The trajectory of Cyberpunk 2077 has been interesting to watch as it has played out over the years. It was announced, then quickly disappeared for a long-ass time. Then, just in the past year, it reappeared, and the gaming world was in post-Witcher III mania. Everyone who touched that game was cursed with hyperbole, and CD Projekt RED could do no wrong (except for the occasional, braindead social media gaffe).
So when Cyberpunk 2077 made its re-debut at E3 2018, gamers were salivating en masse. Then, after an excellently paced build powered by a gameplay demo that was hidden from the public for a few months, CD Projekt RED streamed it to the world out of nowhere and broke records for the year. But as hype as people are for this game, there is a section of the gaming community that was excited for the game, but walked away from the demo unhappy.
It’s easy enough to say that a lot of people soured on Cyberpunk 2077 are a bunch of internet trolls, or overly critical types who just want to stir up trouble and be down on everything. Sure, they exist, especially in places like Twitch chat. But I don’t think that’s entirely all it is. I think there are people who were totally, genuinely interested in Cyberpunk 2077, who soured on it as soon as they saw the game in action. A lot of these people especially were big fans of The Witcher III, and were ready to be all-in with Cyberpunk 2077.
A lot of the negativity has been over Cyberpunk 2077 being a first-person game. It’s not even the fact that it’s a shooter, but the problem lies specifically with the perspective. A lot of that has to do with the fact that many CD Projekt RED fans are predominantly RPG fans. And when it comes to RPGs, especially those of the western style that are heavy on skill trees, dialogue choices, and especially character customization, people like to see their characters. It sounds like it’s not a big deal, but for a lot of people in can be. Hell, I consider myself one of them, In Bethesda RPGs like Fallout and Skyrim, I toggle the camera to third-person as soon as I possibly can. We like to see the fruits of our labor, you know?
Many people are also a little hesitant about Cyberpunk 2077 now, after being exposed to a big chunk of the game’s writing. Sure, the demo is pre-alpha footage, and things can change, but we’re talking about the story and characters here. A lot of the dialogue was really sweary, and not in the fun, realistic way. It sounded like a bunch of dialogue written to be as edgy as possible, without the kind of naturalistic flow you’d be able to process as sounding like a real person. It was like a campy 80's movie, in a bad way.
The same applied to the character with the clearly fake Hispanic accent. It was borderline racial caricature, and there are plenty of people that made uncomfortable. Things like that don’t make a great impression, especially with a genre that is normally about subversion and inclusivity like cyberpunk is when it’s at its best (that’s why it’s so popular).
Personally, I have high hopes for Cyberpunk 2077, but I remain guarded. Cyberpunk has a lot of value as a genre and setting, but it’s one that’s really hard to pull off. And with video games, the bar is only so high for writing right now. I have a hard time giving the benefit of the doubt these days, and the writing in the Cyberpunk 2077 demo didn’t do much to change my mind.
On the other hand, it doesn’t really bother me that Cyberpunk 2077’s RPG elements are moved around a bit to make room for first-person shooting stuff. I understand that complaint, but it doesn’t bother me. Still, it’s interesting to see these sects of the potential fanbase react to the game in the way they did, despite it being so massively popular in a more general sense. Hopefully CD Projekt RED takes the feedback well, and perhaps finds a point of compromise so more traditional fans of things like The Witcher III will have an easier time getting on board. Also please, let’s maybe polish up the voice acting a bit more.