Modify your own body beyond recognition, relive the thoughts of others like a movie or lie down in an ice-cold bathtub for a trip into cyberspace: the world of Cyberpunk 2077 seems strange, strange, absurd – but it has been just 57 years in the Future.
But a lot can happen there, be it massive corporate wars, environmental disasters, the destruction of the Internet, islands sinking into the sea, or new technologies such as cyberwar and braindance, with all their advantages and disadvantages. We tell you the history of Cyberpunk 2077, including the lore around important characters, organizations, technologies, and events. So you are optimally prepared for the release on December 10th and know what to expect in Night City.
It all started with pen and paper …
… or rather with a pen & paper role-playing game, more precisely Cyberpunk 2020 by Mike Pondsmith. This appeared in 1988 and, with its world, forms the basis for Cyberpunk 2077 – just like the successor Cyberpunk Red, which closes the gap between the stories between 2045 and 2077.
Rockerboy Johnny Silverhand celebrates his first appearance here in the truest sense of the word, while the mega-corporations Arasaka and Militech spin their first power-hungry intrigues. At least Johnny Silverhand will even return to the stage in 2077. However, it is in our head and the rocker boy has long since exchanged his instrument for harder guns – he wants to hit Arasaka by the collar and preferably burn the whole city down.
If you want to find out more about the pen & paper in the background, our video interview with the inventor gives you deep insights:
The story of Cyberpunk 2077
We explain how this happens in this paragraph – if slight spoilers for the starting plot of the game are already too much for you, you should just jump to the next subheading.
Hero or Heroine V is a new character. In this role, you seek your fortune in the great metropolis Night City and work your way to the top as a mercenary in the ranks of small and big criminals. Where V comes from, you decide beforehand: Will you play a street child from the darkest corners of the city, a freedom-loving nomad, or a Corpo who is a real character?
The biggest coup goes badly wrong: V is betrayed and killed while trying to steal from the powerful Arasaka company. You can only survive with the help of the stolen chip, which supposedly gives immortality and of all things has preserved the charming personality of Johnny Silverhand. He will be your constant companion, leaves tasteless comments whenever possible, and seeks revenge.
He is determined to bring down Arasaka, who developed the chip and has his own goals that do not always coincide with V’s. You still have to arrange yourselves – there is no other way. By the way, you can read how you can imagine this in a playful way in our extensive preview of Cyberpunk 2077 after 15 hours of playing time:
Arasaka, Militech, and other powerful corporations and gangs are hunting you down – everyone wants the chip. So together with Johnny Silverhand, you take on the most powerful men and women of Night City, so it doesn’t hurt to know as much as possible about the dangerous future and the pieces on their dystopian chessboard.
The foundation of Night City
The metropolis begins as a dream that slowly grows into a nightmare. Night City was founded in 1994 as Coronado City by Richard Night – named after the bay in which it is located. In reality, you will find the inconspicuous village of Morro Bay, which you can even visit in the flight simulator.
The rich businessman wants to create a utopia – a perfect place where everyone can be happy – and pays for it with his life. Richard Night is assassinated by an unknown assassin and the city is then mauled by power-hungry gangs and corporations fighting for supremacy. Ironically, they only rename it Night City in his honor when his dream of the perfect city is finally dead.
However, far greater conflicts rage in Night City, which becomes the scene of wars and even a nuclear attack. On page 2 you can read more about what has happened to the city since its foundation.
Between 1990 and 2016, three major corporate wars sweep the world and cause shifts in the power balance: While companies become more and more influential, governments lose power. Since corporations love money more than anything else, they continue to exploit the planet, leading to climate catastrophes and resource shortages.
Extreme droughts alternate with floods, tornadoes whip across the land, people lose their homes and some become nomads, and food becomes increasingly scarce. Finally, four government agencies in North America end federalism as part of a coup, and some states break away – the USA no longer exists from that point on.
4th Corporate War – The fourth corporate war
Two rival companies (CINO and OTEC – both specialized in extracting resources from the oceans) plan to take control of a third, IHA, in 2021. To strengthen their position, they hire security companies – with fatal consequences. The choice is Militech for OTEC and Arasaka for CINO. At first, the two pull the strings rather discreetly in the background: important company employees disappear, data is stolen, secrets are revealed – both companies use Netrunners (i.e. hackers) instead of sharp weapons.
But the apparent peace does not last long. The Internet police NetWatch imposes a communication ban on both companies. While CINO and OTEC then grudgingly agree, Arasaka and Militech are just getting started. In 2022 the so-called shadow war begins. The methods become more brutal, Netrunners compete directly against each other, military and research facilities are raided. But all this is still preliminary skirmishes, the volcano only bubbles and smokes threateningly.
The Hot War will follow in June 2022. Both companies take up arms and raze entire cities like Hong Kong or Rio de Janeiro to the ground. The network collapses under thousands of viruses and rogue AIs, and governments desperately try to stop the corporations.
This is only possible with the help of the so-called “Atlantis Group” around Johnny Silverhand and other legendary figures of Pen&Paper like Rogue or Morgan Blackhand. They break into the Arasaka headquarters in Night City to detonate a nuclear warhead allegedly provided by Militech and end the war. Silverhand also wants to free his imprisoned friend Alt Cunningham, a brilliant Netrunner. But Silverhand is shot there – allegedly by Adam Smasher, a dangerous Arasaka cyborg. No wonder he is so badly offended by her.
But the bomb goes off and the government ironically blames Arasaka himself. Militech is then nationalized and continues to receive support, while the ailing competitor has to withdraw to Japan.
Post War (2024 – 2035) – After the war
After the fourth corporate war, the so-called “Red Age” begins. The whole sky seems to be bathed in blood because the destruction has stirred up so much dust. Many people flee to the countryside and retreat to small settlements. Technical progress freezes, dissatisfaction grows everywhere, leading to violent uprisings and rebellions. Night City is ignored by the New States of America because it is located in the free state of Northern California. The people are left to their fate and have to rebuild the metropolis with their own hands.
Meanwhile, NetWatch abandons large parts of the Internet and creates the Blackwall – a virtual border that seals off parts of the network that are controlled by hostile AIs. Allegedly with their support, since they now rule these areas unhindered.
Reunification (2035 – 2069)
Abandoned by the world, the residents of Night City are rebuilding the city together with nomadic tribes and small businesses. The Internet is being replaced by local, isolated networks whose intersections are carefully monitored by NetWatch.
Unification War/Metal Wars (2069 – 2070) – Unification War
The New United States wants to annex the free states again and declares war on them – supported by Militech. Arasaka does not officially intervene but supplies the Free States with weapons and equipment in the background. As the NUS troops advance on Night City, the city is threatened with destruction. However, this is prevented at the last moment by Lucius Rhyne, a member of parliament, because he persuades Arasaka to openly intervene. To prevent a fifth corporate war, the government backs down.
Night City becomes a free city, independent of the laws of the government and the state of Northern California. However, Corpos gain power and influence. In 2070 Arasaka establishes its new headquarters in the city – where the atomic bomb wiped out the old one about 50 years earlier.
The presence of Night City (2070 – 2077)
The technological standstill after the fourth corporate war has slowed down but not stopped global warming. Haiti was officially abandoned in 2062 after several tsunamis and the Pacific district in Night City was turned into an official refugee enclave under the gang of the Voodoo Boys. The individual districts of the metropolis and their characteristics are presented in a separate article:
Natural disasters such as droughts and floods continue to dominate everyday life worldwide – the Maldives, for example, is completely submerged in the sea. Food and water are scarce everywhere, the crime rate is skyrocketing and the rifts between social classes feel insurmountable.
Artificial improvements are the smartphone or the tattoos of the future: useful gadgets or fashion statements, which are represented in every social class. Simple cyberware is just as easy to obtain in shops on the road, and for anything more elaborate you need a short visit to the clinic – or alternatively on the black market or at the Ripperdoc, if you’re not too strict with the law and security regulations.
For full-body conversions and other complicated implants, you lie flat for a while in a special clinic – or in one of the illegal black clinics, at your own risk. Too much cyberware can also cause the so-called cyber psychosis. Those affected lose any form of empathy and become marauding monsters who either eliminate or capture special units in order to subject them to therapy.
The development of cyberware
- Generation Zero: Heavy and unwieldy prostheses with a medical purpose, for example after war injuries, are obsolete today.
- Generation One: First industrial cyberware, e.g. reinforced spinal columns for hard-working workers. Implant rejection was still a major problem. Also marks the first use as weapons of war in the Second Central American War and in the corporate wars, where Militech starts the arms race with cyber soldiers. Consists of metal and plastic and is now only available on black markets.
- Generation Two: Technology against the rejection of implants is found, the first cyberware for the masses, consisting of much more flexible artificial cyber muscles and real chin technology for synthetic skin – most commonly found on the streets of Night City.
- Generation Three: Durable cyberware made of high-quality materials for the assassins and armed forces of the megacorps, partly also bio-ware. The biological implants are still immature, but are not recognized by scanners and are immune to EMP attacks.
- Generation Four: For the rich and powerful (Two types: particularly sophisticated technology such as powerful hacking tools for high-ranking corps and cyber fashion made of eye-catching materials with bright colors and designs for stars).
Braindance makes recorded memories tangible: you perceive taste, smell, impressions of the surroundings, or the thoughts of the person as if you were really there. This requires a braindance headset and a base station – ideally a “feeder” who takes care not to dehydrate or starve during longer sessions. Braindance can be a little too addicting at times.
Strobe lights put the brain into a trance – this is the only way to be receptive enough. For a special kick, some do without it, but such hard trips involve many dangers such as confusion, disorientation or anxiety disorders. You should not consume unedited brain dances either: unfiltered and unprocessed, the sensory impressions are more disturbing than intoxicating.
The recordings can be used in a variety of ways: They are used in therapy to cope with fear or to allow criminals to relive their crimes from the victim’s point of view. Most braindance trips take place for entertainment, whether at home, in arcades or via portable braindance headsets. A safer environment must be guaranteed beforehand.
Types of braindance: As with video games or films, there are umpteen variants and genres, but those with celebrities in focus are particularly popular: You don’t just watch your star, you live your life – whether in films or just in your private life Dream villa. No wonder that many experiences the ultimate escapism here.
However, the whole thing also has its downsides: Too much brain dance leads to emotional distancing in reality and because everything feels so real, some users later even believe that it is really their life, stolen by a fraudster. The confused fans want to turn off the lights of the once-revered star. Sex is also a popular brain dance topic, and snuff films with real murders are even offered on the black market – for that special kick from the victim’s perspective.
Netrunning refers to hacking in the game, through which one accesses machines or cyberspace directly. With the destruction of the Internet, the latter is only limited to local data hubs. What a hacker can do depends not only on his skills, but also on the equipment:
- Tier 1: Simple hacking is made possible by a personal link that is used to physically connect to a system. If you install malware, you can use it to control individual devices such as doors, elevators, cars, or computers. The data transfer rate remains low, however, and access to cyberspace is not possible.
- Tier 2: This is where a personal port and cyber goggles (mostly a hacked BD headset) are used. This setup allows you to penetrate deeper network regions and transfer data quickly. Many Netrunners avert the threat of overheating with rather improvised methods, for example by lying down in a bathtub filled with ice.
- Tier 3: The variant for slightly more professional Netrunner who have a full body suit with cooling and a Netrunner station, including a chair that regularly checks the body values - the nerdy variant, so to speak.
- Tier 4: This level is used by professional netruners hired by corporations, who can access entire server banks, life support, cryostasis, and more. As whole groups, they defend the valuable data of the megacorps.
- Tier 5: As inconspicuous cyberdecks on the body, the highest level seems almost clumsy and old-fashioned compared to huge stations. The latest technology is behind the equipment of the NetWatch agents. The highly dangerous netrunners can use it to penetrate cyberspace from anywhere and hunt down rogue AIs and other netrunners.
The weapons of cyberpunk 2077
Anyone who can afford it has a gun in Night City. However, only those who have to use them daily – police officers, security guards, mercenaries, gang members or even salespeople and taxi drivers who have to fear for their lives – are allowed to carry a lead syringe openly. Special regulations apply in protected zones such as police stations or company premises. Here you are scanned in advance and have to hand in weapons and deactivate aggressive cyberware – this also flourishes in the game in some places.
Simple weapons can be bought on every corner, but heavy artillery is reserved for Corpo security guards and elite police units. However, the right (money) arguments usually lead to success. In total there are three major super-categories for weapons in Cyberpunk 2077:
- Power Weapons: Closest to conventional firearms, high rate of fire and recoil, popular with civilians, but also police officers and for military purposes.
- Tech Weapons: Use Railgun technology to fire high-speed projectiles with electromagnetic charge, low rate of fire, but the high range and penetration power – even with walls, coverings or armor.
- Smart Weapons: Leverage Gyrojet technology to fire hulless, guided projectiles that precisely and efficiently aim and track targets. This works via a connection to the carrier’s cyberware using a special weapon handle.
All firearms can also be equipped with attachments such as silencers, mods or special ammunition such as incendiary or EMP projectiles. Melee weapons are also very popular because they do not eat expensive ammunition – those who value style use a katana, otherwise an old steel tube provides arguments with penetrative power. Alternatively, cyberware can of course be beaten up well, be it reinforced arms or elegant Mantis blades.
Cars in Cyberpunk 2077
The fourth corporate war not only wipes out entire cities, but also creates a serious shortage of fuel. The newly discovered fuel CHOOH2 (a synthetic alcohol) is based on a type of grain that was deliberately poisoned during the war using an artificial virus. That and the destroyed infrastructure caused car production to stagnate in the 20s and 30s.
Only then can a resistant variant of the grain be artificially produced. The fuel crisis is over, but the sophisticated aircraft in particular are still rare and are only reserved for goods transport or corporations with a lot of money – no wonder V is not allowed to own one in the game.
Car brands: Mahir Motors and Makigai cars from India and Japan are most likely to drive over the asphalt of Night City because they are affordable. They don’t exactly stand for quality either. The American mid-range vehicles from Thorton and Archer, which are popular with the nomads, are a little more solid and reliable. Mizutani also belongs to the middle segment, but produces sports cars.
Of course, they can’t be compared with fast sports cars like the Quadra or their counterparts from European brands like Herrera or Rayfield. If you want something cozier, but still high-quality, you can buy Villefort or Chevillon in military-style – both are popular with police officers and corps. Yaiba motorcycles cut-through traffic at lightning speed like a blade, while Brennan Cycles are designed for long distances over bumpy surfaces. Pure military vehicles are of course dominated by Militech and Arasaka.
Car theft: Vehicles are stolen from every corner every day – most likely from us in the game too. Actually, the SID technology from Arasaka provides protection (simple security systems on cell phones, doors or even pistols scan the thumb of the dominant hand), but even a moderately talented hacker can easily circumvent it.