Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty sees a vision of Night City realized

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty sees a vision of Night City realized


Running to the edge

Since its release, it’s been hard to talk about Cyberpunk 2077 without discussing its launch. It’s one of the more notable examples of a rough start in recent memory. With every update since, fixing bugs and adding features as well as versions for newer generation consoles, the question of whether Cyberpunk 2077 is going to realize its original vision gets brought up. And after playing some of its expansion Phantom Liberty, I think it’s finally there.

Phantom Liberty is Cyberpunk 2077‘s first, and only, expansion. CD Projekt Red has a good reputation for its expansions, after two phenomenal additions to The Witcher 3. From just a small slice, Phantom Liberty already feels like it’s living up to that legacy. The story and setting are excellent, and it delves into some rich narrative potential for Cyberpunk 2077.

Image via CD Projekt Red

More than that, though, is the absolutely massive amount of updates arriving alongside Phantom Liberty‘s launch. Every part of this game feels like it’s getting fine-tuned in some way. Updates, big and small, feel like they’re realizing the vision of Night City set out years ago. It’s even got me thinking about rolling a new character.

What’s new in Night City

As interviews with the team have rolled out, CD Projekt Red is saying it is overhauling Cyberpunk for Phantom Liberty. All the “core main systems” are being updated or redone, CDPR told VGC; this means perks, skill trees, AI, progression, tiers and loot drops, and more.

There’s a new police system and vehicular combat, which apparently includes car chases. In a conversation with Kotaku, the team says there are new conversations with romance characters around Phantom Liberty. And yes, there is a new ending that’s arriving as part of the expansion, too.

Image via CD Projekt Red

It’s a massive update, and the nice part is, you won’t have to spend cash for all of it. While Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty will be a $30 expansion with its own specific updates, many systemic changes are coming to Cyberpunk 2077 at its base level.

Suffice to say, Cyberpunk 2077 will be a very different game when Phantom Liberty launches on September 26 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S. (It’s not coming to PS4 or Xbox One.) But that’s the foundation. The exciting part is that, even in a vacuum, Phantom Liberty seems like it’s going to be quite a good expansion too.

Space Force One

On top of adding Dogtown, a new region to explore, Phantom Liberty also brings a Cyberpunk faction into the Night City sprawl: the NUSA. The New United States of America is mentioned a fair bit in the world and lore, but after President Myers’ plane is brought down in Dogtown and her netrunner Songbird recruits V for the rescue operation, the NUSA is much more involved.

At the top level, this brings a new kind of tension to Cyberpunk 2077‘s story. Songbird says she can help V deal with the Relic in their head if they help Myers out of this mess. It’s quite a debacle. And the spy thriller tone, which CD Projekt has been emphasizing, definitely plays out.

Image via CD Projekt Red

During my time playing, there were casual walk-and-talks with Songbird as she spoke to V through their Relic. There was simmering tension that spilled over when Space Force One, Myers’ transport, falls in Dogtown and V has to rush over to save her. And it’s amplified even more as the pair hole up in a Dogtown hideaway, trying to keep the lights on and avoid drawing attention.

I got to share a beer with the NUSA president while talking about who could possibly be behind this plot. All the while, Johnny Silverhand is chattering in my ear, encouraging me not to trust anything or anyone.

Fortunate son

Going into Phantom Liberty, I was a bit curious about where Johnny Silverhand would fit into all of this. The expansion already has another star lined up in Idris Elba, and Keanu Reeves is a pretty big name; I assumed Reeves would be coming back to put together some lines and maintain Johnny’s presence in the story, while other characters took up the companion role for V.

Image via CD Projekt Red

Imagine my surprise, then, when my Phantom Liberty demo segued into a long conversation with Johnny about his past. Those who are familiar with the tabletop world of Cyberpunk may know a good deal of this already, but Silverhand is a military deserter. And Johnny has quite a bit to say as V’s destiny entwines with the future of the NUSA.

Cyberpunk 2077 already held some poignant character moments, both with its main companion characters and Johnny. But seeing Reeves appear again and get even more to do with his portrayal of Silverhand is a welcome surprise. There’s a lot of potential avenues here, and I’m pretty psyched to see how V and Johnny’s relationship plays out in this new light.

For ages, it feels like we’ve been talking about the Cyberpunk 2077 success story. Other games with notoriously rocky launches have had one already. Whether or not Cyberpunk has hit that point yet, or could, is one thing. But Phantom Liberty feels like it’s realizing a vision of Cyberpunk 2077 that CD Projekt Red has been chasing for some time. And that’s a very exciting prospect.

Eric Van Allen

Senior News Reporter – While Eric’s been writing about games since 2014, he’s been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.

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