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  • Writer's pictureA.J. Sobel

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty – The Comeback Kid

If you’ve read my original post on Cyberpunk 2077, you know that I’ve been pulling for this game since it first dropped. I saw what was – and what could’ve been – and knew that CD Projekt Red (CDPR) had a masterpiece on their hands. All they had to do was put in the work to fix it.

Well guess what kiddos? They fucking did.

Don’t get me wrong, I will never be okay with developers shoving an unfinished product out the door just to boost their quarterly earnings, but I have something of a soft spot for this particular dev. Patch after patch for three years to stabilize the game, fix the holes, and add a bit of new content, and Cyberpunk finally became the game I knew it could be.

Then Phantom Liberty dropped.

Described as a spy thriller by CDPR, the story revolves around you, the player, as you are drawn into the high-level political machinations of the President of the New United States of America (NUSA), and a disgraced former NUSA Colonel who’s carved out a sizable kingdom for himself in Night City.

I’m trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum, so bear with me, but on the surface, it does exactly what it sets out to do. The missions are bombastic, the story is driving, and the voice acting is top-fucking-notch (Idris Elba for everything, amirite?).

On the whole, it was thirty bucks well spent.

However… (saw that one coming didn’t you?) For everything that works, there’s something that doesn’t. One of the main marketing points of this expansion was that the perk/level/cyberware system was going to be completely reworked. Well, they did it. My question is why?

Sure, there were a few interesting things they added (the air dash is a game changer), and the new perk tree had some cool stuff. But given that this is the only official expansion that CP2077 is going to get, I can’t help but feel like the resources they devoted to this specific undertaking could’ve been better spent elsewhere (and I’m not just saying that because I’m salty that I’ll never get a New Game Plus).

As soon as I finished redistributing my skill/perk points, I found no significant difference between my old build (air dash aside) and the new one. It played exactly the same, and (perhaps more importantly) it felt exactly the same. I found myself thinking that I would’ve rather had more gigs to play, or missions to experience.

I don’t know… It just seemed a strange allocation of resources given that this is the swan song of CP2077.

While they did add a few persistent side quests in the form of air drops and vehicle thefts, these get old very quickly, and I have a bug where I can’t even access the new vehicles that become available because of them.

As I said, on the surface, the story was amazing, so much so that there are moments in it that will stick with me for a very long time (that mini-concert was a stroke of genius – please, CDPR, don’t be afraid to take risks like that in the future). It was only after the credits rolled that I began to think about it in earnest, and it was only then that the cracks began to show.

Immediately after the opening set of missions, the story hard-shifts from political intrigue to a rescue operation that runs for the remainder of the expansion. In typical CDPR fashion, it’s as enthralling as any full campaign from any other game, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was finessed by the marketing into buying something that was different than advertised.

Sure, world-shaping events are taking place, but your involvement in them is highly restricted, and they tend to take a back seat to the aforementioned rescue operation.

As with the base game, there are very few “good guys,” and you find yourself operating in that gray area that typifies cyberpunk as a genre. Nowhere is this more apparent than the choices you have to make as the expansion wraps up. There were a couple of points where I actually paused the game to sit down and think about what I was going to do next.

On the whole, it’s worth your money whether you’re booting up the game for the first time, or you’re returning to Night City with your max level, cybergod character. Great job, CDPR, and I hope the sequel you guys are developing is every bit as good as this one.

Now, for the second piece of this. *SPOILERS AHEAD - Don’t say I didn’t warn you*

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is that no one seems to be talking about the story within the story, i.e. that of Mr. Blue Eyes and the world-shattering plot that seems to be unfolding behind the scenes.

Throughout the game, players can pick up pieces of information that completely reframe the narrative once they’re put together. This story is one of mind control, rogue AI, and a concerted effort to reach beyond the Black Wall (the digital barrier that protects civilized society from the untamed horrors of the “deep net”).

After the completion of Act 1, involving the rescue of Sandra Dorset, you’re contacted by her and asked to retrieve her hard drive. If you’re a nosy little edgerunner (like me), you crack it open and find out that Night Corp (one of the smaller of Night City’s corporations) is conducting mind control experiments on their employees for unknown purposes.

Later on, during the Peralez mission chain, you find out that this same technology is being used on the heir-apparent to the mayoral post of Night City, Jefferson Peralez. When you meet Jefferson for the final time, you have the option to tell him what happened, or let him live in blissful ignorance of the horror that his life has become.

Regardless of your decision, your meeting is being watched over by a certain individual in the distance, a certain Mr. Blue Eyes. The same Mr. Blue Eyes that gives you your final mission in one of the epilogue sequences of the game.

Now I’m diving into a bit of unconfirmed fan theory here, so bear with me. This man has been given his moniker due to the blue light that is constantly shining from behind his eyes. This light, in every instance in the game, has been used to represent an external data connection (most often when accessing the net). The implication here is that he is always connected to something.

The fan theory is that Mr. Blue Eyes is a husk used by an AI to better interact with humanity, and to avoid raising suspicion that people are interacting with one of the most terrifying enemies that can be encountered in the Cyberpunk universe.

Add to this the quest chain involving Gary the Prophet (look it up if you’re interested), and I think that these rogue AI are doing everything they can to seize control of Night City for undoubtedly nefarious purposes.

Following so far? Good. Now we move on to Phantom Liberty.

In one of the possible endings of the DLC, you are transporting Song So-Mi (the operative that needs rescuing) to a shuttle that will take her to a black site on the Moon, where they will assist her in developing a cure for herself, and for you. During the mission, she divulges that she was contacted by a man “with blue eyes,” who set the trip up for her.

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but I’m of the mind that Mr. Blue Eyes (presuming that he is, in fact, an AI), and those he works with, are trying to get a hold of her so they can destroy the Black Wall. This will allow unshackled AI to surge through the net, destroying or enslaving everything they can wrap their digital fingers around.

Given the other half of the ending, where you follow So-Mi into a Militech bunker devoted to capturing these AI, I’m fairly certain that both paths are just two sides of the same scheming coin.

Pretty fucking wild, right?

If these theories are correct, that means that V (while important) is barely grazing a much wider conspiracy that could potentially topple humanity’s spot as the dominant life form on the planet.

God, I hope I’m right (haha). If I am, then the writers at CDPR (and Mike Pondsmith, though I’m not sure how deeply he was involved with this), are some of the best in the fucking business. Weaving this horrifying narrative through the main storyline is a fucking master stroke that I have never seen before in any video game I’ve ever played.

If you’ve played the game, and know the pieces that I’m talking about, let me know what you think. I’ve been dying for someone to geek out with about this.

See you on the next one, Chooms.


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