CD Projekt RED are masters of telling captivating stories in richly realized worlds, stories that present players with tough choices and then change themselves in response in consistently surprising ways. With Cyberpunk 2077, it seems like years of their work are ready to culminate in their biggest and most ambitious game to date in more ways than one.
It’s looking like the open world RPG is going to emphasize choices in gameplay as much we it will in story- and we’re very excited to see how that turns out. But this is, after all, a CDPR game, and what we’re most looking forward to it the story itself, the world it is set in, the characters that inhabit it, the choices players will make, and the consequences that will rear their head. Based on everything that CDPR have said and shown of the game so far, it’s clear that there are more than a few reasons to be excited about Cyberpunk 2077’s storytelling potential, and in this feature, we’re going to talk about some of those biggest reasons.
THE CYBERPUNK UNIVERSE
As you no doubt already know, though Cyberpunk is making its introduction in the games industry this year, the property itself is significantly older- over thirty years, in fact. Based on Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop role playing game Cyberpunk and its future editions, Cyberpunk 2077 sees CD Projekt RED once again adapting a popular collection of works into a video game.
The connection to draw here is an obvious one, but it bears mentioning. This is a studio that has a history of doing that, and doing it with excellent success. The Witcher games are, of course, based on Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy series of the same name, and you don’t need us to tell you how excellently CDPR captured the spirit and feel of the books while creating their own stories on top of them. Cyberpunk’s universe, too, is rich and brimming with storytelling opportunities, and we’re excited to see what CDPR will do with it.
We already spoke about Cyberpunk 2077’s Life Paths in our recent feature focusing on the gameplay side of things of the upcoming RPG, but as we mentioned then, this is a part of the game that effects the whole game- a perfect blend of storytelling and gameplay, inextricably linked and constantly feeding each other. With its three Lifepaths – Corporate, Street Kid, Nomad – Cyberpunk 2077 is giving you so much control over its story.
For starters, the way the story will begin will be completey different- your character will have a different life, a different background, operate in different circles, know different people, and live in different parts of the time based on what your Lifepath is. This, naturally, will affect future choices and events as well, which means that the ripple effect continue to get stronger and stronger as the game progresses. With all of these differences, Cyberpunk 2077 might also ensure that with each of these three Lifepaths, you get a completely different perspective on the story and its main players, on your sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. There’s an incredible amount of potential that CDPR can tap into here, if only they execute it as well as it should be, and so far, we’re quite optimistic.
This was a choice by the developers that proved to be a little controversial for a while after it was first revealed, but it seems most people have either accepted it or actually grown to understand it. Since day 1, CD Projekt RED have emphasized time and again how important immersion is to the whole Cyberpunk 2077 experience, how they want to completely transport players to Night City.
One of the biggest and most immediate ways they’re doing that is by making the entire game playable through a first person perspective. No matter what you’re doing, whether you’re in a cutscene or gameplay, Cyberpunk 2077 will always be a first person game, which is a rather significant change in direction for CDPR after The Witcher trilogy. Only when you’re driving vehicles in this game will you get to look at the world from a third person perspective.
Cyberpunk 2077 will, of course, present you with dialogue choices to make regularly, which will be how you will, for the most part, interact with and shape the story, leading to one of several multiple endings. That’s par for the course, not just for CDPR, but for a game in this genre. What’s exciting, instead, is the changes CD Projekt RED are making to this system, and the potential that those tweaks have.
One of these tweaks leverages the game’s new first person perspective to full effect. Even in the middle of cutscenes you can control V and have them look around, which means you’re never really in a completely static cutscene where camera control is taken away from you. Players will always have the option of looking around, observe the environment, perhaps be on the lookout for potential trouble. Best of all, you might also get new dialogue choices based on what you see and what you’re doing, which themselves could take the conversation and the scene in new directions.
World building is an area where CD Projekt RED have always exhibited excellent talent, so like with many other things, we’re all going in to Cyberpunk 2077 with our expectations high. Cyberpunk settings are usually extremely rich and fascinating, and the Cyberpunk universe itself is richer than most. And based on everything we’ve seen of Cyberpunk 2077 so far, it seems like it’s looking to capture to vastness, the variety, and the depth of that universe perfectly.
Night City itself looks like an encapsulation of that, divided into six unique districts that each have their own distinct identities. The City Center is the heart of Night City, home to luxury, the most powerful and influential people, and all the megacorporations. Watson is a district full of markets and bazaars and populated by immigrants. Heywood is a massive suburban housing district, and the place where the most socially influential people of the city usually find themselves. Santo Domingo is the industrial part of town, full of power plants that power all of Night City. Westbrook is a tourist attraction, a place where the wealthy go to flaunt their riches. Pacifica is considered the most dangerous part of town, abandoned by most and overrun by gangs and criminals. Finally, there are the Badlands, a desert that surrounds Night City, which you will also be able to explore (and even start the game in, if you pick the Nomad Lifepath).
Given how vast and varied Night City is clearly going to be, it’s not surprising that the city is also full of various different factions with unique motivations and story, all vying for control. V will have run ins with several gangs scattered throughout the city, from the Maelstrom in Watson, to the Voodoo Boys in Pacifica, to the 6th Street Gang in Heywood and Santo Domingo, to many others.
Each of these will come with their own quests, of course, and it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that that leaves room for a ton of interesting conflict. As V works more and more with these gangs, each of whom will be trying to further their own interest, there will be potential for not only captivating individual and isolated stories, but larger ones where multiple of these factions might come into conflict with each other.
Gangs won’t be the only different factions that you’ll be crossing paths with in Cyberpunk 2077. Like any other cyberpunk setting, Night City is full of corporations and megacorporation that exert more influence and have more power than they should. Militech is an organization that, as its name suggests, specializes in weapons manufacturing and private military contracting. Trauma Team International provides rapid medical response services. Rayfield makes high-end supercars, while ARCH is a motorcycle manufacturer.
Then there’s Arasaka, the megacorporation that seems to be at the top of the food chain. Arasaka will clearly be heavily involved in the game’s story as well- the company is on the lookout for the Relic, an old “chip of immortality”, which is what essentially leads V to Johnny Silverahand. In fact, if you pick the Corporate Lifepath, you’ll start out as an Arasaka agent in the megacorporation’s tower. Similar to gangs, there’s a lot of potential for telling unique stories here, so we’re excited about how CD Projekt RED will uses these corporations to bring players deeper into the world of Cyberpunk 2077.
This, of course, is something that we’re guessing at more than anything else- you never really know how well a game is paced until you play and finish it. But CD Projekt RED seem to be willing to take a look back at their previous work and pinpoint the areas where they could have improved. The Witcher 3, for instance, was an incredibly long game and could take players dozens of hours to finish, if not more. That means there were many who never did finish it- which is something CDPR are looking to address with Cyberpunk 2077.
Speaking during the post-show of September’s Night City Wire episode, senior quest designer Patrick K. Mills had this to say about Cyberpunk 2077’s main story and its length: “We do know that the main story run in Cyberpunk 2077 is slightly shorter than The Witcher 3 because we got a lot of complaints about Witcher 3’s main story just being too long. Looking at the metrics, you see tremendous numbers of people played through that game really far, but never made it to the end. We want you to see the full story, so we did shorten the main story, but we have lots to do. And in terms of a completionist campaign, I just don’t have that number.”