It hasn't been a great couple of weeks for Cyberpunk 2077, or CD Projekt at large. For all the marketing and excitement, Cyberpunk 2077 released a disappointment: a gorgeous open world that falls over the moment you inspect it, a game about looking cool that stifles fashion in favor of function, a city where cars fall from the sky and cops teleport to the nearest crime.

But there's a good action game with some nice characters buried beneath that mountain of bugs, and even though I'm bummed we'll have to tack on a few months (or more) to those eight years of development before anyone can play through the campaign without car rain or NPCs floating away mid-conversation, I have hope. You might have to squint to see it today, but the future of Cyberpunk 2077 looks bright. Here's why. 

It's already a massive success for CDPR

Cyberpunk 2077 made back its entire development and marketing budget on day one. Assuming everyone that bought a copy doesn't return it, CD Projekt Red is sitting pretty, at least from a financial standpoint. After eight years in development, CD Projekt said that the amount of preorders alone earned enough for the company to pay off all marketing and development costs. That is no small feat. Eight years of development ain't cheap.

Johnny Silverhand stands at a bar

Drinks are on Johnny.  (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

For an even better sense of the scale of success here, consider that Cyberpunk 2077 shattered the record for Steam concurrent players on a singleplayer game, coasting by Fallout 4's previous record of 472,962 concurrents with 1,003,264 players. That doesn't even take into account copies sold through GOG or the Epic Games Store. Bonkers. 

Sure, refunds will change the final numbers, but as buggy as Cyberpunk 2077 is on PC, performance problems weren't nearly as profound as the console versions. We'll have to see how many players actually return their copies out of the total sold and still flying off the shelves, but I don't believe they'll send CDPR into the red. Not even close. As of writing, it's still the top seller on Steam, and the console version, despite its problems, is still a best seller on Amazon. CDPR is making money, and a lot of it. 

My cold corpo read: I'd wager that a company wants to nurture the thing making it money for as long as possible, to make as much money as possible. Propping up the long term health of Cyberpunk 2077 means squashing those bugs, stat, and giving players more reasons to keep playing.

The stage is set

Not to minimize the work that goes into every other aspect of developing a game like Cyberpunk 2077, but making Night City was probably a huge pain in the ass. It breaks my brain, thinking of how to even settle on a wireframe that makes sense, let alone dressing it up with lights and textures and props, then integrating it with Cyberpunk's history and culture. A mountainous task, now complete, and one that lays track for the stuff CD Projekt is truly good at: storytelling. 

It took me about 60 hours to complete the main quest and every sidequest, with whole neighborhoods left unexplored, tons of Night City subcultures and cyberpunk themes left untouched. I get the impression there just wasn't enough time to fill the city with stories like CD Projekt did with The Witcher 3, so I'd expect to see a big dump of quest drafts finished and rolled up into a future expansion, or doled out piecemeal as free DLC, like CDPR did with a few for The Witcher 3. 

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Expect a much longer tail on Cyberpunk 2077 than The Witcher 3, though. Abandoning the setting after one campaign would be pretty odd. Even after two expansions: a waste. Night City is an incredible setting, and one dense enough to support years and years of iteration and story expansion. 

V's story is over with by the end of 2077, so I really hope expansions give us the chance to pilot a different meatbag, and Cyberpunk spins up some ideas and plot threads that hint at future stories. On the simpler side of things, V's short stint as a detective with River has me dying for a Cyberpunk PI story expansion. Running around Night City, investigating crime scenes, interviewing suspects and witnesses—a Night City noire is a natural fit. The Braindance system feels built for it, and as complex as it is, it doesn't get much use. 

We're also introduced to Kang Tao, a relative newcomer to the corporate scene in Night City. I'd love to be on the inside there, a hired merc working the covert corporate war behind the scenes as the company does whatever it takes to grow and protect their stake in a dangerous new land. One of Cyberpunk's best quests touches on the idea, where you orchestrate a complex heist to kidnap a valuable corporate employee. More of that, please.  

Looking even further ahead, seeing more of Cyberspace, maybe taking a trip to Luna would make for some great Blood and Wine sized expansions. But, yeah, let's focus on stabilizing Night City for now. 

CD Projekt Red has a great track record for long term support

Cyberpunk 2077's patches so far

Cyberpunk's fixes so far focus primarily on performance and  bug fixes. Check out our patch hub the full list of Cyberpunk updates

December 21 - Hotfix 1.05
December 11 - Hotfix 1.04
December 10 - Patch 1.03
December 10 - Patch 1.02

As confirmed by a hidden message in the launch trailer, CDPR plans on releasing a bunch of free DLC in early 2021, much like it did with The Witcher 3. And remember, of The Witcher 3's 16 fun-sized additions, we got a few features we'd consider essential today, and some that really should've been there from the start, including a barber for Geralt, a couple memorable quests, a new game-plus mode, and combat animations. In tandem with an endless stream of bulky patches, the earliest of which admittedly dealt with a similar if not subdued outbreak of bugs and performance problems, The Witcher 3 was a much cleaner, fuller game a year on. 

CDPR even added a new movement system for Geralt for players who didn't like his heavy, slow gait. The Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions were bundled with big patches too, and brought along changes and additions to progression, with upgrade systems like enchantments and armor dyes years into The Witcher 3's life. More is still on the way, too, with a free 'next gen' Witcher 3 upgrade that adds ray-tracing and faster load times, due sometime in 2021. 

Tub Geralt

Imagine what ray-tracing is going to add to this iconic scene.  (Image credit: CD Project)

The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition wrapped up all the expansions with a suite of improvements, including an arena combat mode, a new tutorial, some new quests, a fancy CG intro movie, more bug fixes, and what basically amounted to a complete redesign of the combat system. Even the original Witcher, also one hell of a mess at the start, was updated and repackaged in an Enhanced Edition, adding 200 new animations, new NPC models, recolored characters and monsters, expanded dialogue options, stability improvements, better load times, and a redesigned inventory system. 

CD Projekt Red isn't afraid to make huge, systemic changes after launch, so I'm really curious to see if it takes a similar approach with Cyberpunk 2077. Like I said in my review, the progression bottoms out, function kills fashion, and the enemy types and limited AI aren't much fun to fight or sneak around, so there's a laundry list of improvements to make. 

I am a bit concerned about the scale of Cyberpunk compared to The Witcher games, though. Night City is a far more complex and dense world than any of CDPR's previous worlds, so I expect the patching tail will run longer and slower. Cyberpunk's shit performance on consoles will definitely be the focus at first, and it's impossible to know if those optimization changes will trickle up to the PC, but I'd expect meaningful systemic changes to come in late, if ever. Changing pedestrian and police AI isn't as simple as flipping a switch. All this to say, bare minimum, Cyberpunk 2077 will get a nice facelift, an expansion or two, some stability and performance improvements, and years and years of player-driven mod support. It will improve. That is assured. 

Multiplayer is still on the way

We have no idea what Cyberpunk 2077's multiplayer component is going to look like, if it ever releases at all. But it's still something to get cautiously excited about, if only because it's not being treated like a throwaway mode. CDPR considers Cyberpunk's multiplayer hefty enough to consider it a "separate standalone production" and to bring on another studio for assistance. Do keep those expectations low, though. After the fluffy promises about the state of Cyberpunk 2077 months ago, I can't imagine what state the multiplayer is in. Either way, we're told not to expect it in 2021

The good news is that releasing a buggy Cyberpunk 2077 to the public means CDPR is getting all the QA they could ask for, albeit mostly in the form of angry tweets and emails. Whatever we do get, whenever it arrives, will likely see 2077's bug fixes and performance improvements rolled in from the get-go. Let's just hope it's fun, too. 

Other studios have brought games back from the brink

There's precedent for studios, big and small, to support their games for the long haul, even in the face of glaring issues and ruthless (and often fair) criticism. 

Years of consistent updates turned No Man's Sky from a decent space visualizer, hardly the lively shared universe the rad trailers promised, to exactly what was promised on the tin, and more. Multiplayer is in, VR support was added, the crafting system got a fundamental rework, base-building was added and massively expanded, and even the sandworm from the announcement trailer finally made its way into the game this year. Systems were reworked and entirely new ones were added. No Man's Sky is finally looking like the game we thought it would be from the start. Better late than never. 

VIDEO: No Man's Sky is looking pretty good these days. 

We liked Sea of Thieves at the start, but I wouldn't argue with anyone that claimed it was lacking stuff to do and sights to see. It really was just a series of simple islands populated with skeletons, chickens, and pigs, with little to do besides harass or get harassed by other players. A steady stream of updates have added a complete story-based co-op adventure mode featuring some pretty novel puzzles, pets, fire propagation, fishing, and plenty more.

Fallout 76 was a disaster at launch, rife with bugs and exploits for months, and devoid of character—almost literally. There were no human NPCs at the start, but this year's Wastelanders update added a completely new campaign, human NPCs, and lots more to do and see. It's a real damn Fallout game now, but one you can play with friends (if you want to). 

Cyberpunk 2077 will never be everything the exaggerated, edgy marketing promised. But it will become a better game. We'll probably need to wait months for CD Projekt Red to squash the most glaring bugs, years for major expansions and systemic changes, and even longer for it all to culminate into something that feels whole and complete, if it ever does. And yeah, I'm excited for whatever that is. What's a few more years, eh?




December 22, 2020 at 08:28AM
from PCGamer latest
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