Cyberpunk 2077 and the art of crafting memorable side quests

Cyberpunk 2077 and the art of crafting memorable side quests

The wait was definitely worth it.

Going into Cyberpunk 2077 a couple of years (and many, many patches) after its infamous release in 2020, I was mostly sure that all game-breaking bugs would have been fixed by now. The most annoying thing I encountered was textures not loading properly on the various advertisements and signs plastered around Night City, ending up in blurred hoardings of whose contents I had no means of deciphering – which, let’s face it, is leagues better than what was showcased in some of the videos that went viral at the time of the game’s release. What would potentially have been an off-putting experience had I played it back then has evolved into a strong entry in the cyberpunk genre over the past two years. With its slick roads that hint at frequent outbursts of rain and thunder, to the buffeting winds of the sudden outback sandstorms, my time in Night City has been one of the best I’ve had in open-world settings in recent memory.

A street showing the No Tell Motel in the game Cyberpunk 2077
Image: CD Projekt Red

Surprisingly, it was the side quests rather than the main story which left me feeling the way I do. Don’t get me wrong – the central plot is compelling, heavy on action to satisfy the FPS fans and has plenty of surprises to keep you guessing. Keanu Reeves as the cynical rockstar stuck in my head contrasted well against my V’s naive up-and-coming merc persona. Yet, the heart of the game lies in its supporting cast, who bring with them some of the most detailed, touching side-quests that few games can rival.

Unwanted Roadblocks

For many open-world games I’ve played in the past year, I’ve noticed that side quests are often used as a way to increase playtime. Indirectly, they block your progress in the main story. Games like the recent Assassin’s Creed entries have a leveling system that might make missions inaccessible until you reach a certain level to take on more difficult enemies, pushing you towards completing side quests to grind for XP. Unfortunately, many of these are highly repetitive fetch quests or combat challenges (like Spider Man’s Screwball missions). While these are fun to smash out when you feel like taking a break from the story, neither do they really add depth to the world around you nor do they tell you more about the supporting characters in the game.

I never felt like Cyberpunk was pushing me towards its side quests for the sake of better gear or advanced combat skills. And therein lies one of its biggest strengths. The characters are there for you to interact with – whether you choose to or not is completely up to you. You can explore each and every storyline that opens up with every new person you encounter, or you can stick to the main story and (surprisingly) be done in about 20 hours. When you do choose to follow up on a side quest, it often branches off into its own mini-storyline, also opening up the choice of romance in certain cases. One of the side missions took me on a grim detective adventure where I hunted down a serial predator, while another series of quests had me helping a group of nomads rescue their leader from a rival group and steal a massively overpowered military vessel. On yet another quest, I accompanied a friend on an underwater dive to reminisce about her old neighbourhood, lost to the waters after a dam was built there. The beauty of these escapades often lies in the calm outside of conflict – in conversations had with a beer, looking out on the expanse of Night City with its glittering commercials hovering in the dark sky for all the world to see. Or in a solemn conversation on a porch where a friend opens up about his traumatic childhood, as children play with gleeful abandon nearby. Or in the oppressive silence that comes with hundreds of metres of water above you, as you gaze upon a lost town, forgotten under the waves by all but those who were forced to leave their lives behind.

A reservoir with a road leading into the water at Laguna Bend in Cyberpunk 2077
Image: CD Projekt Red

A lot of these events that have occurred over the past decades and shaped Night City into its present incarnation (and might be referenced in side quests) are detailed in short notes that can be found scattered around the world, setting up ‘aha’ moments when you come across something in the game that you read about in an article just a day ago at the bar.

Masterful Writing

The dialogue is another area that Cyberpunk excels at. Though at times I felt like choices were mainly present to provide me with more context before choosing just the one ‘major’ option to continue the conversation, your choice certainly does affect your journey through the game, uncovering more missions for you in some cases or passing by others, right up to the ending you get. The game respects dialogue, which shines through the lines that often put V’s personality and approach to challenging situations in the spotlight. The writing is far better than any modern day Assassin’s Creed (which is so dispassionate at times that I swear it feels like it was written by AI), but you’d expect nothing less from the makers of The Witcher. Conversations flow naturally, and you can spend more time with a character getting to know them with optional dialogue choices, if you wish to do so.

Boasting memorable characters that are elevated above cyberpunk cliché with solid writing, Cyberpunk 2077 is definitely worthy of a second chance now. Though the circumstances of its release shall always be seared in most gamers’ memory, the experience is thoroughly enjoyable now that most of the bugs have been patched. Its side quests remain a highlight for me, revealing new depths to its characters and a chance to dive deeper into Night City and the lives of its many inhabitants.

Thanks for joining us at Gamer’s Waypoint! Did we convince you to give Cyberpunk 2077 a shot? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and YouTube to keep up with more analysis and game reviews. While you’re here, check out our review of As Dusk Falls, an innovative thriller that has won over critics and awards lately.

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