In this hunters of lore we intend to delve into the recent history of the emblematic city of Cyberpunk 2077, Night City, as well as its factions
In Night City there are streets where noise can be felt and streets where silence becomes suffocating. It is a city of contrasts raised to its maximum exponent: the suits that swarm in the Corporate Center will rarely set foot on Rancho Coronado, and if you are a poor boy from Watson, your best life expectancy is to die heroically so that in the Afterlife they can ask a drink with your name on it The city in which Cyberpunk 2077 takes place buries its many injustices with blank opportunities and fatuous illusions. But, even being fully aware of it, walking one night among the neon lights of Japantown we can come to feel that we have the world under our feet and that success is exactly in the palm of our hand. That’s the magic of Night City, a city that puts everything at your fingertips but makes sure you never get to touch it.
Articles cataloged as Lore Hunters may contain spoilers for the games they are about.
The birth of a “free city”
According to the reality proposed by CD Projekt in Cyberpunk 2077, in fifty-six years we will be able to walk through Night City reflecting all its neon lights on our chrome implants. But how did humanity get to that point? At what point did it become an independent city in exchange for being subject to the corporations that restrict the free will of its inhabitants? To understand the state of Night City in its entirety, we have to take a look at recent history, its wars, world changes and, above all, the tug of war of large corporations.
Before the fourth corporate war that ravaged the planet from 2020 to 2023, several turbulent years and three predecessor corporate wars took place. The global chaos that turned society upside down between 1990 and 2020 can be summarized, roughly, in a struggle between large corporations and the governments of the most important countries for power and control of the planet’s natural resources. Of course, those most affected by the consequences of both explicit and covert movements were citizens, collateral damage from the radioactive fallout in Central America and the thermonuclear conflict in the Middle East, among other catastrophes.
All this led to an irreversible deterioration of the climate and the collapse of what we know as the United States: the Free States were born and, where California used to be, Richard Night founded Night City. As a counterpart to the relatively safe haven that Night City became and the amount of population that was drawn to its neighborhoods by job and trade opportunities, nomads emerged, a marginal class of millions of Americans who due to economic collapse roam the nation in search of any sustenance or material that allows them to survive.
Of course, Night City turned out to be nothing more than a false haven when the fourth corporate war broke out. The titanic struggle between the Japanese corporation Arasaka and the American Militech went from subtle covert blows to a full-blown war, which was put to an end by the nuclear explosion in the Corporate Center of Night City. The collapse of the iconic Arasaka Tower and the instantaneous death of thousands of innocents meant Arasaka’s defeat in this war, but Militech was just as damaged from the conflict. Rumors emerged in the underworld of the city attributing the explosion to the terrorist group Atlantis, whose best-known faces are Rogue and Johnny Silverhand. Although it has not been officially confirmed, those of us who have lived through the story of V know that the rumors were not misguided.
The twelve years after the fall of Arasaka were turbulent in every way. From 2023 to 2035 the Night City government tried to stop the nefarious hegemony of large corporations, banning Arasaka’s operations and trying to nationalize the Militech. Actions led by President Elizabeth Kress failed to prevent a technological recession and extreme poverty in Night City, accompanied by political instability and consequent civil unrest. Something similar happened on the Internet, used in previous years for military and political purposes, infested by hostile programs and artificial intelligence. That is why the European Union created NetWatch, which we have heard so much about during our time in Night City. With this organization trying to bring order to the Network and with the establishment of the Black Wall to isolate its safe area from its wild side, the Network was totally decimated and controlled at the convenience of political and corporate interests.
Between 2035 and 2070 the reconstruction and reunification phases took place. Both the government and large corporations worked hand in hand to restore both the world economy and a state of relative calm and stability. However, the rebuilding of Night City was carried out by its own citizens, nomads and small businesses, as the American government wanted the city to collapse and large corporations were so frowned upon on its streets that they could not influence in the same.
The American president-elect in 2069, Rosalind Myers, proposed to unify the Free States in the New America. Of course, the Free States refused to submit to the federal yoke again, leading to the Corporate War. Once again, the protagonists of the conflict were Militech as the right arm of the Government and Arasaka as support for the Free States. However, in 2070 both sides signed a peace treaty because neither was interested in the conflict leading to another catastrophic stage for both society and the economy. The Free States remained as such, but agreed to help the NN as much as possible. For its part, Night City continued to be completely independent from the federal government, but in return Arasaka was allowed to operate within its borders again and its iconic tower was rebuilt in the same place it occupied decades ago.
In recent years, the problems Night City has to manage have nothing to do with the previous war conflicts, but they are a direct consequence of them. Although the inhabitants of the neon city walk through its streets without stopping to think too much about it, from our reality in 2020 it gives vertigo to peek into Night City and see the tremendous social stratification on which it is governed, while natural disasters have caused that even the most basic resource for human sustenance, drinking water, is only accessible to a few. Technological advances without reasonable management lead to serious illnesses like cyberpsychosis, and many people prioritize an eye-catching implant over a plate of food. Despite being the free city par excellence, Night City continues to be under the yoke of class difference and in 2077 problems as fundamental as extreme poverty and climate change not only remain the order of the day, but are more serious and obvious than ever.
Concrete and Alloys: Night City Factions and Districts
As big and shocking as Night City may seem, it would be nothing more than an empty shell if it weren’t for the people who inhabit it. In many of its streets you can breathe more history than natural air: disputes between gangs, struggles for land beneficial to commerce, conglomerates of buildings, nightlife areas … All this distributed in a relatively ordered chaos in districts, sub-districts and territory controlled by one or the other faction. In this section we are going to reel off the soul of Night City, from its main streets to its darkest alleys.
One of the districts that has evolved the most over time is Watson, prosperous, full of Japanese companies and very promising on an industrial level. However, after the Unification War, Arasaka made sure to wipe all its competitors off the map, condemning all the inhabitants of the area to unemployment and poverty and moving the center of power to District Zero, which we will talk about later. In this territory we can find the Arasaka docks, a very valuable piece of land for the colossal company as it ensures a direct maritime connection with the rest of the world.
However, it is in the Northern Industrial District that the desolate neglect of the district can be felt, plagued by dilapidated buildings in which the Maelstroms carry out their illegal operations. This gang is known for their taste for violence and cyberware implants, which in their opinion steer them away from the weakness of human flesh. For most of the inhabitants of Night City they are a group of cyber-psychopaths with whom it is advisable to keep a certain distance.
We have traveled the last two districts of Watson many times during our hours accompanying V on his adventure: Little China and Kabuki. The first was born from the agglomeration of immigrants (mostly Chinese, hence its name) who moved to the buildings in this area after the companies of the Zero District abandoned their activities in the area. In this way, a multitude of small businesses arose, generating a considerably affordable leisure area with its restaurants, shops and betting houses, all with an undeniably oriental atmosphere.
On the other hand, in the narrow alleys of Kabuki we can find the remains left by Japanese medical corporations after being driven away by Arasaka during the Unification War: clandestine clinics, black market, prostitution, illegal neurodances and poverty emanate from each of its corners. . It is in this area where we can find the Mox, a group of thugs and prostitutes who are very capable of fending for themselves and with a sad backstory. Elisabeth Borden had a local sex workers called Lizzie’s that had a reputation for taking care of its employees in an impeccable manner. So when a Tygre Claw raped one of the Mox, Lizzie made sure to avenge her, killing him. Unfortunately, this led to his own murder, but his spirit remains on the premises and inspires the band to assert themselves without giving an inch.
As a counterpart to the previous district we have Westbrook, the most prestigious area of Night City by far. North Oak has a percentage of the population of less than 1%, and most of them cannot even buy a property and only rent it. Bankers, big business owners and celebrities inhabit the quirky and highly protected mansions of North Oak, a lifestyle that screams they have reached the cusp of Night City. Those who cannot afford to reside in this area but aspire to do so in the near future settle for Charter Hill, a safe area where its inhabitants often go to sleep after long hours of work and nights of leisure in Japantown.
The charismatic sub-district of Japantown grew out of the trend of some families from Little China who decided to settle on the other side of the bridge. This gave rise to the leisure area par excellence, both for rich corporations and for clueless tourists. Its restaurants, shops and upscale venues have found the magic formula to make a large box every night, all bathed in striking neon lights. The Claws of Tygre also operate in this area, a band largely of Japanese obsessed with katanas, color tattoos and motorcycles. Many of Japantown’s legal and fruitful businesses are in his possession, and they are nothing more than covers for his illegal operations and money laundering.
People who party in Japantown often work in the high-rise jungle that is District Zero, Night City’s quintessential corporate activity zone. The Center has a business environment, but that does not prevent it from having several leisure venues where workers can disconnect from their harsh routines. In the neighboring sub-district, the Corporate Center, we can find the greatest display of power of the large corporations that run the city. In its center we find the large Memorial Park roundabout that recalls the tragic nuclear explosion of 2023, surrounded by headquarters and offices where the fate of the entire city and its inhabitants is decided. Of course, the Night City Police are omnipresent in this area, but ordinary citizens treat them like one more gang: they have their own interests as a collective, they are not law enforcement officers seeking to eradicate crime. They will only pursue the cases that are convenient for them.
When we say that Night City is a city of contrasts, it is because of differences such as those between District Zero and Heywood, for example. We can even find a clear social stratification within Heywood itself: the further south you live, the poorer you are. It is a dormitory district that its inhabitants often boast with pride, as it is respectable for the most part. Wellsprings is the most famous sub-district of the three that make up Heywood: colorful and full of life, reminiscent of what the Californian coast was at the beginning of the century. Its tourist area is to the north, since the landscape and daily life is more desolate as we descend to the docks or approach the neighboring El Glen.
Something similar happens in El Glen in terms of the distribution of wealth: it is a humble but safe neighborhood in the north, while in the south shacks, dilapidated buildings and gangs reign. Its most characteristic symbol is the government’s City Hall, which cannot compete with the large buildings of the Central District but has great symbolic importance for citizens. It was in that place where Lucius Rhyne negotiated the independence of Night City in 2070, giving ground to Arasaka. The Valentines operate in this area, and to the south they are practically the only force of authority that can be found. They can be spotted with the naked eye by their gold implants, their use of Catholic symbolism in graffiti and tattoos, and they often drive tuned vehicles. The citizens of Heywood are loyal to them in exchange for their protection, many become legendary for their loyalty and some reach the point of being practically sanctified by the locals. The Valentinos share the territory of Vista del Rey with the Calle 6 (of which we will talk in depth later), and it is considered the least safe area of Night City. Submerged in poverty and rubble, everyone who has had the slightest opportunity has left the neighborhood without looking back.
To the southeast of Night City we have Santo Domingo, a particularly poor area that was created with the idea of being a sleeping area for factory workers. This project did not work because all the factories closed and their employees and families were left with nothing to put into their mouths. Some corporations try to invest to create an improved version of Santo Domingo taking advantage of the fact that the price of the property is ridiculously cheap in the area, but most of its population cannot aspire to enjoy a hypothetical new Santo Domingo. Many high-level employees defend that Rancho Coronado is an area, if not the utopian residence of the American dream that they had promised, respectable and pleasant in which to live. Others, however, point to its deterioration and high level of toxicity due to its undeniable proximity to the city’s landfill. On the other hand, in Arrollo the only thing we can find are closed factories, agglomerated buildings and a stifled local economy with no prospect of improvement. The faction that we can find in Santo Domingo are the patriotic Calle 6. With their aesthetic characteristic of stars and stripes, they were born as a militia of neighbors trained in weapons to expel thugs and gangs from the area, but despite the fact that they believe in the nobility of their cause, in the eyes of others they are just another corrupt gang that resorts to violence to achieve their interests.
The history of the Pacifica district is probably Night City’s saddest background. The project was to build the ultimate vacation resort, with amusement parks, boardwalks, and restaurants on every corner. By investing billions of Eurodollars during the reconstruction period, the idea was to be built by refugees from Haiti. However, all money injections were abruptly withdrawn when the Unification War broke out. This left both Coastview and the West Wind development with half-built buildings and a dismal economy. The inhabitants had to unite when the authorities decided to raze Pacifica for fear of being dominated by gangs, which led to the birth of the Sons of Voodoo. Citizens gained control of the area, but the government has renounced the area and even the Night City police are not answering calls from Pacifica.
There are two bands that we can find coexisting in Pacifica. On one side are the Hijos del Vudú, members of the Haitian diaspora who fought to defend Pacifica from the Night City authorities. At the aesthetic level they are easily identifiable since they use Creole symbols such as dreadlocks and charms made with bones. They specialize in netrunning, and their maxim is to unveil the secrets of the Web by crossing the Black Wall. They work on their mission as if it were a religion, a mystical goal related to eternal life and omniscience. Of course, and like all gangs, they also finance illegal operations such as cyber-hacking and drug trafficking. On the other hand there are the Animals, also easily recognizable by their corpulence and musculature. They are a gang that employ handcrafted bio-augmentations to augment their bodies to the point where they look more beast than human. In addition, they use hormones and learn many combat techniques to become great melee fighters. They can be found throughout Night City, but are concentrated in the fighting venues south of Pacifica.
The last area left to mention is nothing more than a mere source of resources in the eyes of most of the inhabitants of Night City. In addition to different groups of nomads, in the arid lands of the Badlands we can find the Northern Oil Fields, the point of origin of the founding of the city. In the 90s Richard Night allowed the Petrochem company to extract resources from this area without many legal limitations while he built the first skyscrapers in Coronado Bay. These fields are a polluting and toxic reminder of the foundation on which Night City stands. On the other hand, the Eastern Badlands are a barren example of climate collapse, riddled with abandoned towns and ghost lands only sporadically visited by junk dealers and nomads. Finally we have the most important area of the Badlands, at least for the livelihood of Night City: the Southern Desert. In it are all the crops and solar panels that provide the city with both food and energy.
As we have already mentioned, it is the nomads who usually live on the outskirts of the city. We can distinguish two main factions: the Aldecaldo and the Specters. The former usually move along the west coast and work on whatever task they come across, be it on farms or any type of manual labor. Some, however, prefer to devote their energy to less legal activities such as junkyard or smuggling. Although they will always avoid entering the metropolis or dealing with urban people at all costs. On the other hand, the Specters if they usually carry out orders for the people of the city. They are a spinoff of the Raffen Shiv and are considered by many to be little more than road thugs – they attack any target, are mercenaries of dubious reputation, and perform jobs for anyone willing to pay them.
A city without limits
As we have already seen, Night City is a city of contrasts, which welcomes in its bosom a whole variety of colors, bands and ideologies. Throughout our adventure in Night City we can feel how its streets throb with a life of its own, but it is always under the yoke of the powerful who act from the shadows. Politicians with their memory washed, business tycoons who act under duress and inhabitants who try to leave their mark while a sharp pendulum hangs over the city, without anyone being clear where their next court will fall.
If you play your cards right, you may be remembered by generations to come from Neon City, either as a legend or as a despicable character. In the end it matters little, as all the inhabitants are too busy trying to survive or carve their own name on the Afterlife card. It doesn’t matter if you are a body or a doll with defective implants, in the end, Night City bathes in equal parts neon and injustice.
CD Projekt (2020). Cyberpunk 2077 The Complete Official Guide. Piggyback.
Batylda, M. (2020). The World of Cyberpunk 2077. Dark Horse Books.