relatively, bug-free. I have spent nearly 140 hours and finished the game to about 90%-95%. Throughout this time, I have not encountered any gamebreaking bugs. But I know, that many players (my friends included) did. Your milage with this game may vary.

Gameplay of Cyberpunk is actually solid. There are many skills to be learned, many weapons to be found (and crafted), and tons of story and side missions to go through. Unfortunatelly, most of it feels very unfinished. Skill trees are filled with simple stat boosts, and most of them does not matter. Weapons are pretty uninspired, even the iconic ones - there are only a few, that you will actually remember. AI is trash-tier, with people on the streets barely being able to follow a path, while Police does absolutely nothing, aside from spawning behind your back (no matter where you are!) when you commit a crime.

Inventory UI is clunky, fills quickly with trash, and can give you a headache. There is no transmog system, so, if you want to wear gear with best stats, your V will look like a clown. It gets a bit better later on, when you get legendary quality items, as they tend to look better and go togheter somewhat. But don't expect to look great, unless you sacrifice stats. Also, since the loot is completely randomised, expect to sit and re-roll items a lot in order to get good versions.

You can also craft items. Or you could, if crafting system made any sense. Every item, that you find, you can either sell to a vendor, or dismantle and get crafting materials. You can also buy these materials, or find them in boxes littering the city. Vendors and boxes will also supply you with blueprints. With these items you can craft yourself a new weapon or gear, or upgrade the ones you are using. So far so good. Issues start, when player wants to craft something, that is actually better, than currently used gear. For whatever reason, a sensible item requires materials, that are one grade higher in quality, than the quality of the item itself. Meaning, that you have to dismantle higher quality guns, in order to make a lower quality one. Or you can buy these materials, but that will ruin your bank account very quickly. By the time you can craft a single rare quality gun, you will be swimming in epic ones, and probably have one or two legendaries as well.

Main story is actually pretty good, even if it's not up to my taste. Not very long, but with a lot of flavour. There are many side missions, that branch out of the main story, though their impact on the ending is not that big (aside from one side branch). It does really look like there was some grander thing in mind of the developers, but they just ran out of time. This is also very much visible in another type of mission - gigs. Gigs are like herpies, that open world games get ever since Ubisoft went to town with their formula. Night city is littered with them, and they are all just uninspired copy-paste things, with little to no variation.

The map itself is huge, and very, VERY detailed. No wonder CDPR spent 8 years on this game. I think it took at least 4 years just to place all the trash on the streets. City is pleasent to look at and explore (unless you run into bugs and holes in terrain). There are many districts, each with unique architecture and gangs. And, while gangs are mostly just a reskin and does not matter at all who oyu fight, districts themselves have a nice feel to them. You can find truly amazing vistas, provided that your PC can handle the high settings (and I feel sorry for PS4/XBO players). Driving around the city is fun as well, especially when you get nice cars and bikes. Only if the GPS was fixed, because, as it is now, once you realise you need to take a turn, you are already two blocks past, and sliding sideways into a wall.

Cyberpunk is supposed to be an RPG game, but it has relatively little to show as one. You can't talk with people you meet on the streets. You can't have any meaningful dialog with NPCs unless it is for active mission. Your build choices don't have huge impact on how you approach obstacles in missions (it does have huge impact on combat though). Being a gunslinging solo, a hacky netrunner, or gorilla-armed melee brawler does very little for the story and missions. You can hack some stuff here and there, or force open a door, or fix a broken window shutter, but it does not feel like it matters.

In my playthorough I decided to be a stealthy, non-lethal hacker. But the game does not reward you for choosing this kind of more difficult path whatsovers. Being non-lethal does not change a thing (aside from gigs where you are to take someone alive), but makes things more challanging. There were places, that could only be accessed by high strenght, or only by high tech skill, or only by hacking. No alternatives offered. And good luck with the boxing side-missions if you don't invest in strenght.

I had very high hopes, that CP77 would be the next Deus Ex - a game I'm replaying now, and still enjoy greatly. Despite an open world, it has barely any freedom of choice that the old grandpa game had. Levels for the main story usually offer alternative paths to do stuff, but that's it. Open world is just too big and too open for the devs to be able to provide same level of diversity. The faux-open, well crafted, linear maps of Deus Ex were built with all of that in mind, but CP had no chance in this department. In my opinion, CP should not have had a full-size city map at all, as it hurt it more than helped - prevented devs from focusing on what mattered the most - alternatives and choices.

Overall, I still think Cyberpunk 2077 is a decent game. The story is interesting, characters are well written, and there are some truly amazing moments. If you have a powerful PC (sorry consoles :P) and are willing to overlook some issues, you can have great time with this game. Maybe some patches are going to fix it in the future, although, so far, it is not looking good.