Phantom Liberty Made Me Wish I’d Waited to Play Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that needs no introductions.

If you’ve been paying attention to the gaming universe since December 2020, then you will be fully aware of the controversy surrounding the game upon its release – which made Cyberpunk one of the most hated and disappointing AAA game releases of all time, even more than the recent controversy with Redfall.

Cyberpunk was released during the great next-gen draught that meant the majority of gamers were unable to obtain a new PS5 or Xbox One X in time for CD Projekt Red’s highly anticipated RPG – an issue that would continue well into 2022 and beyond.

If you couldn’t get your hands on one of these consoles, or had no access to a high-end gaming PC, then your only option was to purchase the game on last-gen consoles… I was one of those gamers.

Now, at the time you could be forgiven for assuming that the game would run fine on the PS4 or Xbox One, albeit at a loss of quality in comparison to the next-gen and PC versions. In fact, even after the review embargo was removed a week before launch, the majority of reviewers only made a few mentions of the Cyberpunk glitches that occurred during their playthroughs – partly because these reviewers had only been given access to next-gen versions. There was very little indication of the shitshow that was about to befall last-gen players.

I was one such player, so excited to jump into CDPR’s latest mega-RPG that I decided not to wait until I could get my hands on a PS5, and instead settle for what was expected to be a slightly downgraded but still enjoyable romp through Night City.

Oh, how wrong we were.

The bugs and issues that plagued Cyberpunk 2077’s last-gen versions on launch are well documented, yet despite all of these issues, myself and many other eager fans pushed through the frustrating experience simply because of the clear ambition and potential that the game still represented. Despite graphical issues that included textures that would not load; objects popping in and out of focus, and a world that was decidedly unpopulated compared to the promise of the original showcase video, the world of Cyberpunk 2077 was clearly expertly designed in terms of layout; visual design, distinct areas, and world building aspects that included thousands of advertisements for in-world products; tv shows, films, and events – all of which combined together to make Night City a truly interesting setting to explore.

Not to mention that the writing for both the main story and the majority of side-quests was truly great for the most part – and it was for this reason I pushed through to eventually spend 80 hours playing through various missions, talking to a host of well-written side characters, and completing the main story; but when the credits finally rolled on my first playthrough I decided I was ready to put this game down forever. 

Like many people I was ultimately deflated by my frustrations, and was left grieving for the experience I could have had with this game had it not been utterly plagued with bugs that would break my immersion every minute of my playtime. 

“They’ve Fixed it Now!”

Over the next 3 years, CD Projekt Red added a myriad of hotfixes, patches, and free content to improve the experience on every platform. It felt like every time I spoke to someone who still played the game they would start a conversation about a new patch with the phrase ‘They’ve fixed it now!”, or “It’s the game it was supposed to be!”, but despite these consistent assurances, I was never convinced to pick the game up again and dedicate my limited gaming time to another potentially frustrating playthrough.

Even after bingeing the surprisingly great anime tie-in, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, I still wasn’t convinced to pick the game up – even after I found out they added new missions related to the show. And again, when the Idris Elba driven DLC, Phantom Liberty, was eventually announced I still had no intention of purchasing it. After all, as far as I was aware this was going to be a huge amount of content added to a game that already struggled under the weight of its existing features.

Indeed, I thought I was officially ‘done’ with Cyberpunk 2077 forever. That was until CD Projekt Red released a new trailer for the DLC during GamesCon 2023, detailing a range of features that would be added into the game for all users.

This video and the listed features seemed indicative of a game that could potentially hold my attention for a long time to come – and with that I quickly installed the game onto my PS5, and finally took a look at exactly what I had been missing out on for the last 3 years.

I was blown away.

After rushing through the game’s opening section to reach the point where Night City fully opened up to me, I spent hours simply exploring the world, enjoying the experience I had wanted from the start. The streets were bustling with NPCs going about their day, criminals and cops fighting one another in non-scripted events, weapons worked as intended, and the draw on distant buildings meant the environment was in full view at all times – regardless of how far away the scenery was. For the first time Night City felt truly alive, free of those glaring ‘Cyberpunk glitches’ that became so synonymous with the game upon release.

What’s more is that certain major gameplay elements I had outright avoided in my first playthrough, due to them simply crashing my game, were now accessible to me – meaning I could finally make the character I always wanted.

See, when I first played Cyberpunk, I had planned to create a character that utilised blades, shotguns, and explosives for a truly chaotic and fast-paced combat experience – something which was simply not possible when I first played. Hits from my katana or mantis blades would not register, characters would move irregularly and stutter, and any kind of explosion would cause the game to go completely haywire and often crash. All of this forced my first playthrough to become a slow, stealth based affair in which I almost entirely relied on quickhacks (a system which allows players to pause or slow time to apply negative status effects to enemies) to get through every encounter. Even switching between weapons would take too long to be viable.

Thankfully, in my new playthrough, I am finally able to create the chaotic experience I dreamed of back in 2020, and what’s more is I can now reliably drive to locations without having to fight with overly clunky driving mechanics and cars that seemed to weigh 100 tonnes.

Of course, much of this can be attributed to a change in console from PS4 to PS5, but that is partly why I regret being so eager to play the game when it first came out.

The problem for me now is that, although mechanically everything has been put right in the 3 years since I last played the game, it’s also not the first time I am experiencing this game’s story, or its side quests. I feel as though my first playthrough was as thorough as it could possibly have been in 80 hours, given everything that was against me, but what all of those issues meant was that I consumed as much story content of Cyberpunk 2077 as I possibly could, whilst avoiding combat at every turn. As a result of all of this, I’m now left with almost nothing new to discover in terms of story, and a lot of combat to catch up on.

I wish I didn’t know what was coming up in each story mission, I wish I didn’t know what the outcome would be when I was randomly asked to escort a prisoner to a secret location, I wish I didn’t know what would happen when I was asked by a local politician to help him with a private matter.

If you know which stories I’m talking about, you’ll know how incredible they are, and yet each time a new side mission or main story comes along I can’t help but think “I know what’s about to happen here”, and I’m instantly transported back to the times when I had to painstakingly approach every situation by sneaking past droves of guards to avoid any lag.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to re-experience those missions for the first time. But this is exactly why I am so excited to play Phantom Liberty, because maybe now I can finally have the full blown Cyberpunk 2077 experience that I always wanted. A grand RPG-sim with tight gameplay, multiple options for builds, branching storylines, and a world that feels truly alive.

I hope that Phantom Liberty is everything it has been built up to be.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty comes out September 26th on PS5 Xbox One X, and PC.

What Does Phantom Liberty Add to Cyberpunk?

Phantom Liberty is releasing with a range of new features for those who purchase the new expansion, as well as nice list of features added as a free update, called Cyberpunk Update 2.0

Cyberpunk 2.0 Update Features

  • Redesigned skill trees and perks
  • Revamped cyberware and new capacity system
  • Vehicle combat and car chases
  • Combat AI improvements
  • New police system
  • UI and UX improvements
  • Loot, items, and crafting changes
  • New radio stations, including Community Radio Station: Growl FM

Phantom Liberty Features

  • Dogtown – a new district in Night City
  • Brand-new storyline and characters
  • New quests, gigs, boss fights, and more
  • Vehicle missions and airdrops – endless dynamic events
  • All-new Relic skill tree abilities
  • 100+ new items – weapons cyberware, cars, and fashion
  • Vehicle missile launchers
  • Level cap increased to 60

Enjoyed this article? Check out Redfall is Getting Torn Apart in Reviews

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