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Digimon World: Next Order
Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: B.B. Studio
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Digimon World: Next Order returns players to a massive open world environment the likes of which hasn't really been seen in a Digimon game for many years, and, quite frankly, never before to this degree.

While many other open world games can boast bigger expanses and even a larger overall world, what Digimon World presents feels very right for the franchise. Each location isn't massive, but they all have their own feel and the landscape can change drastically from one area to the next. While smoother transitions between different types of environments would feel more natural, given the sudden changes found in the cartoon series, these abrupt differences feel more appropriate in this case.

In Next Order, you will find a massive volcano with lava-filled rivers next to a desert which is itself next to a green-filled plane. You will find yourself suddenly in a murky beach by an open field or even a bustling town wrapped in perpetual night next to a castle in a rocky plateau. While the feel of each area can be vastly different than the part of the map next to it, each location does have its own feel and it is conveyed really well.

Of course, it wouldn't be Digimon without the digital monsters themselves. Each Digimon looks like their anime-counterpart and the game seems to contain almost 400 different species of the creatures and each one strikes a nostalgic chord as I am reminded of those Digimon appearing in the TV series. These Digimon combined with the small collection of humans, also well modeled, really help to fill out the world and make it feel alive.

While Next Order doesn't contain the original soundtracks, at least not for the American version of the show (I can't speak for the original Japanese release), the music it has really helps to set the mood and often turns to an appropriately upbeat style when a battle is being waged. Digimon World is also light on voice acting, but the dialogue it has gets the job done.

Like the original PS1 Digimon World from 2000, Digimon World: Next Order puts you in the role of a human brought to the Digital World in order to help solve some crisis. Where the past game gave you a specific Digimon to train and help grow, Next Order grants you two partners and a slew of Digi-Eggs to choose from. Each one will hatch into a specific In-Training level Digimon which also has a set In-Training II Digimon, but how it Digivolves after that can vary based on ... well, I never was quite sure.

Even when I advanced the game enough to be given some guidance into how my Digimon will evolve, I was never quite sure if and how I could direct my partner's training to get a specific Digimon with the next Digivolution. That being said, after reaching the In-Training II stage, you can look at the different paths your partners can take. As they train, they learn more stats and details about one of their potential Digivolutions and you can gain some insight as to what their next form will take. Presumably, you can help guide or coach them into taking a specific branch, but as I just said, I could never really get the hang of that.

If you have trouble choosing which Digi-Egg and which potential Digimon you want to get, you don't have to worry too much. Each partner has a set number of days before they will need to be reborn, and while you don't know how long that is, I've never had a Digimon last less than two in-game weeks. Eventually the Digimon will go back into a Digi-Egg and you can choose to either hatch the same egg or choose another one. The good news is, every time a Digimon is reborn, it will gain stat boosts somehow related to its previous form, so even though you will be starting off with a new In-Training Digimon, you won't find yourself having to wade through the low-level Digimon too much before you can venture back out into the more far-flung areas of the world.

The world of Next Order is pretty big, and it is littered with wild Digimon that want to fight. As you explore each area, if a Digimon that isn't of a radically lower level than your partners sees you, it will come running and insist on a fight. Interestingly enough, the Digimon fight fairly independently of the player. As the Tamer, you are there primarily for support and you can give some limited direction, but the decision of how to fight is all up to the A.I. that controls the Digimon (though you can decide how aggressive you want them to be in fights). Which moves they use is all up to them. The only exception to this is the Order Points (OP) system. While in a fight, you, as the Tamer, can shout out encouragements to your partners. Each time you do, you build up Order Points which you can use as a form of MP in order to tell a particular Digimon to perform a specific move (even if they are out of their own MP). Given enough OP, you can even command them to perform their most devastating attacks and, given the right conditions, you can perform an EXE command which combines your two partners into a level beyond Mega (think of Omnimon from the original cartoon series), but this can only be done once a day, so use this ability wisely.

Your character is brought into the Digital World because a threat is looming over its inhabitants. It seems something is changing Digimon into Machinedramon and they are wreaking havoc all over the place. With your two partners in tow, you start to explore the vast world with Floatia City as your starting point. It seems that this little village used to be a big city with many Digimon living there. While out on your adventure, you will need to talk to Digimon and convince them to rejoin the city. As each one joins, new features will be available there and the city will expand. These Digimon will help with everything from upgrading buildings, providing stores, harvesting food for you to take on your journey and even training your Digimon in various ways. The problem is, each Digimon you try to convince will want something before going back. Often, this is a simple fetch quest, other times, you will need to prove that you are stronger than that Digimon and it would be safer for them to return, and while some of these side-quests can get a little annoying, there are stints in the game where the story will absolutely not progress until you've met some quota for Floatia City's population.

The good news is, the world is pretty big and if you can't find a way to convince a particular Digimon to join the city, there are always more not far away that might have easier quests to complete. The only real stumbling blocks I found with this was when my Digimon got to the end of their lives and I found myself with Rookie-level Digimon again. While they are stronger than the previous generation of Rookie Digimon I had, they still require a good bit of training before they can handle the Digimon in the areas where I was just patrolling with my Ultimate or Mega partners.

Difficulty is an odd topic in Digimon World: Next Order. Each area has Digimon of specific levels populating it and while your Digimon partners don't have exact levels associated with them, their various stats do have specific values. If a roaming Digimon feels it is significantly weaker than your partner, then it won't chase after you for a fight, but even when you feel you can handle yourself against a particular level (mainly because all of the Digimon of that level are avoiding you), you can often find a wild Digimon of that level still wanting to attack you, and those do seem to pack a bigger punch. In other words, Levels don't really mean that much, but they do give you a good idea of what type of area you would feel comfortable exploring. I know the first time I walked into MOD Cape and saw level 20-something Seadramon and Saberdramon, I turned around and left considering I just had a time battling a few level 8 DemiDevimon.

Unfortunately, this leads to some of the more tedious parts of Next Order, grinding. You can either run around facing wild Digimon which not only help your partner's stats, but also what they learn and gains the Trainer experience (more on that later), or you can go back to the city and work out in the training facility to help boost specific stats. Either way, you are going to be grinding and spending the limited time you have with this particular incarnation of your partners trying to make them stronger just so you can proceed.

This is never more painfully true than when you reach a story event, typically fighting a Machinedramon, and realizing that you aren't ready for the fight. After being defeated, you return to Floatia City, heal up and start grinding. Hopefully, you have time before your partners need to be reborn to gain enough experience to get through that fight, but I've run into cases where my Digimon were in their Ultimate or Mega levels and I couldn't win the battle. It wasn't long after that when I found myself with Rookies again and had to train them up a lot before I would even attempt the story fight again. In that case, there was a lot more grinding that felt somewhat unnecessary because of the lifespan limit placed on my partners.

Game Mechanics:
Digimon World: Next Order has some interesting takes on leveling up with respects to both the Tamer and your partners. For one, as I said above, your partners don't have discrete levels. Instead, each of their stats have values and those values increase either through battles, training or items you can give them. This makes the growth of your partners a much more organic system than the standard leveling mechanic used in most RPGs.

The Tamer, on the other hand, fits that classic style much more and since you are the one constant in your journey (what with your partners switching out every couple of weeks or so), this makes more sense for the Tamer. As you progress in the game, you will earn experience. These come from completing quests, battles, or even using some items. With each level, you gain points that you can apply to level up various skills. These range from being able to give more commands during battle, to harvesting better material, or even cooking better food while camping. You can also spend these points on becoming a better friend to your Digimon or making the Digi-Eggs give better stat boosts when the Digimon are reborn. The constant growth of the Tamer is another aspect that helps to keep you from feeling like you are essentially starting over each time your Digimon are reborn. While they aren't as strong as the Digimon that you were just running around with, your character is and continues to grow into a stronger Tamer.

There is one other aspect worth mentioning when it comes to leveling up, and that's the moves your Digimon can perform in battle. There is a grid of attacks that you will slowly fill in as you and your partners participate in battles. Once you see a move enough, it's position in the grid will be filled. Provided your partner has the ability to use that move, you can then assign it to one of its attacks. The list of known moves stays with the Tamer, so you don't lose that knowledge because your partner needs to be reborn. Interestingly enough, each Digimon (including the different levels of the same partner) will have different moves in the grid it can know, so each time you Digivolve, you will want to go into that partner's menu and reassign the attacks it can perform.

Digimon World: Next Order is an immersive game than any fan of the franchise should want to dig into. The vast open world has a lot to explore and the various RPG elements (many of which I haven't even touched on) add a lot of depth to the game. The only aspect of the game that I find myself disappointed at is the grinding, especially in the period that happens just after a partner is reborn and I have to train it up to the point where I can work my way back out into the higher level areas. Even with that aspect in mind though, Next Order is a game worth playing for any fan of the franchise.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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