Title: Digimon World -
Platform: PS4, PSVita
Reviewed on: PS4
Players: Single player, Multiplayer Versus
Written by Whistler 15th February 2017
This is my final writings before I lose my sanity; do I have enough food for my partners today, how many victories did I need for Greymon’s digivolution, and where was that Digimon that upgrades the gym?
Those who dare read on heed my warning.
Digimon World: Next Order is not a game, it’s a bloody commitment disguised as a highly enjoyable stat management JRPG with nostalgic elements.
Next Order sees you play as male or female protagonist, Takuto and Shiki, who are suddenly transported to the digital world upon touching their digivices one seemingly normal day. Turns out the Digimon World is in need of your help as you and other chosen teenagers with great hair, have been drawn together to help rebuild the city of Flotia after a surge of Machinedramon that have been going on rampages across the world.
Now it’s up to you and the other digidestined to bring back Flotia’s scattered citizens, restore the city to its former glory and solve the mystery behind the Machinedramon plague whilst training your digital duo of Digimon partners.
It must be said though that while there’s decent intrigue set up initially, Digimon World: Next Order’s story is woefully short and rather clumsily written compared to the likes of 2016’s Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth.
Now in fairness the two are from considerably different subseries, those in the west should note Next Order is offering a very different experience, but even then it doesn’t detract from the tacked on storyline.
Voice Acting also somewhat plays a part in the poor story. There’s plenty of recognizable English voice actors and for the most part it is a passable performance, and yet there are far too many lines that are phoned in and some characters are just outright awful to listen to entirely. An English dub is certainly appreciated though (a complaint that was made for Cyber Sleuth) and should it not be to your liking you can simply swap back to the original dub.
While Cyber Sleuth was a fairly straight forward turn based JRPG, Next Order is a far more demanding game with a steep learning curve despite a decent tutorial to give you the basics. As the title would suggest Digimon World’s rather unique set up can be traced back to the first entry on the Playstation. Digimon World: Next Order is first and foremost, a stat management game that sees you spending a considerable amount of time in Flotia’s gym as you put your partners through the ringer.
You see unlike Pokemon or similar monster collecting JRPGs, your digital critters won’t evolve simply by battling enough foes to accrue the required amount of exp. Instead each Digimon has multiple paths it can take to digivolve into various stronger forms and to do so they’ll need to have achieve a handful of prerequisite stat milestones. The exact milestones required varies and range from attributes such as strength, wisdom and speed whilst also managing their weight, ‘training failures’, discipline rating and victories.
With having to manage two partners at once this can overwhelm newcomers as you juggle various elements including your Bond rating between your partners, their age and outside elements that benefit or hinder their growth.
Milestones are also hidden and only unlocked after a seemingly unknown amount of training or battles to reveal random stats needed to help plan out your training sessions. This can and will become incredibly frustrating throughout your playthrough with Next Order as progress can often feel stilted thanks to the abundance of arbitrary waiting times.
This is supposed to promote trying out different digivolution paths (especially when coupled with certain skills that boost a newly discovered digivolution’s stats) but too often does it result in your efforts effectively reset upon your Digimon’s life expiration date. You’ll notice your partners' age at a considerable pace as well, dying after roughly 20 ingame days where they’ll be reborn as baby’s again albeit with a portion of inherited stats. This does mean the climb back to a suitable level gets theoretically easier with each generation but it often felt like a lot of time was wasted if you didn’t achieve better stats by the end of a generation’s life cycle.
There are methods to alleviate these frustrations thankfully.
While I would normally object to lowering any game’s base difficulty setting, here I almost wholeheartedly recommend it. Where you would expect easy to typically lower enemy health or damage numbers, here they only seem to change the stats gained from training. It can still take a fair bit, especially when evolving from Champion to Ultimate or Mega levels, but being able to get sufficient levels of training done in a shorter time span allows you plenty of time to actually enjoy exploring the Digital World. Training stats also become far more manageable as you progress in the game via accomplishing the main objectives and enticing Digimon to take up residence in the city.
The main draw to exploring the world is to discover new potential residents, each with their own mini quest-
Finding recruits or figuring out how to accomplish their quests can be tedious however and often demands an obnoxious amount of backtracking through the large yet few barren landscapes as a result of the PSVita’s limitations.
Some citizens don’t even really feel all that worth recruiting or require you to invest far too much time into upgrading structures to get their true worth.
Next Order also introduces resource gathering and building upgrades as a mechanic where you’ll need to find materials outside the city to then improve your shops and other locales.
Even after completing the main story and sinking 50+ hours into the game I’ve barely upgraded so much as a quarter of the available buildings. Sadly finding the materials is incredibly time consuming which is then further hampered by the time required for your builders to complete the upgrades.
Much like on the PSX, combat is still a mostly hands off affair as your Digimon battle in real time, however you’re now able to direct them on the fly and can spend Order Points unleash special moves while negating their MP costs. Initially battles are far more engaging as you manage other aspects while still being able to enjoy the spectacles and removes the unfair feeling that was abundant in the first entry of the series. That being said the combat formula rarely changes with little to no additions or variations to keep the tougher fights interesting. There are some highlights though, my favourite moment in particular was watching as I miscalculated the power of my foe and desperately tried to keep my partners alive long enough to unleash their final moves. Just as I gave up hope and my MegaKabuterimon dropped to the floor suddenly Aoi Eir’s fantastic “Accentier” played as my Digimon in a last attempt, EXE Digivolved into Imperialdramon and we pulled a miraculous victory.
The biggest issue Next Order fails to address from it’s predecessor however is the lack of cluing the player into which zones are appropriate to explore at any given level. Too often would I see my Champion level Digimons plaster Ultimate and above enemies to then get sent home crying fighting a Rookie or similarly leveled enemy. Since you can technically explore any of the branching paths from the city you’ll likely find yourself stumped as to where you’re supposed to be going. It’s a jarring experience that you’d be forgiven for save scumming fights or resorting to a walkthrough.
While aesthetically pleasing, Digimon World: Next Order suffers from the same issues as Cyber Sleuth where despite a graphical upgrade, the PS4 version noticeably struggles to shake off that PSVita coat of paint.
It’s certainly sharper and more pleasing to look at but the aforementioned barren landscapes feel sparse and uninteresting, the animations are jarringly rigid and the character models look outdated. It’s not a massive game breaker but something that’s all too recurring in Japanese PS4 titles that were previously on older platforms. It’s all the more damning when such an outdated looking title still manages to chug the framerate on ocassions coupled with loading screens aplenty.
And yet I absolutely adore Digimon World: Next Order; it’s as unfriendly to the player as it can get and demands so much time and investment but that made learning then eventually mastering it’s system all the more rewarding.
It can often feel a tad amount tedious and slow moving at times but there was something addicting about leveling up my Digimon’s stats and watching as they attained stronger forms then watching as they practically cremate previously difficult enemies. It could feel utterly heart crushing as you watch all your investment drop dead just a day away from achieving a new digivolution but then you simply wipe your tears and start another Rocky montage. Next Order feels all so reminiscent with familiar locations and remixed sound design lifted from the original that sets me back some 20 something years. Digimon World: Next Order is not without its rough edges but it’s one that sets out to achieve one thing, to give Digimon fans an updated experience akin to that unique tamagotchi fighting simulator we fell in love with. Loved back when Cartoon Network was still good and new Pokemon weren’t conceptualized with darts and a zoo colouring book that is.
Challenging yet rewarding stat management system,
Plenty of stuff to do,
Solid soundtrack and sound design,
Tons of Digimon to digivolve into.
Extremely demanding stat management,
Progress can feel arbitrary at times,
Overabundance of backtracking,
Average visuals for a PS4 title.
Digimon World: Next Order scores a 7/10.