I’m now 50 hours deep into Cyberpunk 2077 and I’m thinking it’s time to move on. I’ve officially run out of proper side quests now, which means all I have left is a list of cars to purchase and around a dozen small-fry Fixer gigs.
My street cred is maxed out and my level XP is moving so slowly that it feels pointless to continue. I’ve also exhausted all of the dialogue with my friends, and nobody calls me anymore. It’s lonely as hell! By the time I clean up the remains of my quest list, I’ll still be nowhere near the upper echelons of my tertiary attributes. There’ll be no missions left to test out all of those cool perks I’ve been saving up for.
To call the last ten hours of post-game exploration inconsistent would be a gross understatement. I’ve experienced some of the best and worst content the game has to offer. But at least it has made up for Cyberpunk 2077’s underwhelming main questline.
The entire narrative is predicated on the fact that V is slowly being destroyed by the dodgy shard in their brain, so it feels like a death march that you have to soldier through without smelling the roses.
This is why I like Cyberpunk’s post-game side quests so much – it feels like the characters finally have room to breathe. The writers can explore some genuinely interesting worldbuilding scenarios without the spectre of death looming large over V.
One of my favourites is called ‘Dream On’, your final quest with mayor-to-be Jefferson Peralez and his wife Elizabeth, who you should get a call from in Act 2. Clever misdirection in the previous mission ensures that you don’t quite figure out whether Peralez is the one hopeful force for the future of Night City or a seedy populist hiring mercenaries to dig dirt on his opponents.
Johnny sows doubt throughout, trying to convince V that they shouldn’t trust politicians – they’re just puppets at the end of the day. But things take a surreal, existential turn very quickly. After inspecting the Peralez Penthouse you slowly realise that there is a team of “security” hiding behind all the smart glass, watching their every move, controlling their diet and subsequently warping Jefferson’s brain to do their bidding.
The revelation is bone-chilling. Peralez is supposedly devoid of agency, and you’re once again left in the dark about his motivations. Were his progressive ideas ever truly his? What could have been waved away as an “illuminati mind control” story is pulled off with the grace of a good psychological horror flick. Don’t miss it.
Another favourite has to be ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear It’ which features washed-up rockstar Kerry Eurodyne, who you meet after indulging Johnny’s side quests midway through the game. V is dragged along for the ride as Eurodyne settles a grievance with a powerpuff pop band who wish to cover one of his ancient Samurai hits. In doing so, he comes to terms with the dying genre that made him famous and by proxy, his insecurities about the good-old days. It’s brilliantly introspective and sad, but accented by playful spats of chaos.
Then there’s what might be Cyberpunk’s most pithy and absurd side quest of all – ‘A Light That Never Goes Out’, the quest that follows Wakako’s Sinnerman. A hit gone wrong leads V into the ex-con arms of the second coming of Christ. It’s evocative of Preacher in how it explores faith and religion with grit, leading the player through the ethical quandary of creating a simulated crucifixion to invigorate the populace through Braindance – which is a digital memory of sorts. There’s no action, just plenty of theological dialogue to stumble through. Whatever your relationship with religion, this gripping quest will make you chew through your position.
Even some of the game’s most minuscule missions have a surprising amount of heart. You can meet Brendan the talking vending machine outside of one of the main Megabuildings in central Night City. Voiced brilliantly by Bryan Dechart, (Connor from Detroit: Become Human) Brendan’s AI is deviant — so he struggles with his feelings of warmth and empathy towards his customers, which leads to some thought-provoking dialogue with V.
After a few meetings, Brendan has to deal with the fact that his empathy conflicts with his creator’s purpose for him – kindness is weakness in the vending machine industry. V is then left to pick up the pieces with his most valued customers. I was charmed into an inevitable heartbreak, and let me tell you, this one hurt.
Then there’s the quest ‘Raymond Chandler Evening’ which is picked up in El Coyote Cojo. Johnny provides the noir narration as V ponders the impact of advanced augmentation and medicine on petty claims of infidelity in 2077. This quest unpacks the dynamics of a futuristic relationship surprisingly well, given how short it is!
Of course, it doesn’t mean that every side quest in Cyberpunk is irrefutable gold dust. I’ve trudged through some properly juvenile quests – real cases of wasted potential. There’s one where you chauffeur an influencer whose genitals are exploding. That’s it, that‘s the quest. There’s another where you get tricked into trying a black market Braindance and while I expected there to at least be some wacky visuals, the result was dejecting and predictable – you just wake up without your equipment in a combat arena you fought through 30 hours ago.
Even one of the major side quests, ‘Psycho Killer’, is really not worth the effort. A cop asks you to neutralise 17 troubled ‘Cyber Psychos’ in a non-lethal fashion for “psychological research.” Side note: even if you riddle them with very lethal bullets, the game will still count it as a miracle non-lethal death, which already confuses the derogatory premise.
When you beat it, your reward is a 30-second conversation where the fixer puts a mind-boggling spin on your rampage, framing it as a rehabilitating, mindful act, and a net positive for mental health – she then chucks you some eddies and that’s a wrap. I mouthed “what the f*$%” and shut the game off for the night after that one.
Across the board, the way quests conclude in Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty disappointing. Most of the time, regardless of the emotional heights of the scenario, the offending parties just walk away, never to be seen again. Something feels off about how abrupt some of the quests are. In a lot of missions, you’ll hit a decent crescendo but get zero pillow talk after. In some cases you don’t get closure on these stories until the very end, during the credits – at which point you’ve totally forgotten what the stakes were.