It has been nearly three years since CD Projekt Red released the long awaited Cyberpunk 2077 in such a state that many were honestly shocked that the company even thought it was alright to release it in such condition. While our own time with the game was mostly painless it still was hampered through a number of massive issues and over the past few years CD Projekt Red has been working hard to address these problems through various patches, updates, and a proper “next-gen” version of the game. Incremental patches are one thing but now the developer has dropped the full 2.0 update alongside the one and only expansion they have planned for Cyberpunk 2077 in the form of Phantom Liberty. Boasting a fresh coat of paint and refined mechanics alongside tons of new content, is this the Cyberpunk fans have been hoping for for three years?
It is worth noting that CD Projekt Red has offered a few different ways for players to approach Phantom Liberty. They can either choose to start a game from scratch and play from the very beginning with a fresh save, choose to start a fresh game that will immediately skip a good portion of the game’s first act and part of the second act to place them right where they will obtain the mission to kickstart the DLC, or simply by loading up one of their old saves past a certain point in the story and beginning from there. Regardless of how player’s choose to start the DLC, V will receive a call from an incredibly skilled Netrunner by the name of Songbird who is intimately aware of the problem that V is experiencing with the Relic that is slowly killing her. Songbird says she knows of a potential cure for the problem, but V needs to do something for her first and it involves traveling to the militaristic closed off portion of Night City known as Dogtown.
As usual with deals in Night City, not everything is as simple as it seems as V soon finds herself embroiled in a political spy thriller that sees her needing to assist the New United States of America’s president after their ship, Space Force One, is shot down inside of Dogtown. With Songbird only promising to assist should V help the President, things quickly escalate into an all out war involving Dogtown’s leader Kurt Hansen and other factions that come into play in what develops into an engrossing spy thriller that features a wide collection of double-dealings, betrayals, and plenty of tension that even V’s hitchhiker Johnny Silverhand gets to comment on. Combine the stellar celebrity performance of the returning Keanu Reeves with the newly added Idris Elba taking on the role of the former spy master Solomon Reed and Phantom Liberty not only has plenty of star power on offer but also a stellar storyline to match it.
Phantom Liberty‘s storyline will keep players on their toes by offering a number of poignant developments and actual consequences to the actions that they take as the DLC offers two distinct paths that diverge quite harshly from one another depending on the choices made by V. Obviously players can choose to save before making such a choice and experience both routes, and doing so will highlight just how different things can play out between the two. Combine this with the aforementioned character development and performances and players will truly find themselves in for a treat here. Songbird, while not portrayed by a famous actress, is a real highlight in this DLC and stands as one of the best companions throughout Cyberpunk 2077 and her interactions with other characters, especially her longterm history with Reed, make the narrative all the more compelling thanks to the drama involved.
It is worth noting that the game does slow down the pace of the story from time to time by making players take on various “Gigs” in-between missions. The Gigs found in Dogtown are brand new and offer their own enjoyable side-stories as well, including some real standout ones that range from ridiculously humorous to as sad as can be in Night City but it is a bit disappointing, especially for longtime players of Cyberpunk 2077, that the pacing can slow to a crawl at times waiting for the next story mission to trigger through a phone call as players go around doing busywork. That being said, at least Dogtown is full of plenty of new busywork to be had.
Although not particularly tied to the Phantom Liberty DLC, the release of the expansion comes alongside the Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 update that saw a significant overhaul to the game’s various RPG elements and mechanics. Not only has this reset the player’s skill points, allowing them to redistribute them as they please, but also seen an upgrade and modification to how cyberware implants work. Previously players would see only minimal improvements by leveling V’s various skill trees but now they have been greatly expanded with a wide array of useful combat abilities that make developing a new and unique V incredibly enjoyable and fairly easy to manage. Melee combat has seen a significant improvement in this new patch and Quickhacks have also seen an improvement through the implementation of the Hack Queue allowing players to burn through enemies using rapid hacks as long as they have RAM to do so. These only are some of the base improvements from the patch itself that has gone a long way in making the game feel like it has truly reached its RPG potential even without touching the DLC.
As for the DLC itself, players will find that Dogtown offers its own unique set of Gigs and little side missions that are fairly plentiful, though perhaps not quite as abundant as the main game. That being said, nearly all of the Gigs are enjoyable and have unique feeling encounters that make them feel like more than simply filler and those looking for random challenges will find the airdrops useful as well. From time to time an airdrop will occur and drop a crate full of useful equipment and items into the city where players will need to fight against others looking to claim the loot. These encounters are random but also perfect ways to improve V’s equipment in various ways as the gear inside is almost always worthwhile.
One new element that has been added into the game’s skill trees in Phantom Liberty is the formerly corrupted Relic tree. While not a massive tree, players will gain access to this upgrade tree with the help of Songbird and, rather than apply skill points to upgrade it, will instead be able to track down items that will unlock points that can be used to upgrade and unlock extra features for V’s already powerful arsenal, especially in the cases of players who like using arm-installed equipment like Mantis Blades.
It is worth noting that even with the 2.0 patch and being DLC, Phantom Liberty is still part of Cyberpunk 2077 as a whole and can still have some bugs randomly appear from time to time. Mostly these issues are negligible physics issues or NPCs behaving strangely but there were still a handful of crashes throughout the lengthy DLC, though considering players can easily sink over twenty five hours into seeing most of what Phantom Liberty has to offer, that isn’t too bad.
Audio & Visuals
With Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty offering a sizable chunk of new content in the form of Dogtown players will find the world is just as detailed as the rest of Night City, with a mixture of dilapidated buildings making the more lively fancier areas seem all the more vibrant. The character designs for the new characters players will meet are impressively modeled and the DLC also features some of the best action sequences of the entire game. It is worth noting that combat also feels far more fluid and dynamic, especially melee combat, though this is likely due to the 2.0 update that accompanied the release of Phantom Liberty.
Once again the voice work is exceptional throughout the DLC, with Idris Elba fitting the character of Reed perfectly but that doesn’t mean that star power is the only factor at play here. The other characters, especially Songbird, are no slouches either when it comes to making sure these characters come to life on the screen, delivering impactful feeling performances that make the story all the more enjoyable. The soundtrack consists of mostly familiar tracks of music carried over from the core game but there are also new pieces of music as well as some great pieces of background music that play through certain fights that really help accent the action.
Three years is a long time for a video game. Long enough that most people would have moved on but CD Projekt Red chose to take that time and follow through on their promise of delivering an exceptional cyberpunk-styled RPG and they have managed to finally do so. Between the revamped gameplay offered through 2.0 and the amazing quality content provided in Phantom Liberty, this DLC is truly Cyberpunk 2077 at its best and anyone who has been on the fence about the game or concerned whether or not it has redeemed itself will find that Phantom Liberty has done so in spades.
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