the Andrew Bailey

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

Phantom Liberty is the only DLC for Cyberpunk 2077, so I'll skip a lot of things that article covers. Phantom Liberty takes place in Dogtown, a section of Night City that's next to Pacifica. Like Pacifica, it was meant to be the rich part of town, but something went wrong, and it became a half-built slum. It's home to a gang named Barghest, named after mythical hell dogs, so they named their territory Dogtown. (To me, this is a Witcher reference.)

Screenshot of Johnny over a reprogrammed bomb.

For the purposes of this "review", the specifics of the story aren't that important. It has lots of espionage and backstabbing. If you poke a little, all the characters say they have been doing that to each other for a long time. It's quite complicated, so explaining any of it here is a waste of bandwidth. As for my experiences, the main story was very stop and go. You would do a mission or two, then given an excuse to have you come back later. For example, some data needs analyzed, so come back in two days. It's obvious that this is a way to encourage you to play side missions. I mixed in side missions of the base game that I had not completed, rather than trying to do all the side missions I could within Dogtown. This means that my experience with the expansion consists of missions weaving into and out of it. The multiple ending hint of a possible solution to my Johnny problem, but I have a feeling that none of them will solve it.

Speaking of, Johnny appears often to offer commentary, and I feel it happens more often than in the base game. I'm not sure if I appreciate it, or think it's annoying to have some punk rocker give his two cents on nearly that happens. Since the main quest is filled with government agents, he has plenty to say. He makes it clear that his distaste for authority comes from betrayal. He's always telling you to not trust them. At least when I chose to not swear an oath to be a special government agent, he approved.

Overall this little expansion is more of the same stuff, but patches to the base game happened since I checked in last. When patch 2.0 came out, it overhauled a lot of things, like the skill trees and crafting systems. I think there were too many perks before, but after playing for a while, I think they kept most, but rearranged them into a more intuitive interface. At the bottom of the attribute menu, there was a Relic attribute, beside body, intelligence, and others, but selecting it did nothing. With Phantom Liberty, you can, and opens a completely new skill tree. However, I didn't feel that any of these options suited the character build I had, as they all needed cyberware that I didn't have. For some character builds, I bet those would unlock some sweet moves.

Since I'm running in 4K now, I've decided to not raytrace, and cranked down most things as low as possible. As a result, I'm getting about 70 FPS in most areas. Unfortunately, I'm still experiencing crashes, sometimes severe enough to need a system reset. I noticed some oily or smudgy artifacts with moving things, like in a character's hair, or ghostly outlines on dark objects. I can buy it being some kind of artistic statement of a world in which where there's more going on than what meets the eyes, but I found it annoying. Turns out that temporal antialiasing caused these. I turned it off with an INI setting, but some areas had terrible aliasing, like a pile of trash bags. I downloaded ReShade and turned on FXAA, and that's improved things a little, but I still see jaggies on the small edges that this game is filled with.

Back in the before times, when I was looking forward to this game, I expected quite a bit. If I were to put my expectations into bullet point form, I got most of them, yet there is something off-putting. I've had fun with with Cyberpunk, but there's a disconnect about it. I felt more immersed in the Shadowrun games, but maybe that's because they weren't so gritty and cold. Maybe it's because this game is a depressing and realistic portrayal of how we'll own nothing and be happy, and that nothing is sacred except the pursuit of money and vanity. For those reasons, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn't make the cut for my favorite games list.

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