NOTE: This review is a bit late, due to the incompetence of the vendor I purchased my copy of “Cyberpunk RED” from. They gave no indication when I purchased my copy that it would be nearly a week late to arrive, despite being pre-ordered a month in advance. Just saying.
So I’ve spent some time pouring over my new copy of “Cyberpunk RED”, and right off the bat, I will say that this is a good game. While I haven’t run it (yet), it appears to be a worthy successor to “Cyberpunk 2020”.
Now then, let’s get into the nuts & bolts, shall we?
First of all, this is a prodigious tome! Anyone who is already familiar with “Cyberpunk 2020” are used to their relatively thin, softcover books, including the main rulebook. By comparison, “Cyberpunk RED” is a fucking brick, with more than twice the page count of 2020’s core rulebook, and in a hardback format! While it isn’t quite as big as “Pathfinder 2nd Edition”, it’s close, and if you need to club someone into submission, “Cyberpunk RED” would make a handy improvised weapon.
Not that you’d want to do that, though, since the blood would ruin the lovely art scattered throughout the book, most of it in full color! This may not seem like much, in this modern age of tabletop roleplaying, but the previous titles in the Cyberpunk series are known for their excellent black-&-white artwork. This is a welcome upgrade for the series with “RED”, and really cements this game – right from the get-go – as a clear step forward in the series’ development.
In short, this isn’t just a quick revision of “Cyberpunk 2020” or “Cybergeneration”. This is its own animal entirely.
Set a couple of decades after “Cyberpunk 2020”, in the aftermath of a catastrophic war between Militech and Arasoka corporation, “RED” mixes the bleak, dystopian world of “2020” with – if you can believe it – even more angst. This game is dark, way moreso than previous titles in the series, which was already pretty damn bleak. Yet there is still some hope for a brighter future to be found in the setting laid before us here, if you are willing to look.
Basically, while there were some elements of “Mad Max”-style post-apocalyptic roleplaying to be found in “Cyberpunk” before, “RED” picks up that torch and runs with it. Where places like Night City used to be neon and chrome bastions of classic Cyberpunk gameplay, the world of “RED” is still reeling from the aftermath of a [REDACTED – SPOILER] in the center of Night City. Even though that occurred many years before, the city, and the world itself, have yet to recover fully.
Like I said, “Cyberpunk RED” is dark. But in a really cool way!
Now then, I was pleasantly surprised by many of the changes between “2020” and “RED”. For example, gameplay will be very familiar to those who play “2020” and other R. Talsorian Games products, such as “The Witcher”. But character generation has gotten a revision that is very welcome, indeed! While you can still make characters in the classic manner, they have a simple method that is perfect for people either new to R. Talsorian games, or roleplaying in general. This Template system for character generation allows you to make characters in short order, but still have plenty of differences from other characters of that template, to make them your own.
Don’t worry, R. Talsorian fans: You still have a Lifepath to run through, regardless of which manner you use to make your character. In fact, it has been upgraded, which is also quite nice!
One thing I enjoy with “Cyberpunk RED” is that it uses flowcharts to lead you through the book, especially during character generation. If you are looking for a specific section, such as where to find Cybernetics for your character, they point you in the right direction, at the start of character generation. This reduces frustration from trying to find sections you need, that are often obscured within other sections. Since this is such a beefy tome, as I said before, this is almost required, and quite welcome in my opinion.
Now then, as I said, I haven’t run this game, nor have I played it yet. But having played many other games from R. Talsorian, including the previous “Cyberpunk” titles, I am confident that this is a worthy successor to the line. The setting is unique enough to warrant a new edition, as are the rules revisions. “RED” is at once both clearly the “Cyberpunk” we all know and love, while being its own thing, as well. This is no jumped-up, errata edition of “2020”, friends.
R. Talsorian’s “Cyberpunk RED” is way better than I expected it to be. This is a must-buy game.