Cyberpunk 2077 still surpasses any other game when it comes to integrating mobile phones
This article contains spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, including the new ending being added to the base game.When I knew I wanted to pro...
This article contains spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, including the new ending being added to the base game.
When I knew I wanted to propose to my wife, I called her father to arrange a meeting. Not to ask for 'permission,' but I knew he was the type of man who would appreciate being asked for his blessing. We went to lunch, talked for an hour or two, navigated the conversation relatively painlessly, and - as you can probably guess from the fact that I referred to her as "my wife" at the beginning of the paragraph - it worked out. Even knowing it would likely go well, such a conversation can be nerve-wracking. It's full of drama and tension, which is why it's surprising that I only experienced it in a video game on my second playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077.
In my first playthrough, I played as Dude V and had a romance with Panam. This time, as Lady V, I had the opportunity to romance Judy and chose her. She seemed to be the coolest of the possible romances anyway. Being in a relationship with her eventually led to receiving a warning text message that her grandmother wanted to meet with V to discuss things.
When I completed the Phantom Liberty expansion, she reached out to me. She asked about my intentions with her granddaughter, and I tried my best to answer honestly. She was satisfied and said I could now call her Abuela. I sent Judy a text message, and she replied that she had just finished a conversation with her grandmother. She was happy that everything had gone well. Like with my conversation with my actual father-in-law, this text exchange made me nervously excited despite never really doubting intellectually that it would turn out differently.
This is just an example of how Cyberpunk 2077 cleverly uses phone calls and text messages as narrative tools. Last week, I watched the game's credits, and looking back on this second playthrough, I realize that many of the best story moments weren't contained in main quests or side missions. They were phone calls with characters I got to know or text messages with favorites like Judy or Takemura. So much about the characters is revealed through the way they express themselves in texts. The game doesn't have companions like Starfield or Baldur's Gate 3, but these moments achieve something similar to chatting on the go or having a heart-to-heart conversation at the camp. It's the perfect way to ensure that no matter where you are in Night City, you're never far from the characters who matter to you.
I kept playing after the credits of Phantom Liberty rolled because the expansion adds a new ending to the main game, and last year, when I got distracted from my Cyberpunk 2077 playthrough, I was just before the point of no return. It only took another hour to reach the credits. And the ending I got by transitioning directly from the DLC ending to the main game ending was emotionally impactful in a way I had never truly experienced before in the game.
After helping the NUSA in the DLC, V is now offered the opportunity to surgically remove the Johnny Silverhand construct from their head. The operation goes as well as possible - rest in peace, Johnny - but it leaves V's body unable to accept any cybernetic enhancements, even the most basic upgrades. Oh, and V learns this information two years after the event because they fell into a coma due to the operation. V is offered a ride back to Night City but has to wait for the futuristic helicopter. This gives them time to make calls to the important people from their playthrough. For me, those were Judy, River, Panam, and Viktor.
Judy reached out and was excited to hear from me after I missed the date I was supposed to return from my trip by one year and eleven months. V offers to meet up to pick up where they left off, but Judy lives in Pittsburgh, on the other side of the country, and is married. That was a big shock after the "What are your intentions with my granddaughter?" conversation I had earlier on the (for me) same day.
The other conversations weren't any better. River felt sad about his life and didn't want to see me, and Panam's phone had no signal. Only Viktor was willing to meet up and insisted that the doctors were quacks for claiming that I could never use implants again. Spoiler: He was wrong. When you call each of these old friends, you can see the conversation history of text messages and missed calls. They all wonder where you are and what's going on before eventually giving up and moving on.
It's surprisingly powerful stuff, and much of it relies on how the game uses text messages as a narrative element and video calls as a means to convey raw emotional truth. Judy's hair is longer now, almost reaching her shoulders. You can see the passage of time in the viewport, the pain of a friend fading away in the desperate, unanswered texts.