In the second part of my “How to Improve Cyberpunk 2077” series, I’ll delve into Life Paths. Please be warned that the article may contain spoilers. You can find the full list of articles in the above link as well.
Here is what I said in summary about Life Paths in the original article:
The starting experience is too brief and while there are a lot of dialogue options, see (1)* and once our life in the streets start, our old life is never relevant.
*(1) was Mission Choices not being as existing or as impactful as previously promised by CDPR
For those unfamiliar, Cyberpunk 2077 allows players to choose between one of the three Life Paths, which determine the past of V before the game starts:
- Street Kid, meaning V has pretty much always been working on the street for fixers, gangs and so on
- Nomad, meaning V has/had been part of one of the nomad clans (not Aldecados though)
- Corpo, meaning V has been working for a Corporate (in V’s case, Arasaka)
These life paths are similar to the Roles from the TTRPG. There are many more roles but considering they aren’t exactly the same and how some roles might have been hard to properly reflect, I think these three were chosen well. They reflect very distinct lifestyles. If I could add more, maybe I’d consider something “gov’t-y” such as a MaxTac/City Force/Netwatch agent.
The Life Paths have completely different introduction episodes, which last until the point where Jackie Welles and V become buddies and work together, which is shown to the player in a video (which is same for all three). Additionally, each life path gets its own unique dialogues in the game for both “yellow choices” (ie an option that progresses the dialogue) and “blue” (ie an optional dialogue line.) For example, a Street Kid V knows that Wakako lost family to Arasaka, while a Corpo V knows how to press Netwatch agent Meredith’s buttons.
Sounds cool, right? And it is… kind of. I have one disappointment, one problem that is not directly due to the system and one point of improvement. My disappointment is the length of the introductions. They are way too short. Corpo especially feels bad since you stay Corpo for about 15 minutes. My indirect problem is the first article I wrote about: Quests not changing enough with the dialogues. Look, I do appreciate the role-play element. I value that. But a game of this size, combined with the promises from CDPR, there has got to be more than my imagination here. My point improvement? Adding solid effects of your background other than these. You feel me choom? Preem, let’s dive into it.
Let’s start with introductions. Here is an alternative plot for Corpo:
V is called by their boss, Jenkins, who sends them on a mission to take out his rival, Abernathy. On her way back to her station, V feels weak, overwhelmed, as Jenkins is clearly placing V at great risk. They take some supplements to keep them up but having had too much drugs, V only ends up getting worse. They then leave the office and meet their trusted childhood friend Jackie Welles, who always helps them relax. V bounces some ideas of Jackie and realizes that they have 3 options: Obey the order, ignore the order or sell out Jenkins. For the first one, they have to dig about Abernathy via stealth, brute force or tech from her office or her reports. They’ll find out that she frequents Clouds and will find a way to kill Abernathy there. Once this is done, Jenkins will refuse any ties and V survive an assassin attack only thanks to Jackie. Ignoring the order means not taking any action, which gets Jenkins fired, followed by V. Selling out means having a face to face with Abernathy, then another one with Jenkins, where V records the conversation. Abernathy will thank V in person and transfer funds but then fire her, claiming V can’t be trusted. Either way, V is now out of Arasaka and in a situation where she won’t be hired by any Corpo. So she teams up with Jackie.
Here is an alternative plot for Street Kid:
V receives a call from Padre, who is the first proper fixer V talks to. V is excited, expecting a proper job. Instead, Padre wants to use V in a distraction role for another rising street kid, someone from his community: Jackie Welles. V then gets a call from the actual job-provider. He says he can offer the job to V for a lower fee, which would still be more than what Jackie gets due to lack of Fixer cut. V has three choices once more: Do as Padre asked, act as if they will but then try to take it over from Jackie or try to solo it. In either way, the best timing for the job (which will be stealing the car same as the regular intro) will be a certain day and time and Jackie will be present there and they’ll get caught and thrown to jail. There, they will get into a fight and broken up by the police. Then a cyberpsycho will be thrown to the same cell (on purpose, for fun, by the cops) and they’ll defend themselves together. They’ll start bonding and when Mama Welles comes to bail out Jackie, she bails out V as well, assuming they are friends. V being thankful and already cooled down; Jackie being the big-hearted oaf that he is and both being indebted to Padre, they will start working together.
Here is an alternative plot for Nomad:
V takes on a smuggling job with one of the clan, called C from now on. C says a couple of suspicious things but all looks good. Most things in the original intro happen, except the part after they leave the border. C asks V to drive to a particular spot, somewhere V has no idea about but C tells V to trust him. They manage to shake off or kill the cops, except one. They enter a small settlement, where a few people show up and shot down the police car with an emp turret. Turns out that C has decided to leave the clan and join a band of Raffen Shiv. The Raffen plan to torture Jackie for the password to the box and kill him. C tells V to join him and tells V that this can be his initiation. V and Jackie are in a room, Jackie tied up. During the convo, V informs Jackie that they won’t join Raffen and that they value the Nomad values. But also that his clan is extremely paranoid about Raffen and even if V gets away and returns, the clan wouldn’t believe them, assuming they joined the Raffen and are up to no good. Jackie tells V about how Heywood is also family-like and that V is a good guy and invites V to Night City. Left with no choice, V accepts. They can’t overpower the enemy as there are too many. Luckily, they are in the garage, with the damaged border-cop jeep. V can fix the engine but the EMP turret is a problem. Depending on V’s abilities, they can fix more systems to safely drive away and/or turn off the emp turret and/or shoot some people for distraction and let Jackie drive the jeep out and let V join him as they drive away.
I believe scripts such as these not only will create a better “I am X” feeling by being a bit longer and more importantly, by showing more sides to that background.
The second part I mentioned was dialogues being more impactful but honestly, I think my article about mission choices already talks about that so I won’t get into that.
The last part was the “solid effects” other than the intro and dialogue choices. Consider the following:
Street Kid effects:
- You get more payment from all Gigs, proportional to your street cred.
- You get a special “redemption” mission from Padre to steal the car from the introduction. You need to complete this to receive any Padre gigs.
- Ripperdoc prices are 10% cheaper
- You start with the standard car.
- You get a mission to get back some of your drained cash. You can track it yourself or try to steal back some cash with Int or Tech, you can scare an ex-employee with Body or you can call some favours will Cool. It is possible to mix and match these for better results.
- You have tax-return shenanigans going on. Every purchase over 1K is cheaper, discount rates increasing with base price.
- You are focused and determined, gaining 10% more experience.
- You start with a stylish sports car that is faster but has worse handling than the standard car.
- You have a special mission that brings you together with an ex-clan member. They can be called as if calling a vehicle. Once they arrive, they can be used as a fast-travel point.
- You start with a modified jeep that has better handling and speed than the standard car
- You can complete another mission for your ex-clan to connect them to smuggling rings. They now act as a vendor that has two types of items: The first group are fully random at a very high discount. The second group are picked depending on your abilities, perks and equipped items but very expensive.
With such changes, I think there will be a better distinction of V’s life path.
I don’t think Cyberpunk did Life Paths “bad” per se, but this is more or less the minimum. If they had less than what they had now, they might as well have not added it at all. That’s why I think it’s better to shine these to diversify player experience. In fact, the “solid” effects can be even less conservative; but if dialogue choices impact is better felt, the distinction will be felt stronger overall anyway.