Fans of the Digimon world will likely enjoy this offering the most. However, this is a slower grind of a game, one that will not appeal to everyone. However, despite the very slow learning curve here, Digimon World: Next Order offers some real depth that I found myself sinking a ton of time into - and I was enjoying it more often than not.
Digimon World: Next Order is a very different kind of Digimon title than the "Cyber Sleuth" title that came out last year. Whereas Sleuth is a more traditional pet battler RPG game, Next Order is more of a management / simulation game.With these being the two most recent Digimon releases, I thought it was important to understand that these two games are really nothing alike. Instead of an RPG with a storyline to follow, Next Order is more interested in helping you farm and develop your critters.
In terms of the story, your character finds himself falling into the digital world with the requisite anime visuals and somewhat ambiguous narrative devices along the way. One of those is the mysterious ability to control two digital critters at once, not just one. This is an interesting concept that has you managing the development of two different Digimon in an effort to balance them and also accentuate their strengths while ideally minimizing their weaknesses.
As a tamer, there is a strangely roguelike quality to the gameplay as your Digimon age and eventually perish before being born once again as eggs that keep some of the stats and power found in the original critter. This egg is then used to help you start the cycle of raising and developing the relationship with your Digimon and is the primary progression loop for strengthening your characters. All in all, I like the cycle - it almost reminds me a little of a loot cycle from games like Diablo where you are seeking incremental improvements while you are at the mercy of random stats along the way. Of course, these random elements can be frustrating as well.
Digimon World: Next Order is not an easy game - if you are new to the series I strongly recommend going easy first as there is a steep learning curve here. Additionally, progress can be somewhat haphazard. Just think - you might get a shiny new Digimon with some nicely improved stats who happens to have an inherent weakness to the critters you need to fight to progress the storyline. Additionally, combat largely has you spectating as the critters do what they want most of the time. You have some very limited ability to influence those decisions now and again, but frankly your Digimon are often somewhat stupid and don't use good strategy. It helps that unique attacks carry over, and that your tamer does not lose their level each time either. As such, the carrot dangling in front of you to encourage progress remains firmly in place, and once I got through the growing pains initially, the progression loop was one I found myself enjoying a great deal.
All of this can make for a pretty rocky first impression. That being said, the more time you spend with Next Order, the more you can appreciate some of the nuanced progression that takes place. Flotia is your hub location and it's fun to watch it grow over time. Many of your decisions along the way have an impact on how your Digimon grow and develop. Of course, there are some pacing concerns as you sometimes feel as though you spend more time feeding the little jerks than you do actually advancing the game. Early on, it stings when your Digimon dies, but then you start to see it as part of the bigger cycle of improvement and while it can start to feel a little heartless, you learn to move on pretty quickly - almost looking forward to it
The overall presentation is a solid one, with simple but colorful visuals that certainly don't make full use out of the PlayStation 4's hardware capabilities, but still has a fun anime aesthetic that is complimented by generally upbeat music that fits quite well. That being said, this game was originally developed for the Vita, and that architecture shows. Everything runs smoothly enough, but it looks more like a PS3 title than a typical PS4 one.
Digimon World: Next Order is an interesting, unique title. However, it has some serious pacing issues in the early going, and I suspect that may turn many gamers off as they struggle to find their footing. I admit that I found myself frustrated several times in the early going, but stuck with it and was absolutely glad that I did so as the later exploration and Digimon development was quite enjoyable.
Bandai Namco Games
Provided by Publisher
Article by Nick