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Neural Cloud: I am playing it

Oof. It's been a second. I haven't had a lot of time to write things, but I'll try to get back into it now that it's a new year and all that. Also, this is supposed to be an informal space, so here's a very disjointed game review!

Neural Cloud is a spinoff of Girl's Frontline. I played the latter for a little while a few years ago. I'm not really sure why, because the gameplay was kind of boring and I'm not in the target demographic by any means, but I did.

Neural Cloud itself piqued my interest when it was released in China in 2021, so I was looking forward to giving it a shot when it inevitably had a global release. That time came late November 2022. I think 2 months is enough time for the dust to clear and me to formulate some Thoughts about it.

What is this game

This is an autochess PvE strategy game. I've never played another autochess game before, so I have no idea how true-to-genre it is. Theoretically, you can run battles without any intervention on your part, but it's pretty much impossible to win hard fights without it. I like this. It makes the game feel like a proper strategy game and not just an exercise in guessing or luck.

There's also a roguelike component to the main story and event levels. As a result, this game is quite a bit more involved than most others of its kind because some levels have 3 floors with a shitload of battles on each floor. The game gives you 10 free retries per battle, but you do have to be psychologically prepared to restart the whole run if things aren't working out.

The learning curve is a little steep, but not steep enough that I felt demoralized. If I did, I wouldn't still be playing it, because I drop games that make me feel demoralized really early into the game. I think it has a pretty good challenge-to-reward balance.

Oh, god, there's a gacha

I play several gacha games because I understand the mind games and have never felt any impulse to spend money on them, so I'm fine with this being a gacha game. The main thing is that Neural Cloud stands up on its own; it's not one of those games that's just a gachapon machine with a poor excuse for a game built around it.

To preface, there are 1-star, 2-star, and 3-star characters. The rates are 3.6% 3 star, 18% 2 star, and 78.40% 1 star. These rates are pretty standard, a little better than some other games.

There are several things that I think the gacha system does well:

My only complaint is that there's no way to buy characters without sparking them, but that would be pretty hard to implement with how slow the gacha moves.


This game is one of those games where all characters can be upgraded to the top star tier (5, in this case). Characters unlock their ultimate skill at 3 stars. The only difference between 3 stars and 1 stars is that 3 stars are more or less usable out of the box, while 1 (and 2 stars) require some more elbow grease to catch up. The game incentivizes you to put in that elbow grease because most of the 1 and 2 stars are ridiculously powerful and sometimes eclipse the 3 stars once you get them on equal footing.

It's hard for me to predict the trajectory of powercreep since there have only been three new dolls released post-launch. Some degree of powercreep is inevitable because that's just how these games are, but so far it seems like strategy is more important than having the latest characters.

Game progression

This is a very slow game.

I'm not sure if this is a natural consequence of new characters/events being released once a month or the other way around, but the game is timegated by design. Spending money to accelerate progression isn't even really an option unless you're willing to sink a lot of money in, and I'm not even sure how effective that would be.

My progress started to slow a lot after about the first month. I don't really mind this because I can spend like 10 minutes a day on it without feeling like I'm missing out on much. I do think it might be erring on the side of too slow, but it's hard to say considering (again) how infrequently new content is released.

My main beef with the current progression system is that there are character-specific materials that you can't exchange. I wish there was a way to trade those around, even at a penalized rate (like 2:1) because there are many characters I have absolutely no intention of using, ever, so their materials are just sitting around and rotting in my inventory.

Miscellaneous thoughts

The art is fine. They tried to be a little less on-the-nose heterosexual male fanservicey than the original GFL game, so they added men(??!?!?!??) and replaced the damaged sprites with art that you unlock from upgrading characters (see games like Arknights and Alchemy Stars). There are definitely some hits and misses in spite of this, but it's fine. I do really like the variety of character designs they can do now that they're not pigeonholed into the GFL military theme.

There are a lot of in-app purchases available at any given time. They're mostly gameplay-related rather than gacha-related, so it's not too controversial, but I do wish I could disable the pop-ups whenever I start the game. Also, cosmetics are essentially paywalled. I understand this from a logical standpoint, but Arknights spoiled me with the ability to buy all the skins I want for free, so I'm sad anyway.

I think the GFL lore is really weird if you squint at it for more than a few seconds, so I haven't read the story. I can't give any commentary on its quality. (I actually like sentient android stories, but GFL has a tendency to play it very straight, so it just ends up being weird.) That being said, I think the central concept of all this happening in The Cloud (TM) and not in real life is neat, and it makes me feel better when anything bad happens to my team.

Last words

In spite of my whining, I'll be sticking with Neural Cloud for the foreseeable future. It slots in pretty well with the other games I play, and I think it's a lot more interesting than GFL in pretty much every conceivable way. I also think it's better than most other gacha "strategy" games out there.


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