Alex Birlo on January 1, 2021

After the Hype: Cyberpunk 2077 – Game Review

It’s Alex from Write Gaming and this is my review of “Cyberpunk 2077”.

Here I will talk to you about the state the game is in at the moment I am posting the review.

I’m not going to talk to you about how it was just last month when it was released – except for the fact that it was plagued by horrendous bugs on lesser rigs – and I am not going to advocate for future fixes and DLCs.

Only what is here and now, and how I personally felt about the game.

Long story short – it is much better than what you might have been led to believe.

Time to finish

I reached my first ending in 54 Hours. But, as you might have expected, this time also includes exploration and “sidequesting”.

The main story is pretty short and can be finished in around 20 hours if you rush it. There are minimal barriers to that, and you do not have to necessarily farm gear and skills to be able to simply complete the story.

But the bulk of the game is actually in the major “Side Jobs”, which are stories that involve characters you have met in the main quests and deepen your relationship with them.

I finished almost all of these quests, and thus got 54 hours by the first time the credits rolled.

Story

The story of the game unfolds in a universe based on a pen and paper RPG currently called “Cyberpunk Red”.

It is the year 2077 and our world went through several major military conflicts, nuclear disasters, hazardous climate change and devastating economic crises.

But along with it, humanity continued to enjoy immense technological progress, that allowed it to adapt and overcome most of the problems humans wrecked upon themselves.

You play in Night City, an autonomous megacity, located on the territory of a currently somewhat “divided States of America”.

A city free of conventional governmental control. Where corporations are above the law and the people are merely considered as “labor units” and “product consumers”.

It is from the chaos and moral decay of this city that legends are born and… also where they are buried.

You play as a mercenary named V. And at the start of the game, you choose a “life path”.

It influences your starting point in the world, the first hour of story and unique dialogue options based on your past life experiences.

The life paths are so different, that you feel like an entirely different person depending on the choice: Corpo, Street Kid or Nomad.

But regardless of the life path you choose, you end up at a point where you become a mercenary picking up on a dangerous job.

The operation goes wrong, and you end up with an experimental chip in your head. This chip has a digitized copy of Jonny Silver-hand, an anti-corporate, anarchist rocker that died a couple decades ago.

Your relationship with Jonny and the attempts to get rid of the chip, becomes the moving force behind the entire experience.

Jonny Silver-hand is well written and played by Keanu Reeves. While not the best of his performances, his voice and presence give everything the “final touch”.

He can be a total ass, he can be aggressive, provoke you, mess with you while you try to talk to someone, bicker with you, but he can also be a real sweetheart sometimes.

I don’t care what anyone says – without Keanu, this game wouldn’t be complete!

When I wasn’t distracted by bugs, I would sit there for hours on straight, so focused on the game that I would forget how long I played or that it’s gotten dark outside.

I would not attribute this to the plot twists or the game’s difficulty. But to this world and the subtle writing that they exhibited here.

Everything is so believable, while characters are all like real people, with “faults and wants and needs”.

Some were flat out crazy, but still felt like they could be a real person. The way each has their own lexicon, demeanor, and quirks, coupled with the solid voice acting, brings every one of them to life.

The way they talk and walk and think, all demonstrate some past, present and future for each of them.

But I think I’ll stop here, because I feel like I start to oversell the writing and the characters. What I want to say is simply that what they did here – I liked – a lot.

Now, in terms of structure, the story goes this way:

You have your Main Story quests: which are the big and awesome sequences that progress the story towards its end point.

Then you got your Side Jobs: which, as I already mentioned, focus on individual characters you have met in the main quests and develop your relationship with them.

It is here where you will find most of your friends and potential love interests in the game.

Which is why I would not recommend skipping them. Since it is where you will get the bulk of your gameplay, not the main story – because yes, they are totally skippable.

And then there are “Gigs”: which are small ops you run for various Fixers around the city.

These have minimal conversations and can take between 10 and 15 minutes to complete, but are a good source of money and EXP.

World

The immersion is ridiculous! Despite all the bugs in the first two days after release.

Which let me tell you – until CDPR fixed them, ruined everything there was to experience.

One of the cornerstones of the world design in Cyberpunk, is that you are dropped into a world that feels like it was already going on long before you created a character.

Every one acts like V grew up in this world, like he or she had a life there.

Everything works like it already has a function, and everyone walks like they have “somewhere to go”.

Puts into perspective how other open worlds, nowadays, feel as though they started operating only when you walked in. As though people started talking only when you entered the room.

This game is a great improvement on all the aspects we love about first person, open world RPGs with world-shaping choices. The kind Bethesda used to do.

That’s kind of the reason why, when I started playing Cyberpunk, I felt almost the same vibes to the first time I entered Skyrim.

The open world has a classic structure, that divides the city into sections, which all have their unique atmosphere and NPCs.

But this structure has a twist that ties it into the gameplay.

Each section is an area of influence, that is contested by unique gangs.

And each area has its own Fixer – a person that will give you work on his or her territory depending on your “Street Cred”. The more famous of a mercenary you become in Night City, the more often fixers will trust you with complex jobs.

When it comes to how detailed or original are these quests, CDPR got you covered as well.

As soon as you enter the city you will be overwhelmed with content. Every corner has a well written and unique story.

There is so much to do, that you never feel like there is a moment when the city doesn’t want something from you!

Gameplay

Let us now cover the mechanical specifics of the moment-to-moment gameplay.

This game makes a perfect job creating a world where it is not all shootin’ and lootin’.

The world of Cyberpunk has layers, there is a society with which you have to interact. And do so in many ways.

From smooth talking hookers with extra conversation options from your “Cool” stat, to getting a techie character to like you with extra conversation options from your “Technical Ability” stat.

Or, making it easy to pass through a tough spot by having high hacking skills, and breaking into someone’s home, because you can pick the complex lock on the window.

These mechanics, while not particularly revolutionized in any way, are all here from other similar games you love and double the amount!

Skill progression:

You have 5 main attributes: Body, Reflexes, Technical Ability, Intelligence and Cool.

Each of these have their own subcategories, that are divided into perk trees.

When you accumulate experience and level up, you gain one attribute point and one perk point which you can freely assign.

The Attributes – influence how many perks in their subcategories are open for you to choose from. But also influence the availability of additional dialogue options, that are changing your interactions with NPCs.

While the Perks – are passive improvements to your capabilities. Such as faster reloads with pistols and revolvers, or additional materials when you dismantle items for parts.

But there is an even deeper layer – each subcategory has its own skill progression level.

For example: the more you use hacking while playing, the higher your netrunning “skill progression level” becomes, which in turn gives a percentage increase to the duration that your hacks are active for.

And so it goes for all things you do, depending on your preferred play-style.

I found that the game shines best when you mainly focus on a specific archetype, in leveling your character and being a badass in that specific area.

Because then, you are sure to get all the special and difficult skill checks on additional conversation options in that area, and it also defines your fighting style.

Cyberware:

One other important aspect of gameplay is the cyberware that is so iconic to the genre.

There is not a lot of cyberware in terms of functionality. There are less than a dozen or so types and then only their different rarities, which influence modding capacity and stats.

You can finish the entire game with minimum cyberware, just with skills and equipment. But I highly recommend actually caring about it, because when they all come together in gameplay it is amazing.

Jumping to the roof with bionic legs, or ripping open a door with crazy unfolding hands that give you superhuman strength.

Controls:

What I liked, is that despite this being CDPR’s first attempt at a first-person game, they knew exactly what “quality of life” additions they had to make, in order to satisfy FPS players.

They did a lot of little things to compensate for the lack of spatial awareness that comes with the first-person perspective.

Like for example the option to peek behind corners to mark or shoot enemies, or automatically raising your gun over cover to shoot when aiming.

The shooting itself, by the way, feels good.

Complies with the standard of quality expected from first-person shooters these days, so to say.

And it is especially surprising, again considering they were making melee focused, fantasy RPGs all these years.

The cars are also satisfactory. Very physical, hence you can feel how each class of cars drives differently.

Though the destructibility model is a bit funky, but nothing really of issue.

Conclusion

This game was hyped up to be something with such a level of detail that it would almost “transcend” what we know as an RPG today.

And you can see, here and there, places where they actually were already having this sort of details.

Some extremely well-designed environments, with details unlike in any other game of similar genre. Or some gameplay interactions that you again, wouldn’t find in similar games.

But that is also where you can see how the project began spiraling out of proportion, and they had to remove, to compromise, to downgrade.

And eventually we got this game, that promises something unlike any other game in this genre, but ends up just as another good game of the same genre.

One of the best, might I say. That’s why I compared it to the vibes I had when first entering Skyrim, but still simply another RPG.

Nevertheless, in everything they did manage to include in this game, they definitely do push the standard for RPGs further.

And after playing Cyberpunk 2077, people will definitely expect more from their RPGs going forward.

Because despite all its shortcomings, this game shows us a beautiful, enormous world, with verticality and complexity that we seldom see elsewhere. With deep lore and a living ecosystem, that builds a highly interactive environment.

So, even though I am underwhelmed by the outcome of such a long project by CD Projekt Red, I do not regret spending the money and the time on this game. And I will definitely spend even more time in Night City in the future.

I can firmly tell you that it is a good game. That it is worth playing, but unless you have a next-gen console or a top-tier PC, you are better off waiting a while longer.

By then, they hopefully will fix it for all platforms.