Cyberpunk 2077’s launch has been one of the messiest in recent history. Praised in many initial reviews on PC, so broken on last-gen consoles it was pulled from the PlayStation Store, and then saddled with post-launch delays as players waited for promised fixes and new content. Now, nearly two years later, the ambitious open-world RPG’s fortunes have been transformed by the popular Netflix anime spin-off Edgerunners, and its lead quest designer couldn’t feel more vindicated.
“It’s hard to express when you’re putting so much heart and soul into something, and for some of us it’s been six, seven, eight years sometimes, especially for those who started at the very beginning,” CD Projekt Red quest director Paweł Sasko said in a recent teary-eyed Twitch stream (via GamesRadar) while Coldplay played in the background. “So to have this moment of people liking something that we did, it’s really feeling a bit unreal.”
Ever since Cyberpunk 2077’s excellent anime adaptation came to Netflix earlier this month, the sci-fi shooter has been rocketing back up the charts, becoming the best-selling game on Steam again and bringing in over 1 million total players a day. That success has even sparked a new debate about how maybe Cyberpunk 2077 was perfect all along. One false narrative—that Cyberpunk 2077 was a boring, busted piece of shit at launch—is now being replaced by an equally exaggerated one.
But the game’s development and marketing campaign really was a mess, and the current version of Cyberpunk 2077, available for $30 right now on Steam, in many ways remains as impressive yet flawed as ever. If anything, the fact that players are still finding things to love in spite of all the problems and development headaches is what makes Sasko’s recent stream so noteworthy. It humanizes the struggle rather than pitching the latest resurgence as a definitive turning point in how fans decide to mythologize the big-budget blockbuster.
“After the release, I couldn’t believe—after some time, I did—but at the beginning I couldn’t believe, and I remember Sapphire, who as with me at the time, my dear girlfriend, she was seeing me fucking completely wrecked,” Sasko said. “But it’s good to be back, you know. It’s fucking good to be back, honestly. That was really so, it was really sort of heartbreaking.”
Prior to release, Cyberpunk 2077 was hit with delays and broken promises as developers were forced to work overtime. When the game finally came out, the PS4 and Xbox One versions were pilloried for their bad graphics and terrible performance, with clips of the worst glitches going viral. A Bloomberg report revealed that many inside the studio knew the game wasn’t ready yet, and CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwiński apologized to fans for the state it released in while also promising (again) that there wouldn’t be crunch on future projects. Then, of course, there was the edgelord marketing campaign, and the transphobic in-game ad that was never patched out.
Since release the game has overhauled its skill tree, improved how cops, cars, and other aspects of Night City are simulated, and added more romance options. At long last, CDPR even recently added transmog so players didn’t have to look like dorks while doing cyber-heists. But these tweaks are still far from the fundamental reworkings or years of expansions that made Final Fantasy XIV and No Man’s Sky the sensations they are today.
If the storytelling in Cyberpunk 2077 were half as compelling as the Edgerunners anime, it might not have taken two years for a critical reappraisal. It’s nice to see it finally happening anyway though, not so the game can be definitely crowned good or bad, but so all of the smaller details developers spent years poring over can be discovered, shared, and appreciated on their own by millions more players.