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In the previous part, I discussed Cyberpunk 2077 in detail, exploring every part of the game and breaking down what I felt were the game’s strengths and weaknesses. Contrary to a lot of the hate I see circulating online, Cyberpunk contains a lot of strengths, and it would be foolish to ignore them.

Just like the good comes the bad, and you cannot deny Cyberpunk 2077’s launch was a mess. I don’t know if it’s broken promises on a level of Spore, Anthem or No Man’s Sky, but it’s pretty obvious the game isn’t quite what we were led to expect, either by marketing, our own expectations of the game, or something else.

Speaking of No Man’s Sky, I’d like to clarify something about that because its a game that crops up often in ‘games that get hyped to shit before launch’. NMS was an indie game made by a tiny studio, given a AAA publisher, AAA marketing and unfortunately a AAA price tag. This, not helped by Sean Murray’s complete lack of PR ability created a deadly storm, but Hello Games’s excellent post-launch support has redeemed it mostly in my eyes. Had No Man’s Sky been a 20-25$ Early Access release, much of its hate would have been overblown.

CDPR doesn’t get the luxury which Hello Games had. Usually I blame the consumer base for unrealistic expectations and giving into ridiculous hype like I did with No Man’s Sky, but with that insane marketing this time round, it is much harder to place blame on the public. Cyberpunk 2077 was released far too soon, to the frustration of the devs. I blame the upper management more for the failures, knowing the pain of game development. Seeing the death threats and abuse of the devs is deeply frustrating, and we’re better than that.

Regardless, the storm that has followed this release is justified. I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel: CDPR has a good record of post-launch support, with plenty of good content for their games. In April we saw a massive 1.2 patch which fixed a fair few bugs and crashes (The changelog was something like 500 fixes), finally added multiple crafting options, included a rather patched attempt to fix the Police AI (by increasing the distance in which they’re spawned, so to give the illusion of work) and many others. Has it improved things? Yes. Has it fixed everything? No. It still has some way to go.

I still think there is hope for Cyberpunk. It’s just a shame the launch was in such a state, and it will be some time before we see the flower blossom. They’ve lost a lot of goodwill with the people, and it’ll take time to repair that damage.
Every big game dev meets a huge challenge that makes or breaks them. Bethesda, once one of the most beloved, is now in the shitbin of big companies.

This is CDPR’s big challenge. Only time will tell which way they go. Honestly? The fall from grace, if anything, is a positive. No company should have that much power, and no game studio deserves eternal loyalty. It needs to be earned, and perhaps they rode the Witcher 3 swansong for too long they got complacent? I don’t know. Either way, they have a lot of work to do to restore confidence. Let’s see if they can back up their words with their promises, because fewer people are going to believe their word now.

Now, the fun part. Let’s give some scores!


Summary


Visuals

Stunning, but you need a top rig to get the best you can. One of the most gorgeous games out there on the market, and it’s just stunning what they brought to the table. Cloud services like GeForce Now, Shadow and Stadia do pretty well in shoring up the high technical aspects, so it’s a definite option if you’re struggling with getting a rig powerful enough to play Cyberpunk the way it deserves. This is an easy 9/10, only let down slightly by the pop-in of cars in the distance. That’s more on the performance side of things, which takes us to….


Performance

While the loading times are lightning fast, the various glitches and bugs, plus the rough optimization and AI issues really drag Cyberpunk down. Not the worst performance I have ever seen, but it’s not good either. Ironically typical of a AAA launch these days – everything CDPR swore they were not. It’s no surprise that performance is a low standard, and therefore it gets a 5/10 for me. I was fairly lucky in my experience, but a lot of others aren’t. At least loading times are blazing quick. That’s quite a good thing especially in a game like this, so this score might not be as low as you’d expect.


Story, Writing and Characters

Strong across the board. The characters you meet are fantastic and the main narrative, while short, is compelling. The writing is overall good, though it’s more of a mixed bag in the side content. You get incredibly powerful moments throughout the story, and much of the side content ties in nicely with the main quest. The dissonance with time, the feeling of unfinished characters and the smaller main story take away some of the brilliance, however. Taking everything into account, I have to give this category an 8/10.


Quest Design

Despite some issues, I’ve had a lot of fun with these. Even the little quests have a few different tricks to play them. It’s not quite what Witcher 3 was, so for a studio which should always be trending upward, people may find this a little disappointing. I found it quite good and the story is engrossing. Even so, the way some stories and characters just drop away began to irk me at the end. It really shows that the game was unfinished, which brings this category down slightly. Despite these things, the quest design is an overall strength of the game and deserves a 7.5/10 score by me.


Combat

Messy and unbalanced, but might be the most fun I’ve had with AAA combat in a long time. It needs a lot of work, as does the combat AI, but there’s a surprising amount of options, and the hacking is one of the most in-depth I’ve seen in a while. I’ve struggled enjoying combat in many games, but this is one I’ve found enjoyment in. It’s too easy, and I don’t like the bullet spongy enemies. The mechanics are there and have their problems, so I can’t give combat more than a 7/10. Incredibly fun, and it really helps the gameplay.


Lore, Worldbuilding and World Design

Inconsistency with interaction and immersion brings down otherwise strong design, not helped by flaws with the popping in of cars and people. The world has amazing potential for future work. There’s some examples of wonderful worldbuilding, but it’s let down by the issues I already mentioned.

Fortunately, the game’s city and level design is fantastic, filled with detail and brimming with character. Hungry expectations of RDR2 levels of immersion takes away a lot of what Night City has to offer.

While my second chunk of playing Cyberpunk allowed me to appreciate the game’s lore and city design a lot more, there are still too many issues to give this too high a score. A 7/10 feels right, I think.

Sound, Music and Voice

Very strong, with an excellent amount of variety in the voice acting. The main cast is done brilliantly, and main character V was important to get right. Oh boy, did they deliver. 8.5/10

Game Mechanics

A broken economy system with a rough UI brings down the score. The systems are deep and complex, though it takes too long to really get into them. You may well finish the game without experiencing the best of what they have to offer. The driving feels rough, especially when outside Night City. They could improve the handling on most of the cars, though I managed to enjoy them. Crafting is nearly pointless, because you get new and better weapons all the fucking time. Overall, there’s big flaws, but I can see potential. The big 1.2 patch managed to fix some of the economy, but it still needs some more tender updates and fixes. Let’s give game mechanics a 7/10.


The Enjoyment Factor

Yeah, I added a final category, and an important one. How much fun was this to play? With a game as controversial and divisive as Cyberpunk, it might just be the most important category of all. Ultimately, I had a blast. Despite all the little flaws and quirks, I don’t think I’ve played a game as fun as this in years. It takes a lot for a video game to grab me, and Cyberpunk grabbed me by the nuts.

From March 2020 to March 2021, only four games pushed the 100 hour barrier in time played during that 12 month period. They are Rimworld, Cyberpunk 2077, Spellforce 3: Fallen God and Starsector. Seeing how Fallen God was a game I was working on up until the launch (I was on the writing team), that should tell you something. Rimworld and Starsector are among the best indie releases going right now, but Cyberpunk was the only 2020 release that got me to play that much, and in such a short time period as well. That should say something about the game’s fun factor!

CategoryScore/10
Visuals9
Performance5
Story, Writing and Characters8
Quest Design7.5
Combat7
Lore, Worldbuilding and World Design7
Sound, Music and Voice Acting8.5
Game Mechanics7
Enjoyment Factor9
Overall Score7.5

And why not include a pros/cons list?

Pros

  • A deeply compelling story in a fantastic setting
  • Suprisingly competent combat for the genre, plenty of ways to have fun
  • Incredible base city design that goes beyond most cities in gaming
  • Fairly strong quest design that rewards creativity in many cases
  • A stunning main cast, side characters are also wonderful
  • Side content is plentiful and varied, mostly living up to scratch
  • Main quest which respects the player’s time
  • Excellent subtle lore and worldbuilding
  • Amazing visuals
  • Photo Mode
  • Incredibly fun to play if you can overlook some jank

Cons

  • Very rough around the edges, plenty of bugs and glitches galore
  • Extremely demanding even on high-end hardware
  • Inconsistent quality across the board regarding polish
  • Some of the gigs can feel repetitive, mixed bag of quality
  • Combat is messy with some buggy AI
  • Poor civilian AI, driving is still a mess despite patches
  • Weak world interaction and deeper levels of immersion
  • Game systems feel unbalanced and unfinished


Inconsistent Brilliance

That was a lot of words.

How do I finish this up? The game has serious flaws that go beyond just bugs, and it failed to meet the insane level of expectation desired, a symptom of the hype it created. Even if it didn’t have all the problems, it would never have met the massive expectations given, because that’s reality.

It’s been difficult to judge it properly, and I’m conflicted even now. For everything I liked, there was something that annoyed me. The game isn’t revolutionary, and feels like a lot of different game types crammed together, a stumbling giant barely holding itself together. The catastrophe of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact as well, though we cannot use that as an excuse for everything. There are few excuses for the state of the release, I have to stress that. With how rough the development process was for Cyberpunk, it’s a miracle it even released in the way it did.


And despite everything, I can’t deny my enjoyment for the game. I’ve liked exploring, the combat has been fun for an AAA game (which I find many lack in this department), and the quest design is stellar. I wasn’t expecting to play so much at this time. When I booted it up on launch day, I intended to play just a few hours, yet here I am, 120 hours later and still going. I’m quite surprised how much fun I’ve had in a game that’s this untuned, and I’ve already started a second playthrough.

It’s honestly frustrating how games in this rough state can still grab me, which is a symptom of the entire industry. Perhaps Cyberpunk is the catalyst for some change in the games industry, because it sure as hell needs it. I hope so. Perhaps we can finally stop blindly preordering based on PR?

Do I recommend the game right now? If you’re willing to wait, I strongly suggest doing so. There’s so many games out right now that there is no pressure in just holding until bigger patches come in. This fear of missing out and the fetish people have for wanting to play something immediately, along with pre-orders is contributing to the mess that’s facing the games industry. If you’re willing to overlook bugs, have a powerful enough PC rig, and are patient with some issues, then give it a good go. I took the plunge, and I’m so happy that I did. I’m cautiously optimistic for the future, but for the first time, CDPR cannot rely on people just trusting their word anymore, they lost that immortal flame when they botched this launch. They have to back up their words with fists, and this is something they cannot afford to mess up. at the same time, I do hope the hate train ends soon. There’s an amazing game locked deep within its depths.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a brilliant, inconsistent and broken mess of a game, but it really paid off for me.

Think of Cyberpunk 2077 like a wedding party, the biggest of the year. Some of your best friends are either lost in traffic, while others couldn’t be bothered to show up. The venue is a little rough around the edges, not the glorious hotel that was promised in the brochure. However, many of your good friends are still there, and the night while messy is a blast. The food is good, and you go home with a smile on your face and a full stomach. That’s the best way I can describe it.

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TheThousandScar

Author/Blogger/Cartographer/Streamer/Narrative Game Writer/I play far too many games. twitch.tv/diabound111 | thousandscarsblog.wordpress.com

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