Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online (PC) Review – 4 Times the Fun?
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4
Developer: Compile Heart, Tamsoft
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release: 27th February 2018 (PC)
Neptunia was already a series in love with 4th wall breaks, game related jokes and all kinds of silly designs. So a game set in a game was basically only a matter of time, as seen in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. Now, after releasing on PS4, the PC version finally enabled me to take a look at the latest entry in the series, without having to pay way too much money for a bit multiplayer.
Being selected as exclusive beta testers, the four goddesses of Gamindustri just have to follow the call and join in for some MMO fun. Quickly tasked with collecting the four mystical fragments by an AI-companion, they set out to both explore this new world and prove their skills once again.
As in any other Neptunia game though, the overall story merely serves as a set-up for the actual writing. What sets Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online apart from any main series entry though, is the fact how 4th wall breaks are actually more than quirky nods to the player. Since the main heroines find themselves in a game, while we play a game about them being in a game, hearing them joke about grinding, levels and the gaming industry, in general, seems fresh to some degree. Instead of having to disguise them with dumb hints, their dialogues now go all over the place. From joking about the magic rule of three, the way too easy enemies or other MMO typical problems, to some more tense, dramatic scenes. Sure, it´s still a Neptunia game but the whole environment felt far more intriguing than the tenth instalment in Gamindustri, giving them this tiny bit more freedom to feel new again.
Not to say the remaining cast introduced along the way, like pretty much any other console or video game brand in form of anime girls, can´t hold their own ground. Staying true to the game´s nature, all of them feature some kind of quirky character trait and building upon them with their typical silly jokes. Naturally, most of them stay flat, characterizing themselves through their references, names or attitude but that´s probably what anyone would expect here. Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is certainly not a revolution but offers some of the most innovative 4th wall breaks inceptions with this setting, which at least I really liked.
On the other hand, Compile Hearts cooperated with Tamsoft this time to bring us some new gameplay innovations. Namely, transforming Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online into a real time hack´n slash. Like Drive Girls though, one of Tamsoft´s other more recent titles, most of the action ends up as a rather flat excursion into the genre.
Relying on a classic base system with a heavy, light attack, spells and a dodge move. While the former three work pretty similar to any other real-time JRPG, especially if they´re from Tamsoft, the fact dodging isn´t held back by animation priority, allowing for some way more reactive moves, is a huge plus in my book. Unfortunately, the combos or customization options are fairly limited in exchange, only featuring the most basic 3-4 attacks chains without any way to expand upon them. In a game circling nearly completely around hacking enemies to shreds for more than 15 hours, the system quickly got repetitive, even though it felt better than most other implementations.
To compensate, characters are divided into classes through their spell selection. From healing ones to AOE attacks or simple magic like fireballs, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online features any class a typical MMO would, for better or worse. By walking the safe road, it avoids doing much wrong, since everything has proven itself for years. However, especially the Neptunia universe influenced elements like transformations to feel super flat, only enhancing some numbers without truly feeling like playing an almighty goddess. There´s just so much wasted possibilities to infuse the gameplay with some much-needed depth.
Same goes for the mission design, which often consists of slaying enemies along the way through a level. Luckily, due to the real-time combat, encounters don´t start with a second long transitions, leading to a way faster pacing. Combined with the general light difficulty, the whole gameplay feels more dynamic than in the main titles’ entries, which I would consider a huge plus. As a result of the rather mild challenge, grinding becomes a rarity as well if you just wish to experience the story.
Another unique aspect of it, is the PC port, being both one of the best and worst Japanese versions I´ve seen so far. On the one hand, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online runs surprisingly smooth on 4K at 60fps, given you turn down some settings and accept some choppy frame rates at times. Given, not a spectacular performance considering the rather dated visuals, as cute and Neptunia as they may be, but definitely better than Koei Tecmo´s for instance. Especially the nearly hassle-free experience justified the extremely long waiting time for this release. If only the multiplayer, that isn´t a huge part though, wasn´t running like a laggy hell, I may have called it Idea Factory´s best one yet for this series.
All in all, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is probably everything one might expect from a Tamsoft x Compile Heart cooperation. It´s not very challenging nor deep but fast-paced, quirky, straightforward and often fun. If you´re tired of the ever same combat system and setting, consider giving this game a shot, as long as you´re not relying on the horrible running multiplayer mode on PC.
[A Review Code was provided by Idea Factory International]