Cyberpunk: Edgerunners - Review
They should make this into a game or something.
While some people may still feel disdain for the term “Cyberpunk” after the disastrous launch back in 2020, there is no denying that the universe, lore, and futurisms are very intriguing. The game has so many different locations, characters, and tech that are burned into my brain after playing when it originally launched. I was fortunate enough to have a PC that could run it at the time, and while of course there were plenty of glitches and bugs during my playthrough I still had a great time. Going back to the game now is an even better experience, as now most of the bugs have been fixed and quite a bit of new content has been added. It runs surprisingly well on Steam Deck at 30 fps, but I digress.
I preface this review by detailing a little bit of my own attitude toward Cyberpunk because I think it had somewhat of an impact on the enjoyment I got out of Edgerunners, and it was not negative. Of course, you do not have to play Cyberpunk to get any enjoyment out of Edgerunners or vice versa. But the show does such a great job at recreating Night City that I could recognize environments from the game in every single episode. Studio Trigger has done an incredible job fully realizing every detail of Night City to a T. The Edgerunners story is also official cannon to the Cyberpunk universe, which gives an extra layer of depth to the game. Now when I go back and play it and see the landmarks I saw in the show, there's a completely different context. And I can’t think of another franchise that has done something similar. Sure you have Arcane, but that show mainly focuses on building the Legends and their characters.
The references don’t stop at the landmarks though. Characters still use the same slang like “Choom,” “Preem,” “Zeroed,” etc. I can only recall seeing one character from the game in the show and it was pretty brief, but still felt somewhat appropriate. The tech in the show is also a 1-to-1 comparison to the game, except I would argue the way the tech is used gets demonstrated more fluidly without requiring you to read 10 pages of tech mumbo-jumbo to learn what every single device does. Ah, the power of animation.
Little details stood out to me pretty frequently. Like when someone is hacking in the show, we can see the “hacking” they're doing is the same mini-game puzzle in Cyberpunk 2077. It's never explicitly focused on. It's just there. It's accepted as just being part of the game's universe, making hacking in the game feel more authentic to the world around you.
Normally I would not care if a TV show adaptation got every single thing right about it from the game, but Edgerunners takes it above and beyond. This story now feels like a legend that I got to watch in real-time, that I would hear about from someone in the game. It fits right in with one of the repeated themes in the game, about either dying a nobody or going out in a blaze of glory.
The best part is that the story itself is actually incredible.
In the dystopian future that is Night City, late-stage capitalism seeps into every single character's life. It controls the school you attend, what kind of health coverage you get, overall quality of life, and many other real-world problems that the game just brushes past. Because in the game you’re on a path to being at the top, but we never truly feel like we're at the bottom after the first hour.
Edgerunner’s first episode quickly builds up all of its pieces that eventually fall down to set the story in motion. The developments may seem too quick, but I thought it was a great way to show how unforgiving and shallow this world obsessed with greed actually is. Our main protagonist, David, makes his own choices and has his own agency, but is also somewhat forced by the world he lives in to survive the only way he can. All of the people he encounters have their own problems that get briefly explored, and they can all be traced back to one root cause.
The show is 10 episodes long, around 20 minutes each, and they are all paced incredibly well. I can’t think of an episode that dragged or felt out of place. Some episodes feel more contained than others but there is a constant feeling of progression like any good shounen anime where we see our protagonist have a realistic progression until the end. You can understand where the show will go through clever foreshadowing, but I never knew how it would get to those points. In such a lore-rich world there's so much potential to make a story about anything.
Do I even need to mention the animation style? If you’ve seen the trailer you can already tell how good it is. Even when nothing is being animated and we just have still images of character faces, it is all visually stunning—a lot of how the show demonstrates how cybernetics work by just showing you instead of telling you. Since I came into this show already knowing what a lot of the tech was, I am curious how newcomers will interpret what happens on screen.
Cyberpunk Edgerunners is one of the best video game-related TV adaptations I’ve ever seen. It works on its own without the game, and having played the game I think it's a great addition to the lore. I can’t wait to watch it again.
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