There is nothing more consistently satisfying in an RPG than the feeling of unlocking a new skill. Grand story decisions are few and far between, but the RPG skill tree is always there with you, feeding you little power boosts, hinting at new ways you might be able to attack each encounter – if only you gained just a little more XP, and more cash for a key weapon or cybernetic upgrade.
With new perk trees and overhauled itemisation, the Cyberpunk 2.0 update warrants a total restart. Like almost all video game RPGs, Cyberpunk’s progression systems are all about accruing power – the difficulty lies in discovering where the power lies in a mess of perks, abilities, attributes and gear bonuses. The 2.0 update takes an awkward, annoying tangle, breaks it apart, and reforms it into a more welcoming and satisfying form, like a Creme Egg, or a ball of wool.
The first big change; pants vs. implants. It might sound trivial to remove significant stat boosts from clothing to put them into cyberware, but it’s a vital shift. Instead of needing to accidentally find a cool pair of sunglasses in a bin you can visit your local Ripperdoc to make a big spending decision on your next bionic upgrade. Also, that means you’re free to wear the best looking bin-shades you happen to possess without worrying about your armour stat.
It’s a relief how much this centralises Cyberpunk’s gear system. I can mouse over implants on a single screen to read their effects. Incremental stat boosts like an extra 1.5 percent to weapon aim speed appear in cyberware upgrade screens rather than as nodes on a skill tree. 2.0 also moves a lot of incremental, passive upgrades into the Skill system. These five linear paths quietly level up as you complete relevant in-game feats. Silenced headshots level up your headhunter skill, for example, and hacks make you a better netrunner.
2.0 is a huge decluttering exercise. It is simply easier to read the game, find what I want to work towards and chase interesting builds. The focus on cyberware in particular is perfect for the setting. I am very fond of the Sandevistan operating system cyberware that lets me tap E to slow time, and the eyeballs that hide me from cameras and let me connect to smart guns. 2.0 adds new animations for leaving the Ripperdoc’s terrifying dentist chair, which is a nice touch reminiscent of the game’s disturbing early upgrade sequence.
Though Cyberware is greatly improved, the cash cost of each upgrade makes it the most inflexible system – side gigs can help to an extent, but it can take a long time to acquire half decent hardware. Thankfully it’s much easier to refund and spend attribute points, and the new attribute trees are peppered with new perks that unlock some exciting character builds, especially for melee fighters and hackers.
Hack Queue in the intelligence tree lets you stack multiple quickhacks on a single character, and Overclock lets you apply quickhacks at the expense of your health instead of RAM. The results can be devastating. It feels almost too mean to reboot an enemy’s bionic eyes, set them on fire, and then blow up a nearby server to take out his friends, all in a few seconds. This is the sort of powerful netrunner build that should have been accessible years ago at launch
Likewise if you have a massive blunt weapon like Sasquatch’s hammer (I only found out I could sneak around her and still grab the hammer in my current playthrough) then the body perks Wrecking Ball, Quake and Savage Sling are simply ridiculous. This path demonstrates how well the perks come to life with important weapon finds. A strong Phantom Liberty silenced pistol makes me want to respec to put more points into Cool to unlock Dead Eye – no bullet spread and massive headshot damage is surely a brutal combo.
The temptation, if you completed the game, will be to dive straight into an old save, play with the new skills, and take on the excellent Phantom Liberty expansion. I honestly wouldn’t blame you, but if you’re looking for the most rewarding experience, consider creating a new V and starting from scratch. The best perks and builds will remain out of reach for a long time, but I have found that reaching the next stage of a perk tree, gradually expanding my options, and finding a new way through Night City has been immensely satisfying. It’s rare to see a game reworked so thoroughly, and rarer still to see such an update succeed quite so well.