Not So Ugly

I am way behind on my gaming posts—which could be considered reviews but are more me talking about the games I’ve played. So here are my thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077, about five months overdue.

There came a point, sixty-five hours into Cyberpunk 2077 where the only actionable quest of consequence on my list was meeting Hanako at Embers, otherwise known as the point of no return. There were a few gigs I hadn’t gotten around to and a series of Beat on the Brat quests I had no interest in. Otherwise, I was done. Sort of. In actual fact, I was waiting for a number of people to call me back. Judy, Claire, Kerry… There wasn’t a side character who didn’t owe me a call.

As a game mechanic, I liked that there were built-in breaks to some of the questlines. I can get wrapped up in a storyline and might follow it to its conclusion while missing out on surrounding events. But if you’re as methodical a gamer as I am—meaning you like to work your way down a quest tree, ticking off boxes one by one—then you’re likely going to reach the same point in several quests around the same time, meaning you’ll be stuck somewhere in Night City, cooling your heels while you wait for everyone to call you back.

Again, earlier in the game, I didn’t mind so much. Especially as there was little else to do but explore the vast list of side quests—several of which carry a huge weight and shouldn’t be side quests at all. I mean, they can affect the outcome of the game. This brings me to perhaps my largest complaint about Cyberpunk 2077, aside from the fact I had to wait a year or so for it to be fully playable. But before we delve into that, I’ll share what I really liked.

I will attempt to avoid major plot spoilers, but some bleed-through is probably inevitable.

The Good

I was not at all familiar with the world of Cyberpunk before playing, so I can’t comment on how well they captured the feel, but the world I explored was fully realized and engaging. From the variety of NPCs crowding the streets of Night City to the distinct vibe of each neighborhood. Early on, I actually felt a little suffocated by the tall buildings and burgeoning crowds. I am not a city girl. But I got used to it, and after I hooked up with River and Panam, V’s BF and BFF, I enjoyed afternoons and evenings in the ‘burbs’ by choosing to visit V’s stash in those locations rather than use the Megabuilding apartment.

I still think about the world from time to time, and I’d really love to play another game in that setting.

The overall story was really, really cool. I didn’t love it at first. Keanu—sorry, Johnny Silverhand—got on my nerves. He was not a nice person and the absolute last dude I would invite to share my headspace, famous or not. But Johnny’s arc is one of the truly wonderful aspects of the game. Once he and V start collaborating, the story becomes hugely personal.

I also loved the really in-depth friendship arc quests with characters like Panam and River. No one and done, I’ll come to the gates of hell with you because you found a letter my dead dad left in a chest for me. These companions’ quests flow through and entwine with the main story, and the relationships you foster will affect your game—and the end game.  

Similarly, the faction quests are hugely detailed with small jobs filling out larger story arcs. There are also a number of achievement-collecting quests that feel less like collecting flags from the top of historical buildings and more like uncovering essential world clues (remember when Assassin’s Creed used to do that?).

The text exchanges with Goro were a definite highlight and both the character communication system (calls and texts) and fast travel system were well done.

CD Projekt Red’s proprietary engine, the one that caused them so much trouble prior to and post-launch, really is a thing of beauty. The character animation is gorgeous and the physics were some of the best I’ve experienced in a game, from driving to combat. The feel of weapons and the echo of footsteps. I loved the stealth mechanics and hacking.

In short, the physics, the world, and the story arcs are all superb and would be reasons why I’d be looking for the next game from this team, launch nightmare aside. A lot of hard work went into this game, and it shows.

The Bad

So, for as much praise as I’ve heaped on the story and quests, I have to say, the journal system sucked. Not for tracking the progress of quests. That part was awesome. And the integration of the phone/text function with the quest journal was also awesome (if a little immersion-breaking at times). But the organization made no sense.

There are basically three main quest lines and those are easy to follow. Everything else felt like a side quest, which meant that if you decided to skip all of that, you’d miss most of the game, as well as the opportunity to make friends and influence people. You’d end up tackling the last fight mostly alone. And I never really understood why some gigs were listed as secondary quests while others were just jobs. Maybe I missed a link between those gigs and something larger? Often it seemed as though someone had spilled all of the quests like marbles and then just put them back in random order.

If I hadn’t been told “Do the side quests, they’re important” I might not have paid such great attention to them and that would have been a great shame. They not only fill out the world story, but the time you’ll spend engaging with it. They turn this from a thirty-hour game into something sixty hours plus. I played for seventy-one.

The other aspect of this weird journal meant that I spent a lot of time actively looking for things to do while I waited for people to call me back. I guess in some respects, that could be considered immersive. I had to spend time just living and breathing in the world while I waited for the main story to progress. In actual fact, I got a little bored of going after gigs which tended to get a little formulaic after a while. I didn’t try every type, though. And other gamers might delight in having so much ‘off book’ to do. I mean, I used to go into Skyrim just to decorate my houses, or Fallout just to look for weird quests. I never got bored exploring the maps of Assassin’s Creed games.

In a way, my complaint actually does the main story even more justice. I was impatient to get on with it.

The Ugly

I’m a pretty patient and chill gamer. When I couldn’t see the world for the trees (fluorescent shadows of mini palm trees EVERYWHERE), I put the game aside and played something else. For more than a year. I didn’t rant, rave, or suggest CD Projekt Red pack their shit and move to the moon. And when people started posting articles like Cyberpunk is actually good now, I downloaded the updates and started again.

So, honestly? I don’t really have an ugly unless you want to count the tears I shed during the final cinematic. I’m not going to share the choice I made at the end of the game because that would ruin it for anyone yet to play, but I will say it kind of gutted me.

Any game that wrings genuine emotion from me is far from ugly, in my book. So, despite my frustration with the journaling system and the fact the game was near unplayable for a year, I have to say, Cyberpunk 2077 really is a good game.

Published by Kelly Jensen

Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Hiker. Cat herder. Waiting for the aliens. 👽 🏳️‍🌈

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