Cyberpunk 2077 was first unleashed at the finale of Microsoft’s E3 2018 conference to a stunned audience. CD Projekt RED is now in promotion mode, with the press release out and three interviews with three of their developers. The first one was conducted by GameSpot; the second one by IGN; and the final one took place at the E3 Coliseum. I’ve been gathering up every bit of scattered information about the game for the past two days, and this is what I got so far.
Kyle Rowley, the associate design director, confirmed that the game is a first-person perspective RPG with some third-person perspective cutscenes and opportunities to look at and display your character in the inventory and mirrors within the game. Upgrading the character will also be done from a third-person perspective. The purpose of first-person perspective is to increase immersion, but it will be first and foremost a first-person RPG with FPS elements, not an FPS with RPG elements. You will see Night City through your own perspective. Cyberpunk 2077 aims to bring first-person perspective back to the RPG genre, evoking classic first-person cyberpunk games such as System Shock and Deus Ex. CD Projekt RED’s key design priority is deep narrative immersion, which is definitely magnified through first-person perspective.
The display of sunlight in the trailer was done on purpose to show us that there will be a full day-night cycle, but the noir environment and aesthetic will still be there. Cyberpunk 2077 will be a dark dystopian RPG in the same way that The Witcher 3 was a dark fantasy RPG (which also had plenty of beautiful sunrises and sunsets). The usual cyberpunk tropes are expected: megacorporations and America as a fractured nation. High-rise fortresses sheltering the mega-rich from the have-nothings. Seedy underworlds full of drugs, tech and braindances. In between there is decadence, sex and pop culture in bed with omnipresent crime, extreme poverty, and “the unattainable promise of the American Dream.” In worldbuilding and details, everything will have a purpose, and the world design had an enormous focus in setting the tone. There will be characters and references from Cyberpunk 2020 lore and setting that players of the original tabletop RPG will be able to spot and recognize.
You will play as V, an urban mercenary, but you can be anyone you want to be. Thrust into this world, where you have no future, all that matters is that you are in control of who you are. In order to survive and preserve your independence you must modify your body with advanced cyberware and take jobs that others won’t do. As a Cyberpunk you choose to live free, releasing yourself from systems or controls, making your own rules. Full character customization will be available, from gender, appearance, lifepath and personal background, all of which will impact the game and the story. As you progress, you pick up and develop skills in urban warfare and hacking along with modifications to your body and brain. There are multiple different character progression systems with many abilites and perks. V will be fully-voiced with both male and female voice actors. The story and quest system from The Witcher 3 is implemented in a similar way in Cyberpunk 2077, personalized by the player, with a great focus on choices and consequences.
The class system will be fluid: you can become a full-on Netrunner, Techie or Solo… or a multi-class Cyberpunk-of-all-trades. There will be no imposition on the roles that the player can choose, allowing for crafting and free mixing of abilities to allow your own custom builds. There will be no level scaling, but there are two forms of experience: Core XP for main missions, and Street Cred for side missions. There are stop points in the open world, determined by the player character’s Street Cred, so that certain areas, vendors and fixers are inaccessible until you reach a certain level of Street Cred, which is also affected by clothing. Side quests can give the player character special upgrades and unique body parts that are unavailable in the main quest. Higher Street Cred also nets you access to more side quests.
The main stats are Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, Reflexes, Tech, and Cool. Character tech upgrades directly affect the UI gameplay, like the Subdermal Grip increases gun damage and adds a UI ammo counter, and Optical upgrade allows zoom-in and enemies/vehicles scan. There are four different damage types: Physical, Thermal, EMP, Chemical. There will be Equipment and Chip slots, such as a Dog-Sized Robot Spider that follows the character around and fights with them.
Combat will include both ranged and melee, but melee will not be like The Witcher 3. Lessons were learned, and the melee in Cyberpunk 2077 will be in first-person. There are three types of weapons: Power Weapons for heavy hitting and staggering, Tech Weapons to penetrate through cover, and Smart Weapons for tracking. Peter Gelencser, the level design coordinator, said that the “gunplay is faster than Deus Ex but slower than Borderlands”. One of the melee weapons is a set of Mantis arm blades (shown in the trailer jutting out of the arm of one of the convenience store robbers), but Kyle Rowley also mentioned a katana. There is also a Wall Run traversal ability. There will be stealth mechanics, but no specifics were shared, though IGN staff talked about a sequence from the demo where the player performed a stealth takedown on an enemy and then jacked into their head to get a schematic layout of the base they wanted to infiltrate.
It will be a mature experience intended for mature audiences, and there will be romancing, nudity and sexual content just like in The Witcher 3. The dialogue system will be heavily interactive. You become a participant, an agent, not an observer. It will give players maximum control during conversations, allowing you to comment on an uncooperative character’s tattoos to please them, but also to put an end to a conversation early with a well-placed bullet. The player decides. It is possible to de-escalate some situations through dialogue, and it will be more fluid than in The Witcher 3, with more branching dialogue options. There will be casual conversation dialogue pop-ups as the player walks around in the city. You can also wear designer clothes, buy or steal cars, and get your hands on black market military tech to be a heavy-hitter. You can take your blood money from the high-tech low-lives and invest in properties all around the city, owning several apartments.
Netrunner skills will allow a more pacifist playstyle, using viruses and causing weapons to jam. Hacking is an interactive and immersive experience where you will “jack in” and run the Net. Night City is an omnipresent network, offering countless cyberspace access terminals. Within them you will find layers of hidden systems, firewalls and security programs deployed to fry your brain. Missions will stack you against other hostile Netrunners who defend corporations both in cyberspace and the real world. Combat pacing will heavily depend on the player’s playstyle, with tactical approaches using covers being viable. Solo skills focus on agility and speed for advantage, double jumping, wall running. Gear is everything. Preparation will be key before combat, similarly to The Witcher 3, but there is a definite difficulty leap, with low health being more common. Combat gameplay will definitely feel more brutal and lethal, but also more non-linear.
It will be possible to explore the city by car, but there won’t be as much horizontal freedom as in Grand Theft Auto V. There will be vehicle battles, the player character being able to lean out of the car to shoot enemies while the AI companion drives the car. It is possible to switch between third-person and first-person perspectives while driving, and the first-person perspective will show the car dashboard with a full UI. Driving won’t be necessary all the time, as the city encourages walking exploration through tight alleys. When asked about about flying cars, the developers were reluctant to speak. They also didn’t confirm nor deny online features, but said it will be first and foremost a single-player game.
Night City is a fictional city in between San Francisco and Los Angeles, therefore inspired by both cities. It will be a playground for dreamers, an urban jungle offering luxury and excess, but also a bullet to the brain if you run afoul of corporations. It will be fully open world with six unique districts to explore, each with its own atmosphere apart from the usual noir atmosphere, dozens of miles of roads to hit, hundreds of buildings with thousands of rooms to explore if you can get access to them. The city encourages exploration. The Witcher 3 was horizontally huge, Cyberpunk 2077 is vertically huge, allowing more density in vertical design. Buildings can be explored, there are Mega Buildings containing multiple floors and multiple areas to explore within a single building, with many elevator rides included. It is a truly dangerous city, with threats around every corner, and you might get mugged and robbed often. All six districts will be “RPG hub areas” that feel packed and claustrophobic, with several vendors and quest givers. All side content will be found within smaller areas, which are connected through the main roads.
In spite of the bright and sunny parts of the trailer, Cyberpunk 2077 will be “Game Noir,” with a mature approach to storytelling, adopting elements of noir cinema and blending them into the future of the videogame art form. Without a clear definition of good or evil, grey areas will abound, making for many hard choices for players to define themselves. It will be both story-driven and action-packed, with a cinematic plot providing a robust single-player experience. It will offer dozens of hours of playtime along the main story arc quests and many additional activities in side content and “Street Stories”. It will be a singular experience for both hardcore RPG completionists and gamers focused on instant and gratifying action. CD Projekt RED’s trademark storytelling system driven by choices and consequences will allow players to navigate the streets of Night City through starkly contrasting paths and finally reach one possible ending out of a full range of story denouements.
Development of the game has been back and forth between pre-production and production under one form or another since 2012 when it was first announced, but The Witcher 3 took up most of their resources up until 2016, when they went into full production after the release of Blood and Wine. Now the developers say they have achieved a very good pace, but the release date remains When It’s Ready.
The E3 demo is about 50 minutes long. Journalists and fans who had the opportunity to try it out or watch it received a brochure, Demo Highlights, which was soon leaked, and it confirms much of what was already said by the developers in interviews while still offering some fresh information about the Cyberpunk 2020 lore characters that will feature in the game.
Andrew Reiner’s GameInformer preview went into great detail to show that “Cyberpunk 2077 is not what you think”. Hayden Dingman’s PCWorld preview called it “the most mind-blowing game demo we’ve ever seen”. Wesley Yin-Poole’s Eurogamer preview added some extra details and a great Q&A with Patrick Mills, one of the game’s quest designers. Tom Marks’ IGN preview offered a comparison with The Witcher 3. GameCentral’s Metro preview compared Night City to a blend of “Blade Runner’s L.A., New York City from The Fifth Element, and Star Wars’ Coruscant.” Jason Schreier’s Kotaku preview called it a “violent, impressive blend of Deus Ex and The Witcher 3“. Brendan Caldwell’s RPS preview, more of a “vivid, drug-huffing first-person romp of guns and butts”. Our Editor in Chief Andrew Otton had the chance to see the demo and wrote his own preview.
Fans are still hoping that we might get a glimpse of the demo, but it seems unlikely. We’ll have to be contented with rewatching the trailer over and over, looking for new details and visual references.
YouTube channel Laymen Gaming produced a great in-depth interview with Stanisław Święcicki, one of the game’s writers.
Another interview with Kyle Rowley on the Xbox Live stream (3h50m).
Another interview with level designer Miles Tost on the Twitch stream.
Another interview with Peter Gelencser on the Mixer Live stream.
YouTuber AngryJoe interviewed Mike Pondsmith and Kyle Rowley.
Jason Schreier from Kotaku interviewed quest designer Patrick Mills.
Steven Messner from PC Gamer interviewed level designer Max Pears.
Sam Machkovech’s Ars Technica preview of the demo: “50 minutes of William Gibson-level insanity”. Curiously enough, William Gibson threw some shade at the game on Twitter: “The trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 strikes me as GTA skinned-over with a generic 80s retro-future, but hey, that’s just me.”
CD Projekt RED shared some great concept art.