Critical Play: Is this game balanced? – Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is a first-person action role-playing game developed by CD Projekt, the game is playable on consoles and PC. It is an adult videogame, rated for mature audiences 17+, who are not easily turned off by adult themes such as violence, gore, prostitution and drug abuse. The game’s gameplay is designed to suit a variety of audience preferences given its roleplaying elements. Despite combat being mainly focused on its shooting mechanics, it also features an ability tree that allows players to choose alternative playstyles, allowing from frenetic guns blazing one man army experiences, to a cyber ninja fantasy moving through the shad0ws performing stealth takedowns and hacking the environment around them. It also features driving mechanics and multiple ways of interacting with NPC’s, making story choices and customize their wardrobe, garage and arsenal to determine the personality of the player character. The beautiful open world of Night City, is fully explorable and could on its own aesthetic value and accompanied by the game’s fantastic soundtrack, be the reason why many players continue to visit and explore the game world. Overall, the game delivered on multiple types of fun such as Sensation, Fantasy, Expression, Discovery and Narrative.

Balance in Cyberpunk 2077 manly pertains to the types of enemies, the combat styles that are available at that point and the difficulty of acquisition of credits and resources to upgrade the body upgrades and unlock the types of weapons accessible to the player. Since it is a single player game, the pacing of the challenges in the game is critical. For my playthrough I chose Hard as my difficulty mode, this meant that enemies would react more aggressively, take less damage and receive more damage and as the player my health and armor would be less effective. In my experience the primary dictator of the difficulty of an encounter within the game, was the number of enemies and their physical position. Being surrounded is not fun, and much less so when a couple of well-placed shots from the AI could flatline you. There are multiple ways to combat this gameplay difficulty given the wide arrange of abilities available, but one I found particularly useful, beyond spending all available credits on maxing out a weapon to make ridiculous amounts of damage, was upgrading the hacking abilities. Some abilities allowed you to incapacitate multiple enemies, which when used in synergy with other abilities from other skill trees made you almost untouchable. Achieving this synergy was a rather complicated process of trial and error but given their effectiveness I believe they are well balanced. It is important to note that, in Hard difficulty, even if you’re able to dispatch enemies in seconds, a well-placed shot can still send you back to your previous save, as there are not enough points to max out offensive and defensive powers. I chose the glass cannon route and it proved to be reliable, however I believe that other play styles would also be effective. Weapons and items also proved to be well balanced, with both strengths and weaknesses suited for specific engagement situations and enemy types, there was not a single weapon or upgrade that could clearly outperform the rest.

The cost curve for weapons was set by the crafting cost, purchase cost and further worsened by enemy leveling. A very effective weapon would be very expensive to acquire and could only be useful for a few hours before requiring an upgrade as all enemies began to feature larger health bars, but for that couple of hours you were handsomely rewarded. There was also an intransitive relationship between enemy types and weapon types, energy weapons were effective against robots while incendiary and piercing weapons could cause more damage to armored and human adversaries, but were not as effective against machines. Lastly all weapons and upgrades were distinct from each other and provided different advantages, a katana was great for crowd control in close spaces, a shotgun too, but it needed to reload so it exceled at medium range engagement, a sniper rifle was ideal for distances but would be a death sentence in closed doors while an assault rifle was effective at all distances but would take longer to defeat enemies than a more specialized tool, thus I only used it when the engagement conditions changed too fast or I ran out of ammo for other weapon types.

My biggest gripe with balance in Cyberpunk 2077 was the enemy scaling and the excessive cost of weapon upgrades. Given how fast enemies leveled up and old weapons became ineffective and the number of weapons that could be looted from enemies, upgrading old weapons that the player grew to like was a costly decision with very limited benefits, thus I would either have toned down the health increase during enemy scaling and found a different way to increase the difficulty or bring down the cost of weapon upgrades. Overall, however, the gunplay was an enjoyable experience.

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