CD Projekt Red launched its ambitious action RPG Cyberpunk 2077 towards the end of 2020. The game may have ticked a lot of boxes, but the open-world shooter could have benefitted from a father-figure character like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's Vesemir.
The highly anticipated sci-fi game promised to offer players a vast futuristic world to explore, along with a customizable main character and plenty of narrative twists and turns. While the developer delivered on some of its promises, there were still plenty of aspects that left fans wanting after playing Cyberpunk 2077. From a story perspective, a mentor figure certainly could have made a difference.
Cyberpunk's Troubled Start Caused Player Disappointment
Gamers can't help but compare the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the developer's earlier release, The Witcher 3, to its more recent troubles with Cyberpunk 2077's launch and subsequent lifespan. Hampered by glitches and bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 has received a bad rap since it first launched in September 2020. This in part is due to the disappointment of gamers after the long development cycle and failure to live up to expectations, with players quick to criticize the multitude of issues with gameplay.
Although the game still has its fair share of plus points and is altogether a fun and engrossing experience, there are a few ways that it could have been improved apart from bug fixes and stability. One of the main ones would have been to take a page out of CD Projekt Red's own playbook and utilize a character like Vesemir from The Witcher 3, as someone like Vesemir would have helped to provide more emotional heft to Cyberpunk's story and would have fleshed out the character relationships.
Why A Good Mentor Is Vital
Vesemir from The Witcher franchise is the oldest and most experienced witcher. He fills the role of mentor, father-figure, and friend, and is even affectionately known as "Papa Vesemir" to fans. Players start the game with Vesemir as he and main character Geralt hunt down clues to Yennefer's whereabouts, and he is a consistent character throughout the majority of the game. Early on, Geralt and Vesemir's close bond is established, and even players new to the franchise recognize his significance.
In contrast, there isn't a character that provides a direct comparison in Cyberpunk 2077. Where Vesemir helps to flesh out Geralt's past and personality, V – Cyberpunk's protagonist – is a blank slate. Players begin the game with V's new partner Jackie Welles, but the fledging relationship doesn't have the emotional heft that is palpable in Vesemir and Geralt's. When Jackie dies early on in the narrative, even the montage scene of their developing friendship can't give players the feels as much as Vesemir's dramatic demise does.
When players are introduced to a massive new world, a mentor and guide figure is important to help them not feel overwhelmed. They can act as a conduit for the game's lore, as well as an introduction to areas and characters in a way that feels natural. In a way, Jackie serves this function in Cyberpunk as a merc from Heywood who knows the area and the local scene like the back of his handm but depending on dialogue choices, the player can consider Jackie either V's best friend or merely their business associate - removing a large part of the relationship's significance.
On the other hand, Vesemir is already an established character in Geralt's life, and his meaning to the legendary witcher is undeniable. His significance to other characters throughout the game is apparent too, and when he dies in the battle of Kaer Morhen, it's not only heartbreaking but is also the catalyst for Ciri to realize she needs to stop running and face the Wild Hunt once and for all. In contrast, while Jackie's death is still sad, and there is an option to have a traditional ofrenda at his mother's bar to mourn him, beyond that he does not feature prominently in the rest of the narrative.
Why Cyberpunk 2077 Needed Vesemir
Cyberpunk 2077 does have a few great characters, like the player-favorite braindance technician Judy Álvarez or fellow mercenary Panam Palmer, but it falls short in comparison to a game like The Witcher 3. Exploring the vast areas of Night City can get a little lonesome, and even though The Witcher 3 is also an open-world game, it still feels populated with more characters that are connected to the protagonist.
By comparison, Cyberpunk 2077 feels fairly solitary, even if V does have an engram of past rock legend Johnny Silverhand in their head. This former terrorist and rebellious rocker offers occasional commentary or story context and is a large part of the game's main quests, but the relationship between him and V is far from rosy. It starts as combative, and depending on player decisions can remain fairly antagonistic. He too can act as a guide and mentor, but considering his knowledge of Night City is a few decades old, it's more incidental than integral.
There are certainly merits to having a main character with a sparse backstory – the player can start from scratch and imbue their playable protagonist with whatever past and personality they wish. But when it comes to forging friendships and meaningful connections in an area as jaded and nihilistic as Night City, having more established relationships with existing characters would have made a big difference. With such a large area to explore, tying the locations and the missions together with a strong story is key, and meaningful relationships can be an effective tool to achieve this.
Losing close connections, therefore, has a massive impact on the narrative, characters, and players alike. This can be seen in the way The Witcher 3 handles Vesemir's story and culminates in a satisfying and emotional character arc. Although V has a similar catalyst moment at the start of their narrative with Jackie's death, it doesn't feel as earned as Vesemir's. The paternal stand-in taught Geralt and Ciri everything they knew, and without a similar mentor figure, V feels somewhat incomplete.
Cyberpunk 2077 is available now on PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One, with PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions in development.
A fan of The Witcher creates art that imagines It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Danny DeVito as the character Vesemir for season 2.