Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Review – Not Enough Grass
Once upon a time a mysterious and stupid young man was attending a magical gathering of like-minded fellows when, on camera in front of thousands, he proclaimed that Digimon was the greatest PlayStation game in history. That stupid young man wasn’t mysterious, he was me, and the magical gathering was the launch of the PlayStation 4 event which I attended as a VIP and when asked during an interview on camera, I said Digimon on the PlayStation was the greatest game in history. In the time since that moment I have been the target of abuse from friends, colleagues, Twitch viewers and family members – so it’s understandable that I was hoping and praying that Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth would be such a fantastic game that it may help pacify the abuse at least a little.
To be clear, the original Digimon games on the PlayStation were epic but asked the same question again when not under the influence of alcohol or plopped in front of a camera incredibly awkwardly, I would probably answer different.
Typically in games ending with “mon” my primary goal is to get into the meat of the game. Get into the combat as quickly as possible and worry about the story later. Although my goal, it wasn’t quite as easy in Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth. The story is piled on thick, at just about every opportunity possible there’s a flood of dialogue aimed at immersing players deep into the story as the digital and real worlds clash.
Here at Gamers Heroes we typically avoid diving deep into story elements in our reviews, primarily to avoid spoilers for anyone still looking to pick up the game. It usually works fine but occasionally there’s a game that’s more story than anything else, a book within a game with enough written content to fill a shelf in the local library. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is one of those games. It follows a similar path to previous entries in the digital franchise as the world of humans has once again clashed with the digital world, leaving the protagonist to exhaust every effort possible to separate the worlds and allow Digimon and humans to be at peace. In terms of the main driving elements of the story Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is arguably one of the greatest entries in the franchise’s long video-game history but the overall experience is hindered severely by ridiculously long-winded dialogue and lack of depth filler. It was probably a combination of my addiction to combat and craving to push to the higher tier Digimon that made the story feel so forced but for those with a little patience, it offers a fantastic window into the world of Digimon and the supporting background story.
Although the opportunities to seriously grind out levels felt few and far between when compared to the story segments of the game, the combat system is flawless and provides a familiar yet exciting entry for fans of the turn-based variety. There’s also a neat little auto-combat feature that automates the entire combat process, giving me just enough time to nip to the kitchen to grab another Monster. Sadly however, despite the strong combat elements the lackluster variety in environments and general linear exploration options meant that the want to grind out levels was quickly replaced by the need to push through the story with the hopes of reaching greener pastures. And I mean that literally.
I understand the game is set in a digital space but does that mean almost every combat area should be a digital shade of blue with floating data and single path progression? I don’t think I actually saw grass and trees in a natural combat environment until 80% way through the game, and even then this was a fleeting moment. The digital setting of Digimon allows for practically any environment you can conjure to fit perfectly with the story and provide huge levels of variety but that was avoided in favor of having players revisit the same areas 30 hours of game time apart.
The raising, Digivolving and overall micro-management of the Digimon in Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is easily one of the games most impressive elements but as I mentioned previously, it was all too often forced to take a back seat to drawn out storytelling and lengthy plot scenes. For those with the patience however the mechanics surrounding the growing of your party and nurturing of future potential are both in-depth and rewarding. The training isn’t quite as hands-on as some of the older entries in the franchise but that’s not necessarily a bad change. Leaving your Digimon to increase certain stats or complete basic tasks at the DigiFarm while you’re off putting time into the more meaner looking Digimon on your team – because let’s face it, nobody picks a Digimon for their abilities right?
Having a few gap years in my experience within the Digimon franchise probably meant I wasn’t as fluid in digital data as much as some of you, so I often relied on notepad to jot down certain things about the Digimon I was focusing on. Progressing towards end game you’re challenged with ensuring Digimon have specific stats in order to DigiVolve to Digimon of the Mega variety but other elements such as ABI and CAM play a factor. These are basically a Digimon’s experience with DigiVolving and the length of time spent with you in combat.
This often meant I was de-DigiVolving high level Ultimates back to lower forms to increase ABI and improve CAM. Quite the simple task when you’re focusing on a single Digimon but when you have 10-15 that you want to DigiVolve to Mega level, and each can de-DigiVolve into several different Digimon and then DigiVolve once again into yet more Digimon, trying to make sure I knew exactly what was planned for each Digimon at any specific moment in time was one of the biggest driving forces in the game.
Sure, it could be a bit of a headache at times but it was the depth and difficulty of the micro-management that made the outcome so satisfying and rewarding. Even if my highest stat Digimon was accidentally left in the form of something that ate digital feces for fun and entertainment.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth really does have all the ingredients to be the fantastic game I so hoped it would be, it was just the arranging and delivery of these ingredients that left it falling a little short in areas. Better pacing with the story, more opportunities to explore off the beaten path and a more user-friendly questing feature would have gone a long way but it’s still a game worthy of your time as a Digimon fan.