Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review – Escape from NC

Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 Update bring both a new district, story, characters, and a host of exciting gameplay changes that bleed into the base Cyberpunk 2077 game.
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Featured

Suppose you remember the original launch of Cyberpunk 2077 back in 2020. In that case, you might remember it being one of the most controversial games in recent memory, with players either loving the phenomenal graphics and narrative direction or chastising the game for its many bugs. One thing is for certain, and that is since the game’s release it has improved by leaps and bounds, with the hard-working team over at CD Projekt Red making seemingly constant bug fixes and content updates. Thanks to the team’s efforts, Cyberpunk 2077 has since evolved into a beast of a title that hardly represents what it was on launch, remaining one of the top 10 most played games on Steam at a near-constant rate in the last 3 years.

Phantom Liberty represents another monumental step forward for Cyberpunk 2077, adding not only a brand new story to tell in Night City but also a host of new features and improvements that bleed their way into the original experience. With the release of Cyberpunk 2077’s Phantom Liberty DLC and update 2.0, the experience the new Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer is almost completely brand new. Because of this, I decided not only to play through Phantom Liberty, but to replay the base game as well leading up to it. This gave me the chance to really immerse myself in the new gameplay changes and take a fresh, hard-earned character into Night City’s newest, most dangerous district, Dogtown.

If that sounds like a bit too much work for you personally, don’t worry, because you don’t have to start Cyberpunk 2077 over from the beginning to get into Phantom Liberty. However, if you’ve already beaten the game, you’ll have to back up to a save before the game’s third act or use the new option to start at the beginning of Phantom Liberty with a fresh character. This new character will start at level 20 with some pre-picked Cyberware and gear.

Phantom Liberty does not take place after the events of Cyberpunk 2077, as some have been speculating. Rather, and without spoiling anything, you’ll get the chance to start the DLC right around the time you finish the main story quests in Pacifica, which borders the new region Dogtown. Phantom Liberty is a self-contained tale, but it does feature a new optional ending to the main story of Cyberpunk 2077.

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Fire In The Sky
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I want to be super careful discussing the story beats of Phantom Liberty, as the new original story is, like Cyberpunk 2077 itself, the main attraction here and something that should experienced for yourself. What I will say is that the story begins with V being contacted by Songbird, an agent for the New United States of America, warning that Space Force One is about to go into Dogtown. Should you help, Songbird promises a way to save you from the relic in your brain that is slowly killing you.

Dogtown, the new region I continue to mention, is a place totally alien to the rest of Night City. Sharing a border with Pacifica, Dogtown comprises of a massive unfinished corporate retreat that served as a staging ground for an invasion into Night City by the NUSA during the Fourth Corporate War and the reunification of the United States. Though the threat of Arasaka’s involvement stopped the invasion in its tracks, Colonel Kurt Hansen refused to exfiltrate his troops and created a little city within a city of his own, patrolled by his fearsome Bargheist soldiers.

While not as flashy of an aesthetic as some of the other gangs in Night City, Bargheist will definitely catch your attention and be memorable. These mercenaries rock a black and green color palette and heavy military-grade gear that make them fearsome enemies in combat and feel more like an actual army than another gang in Night City. In fact, their big aesthetic differences help them to stand out from the other factions in Cyberpunk and overall fits well with the design philosophy of this new district: An uncomfortable lack of familiarity.

Dogtown is designed to feel like a new and hostile environment for V, and CD Projekt pulls this off pretty well through the visual design elements of the region as well as the overall difficulty of the area. I will say that Dogtown is easily the hardest, most hostile environment I’ve faced in Cyberpunk 2077, with tough enemies and changes to traditional mission formulas that force you to play the game a bit differently than you usually do. You contrast this with the region’s unique visuals, of dark blues and blacks and muted sandy environments that clash with the typical neon and pavement of Night City, and you’re bound to feel like you’re in a totally new world when you take your first steps into Phantom Liberty.

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Color Scheme
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I had a pretty difficult time in Dogtown. The early mission, Spider and the Fly, was without a doubt the mission that required the most retries of any mission in the game for me. While enemies are definitely tougher than usual in Dogtown, I chalk a lot of this up to my lack of understanding of the new armor system (which I’ll get into later in the review) and, at times, my blades-focused build. I definitely felt like the boss fight in this mission and some of the flying enemies you face in Dogtown, in general, are not designed to be taken on by sword-focused fighters, so having a few perk points in weapon skills and having a well-upgraded weapon will do you well here.

Thankfully, Dogtown is full of new weapons and gear to help you load up for the new expansion, many of which is generously laid out in your path as you progress. You’ll be picking up tons of blue-quality gear along the way that you can either equip directly, or scrap for crafting materials to make your favorite gear stronger.

My biggest complaint about the expansion is something, in hindsight, I’m not sure if I should be complaining about at all. There are definitely times in the expansion, contrary to the usual Cyberpunk 2077 experience, where I felt like I didn’t have as much freedom to progress through missions as I usually would. This was especially true of stealth missions, where getting caught led to difficult fights and the characters around you chastising you for your incompetence. While I can chalk this up on my end to a poor understanding of the new armor system (again, see below) and a build not suited to sneak around, it definitely feels like Phantom Liberty wants you to play the game a certain way at times.

Maybe that isn’t the worst thing in the world? Not only does the world and story feel different than the rest of the gigs in Night City, the way you approach it has to be as well. At least in some ways.

Phantom Liberty is a self-contained story with its own characters and its own thing going on separate from Night City. Though you’ll still have Johnny Silverhand with you, you’ll be meeting a brand new cast with their own ambitions, secrets, and deep personalities that do a great deal to suck you away from your troubles just across the border. Phantom Liberty serves as a riveting spy thriller, ensnaring the audience in a complex web of intrigue that poses unprecedented danger in V’s career, leaving you questioning whom to trust at every turn.

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Plot
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

On top of the Escape from LA-esque story, Phantom Liberty and the free 2.0 update that came with it bring a ton of new gameplay changes to Cyberpunk 2077 that I frankly was just as excited for as I was with the new story. One of the biggest ones, which you’ll find during Phantom Liberty itself, is the new Relic skill tree. This unlocks powerful new abilities for V, mostly based on overclocking the countless Cyberware you pick up in NC. The “Jailbreak” skills are particularly interesting as they overhaul the Launcher, Mantis Blades, Gorilla Arms and Monowire Implants, which I know are all fan favorites that few skip out on in their playthroughs. Vulnerability Analytics was a skill I found particularly useful with my blades build and one I don’t know how I slashed my way through NC without.

Vehicle combat changes mean you can now fire from the driver’s seat, and up the importance of quickhacks as self-destructing an enemy vehicle can quickly end a chase. Speaking of quick hacks, you can now queue multiple hacks on an enemy and use your own health as a resource when you run out of RAM. Suddenly my precious Sandevistan is feeling a bit weaker as hacking takes a front seat thanks to these new buffs.

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Chimera
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Cyberware has become more important, with changes to the amount of Cyberware you can have at one time tried to your level and perks. Armor is also now nearly exclusive to your Cyberware, something that took me a while to pick up, so upgrading your subdermal Cybernetics is the only way to survive in Night City. Thankfully, you’ll no longer have to choose between wearing your favorite clothes or being able to stop a bullet. Immersive changes to the Ripperdoc experience, such as a new hud that explains your Cyberware limit as avoiding going psycho and new chair animations are just icing on the cake that further improves the experience.

There are other changes too, but perhaps the biggest and most impressive is the overhaul to the game’s perks system. Leveling up is a totally new experience, with brand-new perks that offer impactful effects on your gameplay. A lot of the fat has been trimmed from the perk tree, so every perk point you spend feels impactful, useful, and exciting. I found this especially true in the blades tree, which gave me powerful tools like leaping to enemies, access to finishers, bleed attacks, and bullet-deflecting very early into the game.

In RPG games, I’m usually constantly swapping out my gear, looking for the new coolest-looking weapons or something more fun to play or with better stats than what I’m equipped with. The update to perks has done the impossible and kept my ADHD-riddled mind satisfied with using the same three weapons from early game into the end — All three of which I picked up during the mission “The Heist.”

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Mono Blade
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Finally, and for many this may be the most exciting new addition yet. Phantom Liberty finally adds the monofilament-blade, or mono-blade, katana that many fans have been asking for since day one. You can pick this up from the weapon’s merchant in Dogtown’s market before you even start the first real mission of the expansion.

The Final Word

Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 Update feel like a totally new launch for Cyberpunk 2077. With a new, hostile, and alien district and story for V to explore, along with huge overhauls to the base game, you’d struggle not to find something new and exciting to do in Night City, no matter how many playthroughs you’ve done so far. Phantom Liberty sets an amazing precedent for what an RPG game expansion could be and gives me hope that CD Projekt red will continue pumping time and love into this fantastic game.

10

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is available on Steam, Epic Games, GoG, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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