Online cyberpunk games
One of the loudest events of this fall - the release of Phantom Liberty add-on for Cyberpunk 2077, where gamers are waiting for adventure on a new large location, and the company of Keanu Reeves' character will be Idris Elba. The release, of course, is significant - after "Blood and Wine" the DLC from Polish studio CD Project RED began to pay special attention to it. But here's the problem - there is no multiplayer here and, alas, never expected, and many people would like to visit the world of cyberpunk with friends. In this case, we have a solution, because there are many online games similar in entourage or using elements of the cyberpunk genre. Today we will talk about them.
What is cyberpunk?
All gamers have at least heard about cyberpunk, but not everyone is able to explain what it is. It can include works where people interact in digital virtual worlds. But then we have to write down in cyberpunk all multiplayer games - from those where elves fight with dwarves, to stealing cars in GTA Online. Also, no one prevents you from using the definition that journalists once gave: "cyberpunk is high technology with a low standard of living". It's a good aphorism, easy to memorize and throw into a conversation on occasion, but it's too general - anything can fall under it, including the new iPhone.
So let's not beat around the bush, but rather turn to the origins. The main features of the concept of "cyberpunk" were invented by its author - the American sci-fi writer William Gibson. In his books he created a whole universe where corporations have political power, artificial intelligence realizes its existence, people improve themselves through cybernetic prosthetics and make full use of virtual reality, and information serves as a resource like oil or gas. In addition, the aesthetics of the world described in these books are influenced by Asian megacities such as Tokyo and Hong Kong, where huge buildings block out the sun and the streets are constantly lit with neon. Here's the answer: even if it's hard to define cyberpunk precisely, we know exactly what parts it consists of. So let's use them as criteria for choosing the right games.
Let's start with not the most obvious variant - space simulator, known for detailed development of the world and large-scale battles of starships. It would seem, what does cyberpunk have to do with it? But don't jump to conclusions - the devil, as usual, lies in the details. And there are more than enough of them here. As soon as a newcomer enters the system of New Eden, an artificial intelligence named Aura takes over his training. There are a lot of such machine minds that realize themselves as personalities in EVE Online - heroes called "capsuleers" can also be referred to them. The point is that your character does not die with the ship, but is transferred in digitized form to a new platform.
These technologies did not just happen - they were inherited by the inhabitants of the fantasy universe from the Slipers, a civilization that once excelled in the development of virtual reality and neural interfaces. And although the Slipers have ceased to influence New Eden, they still slumber in their cryocapsules and have dreams like those that prevented Neo from "The Matrix" from living normally. In other words, the simulator from Icelandic developers from CCP Games has enough references to William Gibson's books. Even evil corporations are present. They are represented in the game by the Caldari faction, whose planets are under the control of the board of directors. These businessmen do not really believe in the value of human life - even to the point of entertaining themselves with gladiator fights.
Speaking of gladiators and corporations. At first glance Apex Legends seems to be an ordinary online action game based on the rules of "battle royal". Heroes land on the map and fight among futuristic scenery until the last survivor - how many games are there like that? But if we look behind the scenery of these battles, we will discover some interesting details. The action of "Legends" takes place in the same universe, where the plot of Titanfall dilogy from the same developers from Respawn Entertainment studio unfolds. When the worlds of Frontier were engulfed by the war of IMC corporation and local militia, to help soldiers scientists from Hammond Robotics invented titans - seven-meter tall manned robots, capable of acting both with the operator and independently.
This invention, combining man and machine, gave the war a new dimension. But the conflict ended, leaving mercenary gangs in the ruins of the Outlands. One of these bounty hunters was Apex Predators squad leader Kuben Blisk, who, along with the Syndicate, established the Apex Gladiator Games, turning them into the most popular show in the galaxy. In other words, he did the same thing as the Caldari kingpins. It should not be forgotten that Apex Legends features both fully independent robots and machines carrying the digitized consciousness of humans inside. For the former, Patfinder is a good-natured mechanical partner for explorers of distant planets. On the other side is Revenant, a cyborg made of steel and pieces of flesh, inside of which sits the consciousness of an assassin.
Digital Extremes' online action movie raises important cyberpunk themes - from life extension by transferring consciousness from one body to another to the revolt of machines against their creators. And the last one appears in the plot of Warframe not once and not twice. When the rulers of the ancient Orokin Empire built robots to colonize distant systems, they had no idea that their creations would become individuals and create their own civilization of Mindholders. Warframes are essentially robots too, only controlled by warriors of the Tenno race. It is their role gamers take on, starting the game. There are also different kinds of disembodied artificial intelligence - Cephalons. They most of all correspond to the image of amateur AI, which draws before us classic fiction.
Megacorporations are also present - where could you go without them? One of the reigning factions in space is the Corps, created by traders and scientists under the control of the board of directors. Of course, aesthetically the Warframe universe is very different from the views of Knight City in Cyberpunk 2077, because the game designers put a lot of emphasis on the pictures that testify to the developed bioengineering. Even the elixir of eternal life, Kuva, is designed as an organic resource, not technology in the usual sense. But this does not cancel the fact that the game is based, among other things, on the ideas of the founding fathers of cyberpunk - from Philip K. Dick to William Gibson.
Tower of Fantasy
Where the spirit of Knight City is really strong, it's in the MMORPG Tower of Fantasy, even though the graphics are cartoonish and the characters seem to have come straight from anime. The game is set on the planet of Hades, where the colony flourished, but after the global catastrophe this world became much less friendly. Cyberpunk 2077 depicts a civilization that survived the wars of corporations. Among the wastelands inhabited by mutants and crazy robots, the towers of cities glitter with steel and neon. On their streets you can meet both ordinary-looking people and those equipped with cyber-implants, and behind the scenes of everyday life the confrontation of secret societies is boiling - just in the spirit of Deus Ex, which became one of the icons of cyberpunk in the gaming industry.
Another idol of the genre is the 1988 animated film Akira. The futuristic motorcycles on which the Tower of Fantasy characters race seem to be borrowed from this picture. Even in the costumes and appearance of the characters, cyberpunk features are noticeable. It is possible that in an attempt to outdo Genshin Impact, the developers from Hotta Studios specifically focused on such a rare style and took the best they could find from it. The bet worked - and the game, unlike HoYo's project, feels more serious and dark.
"Evolution 2. Battle for Utopia."
And the project Evolution 2: Battle for Utopia is assembled from third-person shooters in the style of Gears of War, RPG elements, strategies and tactical battles, which are shown in the XCOM series. In general, it turned out to be a rattling mixture, and even in the execution of Russian developers. Not surprisingly, the cyberpunk elements also seeped in. It is enough to look at the backstory of the virtual world, where one of the important characters is a scientist Adam Cruz from the corporation "Kronos". Especially for organizing the colony on the planet Utopia, he created an artificial intelligence "Dominion", capable of not only solving complex problems, but also creative thinking. And the peak of the intelligent program's "creativity", as it happens, was the decision to kill all humans.
The AI implemented its plan, of course, with the help of robots, so that the heroes with technology-enhanced abilities must resist the monsters of steel. Among the partners available in the game you can find intelligent machines like Terminator Ambalus, and androids - like Hank from the Black Legion, whose consciousness was placed in a synthetic body. There's even a brightly colored battle crab and a funny robot dog named Fido that the player gets at the very beginning. Add to that wild bandits and you get the same menagerie that could be found in Cyberpunk 2077, if the action of the Polish game took place on a distant planet.
The new shooter Synced flirts with the theme of improving human nature through technologies invented not even by humans, but by artificial intelligence. Level Infinite's project depicts the world after the Collapse - a catastrophe caused by a revolt of machines that destroyed civilization. But there's good without good: the crazy AI started to develop its own technologies, which came in handy for the surviving humans. First, the six classes of fighters defending Meridian use implants to enhance their characteristics. Second, they can take control ("synchronize") of monstrous robots during battle to gain their support.
The style of this online action movie is peculiar - as if someone crossed The Last of Us and Cyberpunk 2077 in one work, and added bioengineering in the spirit of Warframe. Wastelands with abandoned equipment and wild landscape are interspersed on locations with high-tech complexes, which would have a place on the streets of Knight City, and the nanovirus forms crystalline growths on buildings. The connection between material and digital realities, characteristic for cyberpunk, found here a very original embodiment, because, subjugating monsters, the characters simply disassemble them into bytes and hide them in their pockets, like Pokémon, in order to get a powerful assistant out of there. The same applies to the appearance of the heroes - here, by the way, they are called running (how not to remember on this occasion netrunners).
And now it's time to turn to a venerable classic, because Anarchy Online was released back in 2001. But despite its age, this MMORPG still has its fans. There is no reason to be surprised here: the sci-fi game methodically goes through all the ideas of cyberpunk - from the improvement of human nature at the expense of technology to soulless syndicates that break the fate of millions of people. The plot takes us to the year 29477, when all planets of the galaxy have been conquered, and nano-machines responsible for many spheres of life have been put at the service of people. They cure diseases, and repair complex equipment, and invade the genetic code of any creature for good purposes.
However, this is not a machine god - the nanites require special fuel, which the Omni-Tech corporation has gotten its hands on. The war begins when the miners extracting the valuable resource fight back - and the galaxy plunges into chaos. And such events always attract all kinds of adventurers. The gamer can act as a human or a genetically modified creature to become a merchant, an agent, a bureaucrat hypnotizing enemies or an engineer creating complex mechanisms. There are a total of 14 professions in the game, but you can become a free rebel or join the Omni-Tek forces regardless of your choice.
We bet you've hardly heard of this game. Nevertheless, the unusual MMORPG has been afloat for more than a dozen years, and in connection with Cyberpunk 2077 it is more and more often remembered on thematic forms. After all, it is, in fact, the same Cyberpunk, only in online format and with somewhat outdated graphics. Instead of Knight City there is a gloomy metropolis Neocron, which rose from the ashes of nuclear war. It consists of ten blocks - from the neon-lit center to the slums on the outskirts. As in the CD Project RED games, the most adult themes are raised here, including violence and the destruction of personality under the influence of various substances or cyber prostheses.
Some characters, just like the Malström fighters, modify their bodies beyond recognition, others, like the Voodooists, explore virtual reality. But all are united by a desire to survive in a brutal, corporate-controlled world. The city is divided into zones of influence by different factions, from administration employees and corporates from "BioTech" to "Twilight Guardians" and fanatics from the "Brotherhood of the Crane". Only the player decides who to join and who to challenge. It's worth remembering that you need to understand any mechanics - it's old school, and the cyberpunk genre requires at least minimal theoretical knowledge. But if you like this setting, and the threshold of entry will overcome. And what other online games in the style of cyberpunk you know?
18 September 2023