CD Projekt Red’s most ambitious project launched earlier this month to a less than positive reception. While most of the criticism was directed at the performance and state of the game (in terms of polish), there’s a lot to be said about the content itself. I managed to achieve 100% completion recently which took around 70 hours and I believe I’ve formed a final opinion about the game, ignoring the bugs and performance. To answer your burning question, I’ll jump straight to the point: Does it meet expectations or will it meet them once all the bugs have been sorted out? No, it won’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are a decent amount of opportunities in Night City, with some being very memorable, but they are too few and far between.
Story and Quest Design
I’ll break this review into four sections: The story, characters, gameplay, and the impact of player choice on the endings. First and foremost, let’s talk about the story and characters. These two aspects stand out the most. Cyberpunk 2077 has an engaging main questline and a host of intriguing characters. Then what’s the problem?
There’s just not enough of it. The main story can take between 12-18 hours, depending on how many times you die and what your progression speed is like. Throw in another 7-9 hours for the side-quests (excluding the gigs), and you get around 25-30 hours of high-quality content. But wait, didn’t I say it took me 70 hours to complete the entire game? Yes, it did but that’s including the gigs and side-jobs that all share the same design. Bust into an enemy outpost/building and kill a target or steal something or bust someone out. There are at least 30-35 gigs with (one of the) the same three objectives.
In addition to that, there are at least another 50-60 “NCPD Hustles” where you basically go and kill the bad guys with no plot or story element. These can be thought of as analogous to the “?” marks in The Witcher 3, but the thing is the monsters in the latter offered a fair bit of variety from region to region. In Cyberpunk, it’s more or less the same. You just shoot your way through groups of armed thugs at every spot.
Because of this, your opinion of the game can drastically change depending on your playtime and expectations. Just don’t expect the same amount of content as the Witcher series.
Cast and Characters
The characters of Cyberpunk are an unforgettable lot and leave a lasting impression. Despite living in a pretentious world, they haven’t lost their “human aspect”. You can relate to them and feel their agony and joy as the story progresses. Some of the most interesting ones are Johnny Silverhand, Jackie, Misty, Panam, Rogue, Claire, and Silverhand’s bandmates.
As you can see, that’s not a long list and doesn’t include any antagonists. When it comes to antagonists, it’s simply “Them” or the “Corps” (Corporations). This really left a gaping hole in the plotline as, throughout the game, you were essentially fighting an abstract concept.
The game also features a group of quest-givers (fixers) who also have their own quirks and unique characteristics. You’ll work with a former reporter-turned mercenary, a priest who isn’t afraid to “commit minor transgressions against god and his people”, a former corporate worker known as “El Capitan” and another charming personality simply known as “Mr. Hands”.
These fixers have their own voiced lines, accents, and temperaments. However, the fact that most of these interactions are limited to lines of quest-giving dialogs is a big shame. It prevents the player from seeing them as people, and limiting them to just “fixers” or quest-givers.
Gameplay and Combat
The gameplay of Cyberpunk 2077 offers a wide range of combat options, from unarmed to blades, pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, etc. All these weapons have different levels pertaining to rareness and quality and come in different flavors such as “Tech”, “Power” and “Smart”. Tech weapons can be charged to increase the output damage, power weapons are traditional weapons expect the bullets can ricochet after hitting the target, causing further damage. Smart-weapons are the most interesting as the bullets can change trajectory mid-way to reach the designated target and have very high accuracy.
The game also features hacking to disable or damage enemies using “quick-hacks”. You can stun, overheat, explode, incapacitate, shock targets from a distance but the skills are limited to once or twice every 5-10 minutes depending on your level.
Melee weapons have separate skill trees and can be really effective if you like killing everyone in view. However, in most scenarios, you’d want to rely on firearms which means investing in the pistol, rifle, and shotgun trees and missing out on the former. This may sound like a good thing for repeated playthroughs, but it ultimately limits your combat options.
Weapons can also be crafted and upgraded, but considering the ease with which you can find high-level/quality parts, I found it to be rather tedious. Weapon mods are also hard to come by and the fact that they’re mostly limited to epic and legendary weapons also diluted their relevance.
Player Choice Endings
Cyberpunk 2077 features three main endings with one “bad” and a secret ending. I’m considering only three here as the final mission can play in three ways while the epilogue has five variations depending on your decisions in this quest.
While three different paths are sufficient for replayability, they all lead to the same destination. The outcome isn’t all the different, only the path you take will vary. The bad ending has a completely different ending while the secret ending simply requires completion of a good chunk of gigs and choosing a specific ending along with it.
Unfortunately, most of the decisions you make through the course of the game have little to no impact on the ending and it all falls to a single decision towards the end. The only other requirement is the completion of certain (obvious) side-quests that unlock these paths.
I spent close to 100 hundred hours in Night City and to be completely honest, wasn’t bored of it despite most of the side quests being highly repetitive. The reason? Night City’s atmosphere and setting are quite captivating and in a league of their own. However, in the end, it still fails to match the high expectations set after years of waiting. If you don’t consider the bugs and glitches, I’d give Cyberpunk a 7.5/10. The lack of good side-content is what disappointed me the most and ultimately prevents this game from joining the ranks of other RPG heavy-weights.