I have finally completed Cyberpunk 2077. I started it on a rainy night months ago, but I’m pathologically bad at finishing RPGs, so it’s taken me a while. Motivated by the Phantom Liberty DLC launch being just around the corner, I worked my way from the neon-drenched gutters of Night City to the shining top of Arasaka Tower. Even though I was itching to see the credits roll, I was disappointed by how suddenly the main quest ended.
Cyberpunk 2077 has a lot to offer. You could easily spend 100 hours doing all the gigs, side quests, NCPD scanner missions, and just marveling at the beauty of Night City. But the main quest can be wrapped up in under 20 hours. That’s not a problem in and of itself. As a games journalist, I generally prefer shorter run times because I have to play so many different titles just to keep my writing relevant. What I can’t stand is poor pacing, however.
V’s journey has an urgency to it—Keanu Reeves taking over your mind will do that to you—but once you meet Hanako the game is basically over. She has a solution, sets up a meeting, and that’s the point of no return. It’s jarring, and I think I know why.
Rather than building deep relationships with people, most story-critical NPCs appear for one mission and then don’t show up again until the end of the game, if at all. Take Viktor and Misty, V’s ripper doc and spiritual advisor. They help you get your head straight after the failed heist and then you don’t see them for the rest of the story. I get that V is a busy woman and needs to get Johnny out of her head ASAP, but could we not have had another mission that required her to go back to Vik for a check-up?
I’ve written before that I think the montage with Jackie and V climbing the ranks of the underworld should have been a playable first half of the game, and now that I’ve finished the main story I know I was right all along. If I’d had time to see V’s relationship with the city and its inhabitants grow, and had a chance to forge those bonds myself, the abrupt ending would hit a lot harder. Cutting my time as a player short makes perfect thematic sense, but only if I’ve developed some attachments first.
I know anyone could simply rush through a story and say it was over too quickly, but the way Cyberpunk’s missions are designed inherently prevents this. Most require you to wait an in-game day or two before the next story chunk unlocks, leaving time for the smaller quests, but even when staggering the missions like this, the abruptness of the game’s conclusion feels like a nasty brake check on a busy road. So, where does Phantom Liberty come into this?
We learned back in June that Phantom Liberty will add a new ending to the base game. My hope is that it addresses the screeching halt. I doubt that will be through additional main story missions, but adding an ending where V and Johnny can coexist would clean up a lot of issues I have with Cyberpunk. There’s just no way V would have the time to compete in a street racing league or become the bare-knuckle boxing champion of Night City while she’s up against the clock.
I’d be ecstatic to have an ending that allows me to indulge in the game’s dozens of hours of distractions in a more immersive way, but we’ve all been burned by high Cyberpunk expectations before, so I’m not going to hold my breath.
Now that I’ve played numerous different conclusions to Cyberpunk, I’m going to take my time with Phantom Liberty. I’ll simply pretend V isn’t terminal, or that she’s in denial. I’ll make sure she gets eight hours of sleep a night, takes showers, goes out to eat, and checks in on Vik and Misty from time to time. Anything to avoid seeing those credits roll in just 20 hours. Who says video games ruin your imagination?