Cyberpunk 2077 is far and away one of 2020’s most anticipated games. Not only is it the latest project from the studio behind the brilliant Witcher video game series, but it’s based on the incredibly popular Cyberpunk tabletop RPG franchise which many genre fans consider to be one of the medium’s finest in terms of world-building and storytelling.
Considering that the universe of Cyberpunk contains enough lore to fill several books, it’s understandable that you may feel a bit overwhelmed when you think about jumping into this world for the first time via Cyberpunk 2077. So far as that goes, an understanding of even the basics of the Cyberpunk’s lore may help you feel better prepared for the adventure developer CD Projekt Red has spent years crafting.
So while we could spend weeks completely breaking down the history of everything Cyberpunk, here is a brief primer on some of the most notable pieces of Cyberpunk 2077‘s lore and the greater history of the Cyberpunk universe.
The History of Cyberpunk 2077’s World
Up until a point, the history of Cyberpunk 2077’s world largely echoes that of our own (plus or minus some obvious deviations in terms of certain historical events and characters). However, that all changes by 1990.
It was around that time that the United States stepped up its war against drug cartels and corrupt governments in Central America. Their desire to win the war on drugs becomes so intense that they even resorted to forms of chemical combat. Such tactics not only cause former allies to denounce the U.S. but inspired the most powerful cartels to take the drug war battles to U.S. soil. In 1993, a cartel is even able to detonate a nuclear device in New York City.
In 1994, a global market collapse, and another nuclear incident in Pittsburgh, plunge the United States into further disarray. Corporations began taking over more aspects of Unites States life (including control over agriculture production) in an attempt to stabilize an increasingly uncertain world. Nevertheless, things somehow get worse in 1996 when the President and Vice President of the United States are assassinated.
As various gangs rise across the country in response to this incredible shift in the power structure, the NSA, CIA, FBI, and DEA form the “‘Gang of Four” and the Defense Secretary of the United States claims executive power in order to declare martial law. We hope this won’t come as too much of a surprise, but that move is not successful. More and more gangs appear across the United States as officials struggle to keep up with the madness. Around that same time, a variety of natural and unnatural disasters kill millions and inspire some states (including California) to secede.
It’s then that more and more corporations step up and use their resources (which now include private armies in most cases) to effectively secure control of what remains of the United States and many other parts of the world. Instead of bringing peace, though, these corporations soon launch new wars against each other for optimal business opportunities.
Somewhere along the way, advancements in technology afforded people the opportunity to enhance themselves with various cybernetic implants. While those implants are largely used by gangs, soldiers, and operatives, they’ve also worked their way into daily life. This discrepancy between available technology and the horrors of the world (as well as some drastic gaps in financial equality) is why you see some areas that look incredibly advanced and “futuristic” next to areas that appear to be dangerously underdeveloped.
That’s the rough state we find the world in at the start of Cyberpunk 2077.
What is Night City?
In 1992, a wealthy corporate executive named Richard Night began work on a massive urban development project he referred to as Coronado City. Night’s goal was to establish a city that would essentially be a corporate paradise and a testament to the philosophy of capitalism.
Night also believed that the city could one day be free of the crime and economic horrors that plagued the rest of the United States (as well as many of the laws which attempted to regulate corporations). Considering how many poor workers died building the city, though, that vision was certainly a matter of perspective.
In 1998, Night was murdered by organized crime elements who felt nobody left room for them in Night’s vision for Coronado City. That’s when Coronado City was renamed Night City in honor of its founder.
That’s also when various gangs started to clash with the corporate armies on the streets of the new city. That battle lasted until around 2005 when the corporations decided to pull out of Night City and leave the gangs to battle for control over what remained. At the peak of the Night City gang wars (around 2011), the Arasaka corporation intervened to take on the now weakened gangs in order to secure Night City for the corporations once more.
While the corporations did gain control of Night City for all intents and purposes, gangs and the corporate armies still clash with and amongst each other often by the time you enter Night City in Cyberpunk 2077.
What are the Badlands?
Night City seems to be located roughly near the geographic region of San Diego, but a series of devastating droughts and various unnatural disasters essentially dried out the area’s lush landscapes. This newly formed desert is regularly referred to as the Badlands.
Over the years, the people who either grew tired of Night City’s corporate power structure or simply had no other options began to form nomadic gangs that roamed the Badlands in search of what little food, water, and other vital resources remained. If you’re picturing the world of Mad Max, you’re not far off.
While some smaller gangs remain in the Badlands, the two largest “families” (the Aldecaldos and Wraiths) control most of the region. Those gangs will occasionally perform favors for the corporate rulers of Night City (as well as some of the city’s biggest criminal factions), but the largest corporations in Night City try to maintain border security and keep the Badlands gangs away.
Interestingly, a character creation option in Cyberpunk 2077 will allow you to start as a Badlands nomad who eventually works their way to Night City. This just confirms that it is possible for individuals to work their way into the urban area.
What Are the Major Night City Corporations?
Various “megacorporations” have outposts in Night City where they battle for control amongst each other and with the organized (and less-than-organized) crime elements that roam the city streets. These megacorporations are comprised of various smaller corporations that share general interests and revenue streams. Here are some of the biggest megacorporations you’ll encounter in Night City:
Arguably the biggest and most powerful megacorporation in Night City, ManuCorps focuses on the steady industry of manufacturing. Corporations under the ManuCorps banner include Araska, Militech, Mitsuzuki, and EBM.
When various farms across the United States began to go under in the ‘90s, corporations stepped in to form AgriCorps: a megacorporation that controls much of the agriculture in the United States and nearby independent areas. Agricorps is largely comprised of Petrochem, SovOil, ConAg, and Akaromi BioCorp.
Cybercorps is basically the Silicon Valley of Cyberpunk. This megacorporation handles most of the technological development in the world. CyberCorps corporations include Zetatech, Microtech, and Akari Heavy Industries.
BioCorps primarily handles the development and implementation of human augmentation technology, while some companies under this umbrella focus on genetically altered crops. BioCorps companies include Biotechnica, Cyphire Cyberware, and Bakumatsu Chipmasters.
The companies that form the ArmaCorps megacorporation focus on training and deploying security forces. They include some of the largest corporations in the Cyberpunk universe such as Arasaka, Militech, and Lazarus.
MediaCorps is just a good old-fashioned media conglomerate. While much of the content that they produce is controlled by various influences, they have sources pretty much everywhere and attempt to know at all times what is really happening in this world. MediaCorps companies include Network News 54, Nippon Network, and World News Service.
Which Gangs Roam Night City?
Hundreds of gangs potentially roam the streets of Night City at any time, but these are some of the biggest/most notable groups that have been confirmed for Cyberpunk 2077:
Just as their name implies, the Animals are a particularly ruthless gang who prefer to use their own fists (sometimes amplified by chemical and technological enhancements) over more elaborate forms of weapons.
Another aptly named gang, the Scavengers make most of their money by harvesting other people’s technological enhancements. They’re not the biggest players in Night City, but they’re certainly among the most feared.
Years ago, the Voodoo Boys were not only one of the biggest drug-dealing gangs in Night City but among the most violent. However, Cyberpunk 2077 portrays a different version of this gang which primarily exists to protect the residents of their community.
The Maelstrom is an aggressive and large gang that relies heavily on high-tech gear. They used to control the docks, but it seems they’ve been pushed out of that area by the timeline of Cyberpunk 2077.
This gang used to be all about their pure martial arts abilities, but the version of them we see in Cyberpunk 2077 seems to have embraced modern technology and cybernetic ehancements. It’s believed that they’re funded by Arasaka.
One of the more “entertaining” gangs in Night City, the Lizzies are just really big fans of the singer Lizzy Wizzy. That said, they’re still quite dangerous and usually high.
The 6th Street gang sees themselves as city protectors, but their views on what constitutes the idea of “protection” are, to say the least, loose. More often than not, they do more damage than the gangs they say they protect the city from.
Is Cyberpunk 2077 Canonical?
There seems to still be some debate on this subject, but the short answer is that Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the events of the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG and appears to be a continuation of the events in the Cyberpunk 2020 edition of that series. However, it seems that the game will ignore many of the details of the controversial third edition of Cyberpunk: Cyberpunk V3.0
At the moment, though, there is still some confusion regarding how the events of Cyberpunk may affect future editions of tabletop series and its related materials. It’s still entirely possible that Cyberpunk 2077 will take some creative liberties with the series which may not be reflected in subsequent Cyberpunk productions outside of the video game. It’s also possible that some of the events that take place between 2020 and 2077 may be altered in future editions of the tabletop game and related Cyberpunk stories.
Having said that, the basic lore that we’ve described above will still serve as the narrative foundation of Cyberpunk 2077.
What Role Do You Play in Cyberpunk 2077?
That will be entirely up to you.
While you will encounter notable characters from the Cyberpunk mythos during your time in Cyberpunk 2077 (such as Johnny Silverhand and Adam Smasher), you are not playing an established character in the Cyberpunk lore. You’ll create your own character, choose their backstory, and perform actions that will define who you are in this universe as well as the effect you have on the overall lore of this series.
How else Cyberpunk 2077 will honor, alter, and further the events of the Cyberpunk universe thus far remains to be seen.