I think it’s easy to forget how much of Digimon is rooted in busywork. The Digimon Vpets are all about making sure a cluster of black pixels doesn’t live in its own filth, rather than some epic narrative about becoming the very best at anything. As the brand evolved, however, Digimon became associated with more than that, like last year’s excellent Digimon Survive and its grim adventures laced with dead children.
Digimon World: Next Order, however, is a true return to basics for Digimon fans. A spritual sendup to the original Digimon World that’s just getting re released on Switch and PC, Next Order has a plot only on a technicality, and instead lives for the grind. It demands that you care for your Digimon, creating an incredibly unique RPG experience that’s absolutely worth your time if you’re thinking about tweeting how all games are the same now.
Still, the path to being that unique is paved with a lot of other sacrifices, the kind that make it a hard sell for a casual, mainstream player. How does that all pan out? Read on and find out.
Raise Your Digimon
Like I said, Digimon World: Next Order lives for the grind. Yes, you have a plot about you and your fellow children trying to save the Digital World. None of that matters. You play as a particularly unique Digimon Tamer, one given two partner Digimon instead of one. As a result, you have to deal with all the woes of a single parent as they go through their growing pains, like constantly needing to poop, discovering veganism and the worst kind of parenting issue of all: Having to bury your child.
How it works is simple: on rebirth, you get to choose what egg your Digimon becomes. These eggs have access to a pretty impressive pool of Digimon, ranging from classics like Agumon and the Greymon line to Gotsumon and his evolution tree of identical palette swaps. Each evolution has pre-requisite stats to be reached, and reaching a new stage also prolongs the lifespan of your partner Digimon. If they don’t evolve, they’ll eventually just die and you restart the process, with some stats carried over to make it easier the next go-round.
Getting these stats will consume you, since you never know what the next challenge the game throws at you is going to be. Out of reflex I prefer to only go do story things with a Champion or higher, so that means any time a Digimon is reborn the story goes on a one-week hiatus as I try to get my team back up to snuff.
It’s a flow state game in a totally opposite way to more intense titles like Rollerdrome or OlliOlli World- you take it slow, plan your schedule and begin your road to Stingmon, only to get Gotsumon. If you’re not being pelted by annoying texts, you can totally lose yourself as in-game days go by and you keep your Digimon better cared for than you or your house plants.
That does come with its biggest flaw- Digimon World Next Order is totally committed to the bit. At no point does the game suddenly pick up the pace- you will always be worried if you brought enough piddle pads for your world-rending mecha dragon in case it suddenly needs to poop. Combat itself is a really small part of the game, as even the Tamer Skills largely revolve around the minutia of the game- increasing inherited skills or resources gathered.
Speaking of the old Digimon brawl, you really need to take time and get used to Next Order’s combat. It’s very much based off the original Digimon World’s combat, wherein your Digimon partners attack on their own. You can directly command them, but at the cost of Order Points which you build by cheering.
Despite looking simple, Next Order’s combat is actually pretty difficult- you basically have to pay attention to where everyone is at any point in time, since any commands you order are done on the spot. The isometric and moving-by-default camera can make this pretty hard, but to its credit the game has longer windows for things like guarding so it’s ok to block a little early.
That being said, outside of major story encounters, combat is incredibly easy- just level your Digimon appropriately and for the most part you can be Digimon Adventure’s Machinedramon as you lay waste to hordes of Numemon.
Build Your Town
So what’s all of it for? The actual gameplay loop of Digimon World Next Order is about various NPCs, and upgrading your town. Basically, doing quests for NPCs out in the world will cause them to move into your town, increasing the prosperity level. Like a true commune, every one of these characters provides a valuable service for the community, which is going to be important to getting you to the Digimon you want.
It’s a fairly good feedback loop- train your Digimon to be strong enough to advance the story so you can unlock more NPCs, who will help you make your digimon stronger. In essence, it’s the purest Digimon game out there, just being about taking every step imaginable to look after your Digimon.
And that’s part of what makes Digimon World Next Order such a special game to me. While many games would try to add something to appeal to the mainstream, Next Order instead just constantly doubles down on its specific vision. The requirements for digivolving range from getting your stats up enough to victory numbers to even the correct number of “Training failures” (euphemism for your Digimon Digi-crapping itself). Every action you take has to be deliberately geared towards your next plan, all while the game only trickle feeds you information about how to evolve your partners.
It’s why the question of “Should you play it” is so complex. If you’re a traditional RPG fan looking for an RPG experience, it’s a hard no. Heck, Digimon as a brand has changed so much over the years that I wouldn’t even recommend half of Digimon fans play this, especially if you’re just looking for more Cyber Sleuths or something like Survive. But if your childhood consists of spending your Saturday mornings playing Digimon World, or raising your V-Pet or if you just want an RPG unlike anything else on the market, I couldn’t recommend Next Order more.
|Unilike any modern game you've played||Unlike any modern game you've played|
|Good roster of Digimon that's not just Adventure send-ups||The grind *is* the game|
|A great way to just blow hours of your life||Not the prettiest game|
Digimon World Next Order reviewed on PC. Review code provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment SEA