Cyberpunk 2077 is one of those games that gave me numerous reasons to be upset when it first launched, and the announcement of the Phantom Liberty made me extremely wary. This is the game that had the worst kind of overpromise and underdelivery. Cyberpunk Edgerunners, the Studio Trigger anime, revitalized the game and regular patches improved the overall performance, bringing gamers back to Night City. But the game was still missing the RPG feeling. Does Update 2.0 and Phantom Liberty fix this issue? Can you finally explore Night City at will? Let’s find out in our Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty review!
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty tries to fix and make up for most of the missed promises. This DLC offers a solid storyline that expands the world of Night City. While that’s true, the game still lacks most of the gameplay features we might have expected. However, Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 update changes are so drastic that you will not stop smiling and love exploring this sci-fi adventure. We played the spy thriller DLC and experienced the new changes, thanks to an early copy provided by NVIDIA. And I have plenty to tell you.
This review will cover the major changes and impressions about the game. The performance review and how it plays on my PC will be in a separate article, which is in progress.
Glory to the NUSA and a New Mission
Phantom Liberty begins immediately after V realizes they have an engram problem. You can skip the main story and jump straight into the DLC, which starts the game at level 20 with pre-selected cyberware after you’ve created for V. The latter option is preferable for returning players who have had their run-ins with Night City. In my case, I had a save file one mission away from leading the siege of Arasaka Tower for Hanako.
The quest begins when a Netrunner for the NUSA, Songbird, calls us to help NUSA President Rosalind Myers from the crashed wreckage of Space Force 1 in Dogtown, a brand new district with its own set of rules. Hoping to get a cure for the engram, we rescue the President, but things still go wrong.
The ruler of Dogtown, ex-Miltech Kurt Hansen, wants the President’s head on his table. This is where you and a sleeper agent for the FIA named Soloman Reed come into play. From here on, the story quickly turns into the advertised “espionage thriller” where we do a handful of missions.
My main gripe with the story of Cyberpunk 2077 was that there was very little change in the overall story beat. Phantom Liberty attempts to fix this. Your choices still don’t make a lot of meaningful changes. However, one of the choices we made significantly flipped the outcome of the DLC and left me in awe. This is what I expected from the title, and it delivers.
The pacing of the story is also worth mentioning here. The Phantom Liberty DLC for Cyberpunk 2077 moves through each story sequence at a reasonable pace. Not once did I feel like I needed to stop the game to take a break. And believe me, I played it in two full sessions, about 20 hours. The story is told magnificently. Phantom Liberty also adds a new ending to the game, ending on a bittersweet note.
A Slew of New Characters
In the story, Phantom Liberty doesn’t introduce a whole cast of new characters and only a handful of them. However, every character introduced serves their intended purpose. It never feels for once that any of the characters are wasted. Of course, Idris Elba, who plays Soloman Reed, does the brilliant job of being a jaded sleeper agent whose whole life is dedicated to serving the NUSA. The only thing he cares about is serving the orders of the President. However, his past decisions also haunt him, questioning his allegiance and duty to his government.
Songbird is another standout character in the DLC, where you will question your decisions and her claims. Seriously, Songbird reminded me of Lucy’s character from the Edgerunners show. You can see some parallels between the characters. Speaking anything outside of that spoils her role, but she plays an important part in the game.
Of course, other characters shine, like the ruthless and calculating NUSA President Rosalind Myers. The former CEO of Miltech turned President, Myers, is about results. The voice actress does a great job with the character, leaving a lasting impression. If there is anyone who feels wasted as a character, it is Kurt Hansen. We only see him briefly in two entire scenes. Maybe more interaction would have helped.
Two other notable characters who played their roles well are another NUSA sleeper agent, Alex, and the new Dogtown-based fixer, Mr. Hands. Alex is an ex-colleague of Soloman’s, working with Songbird and him. Every interaction with her felt very personal. Mr Hands, on the other hand, has a vested interest in Dogtown and helps V with his mission in exchange for power and politics within the closed confines of the region. Although Mr. Hands’ role is brief, his appearance and holocalls are charismatic.
Of course, you get more of Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhand. This time, a little less of a prick. Overall, every character you meet and continue your escapades within Phantom Liberty ensures that you care about them by the end of the DLC.
A Fresh New Coat Over Familiar Grounds
Phantom Liberty isn’t the only thing the game introduces. You also receive a free 2.0 update that brings fun and significant changes to the gameplay experience. But before that, let’s discuss what you do in Dogtown.
CD Projekt Red addresses the core problem of Cyberpunk 2077 with Dogtown. This was my main gripe with the game; you would find me saying how wasted a vibrant city like Night City felt in the game. You had numerous grandiose structures to look at, but you could barely interact with them. Dogtown tries to address this issue by adding new places to the game that you can visit and explore. But you still don’t have anything important or interactive to do in these structures. However, now, you can walk at least into most of them.
Outside of the new region, you have some new activities. Throughout the area, you’ll occasionally find an airdropped cache to intercept. You’ll find materials, rare weapons, and mods from these caches. It’s a mini-game where how you approach the area is up to you. You can arrive early, try to intercept the item, or experience the custom airdrops that reveal lore drops.
Additionally, Mr. Hands offers new gigs that you can complete to earn rewards. These gigs also expand the universe of Cyberpunk 2077 in a familiar way, though. From retrieving a prototype technology to capturing a Vodoo Boy Netrunner, you have several of them.
Unfortunately, Dogtown serves little to no purpose other than fawning over the new region once you’re done with those two activities. This brings me to my major issue with Cyberpunk 2077, where, even after Update 2.0, the world continues to feel empty and non-interactive. it again feels like a wasted opportunity. While I did my fair share of exploring by visiting buildings, the charm ran out quickly once I realized there was nothing in them. Dogtown tries to be a Night City with augmented life but is once again reduced to an empty shell of a place. This in my opinion is another miss by Projekt Red.
New Ways to Play
However, it is worth pointing out that they have fixed most of the problems in the core Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay with the 2.0 update. The two issues, namely the skill tree and the cop AI, have been reworked and fixed. Let’s start with the cop AI. The system works like any open-world police AI system from any other video game. If you do something stupid and life-threatening, the police will be alerted. This starts a chase where you break their sightline and hide. Each time you successfully hide, your wanted counter is reset, and as your wanted counter intensity rises, more and more cops will appear.
Up until you hit the max wanted level, in which case MaxTac gets dispatched. A working cop AI system makes the city livelier, making the place feel lived-in. Another great addition is the complete overhaul of the skill-tree system. This one feels extensive and involved.
While you still receive attribute points that you spend on the five attributes in-game, the skill tree attached to the respective attribute has received extensive rework. Gone are the days when you spent points to improve your crafting abilities. The skill trees now provide you with game-changing rewards. We are talking, quick-dash, bulldozing through enemies, shockwave attacks. Each of the unlocked skills also has sub-skills that improve your attributes.
If anything, you can now make a distinct build for your V. Want to create a V proficient in Netrunning? You can finally do it. Want to create a bulldozer V, where you take less but deal higher damage? The new skill tree finally allows it. The changes are so meaningful that you will discover some great builds. Furthermore, when your attribute reaches a certain level, you can unlock more sections from the skill tree. You can also become a full-on Ninja, who can dash around and block bullets with Katana.
The game also receives a new skill tree exclusive to the Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty DLC called Relic. It comes with three separate skills for you to choose from, each costing 3 Relic points. These relic points are collected from the old Miltech stations scattered in Dogtown. Relic tree gives you various new skills, such as skills for your Mantis Blade, cloaking ability, and vulnerability analysis.
Though not as extensive as the other skill tree, it slightly revamps your gameplay with signature weapons like Mantis Blade. I think Projekt Red could’ve added more variety of skills to this tree, with the relic tree feeling pretty barebones.
CD Projekt Red did not stop there. You can now engage in vehicular combat, allowing you to shoot while driving. Though the holster animation inside a car needs some work, you can finally take out people giving you chase. The game allows you to do it in the first or third-person mode. Cyberwares and gears also went through some changes.
Taking inspiration from Edgerunners, the game now ties your armor rating to your Cyberwares. This, of course, means that dresses and uniforms you acquire in-game are now cosmetic, providing no protection. The Cyberware menu has become more engaging, adding new animations, and you can only change the cyberware at the Ripperdoc. This means you have to plan accordingly for the perfect build. And yes, you can go into cyber psychosis if you have too much cyberwar.
The new update also adds a new radio station. Called 89.7 Growl, it hosts user-created music that CD Projekt Picked up from a competition months ago. Sasha Grey voices the RJ, and it will certainly make you bob your head on occasion.
Finally, the game removed the collectible and craftable med-hypos and added a fixed Maxdoc. This comes in the quantity of two and replenishes over time. Gone are the days of hoarding med-hypos. You now need to plan and approach situations with thought and strategy. These changes create an engaging experience, and while I will stand my ground on the city being underutilized, all of these changes make the game a worthwhile experience.
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty DLC: Is It Worth Buying?
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty and Update 2.0 does what we expected of the company – bring the game to a position where it is fun. I’m not saying CD Projekt Red, as a company, should be cut any slack for the original botched launch. We should hold them accountable for the false promises and the state in which the game first launched. But Projekt Red has tirelessly worked to make the game enjoyable and that is shown in this DLC. The love and care they’ve showered through the Phantom Liberty DLC and this update makes the game a completely different, enjoyable experience.
Now, the biggest question one might ask is whether to play the game fresh with all of these changes. And we share the same thought as CD Projekt Red. We advise you to do a new playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077, given how drastic some of these changes are. Granted, we played the game off my existing save file (cuz we were short on time for the review). However, it hardly deterred the overall fun experience of the game.
With a storyline that fleshes out the lore of Night City and some meaningful gameplay changes in tow, Cyberpunk 2077 is finally in a state where you can buy and enjoy the game without any concerns. This is how the game should’ve launched, and it shows that the team took every criticism to the chin and delivered a mighty fine update. We recommend getting Phantom Liberty and exploring Dogtown with a fresh outlook. Well, this is the perfect way to close the curtains on V and their escapades in Night City.
Purchase Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty DLC (Steam, $29.99)