Cyberpunk 2077 devs express relief at Phantom Liberty praise – “we needed to really redeem ourselves!”
Cyberpunk 2077’s Phantom Liberty expansion is attracting very positive reviews, and CD Projekt staff are naturally quite pleased about this. And also, very relieved. Released in 2020, the original Cyberpunk 2077 stands as an uncommonly thunderous example of overhype and project mismanagement, with technical issues at launch that extended from comical bugs such as disappearing penises to serious breaches such as graphical effects capable of triggering epileptic fits. CD Projekt have spent years attempting to address the underlying systemic and workplace issues and claw back some goodwill – hence, the general atmosphere on Xitter of developers needing to take five and stare at a flowerbed for a while. “It was a rough few years but there’s finally celebration and closure (for me at least),” posted senior level designer Seb Mcbride.
In RockPaperShotgun’s own Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty review, Graham summed it up as “perhaps the best expansion ever made”, which has gone down a treat with the developers. “Is it? Maybe!” cinematic designer Michał Zbrzeźniak posted. “I mean, the amount of work that was put into it results in what I think is one of the most robust and content rich expansions. But we also needed to really redeem ourselves!”
In fairness to rank-and-file CD Projekt developers, many of Cyberpunk 2077’s issues appear to have originated at the top of the ladder. Studio bosses confessed after release that they “ignored signals about the need for additional time to refine the game”, and CD Projekt Red investors eventually sued the company for making “materially false or misleading statements” about the condition of the game.
The game’s pre-release marketing was also blighted by fetishistic transphobic imagery, and the project as a whole is an especially vicious specimen of videogame crunch, with reports of developers working 13 hour days and feeling as though they were “trying to drive a train while the tracks are being laid in front of you”.
Even laying aside all of those things, the base game was rather a letdown after years of anticipation. In our own Cyberpunk 2077 review, Graham described it as, at best, “a fairly straightforward singleplayer action game, with likable characters and thrilling capers in a fascinatingly detailed open world”. Revisiting the 1.5 version in 2022, he noted that even after innumerable fixes, “Cyberpunk 2077 remains a messy, mediocre RPG when it comes to the ways its combat and progression interlock”.
No surprise, then, that CD Projekt developers were on tenterhooks over Phantom Liberty’s reception. One Xitter user asked Zbrzeźniak: did CD Projekt feel that Phantom Liberty was a more important project than the developer’s similarly acclaimed Witcher 3 expansions? “There is some truth in that for sure,” he replied. “A lot of people worked in this for quite long, longer than Blood and Wine, for example. And the fact that we really felt like we need a hit this time was a contributing factor. Ironically, base game problems inspired us to compensate more!”
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty launches next week, but there’s a 2.0 update with copious revisions and additions that existing owners can download and play today, for free, though be mindful that you might need to upgrade your PC.
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