(V taking in the view of Night City. Owned by CD Projeckt Red.)
Review by Alex Curthew-Sanders
Cyberpunk 2077 is best described as a sprawling, beautiful mess. But in a world as dystopian as this, where does faith fit in?
By now, everybody knows about the disaster that is Cyberpunk 2077. Our golden company, the people who were meant to destroy the Sith; not join them, CD Projekt Red, were the villains all along. With a litany of lies and broken promises, fans like me are left wondering, “what the hell happened?”.
But put all that aside for a moment, because underneath all the glitches, T-posing NPCS, and powerpoint slideshow framerate I believe there’s a gem. One that is lovingly decorated with the incredible world created by Mike Pondsmith. Cyberpunk 2077 is not a bad game by any standards. Broken, yes, but not bad. In fact, I’d argue that there’s a real masterpiece that could have been, and during the experience, there is one particular idea that piqued my interest the most. The idea of religion.
Now, the world of Cyberpunk is one that is ruled by money and vanity. People are presented as either nepotic mega-billionaires; corporate shills that would sell their sisters in a second to become those billionaires; revolutionaries who want nothing more than to uproot the system created by the two aforementioned people, and the psychopaths who really don’t give a rat’s rear end about anybody or anything. It’s harrowingly dystopian, which is why this idea of religion being intertwined into the world is so compelling. What do the various religions have to say about implanting your body with metal? Slowly turning organic parts of yourself into “chrome”, as it’s called in the game’s universe. In the game itself, you can observe Buddhist monks who walk the streets. Their bodies free from any of the chrome that litters everyone else’s, but you don’t see any other religion. Say, Islam or Christianity. Except for one mission.
Without any major spoilers, this one mission involves you meeting an ex-convict who has recently turned Christian due to the guilt of his past actions. In other words, he found forgiveness in God. He explains that he’s killed many people and wishes for you to stay with him to apologise to the mother of one of his victims. Obviously, it doesn’t go well, and he’s shouted out immediately.
Unfortunately, the mission doesn’t go into much depth into the discussion of faith within itself. It scratches the surface but fails to explore the nuance. Questions such as: How did this convict find God? Why did he suddenly feel remorse? are never really answered. Which is disappointing because there was a real opportunity here. In a world as bleak and materialistic as this, where is the space for spirituality? What would God have to say about the mega-corporations ruling over the city? There aren’t any churches around the world either. The only religious area being what appears to be some kind of Shinto shrine. Are these other religions even practised anymore? There are so many questions! Unfortunately, none of them being answered.
This isn’t to say the game necessarily needed to introduce these questions either, but since it did, I feel like it needs to provide some kind of narratively driven answers to them.
Alright, how do we do this then? Well, the easiest way would be to expand upon this one mission further. Don’t just make it a mission but make it an entire thread to follow like the numerous other side character threads. Have the player throughout this thread be shown, organically, the collapse or decline of religion, or even just spirituality in of itself. Show the decline of faith. By doing this, you offer the player a lot more to work within a role-playing environment, as well as naturally moulding their character through the choices that they make throughout this thread. Additionally, it works to flesh out the world further.
Yes, there is one character who is religious, Padre, but his faith is only really used as window dressing for his character. A way to separate him from the numerous other quest givers (fixers) throughout the game world. Perhaps in some future DLC, this idea can be expanded upon but firstly CDPR need to fix the damn game so until then, go back to sleep samurai.