Friday, February 10, 2017

Digimon World: Next Order (PS4) Review

When I first got my review code for Digimon World: Next Order, I was very excited.  I'm a big Digimon nerd, and like to play the video games, as I've enjoyed most of them.  The game throws you into a tutorial battle almost immediately, and it was clear that I was going to take a bit to get used to combat.  That's fine, that comes with the territory of a new game.

After that, you get transported to Jijimon, who explains a bit of what is going on, and sets up the story.  After Cyber Sleuth, I was surprised the game was dubbed.  Next I had to choose what eggs to make my partners, and this sadly took me 10 minutes to decide (since I know most of the possible digivolution lines).  And hey, Jijimon gave me some items to start my adventure, including a portable potty.

I froze.  A chill ran down my spine.  I got flashbacks from the first Digimon World, which was heavily based off the old LCD keychain know, before they figured out how to make a game fun.  Am I going to have to take care of small children again?  Would I end up in a near endless Numemon loop?  I had a review to do, so I pressed on.

I'm glad I did.  While Next Order does have many elements that are reminiscent of the first Digimon World game, it also makes many improvements.  You are responsible for raising and training your two partner digimon.  This entails feeding them when they are hungry, letting them rest or sleep when tired, and letting them go to the bathroom when they need to go.  Feeding the digimon isn't much of an issue, since they give you some meat every day, and there is plenty of it lying around in the areas you travel to.  As you get further into the game, you can add more fields to grow plenty of meat to feed your partners.

Sleeping and resting is best done in town, but at a certain point you will get a tent that allows you to do it in the field.  Bathroom breaks are much better than they have been.  Water closets are better spaced throughout the world, and you can get at least one portable potty each day from Numemon (of course).  Even so, I don't see how doing your business behind a tree in the forest, in a dark cave, or in a volcano is really a bad thing.  I'm pretty sure pooping in lava makes you hardcore, not a slimeball.

As mentioned before, battles were different than I expected.  Instead of the more traditional turn-based battles from other entries in the series, Next Order uses a mostly auto-battle system.  Your digimon will move around and use skills automatically.  The number of skills is determined by the tamer skills you purchase, and more attack skills can be learned by battling other digimon.  You can order them to do specific things, but these take Order Points, which are gained during battle when you press the X Button for support.

Depending on how well you time the press, your digimon will gain more OP for you to tell them what to do.  This is also how they use their signature skills and guard themselves from enemy attacks.  It's arguably the best thing you can use your OP for, since one tamer skill drops damage received during a guard to zero.  Once I figured out that the digimon will fight by themselves and I was their to offer a few directions and tell them when to guard, I was much more successful at battling.

Just stop saying "machine-dray-mon"

When not wandering around the fields, your partners are likely training to raise their stats.  On the surface, it's really easy to figure out what to do.  There are machines for each stat, and using one will increase that stat the most, and give a small bonus to two others.  However, there is a bonus chance after selecting the training, which will increase your gains.  This isn't explained very well, but basically there are different bonuses you can get to your training, and landing the bonus chance on any of them will give the bonus (none give more than the others) to both partners.  Here's one more tip: play the game on the 'easy' setting.  Doing so doubles your stat gains from training and gives you more money.  There is no downside to it either, it just saves you a lot of time!

The flow of the game is one area that I didn't like.  You basically get some story, have to go to a specific location, return, recruit digimon to your town, rinse and repeat.  The part that can take the longest is recruiting digimon.  I like doing so, as many add new or useful functions and upgrades to the town, but it can be a real buzzkill when you have to make sure you are strong enough to get to where they are, and complete their task/fight them.  Some stretches are fairly small, where some take hours to complete, just to get a little farther in the story.  Plus, if you take too long and you lose an ultimate or mega-level digimon, you are set back another few hours to train them back up.  I'm fine playing the game, but it really feels stretched thin to have big chunks of it boil down to "go find new citizens".

There are a few other gripes I have, too.  You have to feed a digimon until it is full.  Enemies' strength is measured in levels, but yours is not.  So, you have to try fighting something to find out if you can actually beat it or not, instead of doing a quick comparison.  Yes, I know that you gain stats, not levels, but that should be true for the enemies as well.  I'd just like a rough estimate so I know if I can actually survive a new area.  Bosses and other special fights suffer from this the most, since you won't even know their level until you are in the fight.  This would be less of an issue if there was a quick way to load the game or return to the title screen.  As it stands, you have to close the application and re-launch it.  Yuck.

Several points are poorly explained.  I've already mentioned the training bonus and combat.  My wife wanted to try the game, since she likes the Digimon games as well (and likes the first Digimon World much more than I do).  Since I had a few hours experience, I told her how things worked, and she hit the ground running.  She was able to get further in a faster time frame than I did, because she had a better explanation of some things.

So is it worth playing?  If you are a fan of the first Digimon World, this is a much improved experience.  If, like me, you didn't like that one, but like the other Digimon World games, then I would still recommend this, since it is a much better attempt than the old Playstation 1 game.  Also, if you are a fan of monster raising/sim-type games, then I would also suggest you play Digimon World: Next Order.

The Good:
A much improved experience for raising a Digimon.

The Bad:
Brings back a lot of memories of the first Digimon World, and taking care of babies/children.  The game flow is uneven.

The SaHD:
Yay, Diaboromon!  Boo, only getting him after you beat the game's story.

(Review code for Digimon World: Next Order was provided by the publisher)

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