After three extremely well-received role-playing games in its fantasy Witcher franchise, Polish developer CD Projekt RED is moving onto a new genre: science fiction.
That’s a pretty big deal, considering The Witcher 3. CD Projekt’s huge open-world RPG was lauded for its deep, engaging story. After an extremely positive critical and player reception, more than a few people are excited to see the developer bring its RPG acumen to another world and a whole new genre.
We already know what CD Projekt’s next big game will be: Cyberpunk 2077. But what exactly is it? Details are actually surprisingly thin, but now that The Witcher 3 and all its downloadable content expansions are officially wrapped, we can expect to start learning more about CD Projekt’s take on techno-dystopia. Here’s everything we know about the game so far, to get you started.
Inspired by pen-and-paper
To the uninitiated, the title Cyberpunk 2077 itself can be a source of confusion. Cyberpunk 2077 is, in fact, set in the universe of 1990 pen-and-paper RPG Cyberpunk 2020. That game features high-tech weapons and cybernetic alterations that players can make to their characters — essentially, tricking them out with cool tech, cyborg-style — as well as a 1980s-style retro-future aesthetic. Cyberpunk 2077 already seems to be building off those themes: its first trailer features a cyborg woman sporting robotic arms under attack from a horde of riot police.
So at least to some extent, players who are familiar with Cyberpunk 2020 or are looking to learn about it may get some insight into the inspirations of CD Projekt’s new game. The developer has worked with the original creator of Cyberpunk, Mike Pondsmith, who has been helping with story development to bring the tabletop experience into the virtual world.
CD Projekt has also called Cyberpunk 2077 “more ambitious” than its last huge game, The Witcher 3, in “every way.” It sounds like The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077 will be somewhat similar — this is going to feel like a CD Projekt RPG, in any case — but already there are whispers of big ideas that will play into Cyberpunk.
What we don’t know is whether Cyberpunk 2077 will be a full-blown game adaptation of Cyberpunk 2020, or something loosely inspired by its stories and aesthetics. Whether Cyberpunk 2077 is just adding to the world of Cyberpunk 2020, or will make use of the turn-based pen-and-paper rules of the original, or some kind of video game version of them, still isn’t clear. CD Projekt said it’s working to stay as true to Cyberpunk 2020 as possible, but it’s still not clear how CD Projekt intends to adapt the pen-and-paper style into more active video game. Back in 2013, the developer said players will be able to print out “character sheets” as if they were playing the game as a pen-and-paper RPG.
Cyberpunk 2077 is set in Night City, a huge city filled with people in the inescapable throes of technology. Given that this is a story literally called “cyberpunk,” which usually refers to a genre of sci-fi popularized by the likes of films such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and stories like Neuromancer by William Gibson and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Cyberpunk 2020 and 2077 are both games featuring a dark, corporate-controlled, dystopian future fueled by technology. The innovations in these stories are often amazing, but life with them is anything but.
One big element of the world CD Projekt has already revealed is a technology called “braindance.” Think of it like virtual reality beamed directly into your mind (if you’ve seen the movie Strange Days with Ralph Fiennes, it’s like that). Braindances aren’t just movies that play in your head — they’re the actual experiences of other people, complete with sensory information and even emotional input. When you fire up a braindance, you feel like you’re experiencing whatever the recording person experienced, down to their muscle movements and even their emotions.
Corporations in Night City sell braindances for entertainment, but it’s easy to see how they could, and of course will be, misused. CD Projekt has mentioned braindances that put characters in the minds of serial killers, for instance, complete with feeling the intrinsic urge to kill. Based on the thought the developer has put into it, it certainly sounds like the seedy underbelly of the braindance industry and black market states of mind will play a part in the game.
There will certainly be other technologies that sound great on paper but are actually horrifying as well. In the trailer, CD Projekt’s woman under fire (who may well just be a robot who looks human) sports skin that deflects bullets and arms that transform into hideous, deadly blades. Think Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but much more spooky.