Two years later, what has changed?

I’ve spent the last few weeks playing what is essentially another full playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077. A long time ago, I left one of my PC Vs, an experimental build that was going to focus on going with guns, stuck at about level 15. My goal was to come back to it later when the game had been patched and patched with quality of life changes. Now with the recent resurgence of the game, I thought this was a good time to get back into it, and 30 hours and 35 more levels later, I have a max V that needs to go meet Hanako in Embers.

I’ve previously written compilations of patch notes with laundry lists of changes made to the game over the past couple of years, but actually playing it is a different story. Here’s what I’ve really noticed has changed since my first few playthroughs. And it’s a good amount.

Performance, Stability, Bugs – While I encountered no error this fully it broke my game in my initial launch playthrough of Cyberpunk, there were a lot of annoying ones to be found. Here, however, with a thousand corrections, I think I may load again once to fix something stuck, but since 30 hours, that’s not too bad. Sure, you get the occasional odd bug, like a stretched corpse or a guy standing on top of his motorcycle seat, but we’re miles away from the launch era where bug compilation videos from the game set the internet on fire.

The Optics – While Cyberpunk has always looked better on PC, it’s really taken to a new level these days. Night City is, what I would argue, the most modern/futuristic cityscape ever to appear in a game, and a really cool place to wander around and explore. That wasn’t always the case on console, but here, it’s a beautiful game that has made taking pictures a hobby around the world.

The living city – CDPR has noticeably, dramatically improved the population density of the city, where on my PC at least, Night City is teeming with pedestrians who are no longer clones of each other, nor react in stupid, identical ways when in danger close. All this has been fixed. And I’d argue that there are enough random events as you go through a new game, crimes, casual conversations, to make the city feel more alive than it has in the past.

The New Missions – There aren’t many, but I’ve noticed some of the new quests creeping into old ones, like a guy I saved being referred to a different gig when he wasn’t before. I really appreciated the rewards I got from the Fixers as I played, which were nothing but give you powerful weapons and good cars now which are useful as you play. All of these are best experienced with a new playthrough, less so by going back to a save game where you’ve already won everything.

Difficulty – The difficulty in the game has been rebalanced, both in terms of giving more XP and cash rewards on higher difficulties, and in terms of making those difficulties… harder. My awesome weapon build is strong, but I’m still likely to get killed even with six Cyberware mods to give me bonus lives if my health drops. Very Hard is…very hard now, depending on your build. Some things like Sandevistan quickhacks and cyberware still prevail, but you want a piece from it to make sure you’re still having fun and not just getting brutal.

Adjustment – I can’t speak highly enough of the new transmog system that was introduced, which allows you to fly all your gear, saving you hundreds of pounds of carry weight, but keep all those styles for custom V skins that keep the gear’s “powerful” benefits you under. And the fact that you can change your V’s face and hair after all this time is great, although this is something that should have been there from the beginning, and it’s absurd that it took so long to arrive. I just wish more clothing and tattoo and cyberware options had been added, but you have to rely purely on mods for those.

Driving – I feel better. I know they fixed a bunch of changes to the way the cars handle, and they’re just…much better. Car combat remains an issue though, and that’s something they said they’ll fix later. A bit late, this one.

The weather – One thing I noticed is that Cyberpunk realized how cool dust storms were and now they happen more often, and actually in the city, not just in the Badlands. Between that and the increase in rain as well, it’s much more of a Blade Runner 2049 vibe and makes the city feel more alive than before and incredibly visually stimulating.

The core – The core gameplay is the same, and what was missing before is still missing. The paths of life mean nothing more or less. You are essentially locked into a relationship based on V’s gender and preferences. I still find Johnny extremely annoying for 90% of the game. Too many interesting subplots lead to disappointingly sloppy results. But, I argue that the Good The missions here are still some of the best of the genre, thanks to NPCs like Panam, River, and Judy. Rehearsing the Pyramid Song with Judy last night reminded me how much they nailed some things here.

I liked Cyberpunk even when it was broken. I didn’t like those things it was broken, and I lamented that CDPR released it in the state it was in. But I could see the good game under the surface, and now after two years, it’s a lot easier for everyone else to see that too. I’m not fooled into giving it a new real rating here, but yes, I recommend you give it a try if you’ve been avoiding it so much.

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