In a recent interview, Cyberpunk 2077 concept art coordinator Marthe Jonkers stated that the game's setting is designed to be a "fresh take" on the cyberpunk genre. The upcoming RPG from CD Projekt Red takes place in the fictional Californian metropolis of Night City, and despite its name, the setting appears to be uncommonly sunny for a cyberpunk title.
The cyberpunk genre is generally known for its dark futuristic tropes: unbridled technology, corporate dystopia, cybernetic transhumanism and sociopolitical turmoil. These themes are usually packed into a sprawling-yet-claustrophobic city soaked in rain, neon, and darkness, creating the archetypal cyberpunk aesthetic. As CD Projekt Red has showed off more of Cyberpunk 2077 at various trade shows, some have reacted to the game's aesthetic with surprise and even disappointment. Many of the events seen in the gameplay and cinematic trailers take place on a bright, sunny day, in contrast to the genre's established look. But according to CDPR, that's a fully intentional design decision.
Marthe Jonkers, concept art coordinator on Cyberpunk 2077, discussed its aesthetic design in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. "When we showed the demo last year, people were surprised at first that it was so sunny," she said. "They expected rainy, dark cyberpunk but you can make a cyberpunk city in California. Of course, it will rain there, because we have a weather system, and it will also be night, but we are really trying to get this fresh take on cyberpunk." She stated that the CD Projekt Red team knows the whole canon of cyberpunk, from books to films and beyond. But despite internalizing everything the genre has done over the years, they wanted to take it in a more unique direction.
Cyberpunk 2077's aesthetic isn't just about being visually brighter, though. Jonkers further explains that CDPR diversified Night City's visual design by tapping into the lore of the original Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop game and thinking about the fashions and styles that came and went, from architecture and clothing to vehicle and weapon design. As a result, Night City is a melting pot of four distinct styles, each of which stems from a period of the world's history between 2020 and 2077. "Entropism" is rooted in a time of mass poverty, with designs of necessity over style. "Kitsch" was a time of economic recovery, and designs emphasized colorful style over substance. "Neomilitarism" saw the rise of megacorporations and dark, sharp substance over style. "Neokitsch" is both style and substance, as the gap between rich and poor grows wider leading up to the events of the game.
With all of these styles overlapping each other in Night City, Cyberpunk 2077 sounds like it should have a wealth of visual variety. Though there's been debate over the fact that Cyberpunk 2077 will be a first-person game, that perspective should be the best way to see all the details that Jonkers and her team have put in. And given that there are plenty of other cyberpunk video games out there, an aesthetic shake-up could be just what Cyberpunk 2077 needs to stand out from the perpetually dark and rainy competition.