Big thanks to Bandai-Namco for the review code of Digimon World: Next Order!
Disclaimer: Digimon World: Next Order is a port from the PS Vita, so if you are going into it expecting a new, robust adventure for the PS4, you may be disappointed. The Next order is an open world RPG where you and your 2 partner-Digimon set off to save the digital world from Machindramon. And by set off, I mean complete the same arduous tasks over and over again.
The game focuses on training your Digimon to become strong enough to defeat the enemy Digimon in each zone on the map, but it does this in the most painful way. Every Digimon fan knows that your ‘mon will evolve based on its attributes. In Digimon World: Next Order, you can raise your attributes through both defeating enemies and training in the facility in the main town. This training involves picking a stat to raise and hitting X. There is also a little slot machine type game that can give some extra points to certain stats or raise you partners bond with you. Problem is, you have to do it over and over. Your Digimon will also get tired, hungry, or have to use the bathroom (yeah, you heard me right) while the training is happening, forcing you to stop and use items. But how “super effective” is a training system interrupted by Digidumps?
The evolution system is also a little perplexing. Your “Fresh” Digimon will evolve into an “In-training” ‘mon after enough leveling. This new Digimon will have 3 different possible evolutions. What it evolves into are based on its stat thresholds. Hold on to your hats, this can get a little choppy. I will quote a list:
HP: The amount of damage you can take.
MP: Points used to perform attacks.
Strength: How much damage your Digimon do.
Stamina: Your partner’s defense means bigger stamina = less damage taken.
Wisdom: Lowers the MP needed for attacks.
These stats contribute to what your little Digimon can evolve into. Have one or a combination of these at or above a certain threshold when you level up and you will get one of three possible evolutions. Frustratingly, you never know when your Digimon will evolve. The stats needed for the desired evolution could be hidden. You can start to unlock the stats you need so you can specifically train, but it may be too late! Your partner may evolve into something you never wanted.
The other way you level is by battling. The battle system can be as amazing as it can be fussy. If you get in close proximity to an enemy at or above your Digimon’s class (Rookie, Champion, In-training) you will be attacked. This puts you in an MMA style ring where you can command you Digimon to attack using the right trigger for one partner and the left for the other. This will bring up a wheel allowing you to select the attack you would like that Digimon to perform. Attacks use up MP, which is gained back in battle by hitting the support button and cheering your fighters on. The downside is that your dudes move all over the place on their own. If they have a ranged attack, you have to wait until they are close enough for their attacks to be effective. Sometimes they will glitch out and get caught on the edge of the ring, never to move within attack range again. You will also be easily destroyed by enemies that are the same level or one above you (if you can even figure out what your level is). Once you get the hang of battle it can be enjoyable, and besting the battle system is almost as rewarding as actually beating your opponent.
However, you need to be very careful. Enemies just one level higher than you can destroy you in a matter of seconds. I was pretty sure my ‘mon were level 3 (as there is no level indicator visibly present) so I thought I’d challenge a level 4 enemy and boy was I shamed. I couldn’t even get 2 attacks off before being spanked. This seems to be a small guiding tool to stop you from entering certain areas without progressing in the story, but it can be very demoralizing. You can easily achieve the same goal by not making characters spawn until you reach certain objectives. To me, it seems like lazy development. Especially when my Digimon need to use the restroom, and the closest one is near enemies way above my pay grade. Now I lost and my ‘mon peed himself.
The menu in Next Order is an organized chaos. There is a different tab for every aspect of the game: one for you partner Digimon’s stats, their attacks, one for your map, and another for your quests. An interesting piece of the game is something called trainer points. By winning battles and completing quests you earn points that can be used in a sort of skill tree in the menu. The issue here is the menu has a billion (not literally) tabs to go through and the skill tree has over 50 skills to choose from. It is hard to start somewhere when you’re not sure what is important for your character to have so early in the game. You can pick obvious things like increased walk speed, but is that really necessary? With very little introduction, you are let loose to make choices, whether they will help you or not is hard to know. So blindly pick and have fun!
Down for the Count
Digimon World: Next Order provides a little fun. Side questing to get friendly Digimon to join your village and give you perks like food and portable toilets is a neat aspect but it is overshadowed by shoddy controls and a glitchy battle system. I know devs want their games to be rich, complex world full of mystery and intrigue, but that mystery shouldn’t be the UI and menus. Even easy evolution mechanics would help this game immensely. I shouldn’t have to have a Microsoft Excel sheet open in order to figure out an evolution pattern. I’m not Tom Hanks and this isn’t the Da Vinci Code. I know you may scream “IT’S A PORT! >.< U R DUMB!”, but this one had complexity in all the wrong parts. Problem-solving in gaming should involve the game’s basic mechanics and systems.
- Some interesting side quests
- A lot of Digimon to collect
- Insane evolution tracking
- Battle system glitches
- Endless grind
- Nagging partners