Retro Review: Cyberpunk 2020

In an effort to shine a light on games that may have found their way into the dark corners of your game shelf, I thought I’d do a retro review of Cyberpunk 2020 The Second Edition by R. Talsoran Games Inc. This was my first venture into the genre and at the time, it seemed like a very gritty and fantastic view of a dark future ahead that emphasizes style over substance.

In this dark future, corporations have taken control away from the government and advances in science and technology have made cybernetics, cloning and anti-gravity vehicles possible. In the game, you can play Rockerboys, those who rebel against authority; Solos, the hard-as-nails mercenaries; Netrunners, cybernetic super hackers; Techies, who can be either mechanics or medics; Medias, those who report the truth; Cops, those who try to keep law and order; Corporates, the business elite; Fixers, deal makers and information brokers; and Nomads, road warriors who roam the superhighways.

Each of these character types also has a skill unique to their class that exemplifies their role in the party and the setting at large. It also affects how much money you receive, the higher the class skill, the more money you earn each month. Rockerboys get Charismatic Leadership which allows them to influence large crowds. Solos get Combat Sense, allowing them to sense danger before it strikes. Netrunners have Interface that measures their skill at manipulating programs. Techies have either Jury Rig or Medical Tech allowing them to repair damage or perform surgery. Medias use Credibility to get their viewers to believe what they report. Cops have Authority to intimidate or control others. Corporates have Resources that measure their ability to access company perks. Fixers have Streetdeal that allows them to get information and pick up rumors. Finally, Nomads have Family, allowing them to call upon members of their clan to help them.

From there, character creation can take a completely random turn. You start by rolling how you dress and your personal style (remember this game emphasizes style), then you roll your ethic origins, followed by your family background (birth placement, number and status of family members), then your character motivations, but the real meat is when you roll your life events for every year after age 16, you roll once on the life events chart which will help flesh out your characters history.

Now, the technology in the game is a bit hit and miss. The game was published in 1990, so understandably, they couldn’t have predicted what technology we would have at our fingertips today. While the weapons are fairly standard (and there are some great weapons there too), the other gear can be a little off. For example, the Pocket Computer is listed with the dimensions of 6″ x 3″ x 1/2″ and has enough memory for 100 pages of alphanumeric memory. Wow, amazing!

Aside from that, the game is very stylish, very playable with a simple system. Most actions are resolved with simple D10 roll added to a skill or attribute along with any modifiers. When you take damage, you roll for which body part has been hit (unless you were aiming for a specific area) the damage you rolled is first subtracted by your armor’s Stopping Power, then applied to your character. Damage can be brutal and can also pile up quickly, so it’s better to outfit your character with the best armor you can afford.

The core book does a great job of fleshing out the setting, including a map of Night City, an entertaining timeline of events from 1996 to 2020, news articles about various events, with a large section dedicated to netrunning, vehicles, powerful corporations, and of course, cybernetics. The art throughout is fairly consistent and lends itself to the setting. Supplements expand upon your options, and of special note are the Chromebooks which add tremendous playability to this game. If you’re looking for a trip down memory lane, then get ready a wonderful trip (at dial-up speeds)!

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Alex Montoya

Alex hasn't done anything worthwhile with his life. He's a great disappointment to his family and friends (even his dog looks at him with shame). Despite his many, many failures and general lack of any redeeming qualities, we took pity on him and let him in here at the Gamer Nation (I don't think we'll ever get rid of that lingering smell now). They say every group of "hotties" needs to keep an ugly friend around to make them look better and It seems that keeping this poor wretch around really does the trick!

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