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Cyberpunk 2077 beginner’s guide

11 things we wish we knew when we were getting started

A bad guy points his gun at V, the main character in Cyberpunk 2077 Image: CD Projekt Red via Polygon

It took us a while to wrap our minds around Cyberpunk 2077, because it’s … different. It unfurls more like a pen-and-paper role-playing game than a video game. Some things will seem familiar. Others will have you fighting against your instincts.

Polygon’s Cyberpunk 2077 beginner’s guide is full of tips and tricks and advice and explanations that we wish we could’ve read before we started. We’ll demystify the game, teaching you what it took us hours to learn about its pace, conversations, classes, skills, headshots, side missions, finding loot, and why you should totally do optional objectives.

Note: With various patches changing numerous aspects of Cyberpunk 2077 since release, the advice on this page is likely out of date. If you were wondering what’s changed since launch, read our Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty review, which also covers the 2.0 update.

Pace yourself

Cyberpunk 2077 is both an action game and a role-playing game, but not at the same time. You can spend hours investigating, traveling, building relationships, infiltrating, hacking, and discovering Night City and follow that with action scenes that rival Hollywood blockbusters.

Expect a campaign heavily weighted toward role-playing along the critical path. If you’re familiar with pen-and-paper RPGs, think of it as a campaign, rather than a one-shot.

We’re writing this first because it’s kind of jarring, and we wish we’d have known this before we started. Cyberpunk 2077 is in no hurry, and you shouldn’t be, either.

Be curious

Role-play as a conversationalist, taking every opportunity to ask the optional questions highlighted in blue. You’ll learn a lot more about the world, which is where you’ll spend all of your time. Knowledge is the antidote for confusion, and the world of Cyberpunk 2077 is confusing, if only because it’s so different than ours.

No classes but what you make

Cyberpunk 2077 Lifepath menu showing Nomad Streetkid and Corpo Image: CD Projekt Red via Polygon

At the beginning of the game, you must choose between three backstories. Nomad, Streetkid, and Corpo are V’s Lifepath. In any other game, you’d think of them as classes. They aren’t. They’re just backstories, each of which informs your version of V, the main character.

Each has its own introductory prologue mission, but every version of V begins with the same build. The only difference is the backstory, which gives a bit of flavor to your character.

You’ll spend the rest of the game earning experience to pump into and mold your V into whatever you like. Pick whatever you like for whatever reason you deem appropriate.

Attribute Points and Perk Points let you buy options

Attribute Points and Perk Points let you buy options. Spend more of these on V, and you’ll increase the variety of things they can do.

  • Attribute Points make V stronger and better in broad categories like Body, Reflexes, Technical Ability, Intelligence, and Cool.
  • Perk Points offer bonuses in Skill trees nested underneath Attribute categories.

If you want to play stealthily, for example, pump Attribute Points into Cool, which increases Crit Damages, Resistances, and Detection Time. If you want more cool stealth-focused moves, spend a Perk Point on Hidden Dragon, which is a perk available in the Stealth skill (Cool > Stealth > Perk), and then you can “perform non-lethal aerial takedowns on unaware targets.”

Here’s another way to visualize Cyberpunk 2077’s Character menu organization:

  • Attribute > Skills > Perks
  • Cool > Stealth > Hidden dragon

Want to unlock every door you see? Pump points into Body (strength) to force them open or Technical Ability to pick the locks. Want to hack bad guys on the street instead of busting in with guns blazing? Put points into Intelligence, which increases your cyberdeck RAM capacity (think of this as mana/magic points/MP) with each level.

Spend Attribute Points and Perk Points when they make a difference

Cyberpunk 2077 asks you to spend points during character creation, a moment at which you know almost nothing about the game. There really aren’t any wrong answers, so go with your gut. Your earliest decisions won’t stick you in a play style.

You’ll keep accumulating points as you play, earn XP, and level up, and if you’re anything like us, you won’t have particularly strong feelings about how to spend them for a while.

Our solution: Hoard them until you know that they’ll make a difference.

A dialogue option gated by V’s Reflexes Attribute
V can only say “Something’s off about her” if they have at least 4 Attribute Points in the Reflexes.
Image: CD Projekt Red via Polygon

For example, you’ll spend a lot of time in conversation, and occasionally a dialogue option requires a certain Attribute value. As you can see in the image above, an icon appears to the right of the dialogue, showing you the minimum requirement for speaking your mind. That icon corresponds to the Attribute categories in the Character. In almost every situation, you can enter the menu, and pour points into the relevant category — Body, Reflexes, Technical Ability, Intelligence, and Cool — mid-conversation. Return to the game, and you’re free to speak.

This applies to way more than conversation.

If you’ve got points burning a hole in your virtual pocket, spend them on immediately relevant options. When you spot a locked door, spend Attribute Points on Technical Ability, which (among other things), “allows you to unlock doors.” If you’re wrestling with a particularly complex terminal, spend a Perk Point on Almost In!, which “increases the breach time for Breach Protocol by 20%.”

Headshots will disappoint you

Every other game: Headshots are one-hit kills.

Cyberpunk 2077: Headshots deal some damage.

This is confusing, but it makes sense if you understand how Cyberpunk 2077 calculates damage. Upgrade your weapons, pour points into whatever skill is associated with the weapon you’re using, and look for perks that’ll increase damage. They're all related.

With enough time, leveling, and upgrading, you’ll turn your headshots into one-hit kills under the right circumstances. The trick is knowing that there is a lot of math behind the scenes that determines your damage at any given moment.

Side Jobs are everywhere, but they’re manageable

From early in the game, you’ll start getting phone calls and text messages about things people want you to do around Night City. These are Side Jobs, Gigs, and Hustles. They’ll come in constantly.

They’ll pile up and keep piling up, but don’t let the ever-growing list make you anxious. We knew that we were free to ignore them, but felt weird watching them pile up in our Journal menu. Don’t stress about keeping track of it all. Let them pile up.

Cyberpunk 2077 alerts you to Side Jobs based on your location. Say you’re driving around Night City on your way to a Main Job, and you get a phone call about a Side Job. Odds are if you stop and look at your Journal, you’ll discover that the Side Job is only a few blocks away. And at that point, it’ll be easy to knock off.

So let them pile up if you like. The game will give you a heads up when can peel off and take care of them.

Slow down

Wow, is this ever some Captain Slow advice but hear us out: Driving in open-world cities is always, well … it kind of sucks. If you don’t care about mowing down pedestrians and outrunning the NCPD constantly, then by all means speed through the city. If you care about actually getting somewhere without incident, slow down.

(Quick)save constantly

Cyberpunk 2077 is coming in hot, and it’s kind of buggy. Get in the habit of saving your game, just in case something goes haywire. You wouldn’t want to, say, take out your gun after five minutes of driving across the city, just to discover that it randomly starts firing, and the whole place now hates you. Save every time you think “I’d rather not do that again.”

To Quicksave, enter the menu, and tap Triangle/Y/F5. That’s it. If (when?) something goes pear-shaped, reload.

Quick Scan for loot

Quick Scan every time you walk into a new building, a new room, a new street — actually, press L2/LB/Tab pretty much every time you think of it. We’re saying scan everything because you’ll basically always find something. It’ll sound like you’re taking a picture, and then you’ll see what you can interact with around you.

Image: CD Projekt Red via Polygon

Sometimes that’s literal in-game junk. Sometimes that’s mission-specific flavor text. More often that we expected, it was a crate holding some solid loot that we wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t pressed the button incessantly like it was 1996, and we were trying to save a Works document in the high school Media Center.

Complete optional objectives

No spoilers, but they have an impact on the game. And those impacts aren’t easy to anticipate.

Here’s a spoiler-free example. An early game main mission (Main Job) tells you that you can either meet your buddy or take a detour to meet someone you’ve never met yet. Both objectives are related to the mission. Do the optional one, and you’ll meet a couple of characters, one of which has an impact on the end of the main mission.

You won’t likely know what effect completing an optional objective will have, but go ahead and assume that it’ll change the game in some way (or at least open up some new options), so you might as well burn a few calories and get it done. Later, optional objectives will earn you some (unannounced) extra cash for completing jobs and gigs.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.