Love it or hate it, there's no denying that Cyberpunk 2077 has absolutely dominated the conversation for the last few months, and will undoubtedly continue to do so for the foreseeable. I wouldn't be surprised if publishers around the world weren't already having discussions about their own in-development projects, using CD Projekt RED's divisive RPG as a guide for what - and perhaps more crucially what not - to do.
Yes, Cyberpunk 2077 is almost certainly going to be the "cautionary tale" for a while. The scary story that development and marketing teams tell each other around the campfire as they attempt to work out where their own games might go wrong. But let's not forget that Cyberpunk 2077 also did a heck of a lot right.
I like Cyberpunk 2077 a lot, and although it does have some glaring issues that I think will take a lot of work, the foundations for something properly special are already in place. The game is brimming with a potential the developers - through no fault of their own, I suspect - were able to deliver in the way they wanted. It's a potential, however, that I feel other studios working on their own RPGs can pick up and really run with.
Take the upcoming Harry Potter RPG Hogwarts Legacy. It's safe to say there's an awful lot riding on Avalanche Software as they work on the kind of open-world adventure that fans of the Potter books and films have been dreaming of for years. While the hype might not yet be at the same levels of Cyberpunk 2077, a game fans built up in their heads over eight years, I could see it getting dangerously close.
But there's more that Hogwarts Legacy could learn from Cyberpunk 2077 than simply managing expectations and not releasing the game until it's ready - two things I would hope most major publishers are now taking more seriously. There are a handful of really great features in Cyberpunk 2077 that I reckon could work just as well - if not better - in the Harry Potter RPG.
At this point I should remind you that we still don't know much at all about what to expect from Hogwarts Legacy, other than it's an open-world RPG that sees you progress through an education at Hogwarts and a little bit beyond. The things I'm talking about here are based on nothing more than my own wishful thinking, paired with what little we actually know about the in-development game.
With that said, it seems to me that Cyberpunk 2077's approach to individual "life paths" is a natural fit for Hogwarts Legacy. In CDPR's game, choosing between "Corpo", "Street Kid", or "Nomad" at the start gave you a different origin story that would alter your relationship with the world.
If you chose Corpo, for example, you'd be a smooth-talking exec living in a fancy apartment. Street Kids know the real Night City better than anyone, and their dialogue options reflect this as they're able to recognise certain gangs, drugs, or even the best place to go for pizza.
It's great idea in Cyberpunk 2077, although I would argue that CDPR didn't take it far enough. Beyond your apartment/living situation and the aforementioned dialogue options that show up every now and then, there's very little to distinguish a Street Kid from a Nomad or a Corpo. For the most part they all act the same, and are treated the same wherever they go.
This, I think, is where Hogwarts Legacy could improve on the idea. We already know that the start of the game will sort us into one of the magical school's four Houses; Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff. This will almost certainly impact where we can go and how certain students react to us, but Avalanche could also build on the lifepath idea and give players various starting points to choose from, to further cement how they react to the world around them.
We know from the Harry Potter books, of course, that some of the witches and wizards attending school come from a long line of magical family members and are already well-versed in the world around them. Others, however, are muggle-born and completely new to it all.
Being able to choose between these origins for your character could be a neat way to double-down on the role-playing aspect of the game. Perhaps muggle-born students would have certain disadvantages when it came to recognizing certain spells and potions, but could use their knowledge of the "real" world in unexpected ways?
There might be obvious advantages to someone from a non-magical background thriving in a school full of magic, sure, but maybe that distance would allow them to see certain, more "obvious" solutions in instances where magic wouldn't be an option? Where a student from a wizarding family might try and unlock a chest using a spell and ultimately give up because they don't have the right magic for that yet, a muggle-born could find another way to pick the lock and bypass the need for magic entirely. If players didn't want to run the risk of ending up in Slytherin, I'd also imagine that choosing a muggle-born origin would almost entirely prevent that from happening.
Little things like that that would make your choices matter, at least for the earlier portions of the game. I would hope that the further students/players progress, the importance of their previous experiences and knowledge would become less important to their skills as a witch or wizard - as it should be.
There are definitely other mechanics I could see Hogwarts Legacy borrowing from Cyberpunk 2077. The ability to "enhance" yourself with certain spells and potions in the same way that players can visit vendors in Night City to augment themselves would be a cool feature. The ability to transfigure into a certain animal, for example, or even just change appearance at will to slip past enemies and explore previously inaccessible areas of Hogwarts.
But if Avalanche only takes one from CDPR when building its own RPG, at least in terms of gameplay mechanics, it should totally be the ability to choose your background, and to have that choice matter as you go forward and explore the world. For now though, I'm just happy for the team working on Hogwarts Legacy to take all the time they need to get the game the way they want it, and deliver something truly magical.
Featured Image Credit: Portkey Games/CD Projekt RED
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