In this Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review, we’ll be taking a look into the eagerly awaited Cyberpunk 2077 Expansion: Phantom Liberty. Developed by CD Project RED, this expansion offers a completely new and somewhat independent chapter that focuses around espionage and political intrigue. The Expansion is accompanied by a huge 2.0 update that we discuss in another video, so I recommend you check that video as well to if you want to know more specifically about those changes.
*Note: This review contains mild spoilers about the beginning of Phantom Liberty, including the settings and motivations that get things in motion.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review
Developed by: CD Projekt Red
Published by: CD Projekt Red
Release date: September 26th, 2023
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Price at time of review: $30.00
Phantom Liberty Review – Story & Setting
Phantom Liberty is set in Dogtown, which in a ruined part of Pacifica and falls outside of Night City’s jurisdiction. This city-within-a-city is controlled by Kurt Hansen, once a high-ranking Militech soldier, and now an arms dealer that rules over Dogtown with the help of his own gang called the Barghest which also act as the local police. The only way in is through a heavily guarded gate and only people with clearance may pass.
Dogtown feels completely different than any Night City areas, with massive walls that enclose the district, and a complete lack of order, other than the Barghest law. You’ll often see people being executed on the streets and armed convoys that escort arms deal contraband.
I really like what CD Project Red has done with the district, as you can feel the constant pressure that Hansen’s dictatorship has on its citizens and how they have adapted to live under such conditions. The atmosphere is top-notch, and whenever I went back to Night City, I felt that I was going into a completely different game.
In order to unlock the DLC content, you’ll first need to complete the “Transmission” quest from the regular game.
Main Story Progression
For me, the best things about Phantom Liberty is its main story and the overall pacing of the plot. Once inside Dogtown everything escalates very quick. At the beginning, you’ll be rushing for your life without time to think about your next move, but after the initial mayhem is over, things calm down, and you find yourself playing a slow game of espionage, where pieces are turned one at a time while also having some free time in-between missions.
This was great, as I never felt that I had nothing to do. I was able to complete the side-missions while waiting for the main plot to advance, and as soon as I was finishing those side missions, the main plot would return and hook me over and over again. You’ll slowly meet new characters and delve into their pasts as you get acquainted to them, giving you both empathy and distrust once you get to know their motivations and drives.
Similar to the original story, your decisions will have little to no impact on how the main story develops, except for a big choice you’ll have to make towards the end that will have a big impact on how events unfold. One of the twists I love about Phantom Liberty is that instead of giving you various characters to distrust and then force you to make a choice between them, you feel like there are a couple that you do trust, and you have to decide between them. It was refreshing to find myself having to decide between people I appreciated, instead of just deciding between the lesser of two evils.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review: Gameplay
Relic Perk Tree
The Relic Perk Tree is a unique Tree that uses “Relic Points” instead of Perk points. Some points are unlocked by playing the main missions of Phantom Liberty, while others can be acquired by finding hidden Militech Terminals scattered across Dogtown.
The Relic Tree is composed of 9 distinct unique perks that massively boost combat performance. The upper part of the tree focuses on the Arms Cyberware, providing specific boosts for Mantis Blades, Gorilla Arms, Projectile Launch Systems or the Monowire.
On the bottom left, there are two perks that allow you to quickly exit combat even while spotted, which is a great help during espionage missions.
On the bottom right, we’ll be able to unlock a perk that allows us to detect vulnerabilities of enemies, which act as weakspots that we can shoot to deal more damage and create a small EMP AoE.
I personally enjoyed the cloaking mechanics in combination with the Vulnerability system, but I think most users will have a ton of fun with the Arm Upgrades, as they unlock new and varied playstyles.
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Missions & Exploration
Side Quests and Gigs
There are numerous Side Quests and Gigs scattered around Dogtown, which range from helping locals with personal stuff, to performing some Corpo espionage on hidden facilities. I really enjoyed completing the different Gigs, each feeling unique and with lots of very notable characters, and you’ll find many Iconic Weapons by completing these as well. I would say tough, that these are very straightforward and provide little choices regarding how you complete them or their general conclusion, which is something I also disliked from the original game.
While Dogtown itself is rather small, you can still do a lot of exploration thanks to its infrastructure. There’s a ton of abandoned buildings where you can parkour to find secret stashes with equipment. Having said that, exploring Dogtown was one of my least enjoyable parts of the DLC, as its mostly a destroyed wasteland and requires you to constantly jump between different platforms to reach your destination, which I often found somewhat tedious.
Open World Activities
There are two repeatable open world activities that were introduced with Phantom Liberty, which are Airdrops and Courier Missions.
Airdrops come in a couple of different formats, but the main objective is to defeat the enemies and reclaim a stash of goods. You can identify them by spotting the pink smoke or by watching the drop land. You’ll often spot these while traveling from one objective to the next and I highly recommend you complete them as they are short and provide you with handsome rewards.
- Retake: A small encounter with a few enemies.
- Shootout: enemies are already swarming the drop zone. To claim the supplies, you’ll have to take them out.
- Ambush: The drop zone seems empty, but enemies will appear as soon as you pick up the loot. Take them out and escape to claim the cache!
- Grab: It’s your lucky day; you got here before anyone else could have a sniff. Enjoy your loot without any strings attached.
- Custom: These come with dedicated narrative elements and backstory so you can learn more about the players of Dogtown and feel more immersed in its seedy dealing
Courier Missions are marked with a car handlebar on the map and their main objective is to retrieve a Car to a specific location. Similar to Airdrops, there are a couple of different variants, and they can be refreshing if you need a break from regular missions or just feel like driving.
- Unique: Two unique, non-repeatable story missions.
- Chase: Enemy vehicles spawn nearby and start attacking.
- Timer / No damage: Quick and careful; these variations are all about driving ability. You must either deliver the vehicle within the time limit, or avoid damaging it to receive a bonus.
- Hacking: using special tech, you’ll need to hack the enemy car first in order to retrieve it.
Design, Visual & Audio
Visuals and Performance
I haven’t played Cyberpunk 2077 since its original release and I must say that I was impressed by the visual and Performance improvements. I played on a computer with a 2060 Super, a Ryzen 7 3700x and 16 GB of RAM with a 1440p resolution monitor with everything set on Max, and without Raytracing, averaging 60 fps at all times. Load times were great, and I never experienced any type of frame drops or stutter.
Audio & Soundtrack
Cyberpunk soundtracks are amazing, and Phantom Liberty improves on this aspect by adding three whole new radio stations with new and unique songs. I really enjoyed hearing the new playlists while I drove through Dogtown completing different missions.
When it comes to Audio, I don’t have much to mention, as it’s fairly similar to the original game. I do want to point out the amazing voice acting and that all missions and sub-missions are completely voice-acted, which adds a ton to the immersion and the experience in a fabulous way.
While I didn’t experience any game-breaking bugs, I did find numerous bugs during my playthrough. These were mainly related to NPCs not spawning in their right position, NPCs that were duplicates standing next to each other and I also experienced some script glitches during one of my main conversations with the local fixer which broke the amazing immersion I was having.
Bugs have always been a hot topic regarding Cyberpunk 2077 and while it has come a long way from its release, you can still expect to find bugs during your play through.
Replayability & Pricepoint
I think players can expect around 20 hours of playtime which is a lot for a DLC. While the 30 U$D might seem a lot, I think players are getting there money’s worth, thanks to both the amount of content and because of how polished it actually is.
It’s not only about the amount of hours of gameplay that you are getting, but it’s also about the quality, and this is where Phantom Liberty really shines. I never felt like I was wasting time or messing around while playing, but instead I enjoyed every minute of it, which is very important when it comes to determine how valuable a product actually is.
There isn’t much replayability value other than watching the alternative story development, so I think for most users it will be more of a one time thing. The Airdrops and Courier Missions also add a little replayability, but I think most players will get tired of them rather quick, so it shouldn’t be a deciding factor. Last but not least, the level cap will be increased to 60 by owning Phantom Liberty, providing a little more leverage for users that want to experience the endgame of the regular story.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty does an amazing job of immersing you into a completely different and unique area of Night City with memorable characters and a very well driven plot and setting. There’s no doubt of the passion that CD Project Red has put into this DLC, and I really look forward to what they’ll bring to us in the future.
Phantom Liberty continues to show that CDPR will always support their most ambitious title to date: Cyberpunk 2077, and does so in phenomenal fashion. From interesting characters, intriguing plot lines and new mechanics, Phantom Liberty is sure to win over fans of the franchise, and many who had previously given up on the game.