Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review
Phantom Liberty is the expansion to the highly controversial Cyberpunk 2077, a game that has miraculously redeemed itself from a point of almost no return when it launched with mishaps and issues galore. With the recent launch of its 2.0 update along with the many fixes and tweaks from the developers over the past 3 years, the game is now better than ever and has become a veritable classic.
Phantom Liberty follows the ongoing adventures of V and Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves) as they race against time searching for a solution with the Relic implant that is a literal time bomb in V’s head. After receiving a gig request from the elusive Songbird with the plea to save the president of the New United States of America, about to crash land in the savage land of Dogtown; V takes the job hoping that Songbird will have the permanent solution to his condition. However, after one failed mission after another, V finds himself caught in a net of conspiracy that spans beyond the borders of Night City itself.
Time to jack in once again, choom! Load that smart rifle, get your quickhacks ready, and it’s time to make a new legend for yourself in Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty!
Without getting too much into details, V is not only a merc in this expansion, but also a sworn agent of the Federal Intelligence Agency (FIA). You are now a super spy!
Given the transient nature of V’s adventures in Night City, if you’ve played Cyberpunk 2077 in its entirety, he’s been in almost anything and everything to make a name for himself as well as finding solutions for the cursed implant in his skull. So, being a spy is just another notch in his belt of the many experiences V has undertaken on the road to being a legend.
What does a spy get you? There are a few nifty additions that Phantom Liberty adds to your character development besides the increase of the level cap as you get past Level 50, which allows you to further expand your stats. On the flip side, your enemies scale with you exponentially, so I recommend entering Dogtown when you have some more experience under your belt.
Phantom Liberty also adds a new Perk stat on your skill tree called the Relic stat as soon as you begin. Unlike the other perks, which can be unlocked with perk points as you level up, the Relic slot can only be unlocked with Relic chips that you could find hidden in Militech outposts. While it seems like another chore, they greatly expand your capabilities and should not be missed.
There are three skill trees to use, and each one provides fantastic augments to your specialization. You get to choose between three skills to start: Vulnerability Analytics, which finds enemy vulnerabilities greatly expanding your critical rating; Emergency Cloaking, which allows you to remain invisible for longer expanding stealth; and finally Jailbreak as a way to greatly boost your attack implants such as mantis claws and gorilla arms.
Players of the base Cyberpunk 2077 experience all the way up to the 1.5 patch will experience something quite new with their skills. Everything has been overhauled, meaning your broken builds are now a thing of the past. What’s cool though is if you carried over a save file, your skill points will be reset and you can respec with the new skill set.
When we meant they overhauled the skill tree, it’s literally a completely new set of perks. One thing for sure is that the devs have put a lot of thought into balancing the skill progression. If you’ve allotted fewer stat points on a certain attribute, it locks quite a lot of fundamental perks to use a particular build such as quickhacks or even precision blades (if you want to be a melee).
Phantom Liberty also adds specialization bonuses for certain moves that you do for a particular playstyle. If you’ve built a melee crit player that specializes in stealth, you can gain a lot of experience in the Headhunter and Shinobi roles. While if you’re more of a hacker who likes to tinker with tech and gain access using networks, the Netrunner and Engineer roles will greatly expand.
With these new skills in the play, it brings to light a new experience in combat. There’s so much versatility in how much you can make V do in terms of your playstyle. Gunplay is satisfying with every type of gun feeling different in terms of its weight, physics, and balance. You can feel the force of a 50-cal sniper rifle in play while small arms allow you better mobility. When playing on a PS5, the adaptive triggers add to that immersive effect.
If you choose to tackle the combat with subterfuge, using your technical abilities combined with stealth, you can be a literal ghost making your quickhacks turn your enemies against themselves while using your wide array of melee augments to slice your way into heavily guarded compounds and leaving without a trace. We finally have the Cyberpunk 2077 that has been advertised from the very beginning.
Version 2.0 also found a perfect balance for its loot. They gave you enough but streamlined it to components, gear, and junk that doesn’t feel so distracting compared to version 1.0. It doesn’t feel like collecting clutter (looking at you Starfield), which makes crafting quite simple and organized. You can also bind your favorite outfits for easy access. Carry weight is now only applied to gear, so inventory management will not bog you down.
Kings of Dogtown
While Dogtown is the primary hub of Phantom Liberty, unlike other DLCs, there are quite a few side jobs and gigs that connect Dogtown to the overall infrastructure of Night City. The story is designed similarly to the progression of the main story arcs in Cyberpunk 2077. Night and day cycles are followed, and missions just don’t progress automatically compared to other open-world games. It feels like a living and breathing ecosystem.
That being said, what do you do in between missions in Phantom Liberty? Side jobs and gigs! While not much has changed between iterations, they are still the bread and butter of how the world works. These side missions allow you to see how life is lived both in Dogtown and Night City. Dogtown does feel different as it is its own city-state where V could bring in business or change people’s lives for the better or worse. One thing is for sure, if dying in Night City is easy, Dogtown is no better.
Vehicular combat is added to version 2.0, which for the first few parts of Phantom Liberty come into play. It’s one of the mechanics that could use some work. As you can change camera views when driving, I find the first-person view works better for vehicular combat, which means if you don’t like driving in that perspective, you probably will need to toggle your view during vehicular combat. You can equip your cars with rocket launchers as well, so there’s that.
Phantom Liberty and Cyberpunk 2077 in general is really focused on the overall story and presentation of the whole affair, which I find what drew me into Phantom Liberty for the most part. The voice acting of both the name cast and side characters really brings this story to life. Reeves definitely brings his best Keanu game reprising his role as Johnny Silverhand, and Idris Elba’s constrained rage really stands out as the haunted sleeper agent Solomon Reed.
What Phantom Liberty excels in is telling that nuanced and complex web of spy intrigue as told through this spy thriller. Characters that you come to trust will quickly turncoat and stab you in the back, while characters you’re wary of are actually the only ones telling the truth. So much can change in the blink of an eye, which keeps you guessing until the bitter end.
Phantom Liberty also has some permanent changes made for the world of Night City as well. I like how certain outcomes in the expansion allow for more canon endings for V. I appreciate that returning to the game, you also get some extra scenarios that provide more ways to explore the world not only from a geographical perspective but also seeing how Night City evolves in its immediate future.
We played Phantom Liberty on a PS5 with the latest 2.02 patch and while it’s a massive improvement over its previously glitched iterations, there are still quite a few noticeable glitches and crashes. For the most part, they were not game-breaking, but they were still noticeable enough to be mildly irritating. I’ve encountered a couple of quest conditions not activating and a couple of crashes here and there.
While I appreciate that the CD Projekt Red developers put a lot of work into fixing issues, but at this point, surely a smoother experience should be expected. Many have forgiven Cyberpunk 2077 because of their massive improvements over their game, and while credit is where it’s due, this precedent of fixing buggy games years into its launch has to come to a stop. It has to be mentioned that while my review is favorable, I’m a little harder on the title especially when it comes to stability and performance. So minus points for now.
That being said, I cannot deny that Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 patch is a well-done follow-up and commendable punctuation to Cyberpunk 2077‘s redemption journey. It could’ve been nicer to have it much earlier (around the 1.5 patch no less), but this is the reality that we live in now. I’ll remember this moment when the next CD Projekt Red title launches and see how they’ve learned from their mistakes.
What We Liked
- A commendable improvement and overhaul of Cyberpunk 2077, with the rebalancing of its skills to the subtle additions of mechanics that fit the world.
- Phantom Liberty is a top-notch expansion, expanding greatly on the lore of Night City and adding memorable characters to join in the fun.
- Fantastic voice acting from both the main and supporting cast.
What We Didn’t Like
- Noticeable bugs and crashes even after years of patching.
Verdict: Buy It!
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is a fantastic expansion pack and update that vindicates the series and proves that it is the open-world sci-fi title that it is advertised to be, albeit after a lot of patches and work done years after post-launch. The world of Night City has come to life both conceptually and also with its re-balanced gameplay.
Phantom Liberty as an expansion is a robust experience where your 15-30 hour experience, depending on how much you wish to explore, is definitely worth doing, especially in the later levels of your playthrough. Everything that you have worked for as V comes into play with all the new perks and skills that you’ll implement and learn in your time in Night City.
Phantom Liberty really is a must-play for anyone who’s a fan of the genre and action fans alike. As an RPG, you can build your character in any way you want to traverse Night City and even the new city-state of Dogtown, creating a fully immersive experience. If you’ve been holding back in checking out Cyberpunk 2077, Phantom Liberty and version 2.0 is the best time to get into the world.
*Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty has been reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.