Digimon World: Next Order Review – A Digital Paradise
Fulfilling a legacy put in place nearly 20 years ago is no easy feat. Nostalgia often heightens expectations to unrealistic levels, and while the original Digimon World was well received by its niche fan-base, 18 years is a long wait. However, that wait is now over with the release of Bandai Namco’s Digimon World: Next Order. Is this new Digital World worth exploring, or is it as rewarding as Digivolving that Sukamon?
Digimon World: Next Order gives fans of the Digimon franchise the opportunity to dive into an entirely new Digital World, as male and female protagonists Takuto and Shiki get transported to a world wrapped in turmoil and digital darkness. The story follows an unlikely group of adolescent heroes as they battle with inner issues, all while attempting to save a world of digital monsters. Sadly, that’s about as exciting as the story gets. Digimon games have always struggled to maintain that balance of immersive narrative and rewarding mechanics, shown by the original Digimon World’s fantastic gameplay and shallow story, and the more recent Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth‘s great story-telling but poor pacing and combat. Digimon World: Next Order does manage to maintain a healthier balance between the two, with a story worth enduring, but it’s not one you’re likely to put down as one of the greats.
The real meat of Digimon World: Next Order lies in the caring and development of Digimon. It is arguably the greatest the franchise has ever seen, with rewarding and complex mechanics that make it challenging to play but incredibly satisfying to succeed. The life of any Digimon begins with a simple egg, but within that egg lies the potential to develop a companion that you will learn to love, cherish, and mourn. Yes, as with all things in life, every Digimon eventually dies and you’re forced to start anew.
However, there’s plenty to achieve between the two most defining moments of your Digimon’s life. Heavily investing time into combat and training facilities will see your Digimon develop stronger stats and eventually Digivolve into much stronger Digimon. If you’re careful enough during that process to ensure they are cared for, fed, disciplined, and taught to crap in appropriate places. Apparently taking a dump outside is considered a negative in your Digimon’s moral development – even if nobody sees you. Imagine that? Of course, you can always fail to pay attention to the minor annoyances of caring for a “living” creature and let them evolve into the infamous Nunemon or Sukamon, but I’m sure anyone that played the original has had more than enough of that – even after an 18 year wait.
The developing of the Digimon in Digimon World: Next Order is done to near perfection
Although initially I found the death mechanic to be frustrating, it eventually becomes one of the games’ most interesting elements. Spending hours raising two new Digimon before taking to the world to accomplish side quests, story missions and discovering new moves is a rewarding mechanic, leaving a large amount of playtime to enjoy the new companions before their passing. Several hours into the lives of my latest partners I often found I was more excited for how much stronger they’d become when it was time to be born again, leaving a consistent reward mechanic in place that ensures each generation is stronger and more impressive than the last.
Furthermore, deeper and more complex mechanics are available in the form of DNA Digivolution and Digivolution items. In short, it’s everything the original offered with 18 years worth of innovation and creative talent backing its reincarnation.
Having mastered the art of developing systems that support such versatile and creative ways to create new partners there’s but one element left to create the perfect Digimon game: the combat. Sadly, Bandai Namco opted to stick with one of the few features of the original I did not enjoy: the passive control combat. Unlike more recent additions to the Digimon franchise, players do not take direct control of Digimon during combat. Instead you’re left on the sidelines barking orders and hoping they listen, all the while praying they move out the way of that massive AoE blast that is sure to kill them in one hit.
More often than not, the AI isn’t intelligent enough to avoid that deadly attack, which could have been achieved via a simple sidestep. There are some alternatives, such as ordering a Digimon to defend, that provide defensive options, but it’s a lackluster element in a rather uninspired combat experience. Attacking is a little more rewarding and intricate, as timing a cheer at the appropriate time musters more Order Points for your Digimon which you can use to launch their signature attacks – even combining the signature attacks of both into a single powerful blast or performing an ExE evolution – arguably the saving grace of the combat.
The combat isn’t as easy to master, utilizing a typical turn-based combat system often seen in similar titles. Although it can be frustrating at times, it’s more of a disappointing option than a poorly executed one.
While the Digital World of Digimon World: Next Order is a little lacking in the graphical department, it more than makes up for it’s PlayStation VITA developed restrictions with a wealth of side content and rewarding exploration mechanics.
a huge city that you can upgrade and improve in more ways than I can count
Digimon World: Next Order offers a very enjoyable 60+ hours of gameplay (more with Hard Mode) with challenging mechanics and rewarding systems for caring and raising Digimon, a huge city that you can upgrade and improve in more ways than I can count and a host of features designed to reward exploration and skill in combat.
I just wish these two idiots didn’t take up 80% of the screen when I’m trying to explore the map.