After eight long years of hype and anticipation, Cyberpunk 2077 has finally officially launched. As fans would expect of a game from CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher 3, it's a massive, complex game -- and a damn good one, too. It has a surprisingly compelling story and a gigantic open world to explore in Night City.
I've spent over 40 hours with the game so far. That's a lot of hours, but I still feel like I've seen only a fraction of what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer. Still, there are a few handy things I've noted for those picking up the game on Thursday -- tips and tricks I wish I knew before I loaded the game up for the first time.
What difference backstories make
When you start the game, you'll be given the option of three backstories for V: Street Kid, Nomad or Corpo.
Your choice will have two main impacts. First, it'll effect the opening hour or so of the game, as you'll start out in a different part of Night City, mingling with different characters, depending on which you choose. The Corpo starts in an office building, the Street Kid in a sleazy bar, the Nomad in the Badlands desert outside of Night City. About an hour in though, you'll end up on the same path as a gun for hire alongside your pal Jackie.
The second, longer-lasting effect is that you'll get different dialogue options based on which backstory you chose. I went for Corpo, which gave my V the ability to politic his way around certain sticky situations. In other words, your backstory doesn't make as big as a difference as you might worry it does.
More consequentially, you'll get the option at the beginning of the game to distribute points to six different attributes: Body, Intelligence, Reflex, Technical Ability and Cool. Within each of these attributes, you'll have perks you can unlock.
At first, I spread attribute points and perks around semi-evenly. I had an idea in my head that, like skill trees in most AAA games, I'd end up unlocking all the perks eventually anyway. In truth, you're far better off choosing early on how you want to approach combat and tailor your attribute points and perks accordingly.
Broadly, there are two ways to handle combat: Force and stealth. But within this there are subdivisions. Within force, you can specialize in melee weapons, fisticuffs or gunplay. Within stealth, you can optimize your sleuthing (the Cool attribute and related perks that make it harder for enemies to detect you), hacking abilities (you'll hack nearby tech to distract/harm enemies) or stealth- kill offense (like gnarly throwing daggers).
Obviously, you'll adjust your style as you go through the game. But don't do what I did and try to be balanced -- balance is for suckers.
Don't just play the main quest
I had around five days to (try to) beat Cyberpunk 2077 and get a review out, so I was largely forced to ignore side quests and focus instead on finishing the main storyline. I highly recommend you not do this.
Cyberpunk's story is one of its strengths. The relationship between V and Johnny Silverhand, a mercenary played by Keanu Reeves stuck inside V's head, gives it a welcome focus. But Cyberpunk is about exploring Night City as much as it is seeing the narrative out to the end. The game itself encourages this, prompting you regularly to take a break from the main quest to go do other stuff.
And that stuff is good. Side quests are really fun, often more so than the main quests. They're varied -- from reigning in seven AI-powered cabs that have gone rogue (this was one of my favorites, since the rogue cabs had personalities that were often legitimately funny) to solving the mystery of a slain mayor -- and turn Night City as a living, sprawling city.
Just as important, doing more side quests will give you access to better endings. I "finished" the game in about 25 hours (some critics, having done even less side questing than me, did so in 15-20 hours), but it's clear from the ending I got that there are many possible endings -- and that I got the worst one. Do more side quests and you'll get more resolute, satisfying endings for V.
Don't always use fast travel
This one is in a similar vein. There are fast travel points throughout the city that you'll be able to use, especially tempting when your objective is on the other side of Night City. Sometimes you won't have time to dilly dally, but you'll often be rewarded for traveling via car or motorbike.
There is so, so much to do in Night City, and you're bound to find something cool if you travel manually. Often you'll find multiple cool things, as I would find myself making regular stops en route to the next quest location after seeing this or that icon beckoning me on the HUD map.
At a minimum, you'll often find crimes in progress of being committed, with the Night City Police Department paying you if you break it up and apprehend (read: kill) the perps. Fighting crime often also yields solid loot, so you're rarely left disappointed with the payoff.
Do gigs to get cash
Apart from side quests, in which you'll help a character complete an overriding goal, there are "gigs." These are more mercantile: A "fixer" will ask you to go do a job for them, like incapacitate an enemy, sneak through a hideout and place a tracker on a vehicle, or take an at-risk ally from one place to another. You are a gun for hire, after all.
These are fun and often challenging, and won't take more than 10 or 20 minutes. You'll need money in Cyberpunk -- to buy cars, new weapons, and various upgrades -- and so far I've found doing these gigs is the best way to make it. (There's definitely some kind of get-rich-quick scheme in the game, but I've not found it yet.)
You can totally fail side quests
Just a quick thing to note: You absolutely can fail side quests and never get a chance to re-do them.
The first time I experienced this, I was midway through a quest revolving around a killer trying to seek forgiveness from the mother of the dude he killed. Toward the end of the quest, one of the dialogue options I had was, "Alright, I've seen enough" (or along those lines). I thought it was a cool reverse-psychology trick, so chose it. Nope, my patron just said "OK, fine" and the quest ended. No do-overs.
This is the same for challenges. One gig had me taking part in a shooting contest, with a special rifle being the top prize. I came second, and got nada. There was no option to re-do it: I just lost, and that was that.
No two playthroughs will be the same
As you can tell, choices matter in Cyberpunk 2077. This is especially true in the main story. Don't go into the game with the impression that your choices make small, cosmetic differences only. How you react, and how you go about completing missions, can have a drastic effect.
I found this out early. In the opening section of the game, you're tasked with getting a piece of military tech from a gang, and given the option to meet with an operative from the mega-corporation from which the tech was stolen. When I demoed the game back in June, I didn't bother meeting the operative, and as a result had to blast my way out of the gang's hideout. When I played through this time, I did meet the operative, and as a result her corp's forces had a shootout with the gang, leaving me to scurry away more easily.
The result was a completely different experience, and I suspect the same is true for basically every mission, and in more drastic ways. Keep this in mind when you play -- your decisions matter.