I agree that lifepaths are too short and have basically zero impact on the actual story. A short prologue and that's it - you get some neat dialogue options down the road but they don't impact the actual game. A damn shame 'cause we WANT to explore this amazing world more and get more of the story but most of it is just teased and then poof, it's gone.
I think it's impossible to integrate life paths with the main story at this time, but they can certainly be made more impactful, I think.
1) Give us a lifepath-specific passive or even a lifepath specific talent tree
Would actually make this a meaningful gameplay mechanic as opposed to a 20-minute interactable cutscene.
2) Give us a few extra additional interactions in the world based on our lifepath.
Having a corpo V run into a former subordinate out in the world, seeing their reaction, maybe getting some cool dialogue out of it... Or a Street Kid V running into a friend on the Maelstormers mission. String a few of these along the key locations tied in with some main quests so the players don't miss them, hide a few in the world for the completionists.
3) Give us a few lifepath-specific sidequests throughout the game
This one I'm honestly surprised hasn't been implemented yet. It can be a quest chain, it can even be 5 - 6 standalone quests. Like "V, you used to be a corpo, right? This Militech guy is paying big money for some Arasaka intel, find him here", and you could start an entire clusterfuck from there. It's really easy to bake into the story and would be enough of an incentive to get me to start a second playthrough.
True this. In the 2020 pen-and-paper game, each class has a single unique 'career skill'. It is used to give an edge to certain relevant checks (Techie has the skill 'jury-rig', Corpos have the skill 'Resources', solos have 'Combat Sense', etc. They aren't game changers, but they give you options to call in favours, acquire unique resources or mod things to a higher degree, gain initiative bonuses in combat, etc.
Having at least one unique 'largish' side-quest for each lifepath during the mid game, each of which impact the final confrontation/ending in some way would've added a lot more meaning here.
But, that being said, it sounds like most of development time was spent in preproduction (a la Bioware style) and actual development was rushed over less than two years - in which time they were desperately trying to build complex systems like driving in a city. They actually achieved an amazing amount considering. But yes - a revamp with some of the above roleplaying elements added in future would be a big improvement. We can hope ...