Note: some spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077's story below.
Cyberpunk 2077's quest director Pawel Sasko has said that players criticizing the open world RPG for being too "linear" are "completely justified."
Via PCGamesN (opens in new tab), The comment came up while Sasko was taking viewer questions during a recent Twitch stream. One viewer asked what he thought about people criticizing the open world RPG as being "linear."
"Well, I think it's completely justified," Sasko said. "Players expected more, they expected more because of how Witcher 3 is built. And I think Cyberpunk has an insane amount of non-linearity. But again, I think the expectations were higher."
Some of the criticism of Cyberpunk 2077 being too linear stem from the introductory quests, which begin with the player choosing their starting role from three different origin stories. No matter which they choose, their character is rather quickly funneled into the main storyline, and there was very little impact on the story regardless of which origin you picked. Others have said there aren't many big choices in the game that lead to major branches in the storyline.
Sasko brings up an interesting point in his response to this: sometimes big branches in a story may not even register with players because the choice itself isn't one most people end up deliberating over. The example Sasko uses is Goro Takemura, one of the game's best and most likable characters.
"The fact that Takemura can die or not is such a big gigantic branch that actually influences so many things along the way. And it was so much work to make it work both of those ways."
But for players who made it a priority to save Takemura because they liked him so much and didn't want him to die, "In a way, it became almost a non-choice," said Sasko. "In players' minds, it became linear."
Sasko says Cyberpunk 2077 is an extremely non-linear game, however. "There's so much randomization inside that [quest] system, that it's not possible to have identical playthroughs at all." That said, he still thinks player complaints about linearity are valid.
"I think it's fine. I think it could have been better, honestly," Sasko said. "And we do know how to make it better. And I would expect more from us, from myself, and from us as a studio."
You can watch the VOD of Sasko's stream, with the discussion beginning around 1:17:00.