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The unlikely resurgence of 'Cyberpunk 2077'


Edging closer to the second anniversary of its release, Cyberpunk 2077 went from “one of the biggest gaming flops of the decade” to one of the most-played games on Steam — through a timely patch update accompanied by a Netflix anime hit series, and grit.

Riding high on the second wind of the game, a sequel for the Cyberpunk franchise, dubbed Project Orion, is now in the works.


Cyberpunk 2077 entered the scene in May 2012, with the announcement by game studio CD Projekt Red (CDPR) revealing that the upcoming non-linear, role-playing game would draw much inspiration from a classic tabletop game created by Mike Pondsmith during nineteen-eighties called Cyberpunk.


For years to come audience’s expectation would only grow higher, as we witnessed the immense success of CDPR's endeavour with another role-playing game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — named "Game of the Year" and "Best RPG" by The Games Award in 2015 — which proved CDPR's prowess in navigating the genre. 


A few years later, during E3 2019, CDPR revealed a trailer starring Keanu Reeves as one of the Cyberpunk 2077 characters — not necessarily a plausible reasoning, but what could go wrong with a game that features The One? Ahead of its release in December 2020, the game received a pre-order sale of eight million copies, as thousands of players waited with bated breath.


Nonetheless, they were about to find out the castle in the air was actually made of sand, and was going to slip away soon. 


Let’s rewind.



The date is December 10, 2020. Cyberpunk 2077 finally hit the store. You load up the game and opt for difficulty “Normal”. 


You are then presented with three “Lifepath” options — Streetkid, Corpo, Nomad — each comes with different dialogue styles as your character advances in the story. 


Corpo it is. What’s cooler than to play a Machiavellian cyberpunk working for the Arasaka Corporation, the highest echelons of Night City? In fact, it doesn’t matter. Because 15 minutes later, your character, “V,” is the one who will get “Machiavelli'ed” and thrown into the streets. Still, it doesn’t matter, you tell yourself. For a game delivering such high hopes and promises, it deserves a play-through for all three Lifepaths.


Things don’t seem right, though, as soon as you start roaming in the city. Your hair is missing in the mirror view, other non-playable characters (NPCs) occasionally misgender your character, and to make things worse, some doors stay locked forever (thus your story progress). While you are struggling with faulty locks and gender crisis, some NPCs are like Neo from The Matrix, and a buggy Smith at times: walking through solid objects and disappearing at will (seemingly), crouching upon every gunshot you fired at them. And when they finally get killed, they respawn right on top or from within you.


Seriously, is this even the right game?


As reported by numerous players across platforms, in contrast against the high expectations built up during a prolonged eight-year wait, the numerous bugs and performance issues in the gameplay have made Cyberpunk 2077 among the “most conspicuous disasters in gaming history”. 


CDPR probably saw it coming, and they did what developers would normally do: releasing a day-one patch update, a set of changes that addresses poor graphics quality, failed game saves, scripting issues, buggy animations, and game crashes accompanied by the maddening “WHOA! Cyberpunk 2077 has flatlined!” error prompt — and the list went on.


A week after its release, PlayStation had delisted Cyberpunk 2077 from its store and offered purchasers a full refund; CDPR had put forth a total of four hotfixes, but to no avail. The hole was too huge to be patched, at least not with a few stitches. After all, a patch is for fixing, not serious repair. It is almost only logical to write off the game especially when its publisher, CD Projekt, was facing a class action lawsuit at the same time, for misleading its investors into believing the game was “complete and playable”. 


CDPR only have themselves to blame when such a flop could have been avoided, or mitigated, at the very least. Using Witcher 3 as a reference, the studio underestimated the resources needed to develop Cyberpunk 2077. CDPR had only half the required manpower to complete a better part of the game within the four-year timeline. To make things worse, in insisting on meeting the launch date, which had been postponed thrice in 2020, CDPR had mandated six-day work weeks for its staff, some developers reportedly “crunched” for more than a year



Up until the summer of 2022, CDPR has been striving to improve the game, not just with hotfixes, but also with new features — ranging from weapons and knife-throwing mechanisms, to a revamped skills tree and special rewards. Nonetheless, all the efforts only sufficed in keeping the game relevant, instead of extending the pre-launch hype. 


By September, the stars finally aligned. 


It was a month where the game received patch version 1.6, followed by the launch of Cyberpunk: Edgerunner — an anime spin-off inspired by the game. This couple of releases have launched Cyberpunk 2077 into new heights, as it finally hit the 20-million mark in sales, while taking gaming platform Steam by storm as it topped the sales chart of the month, as well as outperformed other popular single-player titles such as Elden Ring in the most-played games ranking (it went as high as one million in-game players per day, a 400% spike compared to the previous month).


As impressive as the patch was, with features such as new gigs and full character appearance customization, the real catalyst behind Cyberpunk 2077’s monumental stride is the launch of the widely acclaimed Edgerunner anime series.


A collaboration between Japanese animation studio Trigger and CDPR, the ten-episode anime series is amongst the all-time best Netflix originals, boasting a sky-high 98% positive audience score (as of October 13). The superb quality of Edgerunner is not only recognized by the average viewers. Even the creator of Metal Gear Solid and Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima, who finished the entire series in one sitting, said the hit series proves that not all Japanese animation studios are “consumed with [delivering to] the overseas market”.


Amongst other things, the anime showed us what Night City truly looks like, and how it feels like to be in one, leaving players — new, existing, or returning — eager to emulate the same experience through the game. Be it coming up with the perfect character mod to re-create protagonist David Martinez, or driving around town while playing the heart-breaking tune I REALLY WANT TO STAY AT YOUR HOUSE on in-game radio station 98.7 Body Heat — the viewers’ liking towards Edgerunner found a new home within the metropolis of Cyberpunk 2077.



Needless to say, releasing a botched game followed by countless patch updates will certainly be the last thing CDPR would hope to do with the Cyberpunk sequel, as the studio recently pledged there will be an addition of 350-500 developers joining the Cyberpunk project team, and no crunch in developing a new Witcher title.


Meanwhile, as fans bide their time and wait for Project Orion, there are certain aspects in which the sequel could improve as it seeks to unleash “the full power and potential of the Cyberpunk universe”.


Our recommendations for the developers this time around:


Expand Vertically, Not Just Horizontally. Despite their impressive looks, most of the megabuildings in Cyberpunk 2077 remains a prop, while the system makes it even more tantalizing by showing the [LOCKED] sign when a player approaches a door, only to realize that they will never open. Could Project Orion entertain one’s wish to take the elevator to upper levels of the Arasaka Corp. building? 


Make Them Sorry For Skipping Dialogues. When it comes to engaging in quest-related conversations with NPCs, Cyberpunk 2077 offers a relatively wide array of dialogue choices for the players. Yet, in practice, the difference amongst the choices is inconsequential — because, regardless of the answers selected by the players, they all lead to the same trajectory of events. What if Project Orion could include dialogues that affect one’s Lifepath, such that mindlessly pressing the skip button becomes too steep a price to pay?


Gender-diverse voices. In Night City, a place where everyone is supposed to be able to freely express their identity, gender identity in Cyberpunk 2077 remains binary, primarily he or she-based on the character’s voice. Can a character be hirself/itself/eirself in the sequel?


Last but not least. Offer vehicle customization, please.