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Video Game / Girls' Frontline: Neural Cloud

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On the pathway of exile we reunite.

Girls' Frontline: Neural Cloud is a spin-off Prequel of Girls' Frontline. It is a Real-Time Strategy with auto chess and roguelike elements for Android and iOS. The game was officially released on mainland China on September 23rd 2021 and globally starting from November 21st 2022.

In 2058, the research institute 42Lab commissioned Project Neural Cloud. This project aims to create a system where a Doll's digital consciousness can be backed up into a cloud, so that the data may be preserved in case of severe damage. Utilizing Magrasea, 42Lab's incredibly powerful cloud server, along with the backing of several corporations and data from hundreds of Dolls, the project was declared a success by the end of 2060.

However, not everything went as well as hoped. During the course of Project Neural Cloud, an event known as the "Wipe-off Incident" happened, scattering the neural cloud of participating Dolls all over Magrasea. Furthermore, Magrasea's connection with the physical world was severed, stranding the Dolls inside the cloud server. In desperation, a 42Lab Professor used an experimental Brain Uploading technology to transfer their consciousness into Magrasea, but they were never heard from again.

The year is now 2063. You are an experienced Commander working for the Griffin & Kryuger Private Military Company. One day, you are asked by Persica, a former member of 42Lab and a benefactor of G&K, to investigate the truth behind Project Neural Cloud. Using the Professor's credentials and mind uploading interface, you enter Magrasea to find the exiled Dolls of the Project, discover the real Professor's fate, and, perhaps, find a way to return to the real world.

Neural Cloud swaps the strategic layer of its predecessor with a more roguelite approach. Each "stage" is a series of interconnected nodes containing enemy encounters, shops, and random events. Combat takes place in a hex-based grid with terrain and special tiles. Units will fight and activate their skills automatically, but the player can influence how the fight goes by correctly positioning their Dolls, as well as utilizing Support Powers. Victory rewards Function Cards, items that enhance specific Dolls in various ways, along with Cache Coins that can be exchanged for items. Neither of these resources carry over into other stages; instead, the Macrogame revolves around strengthening Dolls by recovering their neural fragments, and building Oasis, the Exiles' home base, into a shining beacon in the cloud server.

Visit the official English website here.

This game contains examples of:

  • Action Prologue: After the introductory scene with Persica, the Professor is immediately thrust into the Oasis under siege by Sanctifiers.
  • Always Night: Burbank Sector is specifically set to never see the light of day. Its residents track time through the position of the moon instead.
  • An Interior Designer Is You: Returning from Girls' Frontline is the Dormitory system, albeit reworked to fit the new 3D art style. Besides decorating each dorms with furniture, players can now walk around and interact with the dolls assigned to each dorm.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Each chapter has a "Dark Side" campaign that usually chronicles the events of the chapter from the perspective of someone other than the Professor and the Exiles.
  • Artifact Title: With the introduction of male dolls such as Gin and Simo, the Girls' part of the title is no longer accurate. Some promotional materials are seemingly aware of this and refer to the game simply as Project Neural Cloud or Neural Cloud, though the official logo still uses it, presumably for brand recognition purposes.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The game was conceived as a "side game" to Girls' Frontline 2: Exilium, so several returning features from Girls' Frontline were heavily reworked to be more casual-friendly and/or generally less time-consuming:
    • The game includes pop-up windows that explain gameplay mechanics and terms. You don't have to go to a community wiki just to find out what "Trojan" does or how "Bleed" is calculated.
    • For the main campaign and certain mission types, players only get one Key deducted from their stock, with the option to spend more if they want to claim whatever loot dropped during the mission. Theoretically, one could play through several missions in one sitting without worrying about their Keys running out.
    • Search banners has a "pity" system, where rolling a certain number of times (typically 180) will guarantee a one of the dolls featured in the banner. Players are also guaranteed to draw a random 2★ from any Advanced Search if they didn't manage to get one within ten pulls, and a random 3★ for every 60 pulls without one.
    • You can see which dolls will benefit from a particular function card just by tapping it.
    • Duplicate characters are automatically converted to a universal currency which can be exchanged for neural fragments of any dolls in your possession. This ensures that you will be able to upgrade all dolls eventually, even the super rare 3-stars, as well as sidestepping the issue of excess duplicates entirely.
    • For players who are invested in the lore of Girls' Frontline, cutscenes keep track of anything lore-relevant with orange, underlined text the player can click on for more details. These terms are also stored in a glossary as the player discovers them, regardless of whether they click them or not.
    • Conversely, for players who just want to speedrun the campaign, clearing a stage unlocks the next cutscene(s) and the stage immediately after it, so players can view the cutscenes at a later time.
    • Events that introduce new story chapters come with two difficulty modes — "Standard Mode" can easily be completed by just about any party, while "Hard Mode" is the chapter's intended difficulty and its progress is saved once the event ends.
    • Once you have a doll collected, you can do fragment searches to find additional fragments of them, meaning you only need to acquire a doll once in the gacha to take it to its ultimate potential.
  • April Fools' Day:
    • 2022: Neural Cloud and Girls' Frontline swap login screens. There is also an event, "Foolish Duality", about a mysterious two-horned creature running around Oasis, creating doppelgangers of Dolls who represent their Hidden Depths.
  • Arbitrary Equipment Restriction: The Exception Protocol dungeon restricts the player to a specific subset of the game's roster that changes bi-weekly. Dolls that players own in this subset are always downgraded to level 45, 4★, and level 1 skills. Lastly, the use of equippable Algorithms are completely banned.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Like Girls' Frontline, the maximum team size is five characters, although the player can also have three other characters in reserve to swap with.
  • Assist Character:
    • The three backup party members in the player's party stand on their own column of tiles outside of the battlefield with specific Geo Effects that allow them to help the party out even when they're not actively in combat.
    • The aptly named Assist Function Cards call on the character named on the card to use their Ultimate Skill offscreen.
  • Bonus Boss: Most stages feature an additional, harder boss after the main one has been defeated. They're completely optional but reward additional loot when defeated.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Several characters in Neural Cloud are in fact T-Dolls from Girls' Frontline before they joined Griffin & Kryuger.
    • At the end of Operation Quench, an unnamed Soviet military officer expresses interest in Python's training results. The officer's silhouette confirms this is none other than Captain Yegor, who would later use combined Doll/human infantry tactics to great effect in Girls' Frontline.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
    • Operand damage is this game's equivalent to magic damage in other games, owing to operands in general serving as Magrasea's Mana.
    • Hashrate is this game's version of skill casting speed/skill cooldown.
  • Character Select Forcing: Certain stages force the player to use a party pre-built by the game. Early on in the game, this is for tutorial purposes, while later chapters feature stages that ask the player to clear a stage using a single Doll, both as a challenge and for plot-related reasons.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Dolls are graded according to their initial rarity: 1-stars are blue, 2-stars are purple, and 3-stars are golden. The same also applies for function cards.
  • Critical Hit: They exist in this game, but aren't a given for most of the cast, unlike most other games with RPG Elements. Attacks and skills don't cause critical hits unless they explicitly say so in their description, no matter how much critical hit rate a given unit has. There are a handful of exceptions, like Daiyan's Concordia buff enabling allies she hits with her skills to make use of their critical hit rate for a few seconds.
  • Critical Status Buff: Some Function Cards trigger only when a Doll drops into a certain HP threshold.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Neural Cloud puts an even greater emphasis of this theme than its predecessor. Poring over each playable character's bio will reveal a common thread to the reason why they were recruited for Project Neural Cloud: all of theme were Dolls who Grew Beyond Their Programming. Much of the game's story revolves around how Dolls and Agents act in the absence of human intervention.
  • Discard and Draw: Several outcomes from an anomaly node force you to take a penalty in exchange of receiving a bonus. For example, you can get an additional function card capacity at the cost of 10% of the maximum HP of your entire party.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • The Burbank Sector was introduced in the Livestreaming event long before it was properly released with Chapter 8.
    • Python and Sockdolager made their first appearances in the global version during the Magrasea's Lang Syne event as background characters before they were added to the roster. Python also showed up occasionally in the event's Anomaly Nodes as a mid-boss under the context of putting the player's party through Training from Hell.
    • Also in the global version, Nora first appears in text-only cameos a few times during Inverted Mordant Resonance.
  • Forever War: The Exiles find themselves amidst one when they break into the Cyclopes sector in Chapter 2, finding a part of the city walled off by an unusually powerful firewall containing several Agents shooting to kill, resetting, and repeating the cycle endlessly. The Exiles later find out that Raven, the overseeing Greater Sanctifier of the sector, is a Blood Knight and engineered the circumstances herself to satisfy her lust for battle. She separated the combat capable Agents from their handler Agents with the firewall, leaving the former to spiral out of control as their combat capabilities rose unchecked.
  • Freemium Timer:
    • Keys are the main time-gating mechanic in this game, being functionally identical to stamina in other mobile games — spend them playing the game and wait for them to regenerate (at a rate of 1 every 5 minutes), or buy them with premium currency.
    • The player's factory production runs on a timer, and item production is Capped to a maximum of 24 hours, encouraging players to Play Every Day to keep their factories' output flowing.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • During the Wipe-off Incident, Antonina had to split each Dolls' neural cloud into their core and fragments, all scattered across Magrasea. The gacha system is framed as the Professor using the Search Terminal to locate these cores and fragments.
    • Neural Fragments are, quite literally, fragments of each Doll. A Doll with just their core cannot access their full power, personality, or memories. This is why collecting enough fragments will give them bonus stats, along with unlocking additional artworks and voice lines.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: In the intro, Persica warns the Commander that it'd be a long time before they're able to get out of Magrasea after their Brain Uploading due to limited technology and the circumstances behind the Wipe-off Incident. Despite this, the Guilt-Based Gaming cutscene that plays for logging in after more than a month shows the Commander logging into Magrasea again as the Professor, contradicting the intro and implying that moving a human's consciousness between Magrasea and the real world isn't as difficult as Persica says it is.
  • Geo Effects: The combat zone usually has special tiles with varying effects, such as a tile that gives units standing on it a shield, or blockers that restricts movement but can be destroyed. Some stages also feature special tiles on the reserve zone, allowing benched units to contribute to the fight by positioning them appropriately.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: One of these occurs throughout Chapter 3 while the Exiles exlpore the energy production sector, Helios. Time seems to rewind whenever one of Helios's energy reactors malfunctions and explodes, leaving only the Professor with any recollection of what happened. After several loops of this, one of Helios's Dolls, Zion, offers the team special chocolate bars made by another Doll, Choco, which lets them retain their memories between loops. After meeting with the sector's administrator, it explains that the entire sector is producing an experimental energy source, the Arche Pyr, and the resets are deliberate and invoked whenever something goes wrong with the experiment (in this case, the reactors blowing up). The Exiles later find out that the special chocolate was developed in part by Helios's resident Sanctifier, Eucharist, who isn't quite as hellbent on destroying Irregular Agents as other Greater Sanctifiers — she just really wants Choco's gourmet chocolate.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: A special cutscene plays when the player hasn't logged into the game for more than a month, showing the Professor logging back into Magrasea for the first time in a lengthy real world period of time. The cutscene isn't written to shame the player for leaving, instead portraying the player's return as a heartfelt reunion between Persicaria (who breaks out into Tears of Joy and gives the Professor a warm hug) and the rest of the Exiles. Save for a light scolding from Persicaria for suddenly leaving Magrasea without warning, the Exiles hold no ill will against the Professor for their absence.
  • Hard Mode Perks:
    • Story-related events come with a Standard Mode and Hard Mode, with the former being doable by literally any party and the latter being the chapter's original difficulty. Clearing stages on Hard Mode nets stage clear rewards for both difficulties in one go, and story progress from Hard Mode is retained when the event's chapter is introduced into the main campaign when the event ends.
    • In order to get all of the rewards in Exception Protocol, players have to challenge harder enemies as often as possible and take on enough neutral or detrimental Protocol passives to boost their score past 3000 points at the end of the run (or 3500 if players want to skip some grind and get all the rewards at once).
  • Have You Seen My God?: Some Agents(such as the Sanctifiers) see humans more than just creators, but outright as divine beings, which causes them a great deal of alarm when Magrasea was cut off from the physical world. This is also what prompted the former administrator of Asuncion Sector to create a God that can surpass humans.
  • Inside a Computer System: The whole game takes place inside Magarasea servers.
  • Interface Spoiler: The Copley, Asuncion, and Burbank sectors (Chapters 6, 7, and 8, respectively) have been present in Magrasea's world map since launch, although nothing beyond a bird's eye view of each is "spoiled" for the player.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: Algorithms are this trope, although they are nowhere near as cumbersome as Heavy Ordnance Corps Chips in Girls' Frontline. All Dolls can have up to eight slots for offensive, defensive, and miscellaneous algorithms equipped, arranged in a 2x4 grid for each category. The algorithms themselves are either 1x1 or 1x2 in size, bringing this trope into play.
  • Keep It Foreign: The explicitly Chinese Dolls originally had their names translated to English in the Chinese version, while the English version undoes those particular translations. The launch roster renamed Twigs and Camellia to Chanzhi and Souchun, with later additions like Haze and Rain following suit (Daiyan and Jiangyu, respectively).
  • Lighter and Softer: Neural Cloud deals with significantly lighter themes compared to the original Girls' Frontline, focusing on the science-fiction aspects of the setting instead of the horrors and tragedies caused by human conflict.
  • Limit Break: On the right side of the battle interface is an "Ultimate" gauge which fills up as the battle progresses. Unusually this bar isn't specific to any individual unit, but rather shared for the entire team. When it is full, any team member can activate their own ultimates (though everyone has their own individual cooldowns). This bar also carries over between battles, and can be filled beyond 100%, allowing multiple ultimates to be casted one after another.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Several Agents and Dolls have animal features. Rossum's Administrator, Turing, explains to the Exiles that they serve as a dampener to stifle the evolution of an Agent's AI to keep them below whatever intelligence threshold the Sanctifiers use to determine which Agents are considered "abnormal". On the other hand, animal ears on Dolls are often accessories that enable them to analyze specific types of aural data — for example, Persicaria's lets her "hear" data streams, while Jessie, who's deliberately programmed as an Animal Lover, has dog ears that enable her to understand animals.
  • Mana: Operand serves an analogue to mana in Magrasea. Operand is used by Agents and Dolls alike for everyday tasks, but also in combat to fuel their abilities. The more operands a Agents has, the stronger it is, and running out of operand essentially causes it to shut down temporarily. Operands are generated automatically by the Cloud Server itself, which is then allocated to each Sector according to a specific quota. The early parts of the story revolves around the Exiles gathering enough operands to sustain Oasis.
  • Maneki Neko: One Anomaly Node Random Event features the party stumbling on a Cache Coin miner, which increases how many Cache Coins drop from battles. The buff icon for this is a classic Beckoning Cat with its right paw raised.
  • Magikarp Power: 1-star units have lower stat caps and their respective ultimates locked. However, they still can be raised to 5-star rarity like other units, giving them theoretically the same power ceiling as their rarer counterparts.
  • The Metaverse: What Magrasea essentially is. Dolls and humans perceive the world inside the Cloud Server as not much different from the physical world.
  • Mundane Utility: One of the ways Oasis harnesses the awesome computing power of Magrasea is to... mine digital currency.
  • Player Headquarters: The Oasis serves as one. The player is provided a plot of land where they can construct buildings with various functions.
  • Programming Game: Unlike Girls' Frontline, the player has no direct control over their units other than who's in the battle and their starting positions. Once the battle starts, it's left in the AI's hands, although the player has options at their disposal to nudge battles in their favor like Ultimates, Tactical Skills, and Assist Function Cards, downplaying this trope quite a bit while adding elements of Real-Time Strategy.
  • Prestige Class:
    • Unlike Girls' Frontline, a Doll's rarity isn't static and can be upgraded in half-star steps (e.g. a 1★ upgraded once is shown as ★☆) and can be repeated until they're a 5★ as long as players have enough of the respective Doll's Neural Fragments.
    • The Arma Inscripta system is this game's verison of GFL's Neural Upgrade, giving selected Dolls the ability to further level their skills and base stats past the limits imposed by their level and rarity cap at the cost of Neural Fragments for the upgraded character and some Rare Candies related to the mechanic. A Doll can get Arma Inscripta upgrades up to three times, overall upgrading one skill twice and another skill once.
  • Random Event: Anomaly Nodes on stage maps usually present the player with a dialog box presenting a situation and two to three choices on how to respond to said situation, often involving some variety of broken machinery and deciding whether to risk HP repairing it for its benefits or selling it for a handful of Cache Coins. There's also a small chance of triggering a random battle.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: Stages have their progression paths and enemy compositions randomized for each playthrough.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Justified and Played for Drama. Thanks to Neural Reset, neither Agents nor Dolls can truly "die" in Magrasea; they will simply "reset" to their factory setting and reappear completely unharmed. This does not preserve their memories and experience, however, and the game points out someone who undergoes a reset will never be the same individual as they were pre-reset. Some characters treat resetting as no different than dying as a result.
  • Rewards Pass: Called Magrasea Pass here. The main attraction is the "Awakening"-series of Neural Cloud Projections, depicting a specific Doll during their first activation. Besides that, both the free and paid tracks rewards useful items that can be found elsewhere in the game.
  • Secret Path: Certain nodes in a stage are marked with arrows, indicating that the player can move to another node in the same column after the battle or event is complete instead of having to move forward. The tutorial stylizes this as Persicaria discovering a secret path between nodes.
  • Set Bonus: Certain function cards come in a set. Collecting 2 or all 4 will confer additional bonus themed according to the cards. The same goes for Algorithms, which may come in sets of 2 or 3.
  • Shoot the Medic First: An article by the game's producer confirms that player units will always target enemy Medics first, followed by Marksmen, Specialists, Warriors, and finally Guardians. Enemy units, on the other hand, invert the targeting order for the sake of Rule of Fun, prioritizing player Guardians first before Medics.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first PV uses heavy Conway's Game of Life imagery. It's also the namesake of Persicaria's passive skill.
    • Python's design process was advised by a military officer known as Captain John Worth, who is described as irritable, willful, a heavy smoker, and constantly wears a bonnie hat. General Shephard is mentioned as having ordered SI-MT Dolls for his army.
    • Python's general lore and Day in the Limelight episode shout out the Metal Gear series at least twice:
      • His design team voted on what to name him, pooling together a variety of snake-themed names (with the sole exception of "Fischer"). When one of the design team's clients asked what the deal was with the name ideas, one of the designers told him that it was to pay homage to "a certain video game".
      • His ultimate skill is flat out named Snake Eater.
    • Magnhilda's chassis code is SSC-MGLBX001.
    • During the White Day event, Betty shows up to the Oasis's command center wearing a cardboard box on her head head and a larger one that goes down to her shins, claiming that Croque told her that it's the perfect outfit to win the Professor's affection with. Considering Croque is a Humongous Mecha Otaku, this may very well be a shout-out to the Cardboard Box Gundam meme, with the only differences being the presence of the head box and nothing being written on the larger box.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Two skill trees are accessible from the stage select and are governed by Macrogame resources. One of them unlocks battle perks (e.g. increased Function Card deck size, Diggcoin multipliers, negating certain harmful Geo Effects) and is upgraded through an exclusive resource found through "Endless Exploration" dungeons. The other skill tree is more general-use, granting incremental stat increases to different classes of Dolls (e.g. Guard defense, Warrior ATK, etc.). Experience points for this skill tree are earned based on how many Dolls of a particular class are fielded and how much stamina the player burns on any given mission.
  • Support Power: The Professor can equip three skills that can be activated during battle, each of which has two upgradeable variants.
  • Technobabble: Downplayed. Various gameplay and lore concepts are named after computer science terms, but they're not slapped on without rhyme or reason. The writers make a token effort to have the in-game and real terms relate at least a little bit. For example, Operands in the PNC universe are conceptually similar to mathematical operands, and Hashrate is loosely based off of hashing functions.
  • Tower Defense: A handful of stages in Chapter 6 shift the gameplay over to this style, with many of the established gameplay rules getting completely changed. Dolls now cost Cache Coins to deploy and don't move from their initial spot, and enemies follow fixed paths in single-file lines towards specific tiles that the player has to defend. Instead of earning Cache Coins between battles, the player has a constant Cache Coin income during battle, with certain Function Cards capable of altering this income.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Copley is a privately-owned Sector which resembles a pleasant beach resort. Its stated purpose is for "marine ecological research", but in reality it's set up to nurture and monitor an Entropic Agent called Demiurge, deep beneath a system of underground caverns. The Sector Administrator, Tamalen, was subverted to facilitate this.
  • Unstable Equilibrium:
    • To prevent battles from dragging on too long, a Battlefield Overload occurs, giving escalating bonuses to attack power and penalties to healing for all units in the field. Both of these values increase over time, so the side with greater offense will win eventually.
    • Most Neutral Protocols give passive effects of this nature, either affecting both sides (e.g. more damage on any unit with less than 50% health) or a Discard and Draw passive (e.g. increased allied damage for the first 10 seconds of battle, decreased damage afterwards).
  • Variable Mix:
    • With the exception of the Action Prologue, every Sector has a set of three background music tracks that seamlessly transition to one another depending on whether the player's looking at the map, in battle, or challenging an Advanced Battle or Output Terminal (boss) node.
    • The nighttime versions of the Headquarters and Oasis themes and the stage select theme all transition to one another when the player switches between these menus.
    • The battle theme for Copley's beachfront area has a very subtle bit-crushing effect applied to the ocean waves heard throughout the song when the Exiles are fighting the Entropics.
  • Video Game Delegation Penalty: Planning Mode makes a return from GFL, but saddled with way more drawbacks than its counterpart.
    • Secret Path nodes are never accounted for in map pathing. Even if the player manually adjusts the planned path, they still can't make use of these nodes.
    • The game always chooses Function Cards that give the highest percent increase to the team's combat power, even if that card doesn't make much sense for the team's composition.
    • The Professor's Tactical Skills are often used suboptimally during battle.
    • Save for certain material farming dungeons, the game never makes use of the team's Ultimate Skills.
  • Weather-Control Machine:
    • The Oasis has one, which controls the day/night cycle as well. The game will simulate the length of day according to the location you input, so if you set the location to be in Antarctica, the sun will never set or rise depending on the solstice.
    • The Copley sector's weather machine becomes a plot point late into Chapter 6. The Professor orders Persicaria and De Lacey to hack into it to summon a torrential downpour in order to wash away Demiurge's low-order Entropics and the Alien Kudzu they leave behind.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Because Magrasea is an extremely powerful network of quantum supercomputers, it can simulate time at a much quicker pace than the real world. Something that passes for hours or days inside the server may only take seconds in real time.

Alternative Title(s): Girls Frontline Project Neural Cloud