Cyberpunk 2077: The Gangs of Night City – Then And Now

(Author’s Note: The following is a speculative anlysis of lore topics. No information aside from what is publicly available or through existing literature were noted. Any resemblance to lore which appears in the final release of Cyberpunk 2077 is entirely coincidental.)

The third “Night City Wire” presentation gave us a look at some of the neighborhoods you’d be visiting in Cyberpunk 2077, along with the gangs that control those neighborhoods. Yet several of these gangs had some history in Night City (courtesy of TTRPG Cyberpunk 2020), a long history if they’re still knocking around after almost sixty years. Some of them look like they haven’t changed much if at all. Others seem to have undergone some serious reformations.

The Gang With The Iron Heart

Maelstrom has been present since we first got introduced to V as a character. When we see them in “present day” videos, they’re pretty damned freaky looking. Less human, almost insectile or arachnid, it’s clear that their commitment to being almost literally “metal as hell” has taken the gang members in some very weird directions from a physiognomic standpoint.

Were they always this creepy looking? Not necessarily. Back in 2020 (the fictional one, not the real one), Maelstrom started out as a combat gang, a collection of tattered remnants from another gang, the Metal Warriors, who were virtually wiped out by an anti-cybernetics gang known as the Inquisitors. One night was all it took to smash the Metal Warriors, scattering the few survivors to the winds. However, a disgraced member named Hammer (who’d been kicked out of the gang for breaking combat etiquette) gathered the remaining survivors, along with anybody else who had a beef with the Inquisitors and set about forging themselves into an instrument of vengeance. Back then, cybernetics which were associated with the head weren’t nearly so blatant as they seem to have gotten by 2077. It’s unclear if Maelstrom members specifically order their implants that way or if it’s an aesthetic choice they go for at the time of implantation. It’s also unclear if they exacted sufficient revenge on the Inquisitors or not, but since Maelstrom is still around, it’s entirely possible the Inquisitors were more thoroughly eliminated than what happened to the Metal Warriors.

Loa and LUA

The Voodoo Boys have been appearing in the last couple of Night City Wire videos, a Haitian gang who’ve been kicked off the island right along with the rest of the population, and are trying to make “Haiti 2.0” in Night City. They’re probably the most “wired” of the gangs in terms of intelligence gathering and hacking. Their enclave is a surveillance state in the microscale and they see everything.

Of course, things are considerably different in 2077 than they were in 2020. Back then, the Voodoo Boys were closer to the Medellin or Cali drug cartels than the black hat hacker collective we’ve been presented. Before the Night City Holocaust, the Voodoo Boys were using the sale of drugs to college kids to fund their purchases of weapons and cybernetics as they conducted an urban terror campaign. The ends they were working towards weren’t explained, presumably to be left up to the GM’s imagination, but they definitely didn’t play nice and “business” was more of a vague suggestion than a basic activity. The Night City Sourcebook mentions that while the Voodoo Boys colors and standard “look” was taken from Haitian culture, a lot of the Boys themselves were Caucasian. Why? Basic gang psychology. If the gang leaders wear dreads and put a chicken bone through the nose to identify themselves as part of the gang, then everybody has to look the part, regardless of skin color or national origin. So what happened? It’s entirely possible that between 2020 and the point where Haiti became uninhabitable, the core “management” of the gang moved into Night City. And keeping in mind the old saw “you don’t shit where you eat,” the gang’s core leadership may have decided that they needed to change their activities in Night City from ultraviolent expansion of the drug trade to the more subtle but no less lucrative field of cyberwarfare and data theft. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve got a bunch of college educated connections into government and corporations, along with plenty of marks for blackmail.

From Sheik to Chicano

Probably the biggest (and most baffling) change in a gang shown on Night City Wire would be the Valentinos. The gang we saw presented seemed more or less like a Latino street gang you’d see today, with maybe the gaudiness turned up to 11. It seems like the Valentinos have their hands in protection rackets at the very least, and aren’t afraid to pad the Body Lotto by going mano a mano with any challengers.

Yet their roots are radically different. The Valentinos started off in Cyberpunk 2020 as a posergang with a very specific schtick: they looked for the most beautiful women in town to sleep with, then compared score cards at a quarterly meeting, a riff on silent movie star Rudolf “The Great Lover” Valentino. So how did a bunch of cyberpunk Casanovas really start breaking bad? One possibility goes back to the end of the Fourth Corporate War. With Night City reeling from the effects of the destruction of Arasaka Tower, the opportunities to bed lovely ladies were probably hard to come by. In the face of hardcore adversity, something far worse than just making enough eddies for decent pre-pack, the Valentinos may have literally stopped screwing around and started working hard. True, that work probably involved shakedowns, the start of protection rackets, and almost certainly some smuggling. In the process, Latino influences shifted the gang from playboys to homeboys.

Tigers In A Grove

They may not be the biggest gang in Night City. They’re definitely not cyberpsychos like Maelstrom or hacker elites like the Voodoo Boys. But they’ve always been there, lurking in the shadows of Japantown, occasionally helping keep the streets safe, but mostly making them run red when they’re not shaking down the independent “working girls” of Night City. They’re the Tiger Claws, and they’ve got a reputation.

Even before the Fourth Corporate War, the Tiger Claws weren’t what you’d call high profile. Bad medicine for any individual who picked a fight with them but far less of a general threat than some gangs. Back then (for reasons known only to God and the Street), they were known as Tygers Claw, a small combat gang who were rumored to be covertly funded by Arasaka, an arrangement not without precedent given Arasaka’s links to the infamous Iron Sights boostergang. The Claws might have had a similar arrangement, but may have been relegated to less intense situations, a wakizashi to the katana of the Iron Sights. And much like their more geared up compatriots, Arasaka’s fall from grace doubtlessly left them in the cold, though probably in a much better position than the Iron Sights given they weren’t trying to go full cyborg at every opportunity. Without Arasaka bankrolling them, and without the dependence on cybernetic implants, the Tiger Claws would have had to fend for themselves, and they did so for five decades. They likely involved themselves in vice activities given their apparent beef with the Moxes. But have they really been free to pick their own destiny? Or was Arasaka still pulling the strings, relying on the concepts of giri and gimu to make sure the Tiger Claws were still properly trained pet tigers who will carry out Saburo Arasaka’s orders without question? The answers will likely prove fascinating.

These aren’t the only gangs in Night City, but they’re certainly the most “established” of them. We’ll get a better look at some of the newer gangs when Cyberpunk 2077 drops on November 19.

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