Games

'Cyberpunk 2077:' A Good Build Isn't Always an Optimal One

Sometimes what you want isn't more HP, it's more grass.
December 9, 2020, 2:00pm
Screenshot from Demon's Souls, a player stand in front of a large statue of a woman holding a sword in the game's hub world, the Nexus
Image courtesy of Bluepoint


The term RPG is bandied about a lot these days, and can mean anything from “has a few dialogue trees” to “turn based combat system.” In general though, if you see something called an RPG, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to choose a play style through a combination of ability scores and weapon loadouts. What build you choose can sometimes be wildly influential in making forward progress in the game, or simply change how you make progress. When it’s the former, having an “optimal build” is the subject of much debate, you can find endless YouTube videos and forum discussions that attempt to construct the ideal spread of levels and equipment for maximum damage output.

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But what if, instead of choosing an optimized build, you just put points into whatever seemed useful at the time? Depending on the system, some games might punish you with a difficulty curve that out runs your “poor” build choices. But, as Rob found out while playing Cyberpunk 2077, maybe having a suboptimal build can actually add a bit of spice to a game. We discuss all the ins and outs of Cyberpunk 2077 on this episode of Waypoint Radio. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full podcast below.

Patrick: Rob, you did this several weeks ago when you sent me a message that said –

Rob: Hold on. This is working well in Demon's Souls. Don't you dare besmirch my luck build.

[laughter]

Patrick: But I want to be clear, when you say that there are going to be people out in the world that go, "Oh, right, there is a luck glitch that you can exploit to like, just roll through the game." 

Rob: I'm not doing that.

Patrick: No, Rob is like, "I want to increase the grass drops. And so I'm going to dump like seven points into luck." It's beautiful because that is like a logical way to think about the game and its lack of explaining itself.

Rob: Drops are money!

Patrick: It totally makes sense. Yes. 

Rob: Money is souls!

Austin: Drops is money, money is souls!

Patrick: At the same time, there's a luck ring you could just equip and just have that.

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Rob: What if you had a lot of luck and the luck ring?

[laughter]

Patrick: All right. So anyway, I'm just, there's -

Austin: They'll give us money!

Austin: What's the luck equivalent here in Cyberpunk?

Rob: The actual equivalent is probably technical skills and some of the skills that are in there. Cause that's where you find the skills that let you do things like you'll get more boost for all your consumables, your grenades will do 20 percent more damage.

Patrick: None of that's worth it ever.

Rob: I was like, fuck that, no.

Austin: It's also worth saying at this point that like, we're now talking about builds, which I think it's probably fair that a lot of people who'd seen trailers for this game, didn't those trailers talked about builds, but I don't know that it was clear that this was an RPG in this sense.

Patrick: I always got the sense. It was more like, "Oh, what's your origin story." And so like, your backdrop was going to define like in a but I just figured that was more of a narrative thing than it was a like practical, you know, beat by beat.

Austin: But now there are like perk lists out there and these are like big, complicated skill trees and shit. So like, is that -

Patrick: Did Witcher have huge skill trees? I can't remember at this point.

Rob: No, this is a little meatier. So CD Projekt never really did nail what they wanted to do with Witcher systems.

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Patrick: No! The combat in Witcher III is abjectly terrible. It's just a really good world, and the combat is good enough.

Rob: in terms of the action overall and the things that potions did. Also, there's still a little bit of vestigial potion shit in this game where there's some food you can eat and it's just the thing you want to take into a fight with you. Where you're like, "Oh man, I had a burrito, and so I'm just going to be healing 5 percent, a second out of combat."

Patrick: That's how I feel when I leave the burrito shop.

Rob: I'm just recharging.

Austin: Can't wait to get into a fight. I got this burrito in my belly. Certainly I can't wait to feel comfortable.

Rob: So I ended up with a character who could do a little bit of a lot of things, but also literally could just get shot by a stray bullet and just be dead. And that wasn't ideal, but it did make for a more tense experience.


This transcript was edited for length and clarity. Discussed: Cyberpunk 2077, Content Warning: Suicide 55:56 - 57:24, Souls Games 1:28:20, The Pathless 1:32:58, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes 1:41:39, Solasta: Crown of the Magister 1:46:42, Signs of the Sojourner 1:51:12

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