I’m going to start this review by saying I had no idea what was in for me when my editor asked me to cover Digimon World: Next Order. Having only played the original Digimon World on the Playstation nearly 20 years ago, I wondered if the gameplay would be similar – I’m glad to find out it was, making this an enjoyable and nostalgic experience.
The story starts out with you, the main character, being pulled in to the digital world via his or her Digivice, (a virtual pet device), and faces the final boss of the original Digimon World (DW1). After that, alongside your 2 partner Digimon (which is repeatedly stated to be an anomaly), you find out that there have been multiple Digimon causing problems and you might as well try to figure out what is going on while looking for a way back home.
You’re not the lone human in the digital world, and there are other human characters lingering around. Some act as allies, and others as catalysts for plot advancement or as villains, and the back-story is that the human characters all took part in a Digimon competition, winning a special Digivice, and therefore starting the plot of the game.
Now, to move the plot along, you are required to get more Digimon to join the city (yeah, just like DW1). As the city grows, you get more features, such as quick travel, shops, and even a coliseum. You however need to contribute to the upgrades in they city though, by the way of resources farmed while you are running around.
The map points out where these farming spots are, but you can only carry that many resources, thus making the process a grind. You also get to upgrade your trainer with skills, such as being able to heal your Digimon while roaming, retaining a percentile of trained stats, and being able to carry more farmed resources. However, underneath the Eastern RPG skin, is a Virtual Pet (V-Pet) simulator. I’ll explain what that means, as simply as I can.
First, you’ll pick 2 baby Digimon. After which you’d train them, via the town gym, until they evolve (or digivolve), then bring them out, battle other Digimon, repeat the training, battling and Digivoling, until your Digimon pass away from old age. After which they can be reborn with better stats, and maybe grow into different forms.
You can influence what they Digivolve to based on stats, weight and so on. There’s actually a lot complexity in the growth system. Oh and In case I forget to mention, just like a virtual pet, you have to feed them and bring them to the toilet to poop and let them sleep when they get tired… oh joy!
The other part of the game, besides building the city and taking care of you Digimon, is Battling. Battling is a little more hands off than other RPGS. Your Digimon partners do what they want to, and you can influence what they can do, but they cost Order Power, which you can build up in the battle; better techniques cost more order points. If your partners are of compatible types, you could also do a short-term fusion, making a more powerful Digimon for the duration of the battle. If you’ve played DW1, you’ll be familiar with how battle works, with some improvements thrown in. It’s rather nice and relaxing to be able to let battles play out automatically, although it might not be everyone’s preference.
Graphically, the game isn’t that outstanding. Digimon World: Next Order looks slightly dated, but vibrant and well-detailed and littered with servers, resistors and the like. The map is expansive and there are a plethora of environments, such as a volcano and a desert. The Digimon are well animated and the audio design is fantastic, triggering feelings of nostalgia and familiarity. Also, making different choices in raising your Digimon usually gives you different evolutions, making the game very replayable, if a little grindy.
If you enjoyed playing the original Digimon World, give this new iteration a go – it is well executed and a great throwback to DW1, and if anything, good for rekindling old gaming memories. Even if you have not played DW1, give this try – you’d be surprised at how charming the Digimon franchise is.