Digimon has typically played second fiddle to Pokemon in the mainstream, but the Digimon franchise has always been distinctly different across its various mediums. In the realm of gaming, the Digimon World franchise has been the most well known of the bunch. More than eight years after the last game in that specific series was released in the US, Bandai Namco has now localized a new Digimon game for the second year in a row with Digimon World: Next Order.
Last year’s Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth featured a surprisingly deep story that included a gameplay system akin to the Persona series. Some people may be expecting something similar coming into Digimon World: Next Order just because they are the same brand, but they really couldn’t be more different.
Unlike Cyber Sleuth, Digimon World: Next Order features a more traditional setting, as you get to choose between a male or female lead that picks up their Digivice for the first time in awhile. Upon doing this, you will be sucked into the Digital World in the midst of a battle between a raging Machinedramon and your two partner Digimon WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon. During a very basic tutorial sequence, you will be introduced to the gameplay and the setup for the game’s plot.
Machinedramon is too much for your two Digimon, even with the introduction of the game’s fusion mechanic, and you end up at Jijimon’s house in the village of Floatia. This is where you find out that many Machinedramon have been running rampant across the digital world, which has led to the Digimon of Floatia being dispersed all over the Digital World. Your goal then becomes traveling around and recruiting these various Digimon to return to the village, therefore raising the Prosperity level of Floatia, while also taking down the countless evil Digimon in your path. The overall story is definitely a callback to the earlier era of Digimon, and though it is not as captivating as the plot of Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, it will be enough to keep you invested most of the time.
Instead of relying on a really strong story in Digimon World: Next Order, the actual raising of your Digimon is what will keep you coming back again and again. While your partners are destroyed by Machinedramon in the opening battle, the good news is your two partner Digimon have been reborn as Digi-eggs. This allows you to personally choose two partner Digimon, which is a first for the Digimon World series.
Regardless of which Digimon you choose, each one can grow stronger and digivolve into a variety of different Digimon. Their first digivolution into the In-Training level is always the same Digimon for that specific egg, but moving forward from there involves a very complicated system that will require a lot of trial and error.
In the town of Floatia, there is a specific area you can visit to train your Digimon. By using a computer in the building, you can choose to train both or just one of your Digimon in categories like HP, MP, strength, speed, and wisdom. You have to be careful though, as doing too much training will lead to fatigue for your Digimon. Thankfully, you can rest to recover a little of your stamina and such in that same building.
It is also vital to keep your Digimon well fed, with certain Digimon preferring specific types of food. Dating back to even the original Tomagotchi like Digimon Virtual Pets, your Digimon will also need to use the bathroom, which can be done either through actual bathrooms located throughout the game’s map, including one in the training house, or through the use of Portable Toilet items.
The raising of the Digimon is the core element of Digimon World: Next Order first and foremost, and depending on their digivolution level, there will be a certain number of possible Digimon that they can digivolve into, with each having specific conditions. Some of these are pretty simple, such as requiring certain health or strength stats, but there are other requirements like weight and the number of training mistakes allowed that can lead you to getting a different Digimon.
Very rewarding when you get the exact Digimon you want
From the start, you will have no idea what Digimon that you can even digivolve into, but you can gradually unlock information about what specific stats you will need through communication with your Digimon, such as praising them after a good training session. The deeper you get into the game, you will much more in control of digivolutions, but it can be pretty disheartening to get a Digimon you didn’t want in the early parts of the game.
While you can take great care of your Digimon and may even get lucky with your first digivolutions, just like past entries in the series, your Digimon will eventually die. You can take great care of your Digimon, such as feeding them correctly and making sure they use the bathroom when they need, but they will eventually die from old age. Like the beginning of the game, they will be reborn though, allowing you to pick another Digi-egg that will hold better base stats than the one before. This is a constant process throughout the game that may be annoying to some, but it can feel very rewarding when you get the exact Digimon you want over time as well. Certain Digimon you recruit to your village can help affect these, which adds another level of depth to digivolution as a whole.
While the raising of your Digimon is very detailed and satisfying, the game’s combat system leaves a little to be desired. Very different from the turn-based approach found in Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, Digimon World: Next Order features a more real-time action battle system. By running into a Digimon in the overworld, a battle ring will form where your two Digimon will face off against the varying number of enemies. Rather than having you always deciding what moves they will use, you must instead set battle tactics that will range from going all out with MP attacks or utilizing a more balanced approach. You can give commands if you have enough support power to do so, with your Digimon starting with higher numbers as a result of a better connection with its tamer, but it still feels more hands off than it should be.
As you travel around the overworld itself that is split between numerous different locales of ranging scope and size, you will find various Digimon and items scattered throughout them. The game has its ongoing story, but there is plenty of other sidequests and battles that can be found as well. The majority of these will revolve around the further recruitment of Digimon to your village beyond what is necessary to advance the story, as each Digimon brings something different to Floatia. One neat little touch that the game adds is that when your Digimon are weaker, the enemies on the map chase after you for a battle, but if you are higher than them, they usually try to back away instead.
The Digimon World series has always required a lot of patience and that is mostly the case again in Digimon World: Next Order. While a robust digivolution system features plenty of layers to explore while raising your partner Digimon in a very faithful follow-up to the original, the game’s lackluster battle system may hinder newcomers to the franchise from really enjoying Digimon World: Next Order.