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Cyberpunk 2077's Ukrainian localisation takes the piss out of Russia's war

“Go fuck yourself in the same direction as the ship did.”

Graffiti in Cyberpunk 2077 referencing Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea
Image credit: Arsenii Tarasov/CD Projekt

Reworked skill trees and new minigames aside, Cyberpunk 2077's 2.0 update includes a Ukrainian localisation of the game's million-plus-word script. It turns out the Ukrainian version is awash with references to Russia's on-going invasion of Ukraine, all of it seemingly in support of the latter. The news comes via Zone of Games, who have published a few side-by-side comparisons from the game's files, underlining differences between the English and Ukrainian translations in various bits of dialogue and menu text.

I asked the organisers of Indie Cup - a Kyiv, Ukraine-based digital festival of games like Pahris Entertainment's upcoming Space Wreck - to help me double-check the Ukrainian version's alterations. The Indie Cup team's Arsenii Tarasov was happy to oblige, and also volunteered a few further examples of more... adventurous localisation from his own research, supported with screenshots.

According to Tarasov, one of Cyberpunk 2077's Ukrainian dialogue line alters "We're fucking through" to a Ukrainian phrase that roughly means "Go fuck yourself in the same direction as the ship did". This appears to be a reference to the Ukrainian border guard Roman Hrybov's famous radio response to the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, when asked to surrender in February 2022. The line has become a resistance slogan within Ukraine and among pro-Ukrainian groups overseas - it's even been commemorated in the form of a postage stamp.

There also appears to be brand new graffiti in the game that references Russia's occupation of Crimea in 2014. "The graffiti represents the outlines of Crimea, the peninsula that was illegally annexed from Ukraine by russia in 2014," Tarasov told me. "Juxtaposed are the Ukrainian coat of arms and taraq tamga (the symbol of Crimean Tatars)." The suggestion is that in Cyberpunk 2077’s world, Crimea is part of Ukraine.

Graffiti in Cyberpunk 2077 referencing Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea
Image credit: Arsenii Tarasov/CD Projekt
A close-up of menu text in Cyberpunk 2077 showing a reference in the Ukrainian localisation to Ukraine government messages
Image credit: Arsenii Tarasov/CD Projekt

There are also apparent references on inventory screens to Ukrainian state messaging during the war. "'Є перевага' literally means 'there is an advantage'," Tarasov told me. "A reference to the governmental digital initiatives' branding during Zelensky's tenure: for example, "єПідтримка" ("there is support" - the COVID relief payouts for citizens), "єРакета" ("there is a missile" - a mobile app that can be used by anyone to provide info about russian missiles launched to Ukrainian territory), "єВідновлення" ("there is renovation" - a governmental relief program for renovating houses and apartments damaged by russians), etc."

One line of police dialogue referring to the game's Scavengers faction has been altered from the English "Couldn't all these assholes bite it out in the Badlands?" to a Ukrainian phrase that translates as "Couldn't all this rusnia bite it out in the Badlands?" As Tarasov explains, "'rusnia' is a Ukrainian derogatory term for russians. Scavengers are the stereotypical Eastern European gang in the game's universe."

Police dialogue from Cyberpunk 2077 showing a reference to "rusnia" in the Ukrainian localisation.
Image credit: Arsenii Tarasov/CD Projekt

According to Tarasov, one crouching character pose you can select when using photo mode now bears the Ukrainian text for "like a Russian". Tarasov added: "no comment needed".

A screenshot of Cyberpunk 2077 showing a character crouching in a pose the menu text describes as "like a Russian".
Image credit: Arsenii Tarasov/CD Projekt

CD Projekt have made no bones of their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The company halted sales of their games in Russia in March 2022, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, and have set up a relief fund for Ukrainian refugees. According to the Phantom Liberty credits, CD Projekt partnered with Ukrainian company SBT Localization on Cyberpunk 2077's Ukrainian script.

We've asked CD Projekt for comment on the changes.

As you've hopefully read elsewhere on here, Cyberpunk 2077's first and only expansion, Phantom Liberty, releases today. In our Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty review, Graham deemed it "a brilliantly written and performed spy-thriller".

This seems as good a moment as any to say that Space Wreck - which launched into early access in December and hits 1.0 in October - looks pretty decent too. It's a post-apocalyptic isometric RPG in the Fallout tradition in which you explore a stranded spaceship. It's said to be relatively short for a CRPG, but very deep. There's a demo, if you're interested, and here's a trailer.

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Update on 26th September 2023: CD Projekt have commented on the story, apologising for the presence of dialogue elements that could be offensive to Russians in the game's Ukrainian localisation. Find more here.

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