So recently I’ve been keeping an ear to the ground regarding CD Projekt Red’s upcoming RPG, Cyberpunk 2077. The game didn’t wow me initially because all that was shown and still has been shown was a slick CG trailer. I’ve been hurt by the promise of slick CG trailers from beloved developers at E3 before. I need more than glittery promises to butter my gaming bread these days. I need reality. If a brief teaser is all you have, how far away is this title? *cough* Bethesda *cough*. There is some hope for Cyberpunk as it was first teased five years ago. CD Projekt Red received high praise for The Witcher 3 in 2015.
The thing that held me back about Cyberpunk 2077 is that cyberpunk isn’t my favourite genre. I enjoy the theming of the genre and its relevance to everyday life in the 21st century. What doesn’t appeal to me is the tired cyberpunk coat of paint that is applied. Lazy creators use it as a device to evoke titans of the genre, rather than having something significant to say themselves. However, since E3, I have been speaking about my tempered feelings for Cyberpunk 2077. The one hesitation I have is this: Make it accessible.
I have attempted to play the Witcher 3 a few times now and every time I put it down because the combat side of the game began to irk at me. I have heard of the great storytelling of the Witcher series but the thought of relearning the game every time I play is unappealing. However, I’m also worried about the other end of the scale. Gaining accessibility at the expense of depth of mechanics. I realise that these desires seem at odds with each other. I want an accessible RPG with depth to it. So, what do I want in an RPG?
It’s simple. I want a role-playing game. A game where I play a role. Since I began playing D&D, I have encountered an aspect of tabletop RPG’s that video games struggle with. I want to create a character and play a role. For example, in D&D, I can play a Dwarven Fighter and shape my experience around the idea of a dwarven fighter. I’m not even talking about social elements because I recognise the limitations there. I’m talking about in D&D, a Warlock and a Fighter play very differently. Fighters rely on using their weapon to get as many attacks in. Warlocks rely on spell slinging and abilities knowns as invocations.
I often play as the Dungeon Master in my games which means that I very rarely play as a character. I’m all the characters. I’m the game engine. I’m every NPC. Recently, when playing, I created a character. This character was an aasimar, which meant that he had divine ancestry. He looked mostly like a human, bar his glowing eyes. His particular subrace was about delivering divine retribution onto the world. Now, as a player, I like playing characters who have some internal conflict. My aasimar, Luther Stormcrest, was not a fan of his divine heritage. He was belligerent about the gods, which he knows exist because he’s proof of that. In Luther’s past, he was a criminal. I imagined a young conflicted Luther being muscle for unscrupulous thieves who fucked him over.
Now, Luther was a strong guy, but he was of average intelligence. Luther was also savvy about the world he grew up in. These elements of his story were all informed by his stats. In D&D, you have six stats. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These six stats dictate the skills you’re good at and other class abilities. However, the distribution of these stats informs your character. Luther is a tough cookie because he has above average strength and high constitution. However, there was one stat that was Luther’s best stat. Luther was a charismatic bastard.
You see, Luther was a warlock. A warlock is a spellcaster who made a deal with an entity in exchange for power. Luther’s patron that bequeathed these abilities was a Celestial. Now, this suggests that Luther made a deal with an angel or such. My story for Luther developed further as he sought to turn over a new leaf by turning to a powerful divine patron. He rejected his divine heritage but came to it on his own terms. Luther as a character is about turning away from the light and returning when you’re ready. Luther is a reluctant hero. All this is drawn out of elements of his in-game statistics to make a complete portrait of a hero of this world.
Returning to Cyberpunk 2077, which is based on a table-top RPG franchise. Descriptions of Cyberpunk 2077 is suggesting a game that is primarily about playing a role. I hope it fulfils that promise because I’m looking for that kind of RPG. A game where I can create the character and play them within the world. I want an RPG that incorporates classes that feel intuitive and understandable so that I can use that as a framework to explore a character’s story. Does this game exist? Maybe? I haven’t heard of it. That is my great RPG crisis. I haven’t found the game that lets me play like that. I would love suggestions. (Few asterisks on that statement: I’m not in love with an isometric perspective. I’m also not huge into that weird half real-time combat/half turn-based combat like Dragon Age Origins or the later Final Fantasy games).
The closest game I’ve found that reflects my ability to define my character is the tier system of Kingdoms of Amalur, which I might talk about in length later. Essentially, the game has three stats. Might, Sorcery, and Finesse. Investing in skills in the relevant tiers unlocks tiers. You could focus solely on combat, you could mix sorcery and combat. Alternatively, you could create a character like mine. A sorcery/finesse mix that creates a rogue-ish wizard. There’s potential there but it feels very much like those choices are flavour and that outside of different animations, they don’t fundamentally alter how I interact with the world. I’m still focused on closing the gap with enemies and fighting them, regardless of class. Let’s hope I find the game I’m looking for.
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