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Lord of the Rings Influenced a Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Quest

Spoiler Warning: This article features minor spoilers of an enemy which appears in a late game mission of Cyberpunk 2077's Phantom Liberty expansion.

Beloved fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings may not be an obvious inspiration for dystopian role-playing game Cyberpunk 2077, but it influenced developer CD Projekt Red regardless.

Speaking to IGN at GDC 2024, associate game director Paweł Sasko further explained CD Projekt Red's philosophy of designing specific quests with certain genres or themes in mind. It has used this concept on a grander scale previously, like imagining The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt as a horror game to create the Hearts of Stone expansion, or seeing Cyberpunk 2077 in the espionage genre to create the Phantom Liberty expansion as a whole.

It was in this chunk of new story content that CD Projekt Red implemented this philosophy on a more intricate level, however, and it pulled from myriad popular works to do so, including The Lord of the Rings. Sasko referenced Somewhat Damaged, a quest late in the Phantom Liberty expansion, and the giant spider-like robot monster called Cerberus the player must escape.

"Entering the Bunker was like entering the layer of a monster," he said. "And even that scene when Cerberus shows up, it kind of bears resemblance to the moment when Shelob appears in The Lord of the Rings, when she hangs over you, this looming sort of a shadow."

Just as Shelob skulks around the dark cave while stalking Frodo in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Cerberus can be seen doing the same in the dark subterranean bunker where the player finds themselves in Somewhat Damaged. The mission can be seen in the gameplay video below, which includes full spoilers for the entire mission, but the Cerberus scene comes at the 15 minute mark.

"So this is what we started doing, because when you define a genre theme and those guiding principles for your content, it's so much easier to guide your designers about what they're supposed to do. And there's so many decisions they're making themselves. It's not directors or leads who are doing it, it's designers who are making those decisions every day."

Phantom Liberty arrived alongside the game-changing Update 2.0, which completely revamped Cyberpunk 2077 with features such as a new perk system and improved AI. It also brought closure to an Elon Musk fan theory, a reference to the late racing legend Ken Block, and bizarre additions to the game's biggest mystery. Update 2.1 later added a full metro system, romantic partner hangouts, new vehicles, and more.

In our 9/10 review of the game, IGN said: "Cyberpunk 2077 throws you into a beautiful, dense cityscape and offers a staggering amount of flexibility in how you choose to take it from there."

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelance reporter. He'll talk about The Witcher all day.

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