So I got a 3060 as part of a new PC, and decided to start over with 2077, and I’m glad I did, overall. I took a totally different approach this time, going from a build that was primarily INT and TECH, to one which was BODY/REF/COOL.
My biggest takeaways from this run through were:
- 2077 is extremely well-written. They manage to efficiently and adeptly characterise an awful lot of characters in a very short time, and make most of them fairly emotionally compelling. They also manage to often give the player genuine choices in dialogue, and some stuff that didn’t like it was a choice, actually was. For example, we needed to do some recon for an upcoming mission, and one of the options was “ugh I’m too busy”, and I thought "Oh, if I pick that it’ll just lead to the same place - i.e. me having to do the recon. Except it didn’t. The other guy involved did it, and indeed there was an amusing text message conversation with him as he did it! I personally think that it’s overall better written than TW3.
The one place where it lets itself down is Johnny Silverhand. He’s just a bit too much of an asshole. You can totally call him on it - quite frequently - but overall he’s just maybe a bit too much of a fucking jerk and there is stuff you should be able to call him out on which you can’t. They do manage to give you the feeling that this is a guy from the past by doing that, but it’s quite wearing. I also agree with people who say Keanu was miscast. This is maybe the most misanthropic/cynical role I’ve ever seen him do, and he embraces it, but I don’t feel like it’s quite right. RPS jokingly suggested Nick Cage and he’d be even worse of course overall, but I think they needed someone who younger and who pushed both the “bitter revolutionary” and “from a different time” angles a bit harder in his line-readings. Chris Evans, based on Knives Out! might have been good, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt (assuming they want some star power). Adam Driver would have probably killed it, like to an incredible degree, but I doubt he’d have been willing. I see why they went with Keanu but I think it highlights some of the issues with Silverhand’s writing rather than hiding them.
But even then, there are good scenes with him, and you can really go through them in some quite different ways. There are also so many genuinely great scenes with so many NPCs, and a lot of relatively subtle characterisation too. Like Goro, who initially seems like a scary-as-fuck cybersamurai gradually reveals a slightly naive belief in people’s goodness and honour, a bumbling uncle side with technology, and a strong desire to do the right thing, all of which humanizes him in a really good way.
- There’s a ton of complicated reactivity in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect it, and whilst I think TW3 had some of this, and I suspect Disco Elysium has this (and FO:NV and Pillars 2 had a bit of this), I feel like this is the most naturalistic and unforced reactivity I’ve personally ever seen in a game. For example, I assassinated a sleazebag Tyger gang boss in one part of town in an entirely optional and missable side-mission. Then in part of the main mission, I was able to threaten another guy connected to the Tygers on this basis, saving myself a lot of trouble and eliciting a very natural-feeling reaction. A side-mission had me walk in on a deal about to go wrong, between some Nomads who knew V personally and some Scavs. This was extremely well-done - the Nomads reacted to me entirely appropriately, as did the Scavs, and there were multiple points of reactivity too, as the Scavs references two previous confrontations I’d had with that gang. As I had to reload due to some poorly thrown grenades, I also saw that the mission had different possible outcomes too, and those were very well-handled.
And there’s tons of little bits here. Like, one mission for a friend, her ex-lover is involved, and if you didn’t go along with her scheme, you do have to defeat the ex, but the friend’s reactions based on whether you kill the ex or KO them are very different, and it feels right. So you have some very distinct outcomes.
Or in an early main mission, it’d already seen you could help Militech or not, and depending on how you helped them, there’d be consequences for the Militech people involved and the mission would be a lot easier because Militech and the Maelstrom people would be fighting. But this time whilst I agreed to help Militech, instead of going for the complicated sting that backfired on the person arranging it last time, I just walked into the Maelstrom base and started shooting. This lead to a very different scenario (including a minor puzzle), and the outcome for the Militech corpo was much more positive (not intended but interesting). It also seems like I was able to keep the money I was going to pay Maelstrom (that Militech had given me), though that was less clear (certainly I got way more money from the mission than previously).
Anyway, point is, I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and it’s particularly good because not presented in a computer-game-y way most of the time. It seems natural. It reacts in ways that make sense. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty damn good.
- We also have a “FemShep”-type situation once more - also seen with AC:Odyssey. And it’s even more extreme here than with female V. Basically, male V, who I briefly tried out, and have seen on YouTube etc, is “Generic Movie Tough Guy”. Nothing about his line-readings is particularly interesting or engaging, and this is bad, because V speaks a lot and has a lot of emotional and difficult stuff to deal with. The game is written not for a “Generic Movie Tough Guy”, but a more vulnerable and complicated character. I’m not saying the VA is bad, but it’s not remarkable or memorable in really any way and doesn’t get you into the story. This is a big problem IMHO because it means most people will never hear 2077 “done right”, as most people will pick male V (and indeed most reviewers did). Female V, done by Cherami Leigh, is an actual character and really engages incredibly well with all emotional stuff V goes through, both positive and negative. It’s often quite hard to believe she wasn’t in the studio with other actors in the scene, because she does such an amazing job (she did get some award nominations for it I note). I think this accounts for why some of the reviews of 2077 are like “Well I didn’t care that much about V…”, and it’s like yeah, if you pick male V you won’t. He’s fine, but that’s it. But female V is very different. And it’s distinctly worse as a problem than ME1-3 or AC:O because in both of those, the male VO at least gave a distinctive take. In ME1-3, you Mark Meer in a sort of “Captain Kirk/Buck Rogers/John Critchon (Farscape)”-type space, with a sort of eyebrow-waggling buckle to his swash, against the more serious military-SF approach taken by Jennifer Hale. Both work. Both are valid (for the record I think Hale works a little better tonally because ME is more military SF than swashbuckling SF). With AC:O you have this tremendously worldly and charismatic take for Kassandra’s VO (who the game’s dialogue was written for, note, originally you didn’t have a choice of lead until the senior sex-offender guy who got fired from Ubi insisted they put a male option in or he wouldn’t let them release the game - he wasn’t a dev, just an exec), and Kassandra is charming and witty and tired of your shit. But Alexios’ VO is very different and basically has Alexios as a grinning psychopath who is kind of scary. I’d say that was less valid, but hey it is at least “a thing” and not generic. There will be those who dislike Leigh’s accent as it’s clearly not Californian, whereas the Street Kid is (the Nomad wouldn’t necessarily be, and I dunno for the Corpo) - but this is sort of covered because the Street Kid spent some years in Atlanta. And the strength of her reading and engagement with the emotional stuff more than makes up for that, in my view. Prior this play-through I’d kind of assumed male V was on a similar level, but he really isn’t.
- The game is fucking terrible at explaining things, to an absolutely criminal degree. Again I think this impacted reviews, and certainly impacts player experience, because there’s loads of stuff I was only working out on my second playthrough, like after 60+ hours with the game. Like that the grey-quality blueprints you can get for weapon and armour augments? They don’t make grey-quality items! They make random-quality items! This is totally unlike all the other blueprints in the game. No explanation, and even if players engage with crafting, it won’t be obvious unless they craft a bunch of augments. I skipped buying some grey-quality augment blueprints early on (and haven’t seen any since!) because I assumed they worked like other ones! There are also bizarre blueprints which appear to require you to have an item you may well have destroyed, even though the game’s text claims that they gave you a way to create that item.
Another crime of non-explanation is the Cyberdeck/Sandevistan/Berserk choice, which is completely hidden, not referred to, and not well accounted for in dialogue, though I bet that, at some point in development, it was basically a “class” choice. So the game starts you off with a Cyberdeck, i.e. the ability to hack stuff, and teaches you how to use it. I suspect most players will never really realize that they have any other options, or might accidentally buy one, find it removes the Cyberdeck they’ve invested in with skills and money, and reload and forget about it. The Cyberdeck encourages you to be extremely methodical and sort of play a wizard, hacking cameras and turrets and people and so on. That’s totally valid, but the other options offer different play-styles. Losing the hacking and the methodical play associated with it is bizarrely liberating. I picked a Sandevistan, which is basically the ability to go into “bullet time”, and it’s amazing. It’s even good for stealth, because during bullet-time you move and act at a normal speed, so if you’ve slowed time down to, say, 25%, you’re moving what, 4x faster than normal? Faster? This means you can sometimes flash past enemies so quickly that they don’t even get to notice you. It also means you can lunge in, grab someone and drag them away with minimal risk. Or you hit bullet-time as start shooting people with a silenced pistol - often you can get everyone in an area before they can even really react. And in open combat it’s obviously tremendous - there are also “bullet-time” options for if your health drops or you get noticed or you dodge - those are compatible with Cyberdecks too but less likely to be used with them I think. I currently have one which slows time to 25%, for 15 seconds, on a 12 second cooldown (which only starts when it wears off) and it’s just amazing. The only downside is some genius but the default key the same as “drop body”, but that can be changed. The end result is instead of being methodical and carefully hacking things and people (and being able to be very sure where you’re going on missions by hacking cameras and stuff to find your targets), you’re playing this really spontaneous deal where it’s more like Max Payne or something, except even more extreme.
Yet even here it’s underdeveloped. The simple fixed slowdown period and cooldown period are less clever than Max Payne, and the lack of ability to adjust it or the like makes it feel like they decided to focus on the Cyberdeck (and in at least one mission Johnny implies you’re a Netrunner, which you really aren’t if you don’t have a Cyberdeck), and the fact that it’s never even mentioned as a possibility is kind of wild. I realized on my first playthrough but I dismissed it out of hand because I was so invested in being a hacker (Netrunner) by then.
Berserk is another option with a similar level of development, possibly even less - it basically turns you into an extremely hard-to-kill melee monster for a period, and lets you jump off any height and live (with a superhero landing even). I guess it’s for people who want even less subtlety, who want to just leap down into a bunch of people and start kicking ass. Again it feels like there should be a bit more too this - like maybe some way to prolong the berserk as long as you still have targets to kill.
Or take the Database, which is, yes a database of all the people, places, vehicles, weapons and so on in the game. I didn’t even spot it until my second playthrough. Nothing tells you to look at it. And it’s got lots of stuff which screams “unfinished”. Like one of the major guns in the game doesn’t have an entry at all. Another one is clearly not describing the gun actually in the game, but some earlier iteration of it. Yet a third has the wrong picture. And all of them say “NEW” even when you’ve read the entries (as soon as you scroll offscreen). The vehicles database is fascinating in that it includes at least one vehicle that’s not even in the game AFAIK - a city bus! It seems like it should be in there, but it ain’t. Others have curious descriptions which sort of hint that maybe this was once a Cyberpunk 2020 or 2045 game, and that maybe they weren’t updated when they picked 2077 (even though that was a very long time ago).
And some other stuff just has outright wrong descriptions - Gorilla Arms say they let you rip open doors and pull turrets off their mounts. They do not. Monowire cyberware in the earlier demos let you use it to hack and so on, but that got completely removed, and bizarrely and unexplained-ly it counts as a “blunt” weapon (good for balance - it fits well with the blunt weapon tree - but really weird given it slices people up!). The rocket-launcher cyberarms really fail to convey that firstly, they’re a powerful charge-up, semi-home-in rocket launcher on no cooldown with no ammo limits by default (a little awkward to use but still…), instead sounding like a wimpy gun in the description. Secondly, they fail to communicate that you can get different ammo that changes how they function significantly - everything from electro rounds for robots to knock-out stuff. Only the Mantis Blades - heavily featured in demos/promos - seem to function “as described”. I don’t think that’s coincidence.
The sick thing is I’m not even done the unexplained or inaccurate or confusing stuff. There’s tons more.
I’ll add some more thoughts later maybe.