Cyberpunk 2077 is going through something of a redemption arc at the moment, helped last year by the honestly quite good Edgerunners from Studio Trigger, even more so now thanks to its 2.0 update and soon-to-be released expansion, Phantom Liberty. There's been a number of "it was always good" type of comments cropping up recently, which to be honest I'm not entirely confident about. Yes, the 2.0 update certainly has improved the game in a number of ways, but personally I think some of the changes the game needed should have taken place long before the game was finished.
I came quite late to the Cyberpunk 2077 party. It didn't interest me for a number of reasons when it released, and paired with that, well, infamous (to put it mildly) launch, I didn't exactly want to fork over the full cost of a game that was incredibly broken, and not even something I wanted to play all that much. Fast forward to a couple of months ago, and a number of updates later, I found myself thinking "why not! Let's finally give Cyberpunk a go."Watch on YouTube
Very quickly, I found that I really didn't like how the game played. I'm not the best at shooters in the world, but I'm not awful at them either, and when they don't feel good to me I'd rather turn something like aim assist on just so I can experience the world and story, at the very least. Except that didn't work very well, either. Outside of that, the skill tree was an unreadable mess that never felt worth investing in, and yes – even with all those patches – the game could sometimes suffer from such severe frame rate issues it turned into a slideshow.
But I do have to admit, the 2.0 update has fixed a lot of the smaller things that wouldn't be awful on their own but did build up to a bigger, frustrating picture. The skill tree has been massively simplified (with each skill a lot clearer, too), and aim assist seems to work a lot better now too. Another problem I had is that enemies didn't scale to your level, so random encounters were too often a risk – now, I don't have to worry about that.
This big, fabled update has made the game click for me in a way it didn't before. But, to be clear, I'm only feeling that from a gameplay perspective. The issues I mentioned above that need fixing are a lot more inherent to the game's design. For one, I think Cyberpunk isn't a very good RPG.
Sure, I can choose different kinds of skills, but I don't really feel like V is my character – they never deliver dialogue in the kind of tone I'm aiming for, and the dialogue itself has that classic problem of never seeming to match the options presented to you. In turn, that hurts the game's story. There are very few characters I actually like, including both V and Johnny, which weakens the driving force of the entire narrative: saving V's life.
It isn't just about the game not being a good RPG, though, or even having a flawed story – I don't think Night City is a particularly interesting place to explore. Cities are incredibly hard to get right in video games because they're so much more densely populated with people, vehicles, and buildings compared to something like a fantasy game. Still, nowhere feels particularly distinct to me.
There are pockets of areas that feel like have a lot of love and intention put into their design, but for the most part, the city just feels like a backdrop between those places that are far and few between. Possibly focusing on a smaller section of the city would have worked better, something I do think CD Projekt has pulled off with Phantom Liberty's Dogtown (but more on that tomorrow).
I don't think Cyberpunk is an awful game. It's pretty competent now – even good, occasionally – and yes, swinging a katana around is fun as hell (even if it is incredibly weeby). I just think that it's OK that we're honest about this being an incredibly ambitious game that didn't quite meet those ambitions. Even though the 2.0 redemption arc gets the game closer than ever to realising its lofty goals.