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It's me, Moosey! They/them pronouns for anyone wondering.

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Moosey's Many Thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077: Part I.

Quick Note: This was originally written as a single, very long blog, but for the sake of my readers' time, I split it into two.

Where do I even begin with this one? The astronomical expectations before it released? Or how it was such a disastrous release that it led to unprecedented numbers of returns, and even Sony delisting the game from sale on PSN for months? Given that I think it's safe to say anyone reading this already knows all that stuff, and I specifically waited for the PS5 version of the game because of it, I can probably start with the newer rendition of the game.

Or maybe before that, just a quick word on when I bought the game, before actually playing it. That was some time last fall, when it was on a clearance sale for $10. Again, just as a reminder for what happened with this game, that a major retailer was trying to get rid of copies they clearly had lying around since launch (as it came with a code for a free month of HBO Max that expired at the end of December 2020), and sold it for one sixth the original price less than a year after release.

Then came the release of the current gen (PS5/Xbox Series) version of the game, and a moment where it felt like CD Projekt Red was presenting this as the “we've finally done it and made this into the game we wanted it to be” moment. Or maybe a bit more cynically, the “we finally fixed it” version of the game. And that felt like the perfect time to jump in and finally use that clearance sale copy I bought!

Only problem being, I was deep into the Lands Between at the time, and I wasn't about to derail my Elden Ring playthrough for anything else. After finishing that, I wanted some smaller games to play first (thank you The Game Bakers' Haven and (RIP) Japan Studio's Gravity Rush duology for serving this purpose well (one of these games may get mentioned in Part II of this blog, so keep an eye out!)). Especially before starting another RPG where I was going to be spending time thinking about how to build out my character.

After everything I read and heard about Cyberpunk, I really had no idea what to expect going in. It's fair to say that, since when I bought it I thought, “surely I'll get $10 of enjoyment out of it,” my expectations were low. However, that's also perhaps part of why the game surprised me so much, because despite it all, despite the fact that the game definitely does still have problems (some of them technical, still), I actually had a really great time with it.

It did not take long for me to discover that the photo mode has a bunch of poses from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
It did not take long for me to discover that the photo mode has a bunch of poses from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

First off, I think given the game's reputation, and the year and a half-ish after initial release it took for the current gen console version to be let unto the world, I think the technical side of the game is the best place to start discussing the game itself. While I'd like to say I had a flawless time with the game, I didn't. It still has issues, ranging from weird bugs with the UI (like showing the wrong weapon equipped when loading into the game (particularly a heavy machine gun I neither owned nor had the stats to properly use)), to sound effects continuing to play after they should've stopped, to goofy ones like an NPC floating above a sidewalk, or a car loading in at a weird angle relative to the ground. Then there's the more significant ones. There was one instance of a character briefly not animating at all during a story cutscene, and worst of all, the game hard crashed my PS5.


Only game to do that, so far.

But I also want to emphasize that in eighty (yes, 80) hours with the game, the experience was mostly totally fine. Far from the buggiest game I've ever played, and though I didn't play the launch version of Cyberpunk, I'd say far from the horror story I've heard that was. For the most part I think it runs well too, at least in performance mode. Definitely some spots where, even with the PS5's new VRR mode enabled (and of course my TV that supports it), it still feels kind of hitchy, but really only in some of the most heavily populated marketplace areas in the game. I'm not sure what's going on there, but elsewhere, and particularly during combat where those frames have more impact, I didn't notice any issues.

Visually I think the game looks nice, with some cool design throughout (though I am a sucker for lowercase c cyberpunk aesthetics in general), but I wouldn't say it's the visual showpiece the game was touted as before release. Or, maybe more accurately, not the visual showpiece the game is on a suitably powerful PC. Perhaps if they ever update the game again for PS6 in the future, that version can have the full suite of traced rays, but until then, I don't think ray traced shadows (only in indoor scenes) is worth halving the framerate. That said, I love the HDR in it, because it really makes all that glowing neon pop.

If you're hoping for screenshots from things like combat, I'm sorry to say I mostly only have photo mode ones.
If you're hoping for screenshots from things like combat, I'm sorry to say I mostly only have photo mode ones.

All in all I'd say the game still has room for improvement, but at least on PS5, it's a pretty good experience in that regard. Of course, even a technically perfect game isn't great if the rest of it isn't up to snuff, but both the story and game parts of Cyberpunk were significantly better than I expected.

We all know the setup at this point, a small time criminal named V gets wrapped up in something way bigger than they ever expected, and winds up with a rogue Keanu trapped in their noggin. What I didn't know going into the game, is that the build up to that happening is way longer, and more involved than I thought. There's a late title card after it, and not counting end of story late title cards (like Red Dead Redemption), it's both one of the latest, and best I've ever seen. Just a great build up to a sudden event, and the title card pops. I know it's another thing I'm a sucker for, but nothing hits quite the same as a well executed late title card, and again, this is genuinely one of my favorites of those.

I'm not going to go into too much depth about the game's story (but there are some end of Act 1/beginning of Act 2 SPOILERS I'll mention), but on top of the game's main narrative being compelling enough to keep my interest through its whole run time, I was surprised by how much I liked the game's cast of characters, both the main and side ones. And I think crucially, the fact that the game has way more heart, and spends much more time developing them than I anticipated.

Take Jackie, for example. He was the guy who probably showed up the most in the promotional stuff for the game (aside from maybe Johnny Silverhand, because of Keanu's obvious star power), but even before playing the game, I kinda got the vibe that something was going to happen to him. And, unsurprisingly Jackie does meet an untimely end at the close of the game's opening Act, but the game had done enough to make me feel bad when he died. Both in the time spent with him, and in his final moments.

Of all the photo mode shots I took, this is definitely one of the best ones. But I dunno, I'm not a photographer.
Of all the photo mode shots I took, this is definitely one of the best ones. But I dunno, I'm not a photographer.

Then, even more surprising to me, was the side mission to go meet with Jackie's mom after the fact, and attend a get together for Jackie's friends and family to pay their last respects to him. For whatever reason, I had this impression going into the game that Cyberpunk was going to be nothing but cynical and edgy for the sake of being edgy, and while I'm not going to say the game doesn't have a fair amount of cynicism in it, and there are definitely parts that feel like they're trying too hard to be edgy (like the in game advertising), but it also has genuine heart and compassion for its characters.

Not just in this one mission either, throughout the game, just about all the major characters get moments like this. Scuba diving with Judy, spending an afternoon staking out and chatting with Takemura, cruising around the badlands with Panam, or even all the heart to hearts that V and Johnny Silverhand have together. A lot of it is optional, but that's true of a lot of games like this. Someone could technically play a Persona without doing the social links with party members, but like that, this is an experience where players are really supposed to go and spend time with these characters.

Even if that is kind of at odds with the game's main narrative that is focused on what is meant to feel like a fairly tight (literal) deadline. Conversely, I'm glad that unlike Persona there aren't any sort of time limits or actual time pressure on these things, so I could just do them whenever, and at whatever pace I wanted. Not to get sidetracked, but it does still bother me that I had two unfinished Confidants that I cared about in Persona 5 Royal, that if I had even another in game week I could have completed. But no such problem in Cyberpunk, which is good.

The last main story related thing I really want to touch on is the relationship between V and Johnny. Considering the casting of Keanu Reeves, someone who certainly who by all appearances is a very popular and good sounding guy (at least by celebrity standards), I was expecting Johnny to be kind of a friendly pal type character. A mentor who would show up with words of wisdom, or funny quips.

I so badly wish I could have selected poses for both V and Johnny in the photo mode. But I'll take what I can get for V and their Stand, Dogstar.
I so badly wish I could have selected poses for both V and Johnny in the photo mode. But I'll take what I can get for V and their Stand, Dogstar.

Instead Johnny's kind of an a-hole, and also a terrorist?? He used a nuke in the middle of Night City to blow up a building, and killed who knows how many people, for crying out loud! So, the first time he appears to V, it's an intense, and frankly almost scary scene as he tries to forcefully wrench control of V's body away from them.

So, as one could guess, their relationship doesn't exactly get off on the right foot. And for a large portion of the game, the two of them are practically at each others' throats, even though they know they basically have to work together if they want to achieve their goal: Getting Johnny out of V's head before it's too late. And as much as I love Keanu (as an actor at least, I've never met the man), I admit he doesn't exactly have the largest acting range. But thankfully his casting for the role wasn't just a publicity stunt, and unlike some other similar casting (Kiefer Sutherland), Keanu actually has a lot of lines throughout the game, so he feels really fleshed out.

Across the board, I think the voice acting for all the main characters is really good, especially at least the feminine voice for V. I can't speak to the masculine voice option, though that one did seem a little off putting when I watched a comparison video after finishing the game, just out of curiosity. Anyway, I just wanted to give a proper shout out to Cherami Leigh for her performance as V, because even now I still think that voice actors don't get enough credit for all their hard work, and how that work can mean the difference between characters/a story being compelling, or a slog. Plus I would have felt bad if the only actor I mentioned by name was the big name one from Hollywood.

Back to V and Johnny, I don't know how much variation there is based on choices made, or whether some side quests later in the game are or aren't done, but I like the overall arc the two of them have. Slowly growing to trust each other, even if they still find each other kind of annoying at times. I mean, I would too, if someone was stuck in my head, even if he did look and sound like Keanu. Or if I was stuck in someone else's, for that matter!

Last thing I really want to mention about the story, is that I quite liked the ending I got. I started the game with the Nomad origin, and I'm not going to spoil anything about the different ways the ending can play out, but I'll say that the ending I got felt true to my character, and to a large extent their Nomadic leanings. It was a bittersweet ending in a lot of ways, but that just ended up making it feel that much more endearing to me.

600 screenshots, didn't get any good ones from combat, but I did get this.
600 screenshots, didn't get any good ones from combat, but I did get this.

Then there's the part of Cyberpunk where it's a video game, which I also liked a lot! This I had a better idea of what to expect going into the game, as I'd heard it was basically CD Projekt's take on making a Deus Ex game, just with added hacking that feels more Watch_Dogs-ish. Considering it's a cyberpunk game with an emphasis on stealth, encounters designed to be tackled in a variety of ways, and some amount of customization on how to build out the character, in a lot of ways it is. But considering the much wider breadth of this game (being fully open world) and options for character builds (at least compared to the latter two Deus Exes, I only played the Jensen games), I think Cyberpunk pushes further than those games did in a lot of ways.

One of which being that character builds and RPG elements aside, I actually think that Cyberpunk is pretty good and fun to play outside of the stealth. Listen, I like those two Jensen games as much as anyone else (especially Human Revolution), but the combat never felt all that good. It was a bit more refined in Mankind Divided, but it always felt like a stealth game first and foremost, and particularly one where entering into combat meant I had messed up.

I'm not going to say Cyberpunk has amazing combat, and I definitely had to monkey around with the right stick sensitivity and acceleration a lot before I got it feeling right, but for this style of game? It's definitely the best feeling the combat, both ranged and especially melee, has ever felt to me. Even expanding the comparisons, I think it plays a lot better than the Fallout games. Exponentially better than The Outer Worlds ever felt, that's for sure! A game that some may recall, I disliked the combat so much that my takeaway was that Obsidian should just give up on including combat in their games, and instead focus on narrative adventure games.

There's a decent variety of weapon types too, including “smart” weapons that curve their shots to hit targets (like that one from The Fifth Element), and tech weapons that can shoot right through solid concrete when charged. And the melee combat has things like well timed parries and dodges activating slow motion (think Bayonetta style Witch Time), and that always felt cool to pull off too.

A more peaceful flamingo encounter.
A more peaceful flamingo encounter.

But that's not all either, there's also the hacking, which is useful for both stealth and combat, as it can be used for Watch_Dogs style jumping from camera to camera to scope out areas before infiltrating, giving enemies debuffs, or even outright attacking them. And as my character ended up being primarily focused on hacking, it wound up being by far my most effective “weapon” during fights. Why shoot back at the enemies when I can activate my hacker vision (which stops time to give me time to think), then just upload digital poison that spreads to all my foes? Or simply give them a system reset that knocks someone out entirely, and then spreads to another person because I bought the Cyberware deck that lets “Ultimate Quickhacks” spread to another target? Maybe install a little sneaky trick onto all the enemies in the area whilst I breach them that automatically disables their ability see when they spot me, so I can mosey on by undetected? And if I'm feeling deadly, detonate a grenade, or just force a target to pull out their own gun and commit suicide?

Well, because those last two options are...very dark. I'm not saying I never did those (though I may have never actually used the grenade one, come to think of it), but I did generally try not to just outright kill most enemies in the game. Not unless they really deserved it. I didn't go for a 100% nonlethal route, partly because I don't think it can done to the letter, as there's some enemies in the early game that I think the only way to deal with them is killing. That said, there are certain side missions with an optional objective to not kill, and I did my best to adhere to those. Particularly the “Cyberpsycho” ones, as the person who gives those missions (Regina) wants to help the afflicted Cyberpsychos recover, and they can't if they're dead.

Usually when games have nonlethal options I do try to use them, as I find it interesting when games treat “not killing” as something worthwhile (I prefer not to use the word “pacifism” because I think knocking people out is still a form of violence, and thus not literally pacifist). In most games, the nonlethal play style feels notably different from the default, and often in ways that make it more of a challenge than just killing. Sometimes too much more (like Dishonored's paltry sleep dart ammo capacity), and there's always the rare game where it's somehow more effective to not kill (Splinter Cell Blacklist and its room clearing sleep gas bombs). Cyberpunk, though, is weird because aside from doing a blunt melee only run, its solution to nonlethal play is to equip a mod to V's eyes that just magically makes all their damage nonlethal. I think the lore explanation being that it allows V to target parts of the body that won't kill the enemy,'s still me manually aiming the weapon, so it feels a tad silly.

Now, for the smart weapons, this does make some sense because it then it does only target limbs, instead of the chest or head. But for tech weapons with enough power to shoot through concrete? A little less so. Regardless of how much real world sense it does or doesn't make, in practice whether to kill or not kill doesn't have that big an impact on how one plays the game, which made it a bit less compelling to me than in most other stealth games. The tradeoff is supposed to be that headshots don't get any bonus damage, but I don't know if that was actually working as intended. Because the game previews how much damage an attack will do (at least from stealth) by making a portion of the enemy's health bar change color for how much damage the attack will do, and headshots always took up a larger portion of the bar. At least when I was actively paying attention to it. Now, maybe that was a different bonus, like a sneak attack one that isn't affected by the nonlethal eye mod, but I don't know for sure.

When you see a hot dog.
When you see a hot dog.

All that aside, as I said, as I got deeper into the game, and my build became increasingly focused on stealth and hacking, at some point I found that the game got too easy, since I could just hack everyone, and all my skills and ram recharged so fast I was unstoppable. So I turned the difficulty up to hard, and my immediate reaction to that jump wasn't great. At first it felt like the only difference was that now I died almost immediately when enemies shot at me, thus forcing me to actually stick to cover, and only peek my head out to quickhack before ducking down again.

And that was frustrating when combat started, so I went back and forth between normal and hard for a bit before getting my character to a place where they could more easily survive once the combat started. Through one of the cooler skill sets in the game, Cold Blood. I assume this is probably something from some incarnation of the Cyberpunk series of tabletop RPGs, but basically Cold Blood is a series of buffs that build up as more enemies are defeated in rapid succession. Better defense, better damage, better resistances, better cool downs, etc. Luckily defeating enemies in any way, including hacking, counts, so by doing that, and being aggressive, I was able to still get through fights in a manner that wasn't just hiding and poking my head out, and while still playing on hard.

Probably worth noting that by the end of the game I hadn't actually hit the level cap (didn't spend enough time sleeping for the well rested XP bonus (or showering for the “not stinky” health regen bonus)), but I had maxed out two of the five Attributes in the game (Intelligence and Cool), and almost maxed a third (Technical). But that left my Body and Reflexes very low (five and six), meaning I had very little health. So even with as much armor as I could get my mitts on (while also trying to be fashionable), my character was not built for tanking damage. That and I think the game's health regen abilities might not work entirely correctly? But I can't be sure how much of things not working like how I thought is ability descriptions not being clear enough, or maybe weird bugs.

All that said, when it wasn't too easy for its own good, I had a lot of fun with the game's combat and stealth, and I think there's potential for some pretty good variety in character builds. I focused on stealth and hacking, but there's so much melee and ranged combat stuff that I never even touched, even if I did occasionally pull out a sword, or Gorilla Arms to just punch enemies for fun. A lot of Cyberware mods are locked behind needing a specific level of certain Attributes, and because of that there were a ton of Body and Reflex focused ones that I couldn't ever try out. Ones that I assume probably make surviving in fights easier! Thankfully the sub-dermal armor can be used by anyone, and that was a big help.

There's Power Rangers poses too.
There's Power Rangers poses too.

Conversely, I'm pretty sure some of that better stuff for hacking was locked behind having high enough Int, so I'd imagine a melee only build probably can't hack well. Or maybe even at all, because I think there are other options for that slot in the Cyberware menu, which replace the hacking with a berserk skill, or maybe something else entirely? Like I say, I didn't have the stats to equip any of that stuff, and respeccing only refunds skill points, and not Attribute points. IE, I could rearrange how I spent my points within the different skill sets underneath the Attributes layer, but not the Attributes themselves. It makes sense in practice, trust me, and I assume the reason is because so many Cyberware mods are locked behind Attributes, and letting the player change those would result in some sort of wonkiness with that, or maybe require respeccing be done at a Ripperdoc, rather than anywhere. Which wouldn't have been a bad tradeoff, honestly.

Anyway, even if some skills could be explained better, and I wish I could refund individual skill points instead of it being all or nothing (just to save time when I felt like I had one skill that wasn't working out), overall I like these systems a lot. Enough that I kind of want to play the game again with a different build? I mean, I went all in on stealth and hacking, and I think it'd be fun to do a character that was all in on combat. Just a beast that runs through slicing and dicing, it'd be fun!

Partly because for as many neat mechanics as there are in the stealth, with it feeling like a good mix of Deus Ex and Watch_Dogs, even on hard when the enemies do have better eyesight, it's still kind of easy. Or, I think worse than being easy, most of the stealth encounters feel too short, and I don't think they fully explore what these mechanics could do, regarding different interactions that could happen with hacking. For side gigs that are meant to be done in a quick manner, that's fine, but even the story missions never really feel like they had me sneaking around as much as I wanted (and honestly some of the late game gigs felt like longer and more challenging stealth scenarios). Like, those Deus Ex games by being capital S Stealth Games, had some long sneaking missions that really felt like infiltrating heavily defended locations.

Cyberpunk, meanwhile, by being a game that has to cater to a wider swathe of play styles, doesn't. There's some longer sneaking sections in the game, but they're few and far between, and I wish they'd been a bit more challenging.

So, I've written a bunch about this game's mechanics, and could probably write a whole lot more if I really wanted to dig into every nook and cranny, but instead I'm going to move on and say something that might be controversial:

I think Cyberpunk 2077 is a better playing and designed game than The Witcher games. A much better one, in a lot of ways! Granted, I never actually played the first Witcher, but I don't think the combat in II or III ever rose to anything above mediocre, and the RPG aspects of III were an active hindrance to my enjoyment of the game. I liked exploring and meandering around that game's world, but the bulk of playing the game (outside talking to people) was just spent using Witcher vision to follow things to a creature (some of which is still in Cyberpunk, particularly with the Cyberpsychos), and then engaging in adequate, but never exceptional swordplay with some very light magic sprinkled in on top.

Don't get me wrong, I like those second two Witcher games a lot, but because of story, world, characters, those sorts of things. Whereas Cyberpunk also has story, world, and characters that I enjoy, but with a lot of game systems and mechanics that are so much more interesting and fun to play around with. For me anyway, I'll take a cyber stealth game over a generic feeling fantasy game, purely in terms of the game part, I mean. I'm not going to compare and contrast the stories of the games, because that feels even more subjective to me (but also this is a personal blog, everything I write is subjective!), and also it's been years since I played Witcher III, and even longer since II.

Exactly one time, very early in the game, I found a cat that had a prompt to pet it.
Exactly one time, very early in the game, I found a cat that had a prompt to pet it.

Only last comparison I'll make is that I'm glad Cyberpunk has a much more diverse cast of characters than any of the Witcher games. Which is to say, people of color exist in Cyberpunk, and though there are definitely good women characters in the Witcher series, I'd still lean toward Cyberpunk being the better of the two at handling them. Broadly speaking they tend to feel more like they have actual agency over their lives, as opposed to just being there for Geralt to come and solve all their problems (even if V has a lot of problems to solve too, to be fair). That, and the cyberpunk setting means the outfits all feel appropriate for the setting, as opposed to The Witcher where a lot of women felt needlessly sexualized. Like Ciri's shirt in III being unbuttoned in just the right spot to see her bra. At least in Cyberpunk when there are characters whose bras I can see, it feels like it fits, and like something a person might do as an intentional choice, if that makes any sense.

And before anyone @s me about the race thing in The Witcher, there's plenty of people of color in the Netflix Witcher series, so just don't. I won't respond. There's zero good reasons to exclude people of color in fantasy settings. And if these days if I see an all white fantasy world, it's kind of hard to not think it's down to either active racism, or the creators of that world being way too white for their own good, and way too clueless (and arguably that's a form of passive, unconscious racism).

To also be clear, I'm not saying that Cyberpunk is amazing in any regard to race. I'm sure others more qualified to speak on the matter had things to say about it falling into the “exoticising” and “Orientalism” tropes that the genre (and also series) of Cyberpunk often does regarding Asian people broadly (but specifically Japanese and Chinese in Cyberpunk 2077). Never mind that there's very few black characters in the main story (several of which are killed early on, and the others only show up very briefly), and the majority of the Hispanic characters are pretty light skinned. Which obviously people like that exist in real life, but considering the game's Californian setting, it feels a bit odd.

Again, just to remind people, I'm white, and that surface level musing is about all I feel comfortable saying. So, instead I just want to bring up one last brief thing before ending Part I of this blog.

Namely, the music. Overall I think it's pretty good, at least all the “story/cutscene” type music. Most of the stuff that played on the radio wasn't so hot, but I'd say that's true of radio stations in real life too. Even on the game's radio, there's a lot of stuff that I think is enjoyable enough, until the vocals start. Then I changed the station, or turned it off entirely while driving. Which reminds me that I wrote this whole thing without ever talking about the driving! It's totally adequate, but I want to say the driving model was overhauled at some point before I played the game, so maybe it used to be terrible, for all I know.

That's it for Part I (the shorter of the two parts) of my many thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077! You may be wondering what else I had to say after I already wrote about the story and game design (though honestly I could have gone so much deeper on the story if I wanted to get into actual spoilers), and if so, tune in soon for Part II! I'll be exploring the topic of, “Just how 'cyberpunk' is Cyberpunk 2007,” and doing the thing I can't stop myself from doing: Writing about the game's handling of queer topics and characters.

Thank you for reading, and Part II is live now! Give it a read if you just can't get enough of my writing!

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