When The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ran away with all the plaudits and awards five years ago, it was thanks to the enchanting narrative design, breathtakingly beautiful world, and colossal depth it offered. A reason the game worked so well was because, in spite of its size, it let players tackle the world and everything within it at their own pace. Is slaying dragons and ogres getting too intense? Why, you could sit back and have a friendly game of Gwent, of course.
Gwent was essentially an entire quest in and of itself, because you could gallivant around The Continent defeating progressively tougher opponents while building up your deck. The Witcher 3 isn't the first to include a fictional card game – Caravan in Fallout: New Vegas is one example, letting players wager Caps against a select few NPC opponents around the map, and Final Fantasy 8 was one of the pioneers in this regard, with Triple Triad featuring back in 1999 – but it's difficult to deny the success of Gwent.
One very recent example of a minigame done right – albeit still not to the level of Gwent – is Orlog in Assassin's Creed Valhalla. This foregoes cards in favour of dice with different faces and abilities, but the concept is the same; play against designated opponents throughout Norway and England and earn more "God Favors" to add to your deck.
V needs to chill out sometimes too
After the success of Gwent and how it went on to become a popular, standalone game, it's safe to say a similar experience was expected in Cyberpunk 2077. Alas, one of the most anticipated games of all time is here and it has arrived without anything similar. That's a shame because, despite its myriad bugs and technical issues, I've had a wonderful time with Cyberpunk 2077. Crafting V's storyline the way I like, being an arsehole to Keanu Reeves just because I can, it's been a delight. But the omission of a minigame to let me dictate the pace, soak in the atmosphere of Night City, and take a break from the non-stop chaos is glaring, especially as I got deeper into the game.
Night City does have extracurricular activities for V to partake in, but these are all tied to missions. You can hop in Claire's ride and race through the streets or take on Coach Fred's various tough opponents in fisticuffs, but both have just a few instances before you reach the end, not to mention still being quite intense. Cyberpunk 2077 doesn't have anywhere to sit down and relax aside from V's apartment, which offers little more than the bed she sleeps on at a weird angle.
The Night City roads less travelled
We know that CD Projekt Red has plenty of DLC for Cyberpunk 2077 in the works, but as I write this, we know very little about what that will entail. Story-focused content is undoubtedly part of the plan given how popular the two expansions for The Witcher 3 were, and the developer continues to tease its multiplayer ambitions, but what if a minigame were included? What would that look like in this neo-futuristic world, where the residents of Night City don't know if the next day will be their last thanks to unabated gang wars and firefights on every block?
What I mean by that is that everywhere you go in Night City, something is happening, but it's rarely of any importance to you, the player. In fact, there are plenty of streets and locations you can enter which have no relevance to the player at all yet, so using some of these as minigame locations would help to flesh out the less-loved areas of the map and give players reason to explore beyond the confines of the yellow-marked path to their next objective.
Anyone for Cyber-Gwent?
In a game set more than 50 years on from now within a universe that has taken a drastically different path to real life, what would that minigame look like? The possibilities genuinely are endless. Card games are what have been popular previously, as pastimes within those bigger experiences, but perhaps that wouldn't be thematically appropriate for Cyberpunk 2077. A cyberpunk take on Gwent would be glorious, but perhaps something different altogether would be better. Remember Dejarik (or holochess), the game Chewbacca and C-3PO play in the first Star Wars film? Something akin to that could fit in with the themes of the Cyberpunk 2077 universe, where you go around collecting new and improved holo-figures to play with instead. Or what about incorporating braindances in some way? They're used infrequently throughout the story; perhaps you could enter a braindance competition (however that would work), or something similar to the AR shooting game you play towards the end of the River Ward storyline.
Of course, there's always the potential of gambling minigames. Red Dead Redemption 2 excelled at this, with poker, blackjack, and dominoes all available to play throughout the world and bet money on. Earning bank in Cyberpunk 2077 is hard enough as it is, so the option to play casino-based games would go a long way to buying all the vehicles for that damn achievement.
No matter what shape or form a minigame would take in Cyberpunk 2077, it needs to reinforce exploration and give players a reason to explore off the beaten track. What exists currently in Night City isn't enough; from short gigs to multi-chaptered side quests, it's all the same sort of thing that involves shooting some gang members and perhaps a car chase or two. Night City is a stunning environment, but the player is given no time to sit down and soak it all in, especially with V's phone going off every 30 seconds. I want my V to be able to relax... and to also become the Night City holochess champion, damnit.
I could speculate all day long about the potential here, but what I do know is that some form of Cyberpunk 2077 minigame would be a wonderful inclusion. Not just to break up the pacing a little, but to help extend the longevity of the game. I got seriously addicted to Gwent and Caravan, and Orlog almost sunk its hooks into me, so I'd welcome the opportunity for Cyberpunk 2077 to do the same.