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Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Compile Heart (EU), Tamsoft (US)
Release Date: Early 2018


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PC Review - 'Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 22, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

In this hack 'n' slash adventure everyone's favorite four Goddesses enter an online fantasy game world inspired by...themselves!

Buy Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online

By this point, gamers can expect all of the spin-offs to the Neptunia series to be very silly affairs that place the cast in random situations. Whether it's throwing them into a postapocalyptic situation or having them film a movie during a zombie outbreak, Neptune and her merry band of CPUs and CPU Candidates are no strangers to being out of their regular Gameindustri element. Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is another game that moves away from the universe's usual setting and does so with mostly enjoyable results.

While the plot for each spin-off has leaned toward the humorous side, 4GO really ups the ante. Playing the role of Neptune, you and your fellow CPUs have been invited to play the beta of the world's most popular MMO, 4 Goddesses Online. It doesn't take long before you learn that your sister and her friends have also received invite codes, so it's inevitable that you form a guild with them. The guild then decides to take on the quest of getting all of the sacred treasures to summon the goddesses and defeat the evil that has once again returned to plague the land.

Of all of the games in the series thus far, 4GO aims for humor first and foremost. Vert's deep longing for a sister and Blanc's anger issues are played up for laughs quite often. The same goes for newcomer Bouquet's reactions to Vert's advances. While the series hasn't done it for a while, some fan service has made a return with a few panty shots and some breast jiggling. There are cracks about a shut-in lifestyle that comes with MMOs and how most of the female avatars are men in real life. There's also a whole host of fourth-wall-breaking moments done just to elicit a chuckle. The quality of the jokes varies wildly depending on your sense of humor, but this game is always trying to get a laugh.

One thing that people will notice about the plot is that there really isn't much of one. Aside from the one inherent to the MMO being played, there isn't much of a story with the CPUs or the CPU Candidates. You're just witnessing them play an online game together, having a good time, and not taking anything seriously. In a way, it is more of a "slice of life" game than a full-blown adventure, and while that can be jarring, those who love the characters will appreciate this approach. You'd have to love it since the dialogue sequences can be lengthy, and entire side-quest events revolve around watching otherwise optional dialogue scenes.

Once you accept the more casual story, you'll notice that the gameplay is action-heavy but with the trappings of MMO combat — for a title that was originally made for consoles. You and your party run around a dungeon with no ability to pause, which is faithful to how a real MMO would behave, but it's an odd omission for a single-player game. Standard attacks can be unleashed in real time, with extra abilities appearing when you hold down a shoulder button and use your MP to unleash them. The worlds contain loads of items to pick up and treasure chests to loot. They also contain a good amount of exit points, so you don't always have to go after the boss in a stage.

A better way to describe the combat would be that it is a more toned-down version of what you saw in titles like Hyperdimension Neptunia U and MegaTagmension Blanc. Defense has been trimmed down to a simple block and a parry, with an automatic counterattack if you time the block well. You can only use one combo in the world, and while you retain air moves, you don't have many opportunities to air-juggle enemies. Hitting an enemy also lacks any sort of tangible actions beyond seeing numbers fly up, so it feels odd when an enemy seems unfazed by your moves when you can get knocked back with one blow. The combat still works, but you'll be disappointed if you were expecting what was seen in previous titles.

While action fans may be disappointed in the lack of a more tactile combat system, MMO fans will lament the treatment of loot. You'll be able to buy items and equipment in the shops, but in the field, no weapons or armor can be found. Beyond consumable items, the only thing you'll get are crafting items. If you adore crafting, then this is perfectly fine, but it can be quite a letdown when you spend a good deal of time on a particularly tough fight and the only thing you get for your troubles are a bunch of common items instead of something new that you can immediately equip and use.

At the very least, the AI is spectacular most of the time. Left to their own devices and without you changing up the default setting, the AI is absolutely competent. Get into a fight, and you can safely leave them alone because they're very good about knowing when to attack, defend, and heal. They're so good that you could realistically let them do all of the work, and you'll get through most of the level just fine. They're reliable until you get near a ledge, where the AI suddenly fails. This is especially true when an enemy is on a ledge above them, and they stand at the edge, throwing out attacks without actually hitting anyone. Luckily, the game has the AI constantly warp near you, so you can fix the issue yourself if you keep moving to better ground. Still, that annoyance only worsens when you're in a multi-leveled battlefield.

Overall, the mechanics make for a decently enjoyable game if you're fine with the one aspect that was faithfully carried over from the MMO genre: the grind. You may have different quests to undertake, but there are initially a limited number of areas where you accomplish those quests. It doesn't help that the difficulty curve rises and falls sharply, with one of the early levels being impossible to get through if you're playing the levels immediately after they appear in the map. Thus, you'll learn to traverse the same dungeons countless times in hopes of accomplishing enough quests to open new ones and get enough XP to level up before you can finally administer decent damage on high-level enemies. The grind makes the game longer, but not by absurd levels. If you hate replaying stages multiple times, 4GO isn't for you.

Though the game is a single-player experience masquerading as an MMO, it features the ability to team up with others online to tackle individual quests. All of the trappings exist, like full text chat and talking with premade phrases, but the experience is far from perfect. For starters, everyone in the party loses if the host falls in combat, a strange design choice that isn't present in almost all other titles. Also, there's no community to speak of, so even though the chances of getting bad partners increases greatly if you're playing with random people, you have to set up things with friends beforehand if you want to see what the multiplayer is about.

As far as the audio goes, there's not much to say that hasn't been said about previous titles in the series. The music is nice in some segments and fits each level nicely, but it is ultimately forgettable once you quit the game. It also has a bad time blending in during dialogue sequences, as it plays a bit too loudly at times. The acting for the dialogue in both Japanese and English is great, and although some of the English actors are different for this game, their performances are still quite good.

Graphically, the big change is the move to Unreal Engine 4. This has the biggest impact yet, as characters retain loads of detail while having a heavy cel-shaded appearance. The animations are much more fluid, especially in the transitions, and the effects look nice, even if they're very subdued. The environments also got a bit of an upgrade, with more foliage and other decorations populating the world while the monster count increased without producing slowdown. The bad news is that the camera is rather unruly, as it constantly zooms in and out due to it colliding with the environment. Also, the slightly animated dialogue scenes that the series uses have been stripped away in favor of more static shots, which still work but are a step back.

Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a game that fans of the series will enjoy. The dialogue-heavy nature and comedy are well done, and the story doesn't get in the way of it. It does a serviceable job of making the MMO-style gameplay work, but you have to accept the grind in order to not be bothered by it. It isn't a good title for those who are just jumping into the universe, but if you've played anything previously released for the series and fell in love with it, then 4GO isn't a bad addition.

Score: 7.0/10

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