Phantom Liberty is a great addition to Cyberpunk 2077, giving us a great new story, a new perk tree, and a new district to explore. While still not perfect, this expansion and the massive 2.0 patch make this a game well worth playing (or re-playing).
Most gamers know about Cyberpunk 2077 from when it first released in 2020 — the game was essentially a buggy mess that, for some, was nearly unplayable. However, CD Projekt RED didn’t give up on it: throughout the last three years they constantly updated the game, fixing many of the bugs that riddled it and adding features that didn’t make it on its original release. The Phantom Liberty expansion and the accompanying Update 2.0 feel like the culmination of all this work.
Phantom Liberty – Story and Setting
Phantom Liberty adds a whole new story to Cyberpunk 2077, which you can start around halfway through the main game story mission. V is offered a possible cure for their fatal condition — all they have to do in exchange is save the president of the New United States. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned.
The expansion primarily takes place in a new area called Dogtown, and with the new area comes an almost entirely new cast (Johnny is still with you, of course). All of the major characters are well written, and only become more interesting as you learn their motivations and backstories.
The standouts here are Songbird and Reed, who are two of the most prominent characters in the DLC story. While you don’t bond with either quite as much as you do with Johnny in the base game, you will still interact quite a bit throughout the storyline and get a deep understanding of what they want and why. At the same time, both Songbird and Reed have their own secrets and agendas, making neither fully trustworthy. Because of that, eventually having to pick whom you trust out of these two will be a difficult, and even a bit emotional choice.
Overall, Phantom Liberty offers an engaging story, with fun action pieces and interesting characters. There were a few times around halfway through where the story stops and you’re forced to just wait for the next part (and at one point you’re forced to do some side Gigs to progress).
However, in both of these cases things didn’t take too long to pick back up, thankfully — you are able to skip time and force the next section to begin where needed, and the Gigs I did in my playthrough were short and fast-paced, so they didn’t take away much from the overall narrative. In the end, I felt that even these were a solid addition to the game’s narrative.
The impact this expansion has on the rest of the game depends on who you pick to side with at a critical moment. One of the choices leads to a brand new ending, while the other drops you back into the main game, after which you scarcely hear from the new characters again.
It’s nice that Phantom Liberty offers a new way to end the game, but it’s unfortunate that it’s locked behind making the ‘right’ choice during your playthrough of it.
Phantom Liberty – Game Content
To go along with the new missions, Phantom Liberty adds the aforementioned Dogtown, an entire new area to explore. This is a fully fleshed out city district, having its own set of side quests and even some new Tarot Cards to collect. If you only go through the expansion’s story mission, it will take around 10-15 hours to complete. However, you can add much more time to your experience if you fully explore Dogtown and do its side quests (or, for that matter, if you just want to replay the story and see how the scenarios play out differently with different choices).
A major side story in Dogtown involves an infamous fixer, Mr. Hands (you might remember him from Pacifica). He gives you several Gigs within Dogtown, with the intention of shifting the hierarchy of power there. This is a side story that can play out alongside Phantom Liberty’s main story, even all the way to the end of it. The Gigs I did here were fun and fast-paced, and the storyline helps flesh out Mr. Hands as a character, which I know more lore-invested members of the community were certainly hoping to see in this expansion.
Sadly, all of this doesn’t mean that the game will run well on your machine. Cyberpunk 2077 remains a demanding game to run even after all its updates, and my Radeon RX Vega GPU and 16GB RAM setup still experienced sudden frame drops and graphical bug-outs (the game continues hating on humans wearing clothes). Thankfully, for me these only happened when I was running or driving around town, and never during combat or any of the important scenes.
Still, if you haven’t upgraded in a while, the game’s integrated graphics test might be a good place to start, especially if you haven’t ran it on your machine before.
New Relic Perk Tree
In addition, this expansion adds a new Perk tree for V to play around with: Relic Perks. This one functions separately from the standard Perks, and points for it are gained by interacting with specific terminals throughout Night City. This new tree isn’t nearly as expansive as the base Perks, but they still provide nice bonuses that can really add to some builds. Though, these trees are pretty specific to certain playstyles, so you mostly likely won’t need to go out of your way to unlock each node.
An example of how this can be helpful is one of the Relic Perk pathways, which allows you to occasionally see a vulnerability spot on an enemy. This will randomly show a square on a random body part of your target, and if you shoot them in this section they will take much more damage than normal. Note that this is not V.A.T.S.; the system is much more simple, and is more of an opportunity for a much easier crit damage. This was a very fun addition to my Body build — if I ran up to these enemies and blasted a vulnerable spot with my shotgun, more often than not they would just die in a single shot!
While technically not part of Phantom Liberty, the 2.0 patch for Cyberpunk 2077 came out just ahead of the expansion, so it is worth mentioning as part of the review. This patch brought a massive overhaul to the game’s progression system — so much so that the devs themselves recommend that players just start a new game to experience all of it.
One of the biggest changes were Perk trees. The Perks were completely redone and reorganized to be a lot more streamlined, and to make it much more clear which ones would fit your desired playstyle. Now there are three interconnected trees associated with each Attribute, and each tree works with a specific set of weapons or aspect of your character.
For example, I went into the Body tree that focuses on shotguns and LMGs, and this gave me a mechanic called Obliterate, that would give a chance to instantly kill enemies at low health while using these weapons. Perks like this mean that you can have a completely unique feel for each tree. Furthermore, you can refund your Perk points at any time and at no cost now, so if you end up not liking one of your choices, you can immediately swap it out for something else! Returning to the game with an old save, this gave me much more confidence to try different combinations out.
Another major change was the Cyberware system. Armor from most equipment (i.e., clothing) is gone, and has now moved to dedicated types of Cyberware implants, making this the main way to improve your survivability. There is also a limit to how much you can have installed at a time, forcing you to be more deliberate with your choices (or invest in Perks that allow you to install more). This felt like a good way to make Cyberware feel more integral to building your character, but at the same time it made physical equipment feel much less meaningful.
There are many more changes in the 2.0 Update to explore, such as vehicle combat, revamped inhalers, and procedurally generated endgame gigs. If you haven’t played Cyberpunk 2077 in a while, this update will be available to you separately from the DLC, and is definitely worth hopping back into the game for.
Overall, Phantom Liberty is an excellent expansion for Cyberpunk 2077, and it presents a story well worth going through on any playthrough. Between that and the massive 2.0 patch, it is now a game I would recommend to just about anyone, unless they don’t have the expensive hardware to run it.
And yet, with the interesting new characters from the expansion, as well as Perk and Cyberware revamps in the main game giving the combat much more variety, it finally feels like the game we were hoping for three years ago, when it was first announced.
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I'm a huge gamer who especially loves the Final Fantasy series. I will play just about any game, especially if it has anything resembling a Dragoon.