You know you’ve gotten a bit too attached to characters when you start talking to them out loud, right? I hardly stopped talking to my partners in Digimon World: Next Order, which easily took my affection to the next level. There was a parental pride in the partners that I raised. How could I not egg them on during battles, celebrate their victories, and mourn each time that they died?
Everything began with my chosen protagonist, Shiki, getting warped into the Digital world. After narrowly escaping death by Machinedramon, Shiki finds herself in the abandoned town of Floatia. Its leader, Jijimon, explains that he’ll help her return to her world if she brings back all the missing residents of the town. Oh, and if she can also solve the problem of the Machinedramon attacks, that would be great, too.
The focus of Next Order is on spending time with your Digimon, rather than making progress in the plot. I was basically dealing with an RPG Tamagotchi where I had two partners to look after. My choices in stat training, battling and care, then determined their happiness, lifespan and how they would digivolve.
I’ve got to say, I genuinely felt confused after reading all of the tutorials here. I ended up just kind of guessing my way through and hoping for the best. It turned out that this was an omen for my entire playthrough. From battles, and new features, to making any sort of progress, everything starts off as a huge, overwhelming task. Yet, the longer you play, the more the game tries to help you out.
Increasing stats is just a matter of heading to the training hall and choosing how you want your partners to grow. In between training, my Digimon would often make it clear if they wanted attention. Attending to their demands of wanting food, sleep, or the toilet, boosted their happiness, as well as their bond with me as a trainer. These were all basic actions, yet brought about a genuine connection between me and my partners. At one point I even caught myself asking, “Now do you guys need to go toilet before we leave, or are you good to go?”
After managing to successfully digivolve twice, I deemed my little guys worthy of going out into the world. It was a great cause of excitement for us. Not only did it mean a change of scenery, but a chance to see how our training was going to pay off in battle.
For better or worse, combat in Next Order mainly plays out by itself. However, it is possible to give items and change tactics (which enemy to focus on and how much MP to use). Giving Support also gives each partner Order Points that you can then spend on choosing an attack for an individual to use, or getting them join together for a powerful combo. While that makes it sound like you’ll have a lot of control, Order Points take a long time to build up. Battle was normally over, or my Digimon already defeated, by the time I had enough.
Since you can’t really help much, tough fights are usually a case of running away or waiting for the inevitable defeat. The average enemy is actually pretty strong, meaning my only option was often to spend a boring amount of time at the training hall. The other problem was that since every Digimon had an element it associated with, I sometimes found myself with a serious type disadvantage. When this happened I had to wait for my companions to digivolve into a more useful type before having a proper chance at continuing my journey.
Around 8 hours in, it happened; my beloved Garudamon died, and I was forced to watch his lifeless corpse fade into pixels. He turned back into an egg, with the only thing left of my former partner being a portion of his stats. I tried to stay focused on the positives; the thrill of getting a new partner, element type, move sets, and all the many Digimon forms that I could discover. Also, my second partner Lillymon was still alive so she could help my new baby with training and…she died the next day.
Not only did I have to get on par with the power level it had taken me 8 hours to get to, but I needed to surpass it by quite a bit to beat the boss I was stuck on. It’s the kicker with this genre of Digimon games, as they force you to repeat the same cycle over and over. Progress in Next Order is essentially a slow grind of getting new Digimon and hoping they’ll surpass the last ones before they also pass away.
In the sadness that came from my Digimon’s passing, I distracted myself with the side-mission of finding the residents of Floatia. These friendly Digimon were scattered all over the place and each came with their own side-quest. They would then bring a new benefit to the town, which could be a new shop, daily item, or facility upgrade. I loved the feeling of being rewarded for all my efforts with helpful content.
Like everything else in Next Order, though, many of these extras take an age to become fully functional. I was over the moon when I found the Digimon who’d let me quick travel until I discovered that he’d only fly me to two places. If I wanted more, I’d first have to fulfil enough quests to upgrade the town, then gather enough materials to improve that specific shop. Every small thing was a grind for success.
Digimon World: Next Order is very much a title for fans. There is certainly a real joy to be gained through the Digimon partnerships. However, grinding, repetition, and slow progress is the name of the game here, which has a poor impact on its charm. Those with a lot of time and patience will be rewarded for their efforts, but newcomers are unlikely to stick it out for long enough to see all that Digimon World: Next Order has to offer.
This review is based off a PlayStation 4 copy of the game, which we were provided with.
Digimon World: Next Order makes it difficult for newcomers to get invested through repetitive grinding and a very slow pace. Despite this, fans can still savour the heart-warming pride of raising two Digimon friends.