Anyone that grew up in the 90’s will remember the virtual pet craze. Made famous in particular by the Tamagotchi brand, the toys required players to take care of their own little pet including feeding it, playing with it, and cleaning up its poop. The craze saw the birth of Digimon, which later evolved into an anime and manga series. Digimon World: Next Order has more in common with the 90’s toy line than one might expect, offering a different experience than last year’s Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth.
Digimon World: Next Order starts with the familiar story of high school student Takuto (or Shiki depending on your gender selection) being transported into the Digimon World. It’s here they discover WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon battling a rampaging Machinedramon. The pair approach Takuto, acting like they have known him for years and seeking his aid in defeating Machinedramon. After a few quick tutorials the dark Digimon is defeated and the duo, having exhausted all their power, revert to a DigiEgg digivolution. Takuto is then tasked with investigating the mysterious Machinedramon attack and assisting with restoring normalcy to a nearby village.
After the introduction you’re given the choice of selecting two Digimon partners to accompany you. The Digimon are initially only babies, and the idea is that with some training they will digivolve to a later stage. There are several partners on offer, with most being featured heavily in the anime such as the baby forms of Agumon, Wormmon, and Gabumon. It’s fun to mix and match teams to suit your taste.
The main focus of Digimon World: Next Order isn’t on combat, but rather raising your Digimon partners. There’s a gym you can go to to level up your partner’s stats including HP, Speed, Attack Power, Dodge ability and Wisdom. Leveling up is as simple as a few button presses, but you need to ensure your partners don’t deplete their stamina while training. You also have to manage your partners’ hunger by feeding them, and also take them to the toilet to relieve their bladders. Eventually your partners will digivolve to more powerful forms, though again the game does a poor job of explaining which stats will actually trigger the digivolution – it’s left to a combination of luck and trial and error.
Combat is semi-self contained. When exploring areas you will encounter enemy Digimon that, when touched, will initiate a battle. Digimon will fight autonomously while you spectate, but you can issue commands to help direct the tide of battle. These are limited by the amount of Order Points each partner has, but can be restored by cheering from the sidelines. Health restoration items can also be thrown to partners mid-battle. Battle commands range from unleashing attacks to changing up tactics, though there are some minor hindrances with the system. When ordering an attack for example, if your partner isn’t close enough to the enemy they will just blindly attack while out of range instead of moving in closer. It just doesn’t feel as tight as it could be, but overall it’s easy to grasp and is accessible to players of all skill levels.
There are some deeper systems at play including your Digimon’s overall happiness, discipline and personality traits. A Digimon who has been disciplined more will naturally be better in combat, while a happier Digimon will likely share a greater bond with you and your other partner. A greater bond means they will start battles with more Order Points. It can take some time to get your head around the different traits and observe their greater impact, especially if you’re a newbie, but those who invest the time and effort will be rewarded.
One of your main goals in Digimon World: Next Order is to encourage Digimon to return to the local village following the attack by Machinedramon. This normally requires completing side quests such as gathering items, defeating an opposing Digimon or simply just talking. As the Digimon return the village it will expand and offer more items and options to the player. For example, when Patamon returns to the village he will open up a storage area for items. Tanemon will provide free meat as a food item once every in-game day. Some side quests will require a bit of backtracking which can get repetitive, but it’s also fun to see and help out the colourful Digimon that fans have grown to love over the years.
In essence, the game is almost a modern take on the original Digimon toy line, however, it’s a doubled edged sword due to repetition. In particular your partners require toilet breaks and meals very frequently just like the original toy line, but in a videogame this hurts the overall pace and can get frustrating. Also once your Digimon age or if you don’t take good care of them, they will die and you will need to select a new Digimon partner that must be retrained from scratch. It’s unnecessary grinding and feels like a cheap way of extending the game’s lifespan. It’s really going to come down to if you enjoy micromanagement RPGs, because if you’re looking for something a bit more action oriented then Digimon World: Next Order simply isn’t for you.
Visually the game looks like a 3D version of the anime. As with most anime-inspired titles, the vibrant colours help recreate the feel of the Digimon franchise and will instantly appeal to fans. However, environments can look a bit bland at times and the PS4 hardware definitely isn’t being pushed to its limits. There’s also no memorable music, and the voice acting is average at best.
Digimon World: Next Order will instantly appeal to Digimon fans, particularly those who enjoy micromanaging the health and well-being of their Digimon. Just like the 90’s toy line, the game focuses on training your Digimon and ensuring they are happy. The combat system is fairly self contained and accessible to all ages, with only minimal input required by the player. Be warned though that this is a very repetitive game and you will only get the most from it if you’re prepared to invest a lot of time and learn the finer art of digivolution.
- Accessible combat system - Modernised version of the 90's Digimon "virtual pet" toy
- Repetitive gameplay - Lack of reference guide to digivolutions