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Feature Article

Cyberpunk 2077: What We Know About CD Projekt Red's Big New RPG

Here's all the details about CD Projekt Red's sci-fi RPG.

After closing out the Xbox E3 press conference and wowing those lucky enough to witness the behind-closed-doors demo, it seems like all eyes are on Cyberpunk 2077. And that's to be expected, given it's the new RPG from CD Projekt Red, the developer behind The Witcher series. Based on the cult-favorite Cyberpunk 2020 pen-and-paper RPG, the studio's next project builds upon their pedigree of dense RPGs, while venturing out into a drastically different world. Fortunately, after a few-month wait, everyone interested in seeing the game for themselves can now do so, as the private gameplay demo shown at E3 and Gamescom has been released.

Since the game was formally unveiled at E3, we've learned a lot regarding what Cyberpunk 2077 is all about. We've compiled all the information we have on Cyberpunk 2077 so far: how it came to be, why it's a first-person game, and much more. You can check all of this below--just don't expect a release date, which remains a complete mystery for the time being.

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What Is Cyberpunk 2077?

Announced in 2012, three years before the release of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Cyberpunk 2077 is set to be a big change from their past work in the fantasy genre. Moving away from the fiction of Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher series, CD Projekt Red switches over to a new setting based on the Cyberpunk pen-and-paper RPG. Created by Mike Pondsmith, the original Cyberpunk 2020 is set in the dystopian future of Northern California, where corporations, late-stage capitalism, and technology invade all forms of everyday life. While not a direct adaptation of the pen-and-paper game, CD Projekt Red's new game, Cyberpunk 2077, extrapolates many of its concepts, archetypes, and storylines. In a hidden message from their E3 2018 trailer, CDPR stated that they began work shortly after finishing Wild Hunt's Blood and Wine DLC.

"It's been over 2077 days since we announced our plan to develop Cyberpunk 2077. We released a CGI trailer, gave some interviews and… went dark. Normal procedure for these kinds of things--you announce a game and then shut up, roll up your sleeves and get to work. We wanted to give you the Witcher 3 and both expansions first, which is why this period of staying silent was longer than we planned. Sorry for that."

The story of Cyberpunk 2077 focuses on V, a vagabond hustling their way through life in Night City--the largest metropolis in the Free State of California. While exploring the city's districts and surrounding areas, taking on odd jobs and rubbing shoulders with the various gangs, tech dealers, and corporate agents, your character will leave their own mark on the metropolis. Over time, you build Street Cred, gain credits, and acquire new weapons and cybernetic enhancements--such as remote hacking, improved optics, and the Mantis Blades, bladed weapons that unsheath from your forearms. But as you make your presence known, you'll catch the attention of other characters looking to use you for their own ends.

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Who's The Lead Character?

While the Witcher series focused on the exploits of Geralt of Rivia in the Northern Kingdoms, Cyberpunk 2077's story centers around a character that the players create. The main protagonist is whoever you want them to be, and your choices will decide their place and standing in Night City. Along with gender options, ethnic background, and personal style, you can also choose their backstory, including what brought them to the city or if they're a local. Playing as V, you'll be able to make decisions, take out important characters--which will alter or end specific questlines--and upgrade and enhance yourself however you see fit. Much like traditional role-playing games, your character's background and interests play a key role in their growth and base stats.

During the character-creation segment in the E3 demo, the developers took some time to go through some of the options you'll have for customizing V. Unlike in the pen-and-paper game, you aren't able to pick dedicated classes like Techie, Fixer, Netrunners, Rockerboys, or Nomads. Cyberpunk 2077 has an organic and in-the-moment approach to classes: your starting class evolves based on the choices you make and upgrades you acquire. While exploring the city and taking on missions, V will have their partner in crime, Jackie--an imposing but ever-reliable muscle--in tow, who can become a valuable asset on some of the more intense jobs.

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What Kind Of RPG Is Cyberpunk 2077?

While still an action-RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 focuses more on making key decisions throughout many of the scripted and dynamic encounters in Night City. When compared to The Witcher series, particularly The Witcher III, Cyberpunk 2077 is similar in the sense you have free reign to explore and interact with random characters and hopefully stumble into unexpected missions. However, Cyberpunk 2077 aims to put a greater focus on placing you in the shoes of a character who's constantly evolving. In V's case, that's by taking on cybernetic enhancements and amassing an arsenal of seriously dangerous weapons--the homing sub-machine gun was a particular standout.

The new weapons and abilities you acquire will have a significant impact on your individual playstyle. For instance, the Mantis Blades are not only powerful melee tools, but can also be used for freerunning and stealth attacks. The main weapons you have are divided into three categories: power, tech, and smart. Power weapons are mostly standard weapons like generic pistols and shotguns, tech guns have amplifying buffs like bullet penetration, and smart firearms focus on powerful special properties like homing shots. However, as you take on more cybernetic enhancements, you'll lose some of your humanity--which affects how certain characters interact with you.

Despite the clear change from the Witcher series, the developers haven't forgotten their past work. During our talk with associate design director Kyle Rowley on GameSpot's E3 2018 live show, he spoke about the design techniques they picked up from The Wild Hunt, and how it ended up having an impact on Cyberpunk's combat mechanics. "We learned quite a lot from the combat in Witcher 3, and we're translating that to the lessons we learned in the gameplay about how to do melee and try to transfer that to Cyberpunk," Rowley said. "Obviously it's very different in the fact that we're now doing it from a first-person perspective rather than from a third-person, but the lessons that we learned in Witcher, we can definitely translate."

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What Is Night City?

Cyberpunk 2077's main setting is a bustling, and always busy metropolis where tech has left irreparable impact on the lives of its citizens. From the beginning, you'll have much of Night City to explore. Whether it's on-foot, on the back of a motorcycle, in a car, or through the city's train system, you'll be able to travel throughout the city and its many regions. While there are some areas that won't be totally accessible and are locked off, there are many locations that you're free to explore. Having said that, the different regions of the city are set within specific level caps, and there is no level-scaling in the game whatsoever. While you're free to explore these areas and try to engage in encounters with the gangs that have control of the region, it might be best to steer clear of them until you are better prepared. One gang that we know of in particular is the Maelstrom, who have the appearance of neon-lit ghouls, use extremely powerful weapons, and operate out of the Pacifica district.

Here are the six districts of Night City, in CD Projekt's Red's words:

  • City Center: Night City's biggest pride, this is the heart of corporations, the cluster of neon, and the quintessence of luxury.
  • Watson: A unique mix of Asian cultures, it is a fallen corporate giant now populated by immigrants, hiding various bazaars and markets in a tangle of narrow alleyways.
  • Westbrook: Featuring tourist-oriented Japantown, it is a place for the wealthy who like to work hard and play hard.
  • Heywood: Living in one of the neighborhoods of the predominantly Latino area means you successfully managed to climb the social ladder -- it's a massive suburban housing district, with an underlying gang problem.
  • Pacifica: On the other end of the spectrum, this is the most dangerous part of town, abandoned and overrun by gang activity. Separated from the rest of the city, it's a place of immense poverty.
  • Santo Domingo: All of Night City is powered from here, with its countless power plants and industrial factories, stuck in an endless cycle of modernization.
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Why Is It A First-Person Game?

One of the most surprising details we learned about Cyberpunk 2077 is that it's a first-person game. When fans learned of this, there was a noticeable outcry, with many expressing disappointment. From watching the gameplay demo, almost all of the actions stayed within the first-person view--including dialogue sequences, combat, and general exploration--only breaking away from the perspective during vehicle segments. We spoke with Cyberpunk RPG creator Mike Pondsmith during E3 about the decision to make it at an FPS. Here's what he had to say:

"This is where I put my designer hat on, and I get to put on both my table and my video game designer hat, both. This is why it's important. The one thing is the state of the character, the interfaces they use, the drugs they take, the way they deal with their implants--it's all very, very internal to the head of the character, and if you step out of that out [into a third-person view] it becomes a busy hub that you're tracking. On another technical level, the world is massively immersive and if you're stepped back from that into a third person avatar dummy, you are not really part a part of it."

What Platforms Will Cyberpunk 2077 Be Releasing On?

At this time, Cyberpunk 2077 is planned for release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The private E3 demo ran on a modern PC, and the developers have not said whether a next-gen version is planned. However, in an interview with VG247, CDPR stated that its proprietary tech running the game, REDengine 4, was designed to scale to new hardware.

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Is It Done Yet?

CD Projekt Red has revealed that Cyberpunk 2077 is already playable from beginning to end, but that doesn't mean it's done. We don't yet know how far off it remains, but one thing you can count on are some changes from the 48-minute gameplay demo that's now out there.

"What we're releasing today was recorded from a game deep in development," game director Adam Badowski explained. "Since many of the assets and mechanics in the current version of Cyberpunk 2077 are most likely to be modified, we initially decided to show this gameplay only to media. Elements like gunplay (both in terms of visuals and how RPG stats influence it), netrunning, car physics, or the game's UI--everything's pretty much still in the playtest phase and we felt uneasy about publicly committing to any particular design. Animation glitches, work-in-progress character facial expressions, early versions of locations--all this made us hesitant to release what you're about to see."

"However, we are also well aware that many of you want to see what the media saw," he continued. "Although this is probably not the same game you'll see on your screen when we launch, we still decided to share this 48-minute video with you. This is how Cyberpunk 2077 looks today. Let us know what you think!"

When Is The Release Date?

Aside from the cryptic messages that CDPR left in their E3 2018 trailer, which makes jokes about the long the wait and lack of microtransactions in their single-player focused games, the developers haven't confirmed an official release date for Cyberpunk 2077. The game was demoed in a pre-alpha state--which likely means there's still a ways to go for the release. Having said that, there's some strong speculation that the game could make its way to a 2020 launch, which would tie it up nicely with the original Cyberpunk 2020 game. Regardless, the developers in their cryptic message stated that the game will release "when it's ready, we mean it."

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