Unbelievable Transformation: How Cyberpunk 2077 Became the Game We Never Expected in Just 3 Years


Cyberpunk 2077’s Path to Redemption: Update 2.0 and Phantom Liberty Expansion

Returning to Cyberpunk 2077 with its latest major update, I was genuinely surprised by how much my experience had improved. In the aftermath of its tumultuous December 2020 launch, I had dutifully played through the game, but it left me with a feeling of mediocrity. While I thoroughly enjoyed the stealthy netrunner role, hacking my way through levels, various issues, like cringe-worthy dialogues, a clothing and gear system that sacrificed style for stats, and the inconvenience of a zoomed-in mini-map, had detracted from the overall enjoyment.

Nearly three years later, many of these concerns have been addressed. After dedicating more than a dozen hours to the new update 2.0 and the Phantom Liberty expansion, I’m now genuinely excited to continue exploring Night City.

Vehicular combat, a feature that seemed missing at the game’s launch, wasn’t particularly appealing to me, as I preferred non-lethal netrunning tactics. Instead of engaging in shootouts, I often chose to exit my vehicle, take cover behind it, and dispatch enemies using my netrunning abilities, including the ability to remotely detonate enemy vehicles before making a quick getaway. There’s also a new police system, but being a generally law-abiding citizen (except during missions that required me to commit crimes), I didn’t notice significant changes.

Update 2.0 brings numerous changes, building upon previous patches that optimized the game for next-gen consoles, improved the mini-map, and seamlessly allowed for cross-saves. While my experience was not entirely free of bugs (a tutorial prompt stuck on the screen during a critical Phantom Liberty boss fight, rendering the boss immobile), Cyberpunk 2077 now aligns much more closely with my initial expectations. I can finally give it a solid recommendation.

In 2019, when CD Projekt Red announced Cyberpunk 2077’s release for the following year, it took some by surprise. Many believed it would take until 2022 to fully realize the ambitious vision for this sci-fi role-playing game.

When the game eventually launched in December 2020, after multiple delays, it arrived in a buggy and unfinished state. The console version was so plagued with glitches that it was removed from the PlayStation Store for six months. As more details emerged about the game’s tumultuous development, Cyberpunk 2077 came to symbolize industry issues, including overworked employees, understaffed teams, and rushed game releases.

However, everyone loves a redemption story. Following the game’s troubled launch, executives issued apologies, and developers released a series of updates and bug fixes, leading some critics to cautiously suggest that Cyberpunk was now…good? A substantial patch in early 2022 brought significant improvements to combat, the game world, and more. A Kotaku critic even posited that the game “might finally be complete.”

CD Projekt Red wasn’t done yet, though. In September 2023, the saga of Cyberpunk 2077 concluded with two final, substantial releases:

  1. The 2.0 Patch: Released on September 21, this patch overhauls many core mechanics of the game. Immediate changes are apparent upon launching the game, with cleaner menus, a more streamlined loot system, and a revamped skill system that facilitates distinct playstyles. Players can now specialize, molding their character into a stealthy ninja, a speedy assailant, or a cybernetic hacker.
  2. Phantom Liberty Expansion: Set to launch on September 26, this expansion features Idris Elba and introduces a new area within Night City. It weaves a thrilling heist narrative involving collaboration with the president and government operatives. Critics have showered it with praise, with IGN hailing it as “Cyberpunk 2077 at its best.”

Cyberpunk 2077’s primary challenge, apart from its technical issues, lay in its identity crisis—uncertain whether it wanted to be Deus Ex or Grand Theft Auto. It straddled the line between a deep role-playing game and a systemic open-world sandbox, often feeling like an inferior version of both.

While the new 2.0 patch doesn’t definitively resolve this dichotomy, it does strengthen both aspects. The revamped leveling system encourages the kind of experimentation that RPG enthusiasts had hoped for in Cyberpunk 2077. Elements like loot and crafting have also undergone refinements, making for a more cohesive and engaging experience.

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