Fresh off a marathon of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, many players are getting the itch to dive back into the game that inspired it: Cyberpunk 2077. Developer CD Projekt Red’s latest title was launched in a bug-laden state so broken that it took more than a year to fix, but will those returning to Cyberpunk 2077 in 2022 find a better game? Not really. Cyberpunk 2077 has always had issues bigger than its bugs; If anything, its inherent flaws are even more prevalent without all of the distracting bugs. What’s revealed to players then is a world that fails to deliver on the promise of a Night City that feels like a vibrant, lived-in place.
Welcome to Night City — The Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime has gained a devoted following in the two weeks since its release. Beyond the setting of Night City, Edgerunners shares little with its source material. Instead, it takes place a year before the events of the game, telling the story of David Martinez.
In 10 episodes, Edgerunners tells a short, contained story about its small cast of characters that makes Night City feel like a real place where people live and eventually stop living. It also understands the core elements of cyberpunk, focusing on what keeps people human amidst the capitalist-fueled evolution of technology.
Players returning to Cyberpunk 2077 want to experience more of that world to feel closer to the characters they became attached to. These people, however, will find the claims from Cyberpunk 2077 apologists that the game is “good actually” to be disingenuous. Before all of its bugs were fixed, you could make the claim that Cyberpunk 2077 was actually good under all the jankiness. Instead, now that the swarm of bugs has been cleared away, what’s left is a world that fails to live up to the vibrancy of Edgerunners portrays.
CD Projekt Red became one of the most beloved studios in gaming due to the massive success of their 2015 magnum opus The Witcher 3. The studio cut its teeth making the first Witcher game in 2007 (which isn’t very good) and came into its own with the release of The Witcher 2 in 2011 (which is extremely good and deserves more attention).
Failure to deliver — The Witcher 3 earned more game of the year awards than any other game. This comes down to its massive living open world, a compelling wrap-up to Geralt’s story (except not actually), and satisfying combat. Even the game’s DLC puts many full-fledged RPGs to shame. One of the biggest claims to fame for The Witcher 3 was the side quests. Often boring affairs in other games that help give players much-needed experience, side quests are meaty, meaningful affairs in The Witcher 3. CD Projekt Red provided luxuriously crafted side stories, all of which followed named characters with full voice acting that built out the lives of the people that inhabited the world.
What’s more was that you’d have to make meaningful, nuanced decisions that shaped how the short narrative would play out.
The Witcher 3 became the standard that every other game’s side quests were compared to. Red Dead Redemption 2 sought to emulate The Witcher 3, as did Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. CD Projekt Red also hoped to achieve something similar with Cyberpunk 2077 but was not able to deliver the same level of quality.
Cyberpunk 2077’s side-quests are filler in a world that often feels lifeless. Night City’s cyberpunk aesthetic only goes skin deep, leaving players with emptiness. Even with the imminent release of Cyberpunk 2077’s first and only story DLC, Phantom Liberty, the game offers nothing meaningful to players that don’t want to railroad the main story.
There are some good moments within Cyberpunk 2077. In fact, some of the game's best moments do happen in side quests. But these moments are few and far between, only occurring in the handful of long quest chains that are connected to prominent characters who are part of the main story.
Edgerunners achieves depth through its focus on a core cast of likable characters with meaningful relationships and character arcs. Cyberpunk 2077, however, sacrifices that kind of depth for a wide-reaching breadth to the Night City experience. The end result is a hive of bland NPCs doling out fetch quests that make the city feel busy yet lifeless.
Cyberpunk 2077 is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, and PC