It’s fair to say that Cyberpunk 2077 is a deeply flawed experience. CD Projekt Red faces significant problems after failing to keep some important promises. The game’s ramified plot, which should depend on your character’s chosen background, is largely illusory. Basic mechanics are missing or broken. And the world is full of repetitive on-demand quests – a problem that, admittedly, is common with most open world titles. While bugs are a patching issue, cyberpunk is highly unlikely to transform into the full featured product gamers have come to expect.
But players willing to overlook these issues can experience some of the best character-based stories the medium has to offer. They all play in a city where you often stop in the middle of the mission to soak up the atmosphere. Flawed, yes, but there is still a lot to love in Night City, and this storytelling feat was achieved by focusing on a very important aspect of the campaign design: the mission structure.
Cyberpunk’s campaign flows from one logical sequence of events to another. This ultimately makes the whole thing less “playful”. For example, pulling off the raid in Konpeki Plaza requires hours of preparation: meeting with fixers, finagging a prototype robot that can scale walls, and reviewing a consideration of part of the building’s layout – all before the raid even begins.
Each preparatory phase presents a series of complex obstacles to overcome and takes the player on a journey through Night City that follows a believable path. The player doesn’t just stumble upon a quest after a few superficial lines of dialogue from an NPC quest dispenser, and hey Presto, you’re on a robbery. The process is more organic. It’s almost forensic at times.
The development team even alludes to this design philosophy during the Lightning Breaks mission, where you are tasked with dropping an airplane. On road For your first mission objective, your ally, an excommunicated nomad tribe member named Panam Palmer, chats about how she prepares for each assignment. “How you do things – that’s the trick,” she explains. “Mine is the triple A: evaluation, assembly, action”. Cyberpunk’s raid-inspired mission structure is no different.
The player doesn’t just stumble upon a quest from an NPC donor
Each quest feels like putting pieces of the puzzle together and methodically working towards a plan of action. During the evaluation phase, Night City’s list of fixers, netrunners and corps will help you go in the right direction. Here CD Projekt Red uses its world to great effect. You work in the corners of neon-lit bars. Fixers ask for your services in smoke-filled plush limousines. And shabby motels with rooms that wouldn’t look out of place in a Trainspotting movie serve as backdrops for corporate conspiracies.
Each briefing is an opportunity to find out why you are doing what you are doing and what motivates the characters involved. It helps that these moments are visual feasts too, complemented by impressive voice acting and some of the best animation work in gaming.
Side quests deliver some of the most exciting writings I’ve ever seen
But every plan needs resources. Putting together allies, getaway vehicles, weapons, and digital blueprints is not always easy in Night City. In this process, the player often follows a breadcrumb trail of information and clues. This can take the form of a review of the braindance footage of an apartment complex that you need to infiltrate. Or it might involve breaking into a forensics lab to get information about the whereabouts of a missing person. Regardless of the situation, the resources gathered during this phase will be used to formulate a more detailed plan – a plan that naturally leads into the action phase and ends with a satisfactory payout.
Along the way, chat with companions, curious under the boast, and learn a little more about what they think and feel. These interactions not only bring you closer to the key characters, but also serve as a window into the entire night city. An ex-cop could talk about the systemic corruption that plagues the NCPD’s grassroots. A BD video artist could take you on an unexpected tour of her former hometown, a dilapidated suburb devastated by corporate parasitism.
Many of our allies reappear in character-based side quests similar in scope and ambition to the Loyalty Missions of Mass Effect 2. And while these side quests are a little on the rails at times, they deliver some of the most emotionally gripping writings I’ve ever seen in one RPG game.
What Cyberpunk 2077 lacks in player selection it makes up for in the quality of its main campaign. Even among the smaller quests, the game’s mission structure means that no two will feel alike. And the story is well structured and quick, with plenty of time to connect with your companions between failures. The main campaign doesn’t skip anything and Vs trip feels like your own. Cyberpunk, while not the best game, is certainly one of the most memorable.
You can read more about the game in our Cyberpunk 2077 review, and you can buy it from Humble now. Alternatively, check out our list of best cyberpunk games, because this genre offers a lot more than CD Projekt Red’s blockbuster excursion.