February 22, 2023
As a child who spent most of his younger years infected with a hefty dose of Pokémania, it took a long time for me to peek over enemy lines at the Digimon games. When I finally did, I couldn’t believe what I saw. It turns out Digimon games are absolutely wild, as I discovered playing the death filled visual novel/tactics game Digimon Survive last year. Well another year means more Digimon landing on my review pile, so let’s see what wonders Digimon World: Next Order has in store shall we?
A remaster of a Playstation Vita game released in 2016, Digimon World: Next Order begins with our main character (who is a “Digidestined”) getting struck with amnesia in the middle of an epic battle. Fortunately his two partner Digimon have him covered, and go into battle with a big metal monster without his support. It doesn’t go well, and as a result the three of you end up teleporting to a village in the middle of nowhere.
Your powerful allies have taken too much punishment, and end up reverting to their egg form. Your first task is to choose the type of egg you want, be it one that hatches into a puddle of slime or a little dinosaur. Once you’ve chosen you’ll need to raise them to evolve into a stronger monster so they can help this village become prosperous again, so it’s off to the gym for the lot of you.
While you can go out and battle wild digital monsters to get stronger, it takes much longer than spending time in the gym. By picking the stats you want them to raise you’ll instantly power up your ally, and will get them closer to that all important next step in evolution. To balance this mechanic though you’ll also have to keep your partner’s mood, tiredness and toilet needs (yes you read that right) in check, which is easier said than done.
Digimon World: Next Order essentially combines a Pokémon game with a Tamagotchi, and puts a real emphasis on treating your monster right if you want to succeed. This is all well and good, but especially early on (and without a whole lot of help from the game itself) pleasing the little bastards is a nightmare. For the first few hours my Gomamon refused to eat any of the grub I offered it, and despite my constant babying and praise it detested me. This was reflected in our ability to work as a team in combat too, which wasn’t ideal.
The battles in Digimon World: Next Order are weird. Instead of having any direct control over your Digimon, they fight for themselves using vague instructions given by you. You can tell them to conserve MP, go all out or stick to something in the middle. This mainly means that your role in battle is fairly passive, but for enough command points you can tell them to use a specific move when the moment is right.
If your Digimon likes you it’ll be more willing for you to tell it what to do, but you can also accrue Order Points by cheering your little monsters on. This is done by tapping A when a meter fills, but does mean you need to pay a little attention. There are also powerful fusion moves that your team can do together when you’re really in a pickle, but really this just involves more point gathering to accomplish.
Although it might not sound like I’m too hot on Digimon World: Next Order, it does have some impressive features. Evolving your Digimon always feels good, and there are a ridiculous amount of the colourful darlings to transform your buddies into. The soundtrack and voice acting is worth praising too, because it’s all pretty fantastic.
Of all my issues with Digimon World: Next Order though, the dullness of training is definitely in the top spot. Other than trying to hit the timing on a roulette wheel for an appropriate bonus, you’re essentially just adding stats by selecting options in a menu. Recovering from tiredness is even worse, because Digimon can only rest for an hour at a time which recovers their sleepy meter by about ten percent. Talking to the friendly Digimon on the bed and skipping through the text five times in a row is beyond tedious, and just shouldn’t be such a significant part of the game.
And if you don’t train hard enough you won’t stand a chance against the ridiculously tough enemies lurking around every corner. It takes hours and hours to get your monsters strong enough to take on even basic enemies, and the grind is just too much.
Digimon World: Next Order logically combines monster raising and monster battling, but just doesn’t quite hit the mark on either. The battles aren’t involved enough, and keeping your Digimon happy is an exercise in frustration. Evolving your critters into one of hundreds of powerful monsters is always satisfying, but it just isn’t enough to make up for all the other shortcomings.
Lots of Digimon to evolve into
A great soundtrack
Combat isn't involved enough
Keeping your Digimon happy is a nightmare
Digimon World: Next Order is grindy, unintuitive and just plain dull, and no amount of exciting evolutions will change that.