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Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddesses Online Review

Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddesses Online Review
Game Name: Cyber Dimension Neptune: Four Goddesses Online
Platforms: Playstation 4, Steam
Publisher(s): JP-Idea Factory, NA/EU Idea Factory International
Developer(s): Compile Heart, Tamsoft, Idea Factory
Genre(s): Action RPG
Release Date: JP February 9, 2017 NA October 10, 2017 EU October 13, 2017
ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Compile Heart’s flagship IP, the Neptune/Neptunia series, continues its barrage of game releases year after year. While I like the series generally, I usually only purchase the main entry games and not the many, many spinoff titles. Four Goddesses Online caught my attention with its Unreal Engine 4 using, action-MMORPG parody of a setting. ?If you’re not familiar with the characters of this series, the story does provide small character introductions, but in general it’s assumed that you’re already a fan of the series. I recommend people who aren’t familiar to start with Neptunia Re;Birth 1 on PS Vita or Hyperdimension Neptunia on PS3 before trying any of the other games.

The gist of the plot this time is that the main characters of the series have gotten passes to a Beta Test of the new edition of ‘Four Goddesses Online’, the MMORPG that Vert has always talked about playing in the previous entries. They work to progress along the main in-MMORPG story while also assisting the game management with some real-life threats to the stability of the beta test. The initial playable characters along with their in-MMO classes are Neptune (Paladin), Noire (Dark Knight), Vert (Enchanter), Blanc (Priest), Nepgear (Mage), Uni (Thief), Rom (Samurai), and Ram (Ninja). They form a guild called ‘C.P.U.’, short for ‘Console Patron Unit’, in what I believe may be an instance of the western localization making its way into the Japanese games, since I don’t recall hearing the C.P.U. terminology previously used in them (in the English localizations, ‘C.P.U.’ was generally substituted for the original ‘Goddess’).

To progress, you must fulfill quests from the guild hall. Quests usually fall into the categories of ‘kill X monsters’, ‘bring me X amount of Y item’, or ‘reach X point/defeat X boss’. You can venture out with a party of up to four characters, with you directly controlling one of them and the other 3 being controlled by AI. Square button is your standard attack – you’ll be pressing this a lot – which deals damage and builds up your SP. Holding the shoulder button allows you to select your special attacks, of which you can have 8 bound to button combinations. You may also bring up to 5 stacks of items out with you, usually HP and SP replenishment or revival/bad status cures. A gauge also fills up at the bottom-left, you can activate it at any time to boost your stats temporarily, or when it hits 3 stacks or higher you can use it to perform a super attack. It reminds me a lot of Phantasy Star Online 2 – accept a quest, and get dropped into your selected open world map to pursue your goal along with your teammates. Mind you, most of these missions are single player – only certain quests are multiplay and selectible online, which we’ll talk about later.

Besides the 8 initial playable characters mentioned, many other Neptunia series characters are also playing Four Goddesses Online as non-combat specialists. For example, IF and Compa are running a store as a gatherer/alchemist skill duo. Pururut and Peashy are running an accessory shop, etc. – it’s a nice touch to include the whole feel of ‘player driven economy’ to this fake MMORPG world. Aside from player characters and normal NPCs, this beta version of Four Goddesses Online also has NPCs with advanced AI (in the game’s world, not our world – to be clear, the PS4 game itself does not have advanced AI – boy, this layered meta is confusing to explain), and touches on the idea of self-learning AI (and why Vert should never be allowed near them). I kind of wish they would have played with the idea of self-learning AIs and the Singularity a bit more, since they’re mentioned in passing occasionally and become a minor plot point, but then later discarded.

I was worried about how well the non-controlled party character AI would be in 4GO, especially that I would be essentially forced to play a tank character. Actually, there are a lot of customizable AI options to choose from, but the consistently most frustrating setting to get right is healing. It seemed that no matter what settings I chose, I would run into situations where a character with healing spells would be wasting time doing something besides healing even when someone was about to die. In comparison, the tank AI does a decent enough job keeping aggro on bosses. For easiest solo play, many players will probably want to control one of the characters with healing spells (Neptune, Vert, or Blanc) for boss fights. Of course, you could always just over-level and outgear the fights too, or only switch characters when healing is needed and then switch right back. If you don’t mind some of your party members faceplanting during boss fights, it’s not a difficult enough game that you really even need them alive. I mostly mained Uni (Thief), Nepgear (Mage), Rom (Samurai) and Blanc (Priest) to try out a variety of party roles, and all of them were enjoyable enough, even if the ones without healing tended to end with some KOs if I left the AI to its own devices.

The online play is a nice addition, but leaves a lot to be desired. Without dedicated servers, the peer to peer stability can be rough at times, and for me it was only about 1/4 of the time that I would get a nice and smooth multiplayer experience, Maybe the netcode can be improved in subsequent patches. One unfortunate way the online is similar to some real MMORPGs is that by the second day, everyone had already figured out that the most efficient way to play was to just ignore the small-fry enemies and bumrush to the boss at the end. I kind of wish they would throw up some barriers along the levels that don’t disappear until you defeat the nearby enemies to prevent this ‘strategy’ that leads to finishing multiplayer missions in a couple minutes. Another complaint is that dedicated healing is basically completely unnecessary later on – the number of Blanc players went from ‘some’ on the first couple days to ‘almost none’ in the later missions, because everyone can just bring a bunch of healing consumables and demolish the boss with 4 damage dealers easily. You certainly won’t be recreating any holy trinity tank/healer/DPS careful boss setups here unless you go out of your way to create a party closely matched in levels and gear with friends. Maybe this problem could have been dampened a bit by making the stat gains from levels/gear less severe, so that even people who overlevel/outgear bosses still needed to be careful.

Four Goddesses Online is a short but decently enjoyable game, the Unreal 4 action gameplay being a welcome change from the usual gameplay the series provides. Even making sure to do every multiplayer mission at least once (usually more) as I progressed in the single player story, I reached the end at around 20 hours and platinumed the game at around the 24 hour mark. This game is easy to recommend to Neptune fans who have played MMORPGs before, but check your financial situation before shelling out full price at launch. It’s a tough situation: on one hand, it’s a short game and you might want to wait for the price to come down, but on the other hand if you wait too long the online might be dead by the time you buy it. The most ideal situation is if you have a friend or two who you can buy it with at the same time, so that even if public lobbies are dead you can still enjoy the multiplay missions. Other shortcomings include lack of full voice acting (although most of the skits are still voiced, more than usual are unvoiced, and the characters’ mouths don’t move), and lack of real multiplayer co-op for the main game. It would have been fun to play with a friend throughout the single player missions as well.

A Welcome Distraction

Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a perfectly serviceable action RPG. That might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but for folks who are looking for a bit of mindless, distracting entertainment (and who couldn’t use that with all the things going on in the world today?), Tamsoft’s latest foray into this goofy game industry parody should fit the bill nicely. It’s certainly not the mark of a masterpiece when the most you can say about a game is that it’s fun and mostly inoffensive, but this series has never really been aiming for that high mark in the first place, and that’s just fine by me.

Title Cyberdimension Neptunia™:
4 Goddesses Online
Console PlayStation®4 / PC (Steam)
Genre Action RPG
Voiceover option English / Original Japanese
Language format English Subtitles
Release date October 10 (NA)/13 (EU)
Developer Idea Factory / Compile Heart / Tamsoft
Publisher Idea Factory International, Inc.

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