Last year, developer CD Projekt Red gave E3 2019 attendees a behind closed doors look at Cyberpunk 2077 that was the talk of the show. Coming off of Microsoft’s E3 2018 press conference, there were a lot of questions about Cyberpunk 2077 and that demo helped answer a lot of them, while surprising CDPR fans with a first-person shooter. After that E3 2018 demo, which did eventually get released to the public, many questioned whether CD Projekt Red was designing Cyberpunk 2077 to be the type of deep RPG that the studio is known for, despite consistent claims that it is.
Now, at the Cyberpunk 2077 E3 2019 demo, CD Projekt Red has shifted the focus from the core gunplay to the RPG. In a 50-minute demo, the developers highlighted how much of Cyberpunk 2077 takes into account player choice and player customization when creating their version of V, almost in a way to finally say, “Yes, this is a CDPR RPG in every sense of the word.”
It starts with character customization, which is still being refined during development, but CD Projekt Red promises that players will be given lots of tools to make their character unique. The character creator hit a lot of the basics like hairstyle, eye color, and facial feature size/shape, while adding some unique sci-fi elements like wiring exposure (think mechanical scars).
Even before that, though, players must choose their life path, which is like their character’s personality goal. In the demo, the choices available were Nomad, Street Punk, and Corporate, but there may be more when the finished game releases in April. These Life Path choices don’t seem to have too much of a bearing on play style, but they do come into play with dialogue choices and character interactions. For example, a Street Punk would have familiarity with gangs and therefore could better interact with them and gain information.
Cyberpunk 2077 players can also customize their clothing and mods (called daemons), which have stat bonuses and help support different play styles. According to CDPR, as players increase their street cred by completing quests and activities, they will gain access to more customization options at vendors, but all we saw were familiar sci-fi duds like big puffy jackets and brightly colored sneakers. The daemons are the most interesting element because they can influence different play styles when slotted in the player’s deck. For example, one daemon lets V disable an enemy’s eyesight.
CD Projekt was very quick to say that there are no classes in Cyberpunk 2077; everything is fluid. Players will never be locked to a specific role or approach when it comes to playing the game, and they can swap between options by respec-ing V. But there are different ways to play the game, and CDPR wanted to highlight that with a very specific approach in this demo.
The demo kicks in about halfway through the game and V is working for the Voodoo Boys, a group of Haitian NetRunners living in Pacifica, an oceanside city with big plans that was left to rot after a major war. One of the Voodoo Boys key figures sends V into an abandoned mall that has been taken over by the Animals, a rival faction that’s obsessed with juice – a steroid-like body modification.
The details of the mission are fairly straightforward; the Voodoo Boys want the gym cleared out and if V does this for them then they will give him/her information. But clearing out the mall offers a lot of experimentation. To illustrate that point, CD Projekt Red played through two sections of the area with an emphasis on stealth and then on strength/offense.
Stealth in Cyberpunk 2077 has a lot in common with the Deus Ex franchise. There are opportunities for hacking objects and people, nonlethal takedowns, and avoiding enemies where possible. It requires a lot more focus on specific skills, but CD Projekt Red promises stealth will be viable. In fact, they say that Cyberpunk 2077 will support a full nonlethal playthrough.
A V that favors strength can take a more direct approach or skip enemies in new ways, like ripping through doors. When showing off the more offense-focused V, CD Projekt Red also spent more time using guns as well, but it doesn’t appear that those two go hand-in-hand. Players can mix and match in any way they choose.
At the end of the mission, there is the classic choice to be made where V questions both the “bad guy” and the quest giver. Since the world of Cyberpunk 2077 deals in morally grey areas, no mission should have a clear-cut solution and every choice should be difficult. That’s what makes CD Projekt Red RPGs so interesting and it’s no different here.
Like the first demo, this second extended look at Cyberpunk 2077 was overwhelming and it’s hard to encompass everything. Since CD Projekt Red wanted to highlight a lot of RPG systems, there were only quick looks at some things, like the skill menu. The basic setup, though, is that there are about 12 categories to put points into, and it seems like putting points into the first skill in that category will open up complementary skills on the same path. For example, if you put a couple skill points into assault rifles then you would open up different skills that support that weapon type.
Assuming that Cyberpunk 2077 is not delayed from its April 2020 release date, this was the last E3 for the game and CD Projekt Red smartly structured its two demos. The first set the stage for a new approach to combat and a first person perspective, and the second hammered home that those new elements are built on top of a familiar RPG framework. If your confidence was shaky on the game based on the initial reveal, this demo should bring you back around. And yes, CD Projekt Red does plan to release some version of this demo online at a later date.
Cyberpunk 2077 releases April 16, 2020 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.