- Author: Daniel Downey
- Date: October 12, 2020
As a narrative-driven RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 will naturally have many familiar storytelling tropes woven into the fabric of its plot. We have already seen that we have the “tough in a firefight but lovable” sidekick in Jackie Welles, as well as the classic “protagonist starts from the bottom” beginning: the first scene with Johnny Silverhand begins with V waking up in a garbage dump.
Another standard tool in the writer’s toolbox is the main villain. In almost any story, be it video games, film, or literature, there tends to be a Big Bad Evil Guy that the protagonist(s) ultimately confronts at the end of their journey. Stories are driven by conflict, and the easiest way to create conflict is to provide an antagonist whose goals are at odds with the protagonist’s.
In Cyberpunk 2077, however, there are plenty of baddies to choose from, but there doesn’t appear to be a singular person who we can call the main villain. V will have run-ins of all sorts, from their confrontation with Royce (the Maelstrom gang’s leader) to being turned on by Dexter DeShawn after a mission goes wrong, but none of the characters V tangles with seems like the end-boss type.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a main antagonist in the game — far from it, in fact. There is a force that is working against V throughout Cyberpunk 2077: Night City itself. Whether it be the city’s gangs, NCPD, or even the trash littering its streets, Night City has myriad obstacles for V to overcome.
Now, it may seem strange to call a city a villain, but consider: in real life, it is rarely a single person that causes evil in the world. We like to assign blame to a specific person, and there are certainly easy targets, like your Hitlers or your Jim Jones. More often than not, however, you can trace wrongdoing back not to a person, but to a place, a culture, a political movement. Jim Jones might seem the reason all those people drank the Kool-Aid, but they never would have joined his cult to begin with if they had felt that they had another place to belong. Hitler was only able to seize power in Germany because the country was still traumatized from the aftermath of the first World War.
There will always be the next Hitler or Jim Jones, so long as there is a place for them to exist. Night City, with its crime, violence, and overall dystopian society, is one of those places. In the recent Russian Special Edition of Night City Wire, male V’s Russian voice actor explained how he viewed the city as “…pretty much the main villain in this game”:
…this world is an awful place to live in. Sex is simulated, friendship is hard to come by, People face injustice and meanness at their jobs. Everyone struggles against the city itself. I wouldn’t dream of living in this world, not even for a second.
In fact, it was a goal of Head Localization Director Evelyna Novikova to make Night City feel as unpleasant as possible:
This world is quite dark… We started to figure out how to make it feel truly engaging and unique and realized we should preserve the inhospitable air of a place that makes the player feel uncomfortable in this situation… We intentionally avoided the theatrical, we chose not to make it feel all nice and cozy for the player and tried to give this place a new, unfamiliar feel.
So while there will undoubtebly be a wide variety of not-so-nice Night City denizens for V to deal with, ultimately the city itself will be the player’s main enemy in Cyberpunk 2077. A complex, unforgiving place where corporate high-rises tower over filthy slums, Night City will challenge V at every turn. Players will need to learn how to navigate this dystopian vision of the future if are to have any hope of survival on the mean streets of Night City.
What do you think? Is it fair to call the city the main villain, or do you believe that there will end up being a character that stands out as the obvious choice for Big Bad? Let us know in the comments!