Open world survival games at this point just makes me groan. The concept was interesting at first, but more often than not now, these games are borderline frustrating rather than enjoyable. Digimon World: Next Order is no different. It is ultimately a disappointing follow up to the original Digimon World (the sequels to Digimon World were so insanely different I don't lump them together) and a poor attempt to bring it back on the coattails of Cyber Sleuth. Just like the Digimon anime series, you get a good one. The next one will suck and then the one after will be good again. Since Cyber Sleuth was good, Next Order is pretty awful. Next is the Cyber Sleuth sequel which I am looking forward to much more.
The story of Digimon World: Next Order follows either a male or female character depending on your pick. It does not really matter. Basically, you are one of the champions some years ago where you received a Digivice. Turns out everyone who received one suddenly gets called to the Digital World. It is here that we discover there are Machinedramon wrecking havoc on everything. Eventually, you discover that the other champion, who goes by Shoma and is possessed by some kind of evil is the one responsible for everything that is going on. Basically he has something called the Advanced Realm Plan where he wants to force every Digimon to Digivolve into their Ultimate form to create a new world (I think the translator goofed here). His parter is Omegamon Zwart Alter-B or something like that. It's basically a Black Omegamon, but the name of it has changed over the series. Upon his defeat, he confesses to his crimes and a reset button is pushed to fix everything that he did. Shoma is then purified of his evil and everyone lives happily in the Digital World.
The graphics of the game is passable. It has a smooth cartoony quality that I enjoy over insane detail. There are some nice touches to the digital world like floating fragments. The Digimon are the best part. Even though some are simple recolors, there are over 200 of them and still provides for as much variety as a typical Pokemon game. Every Digimon has a super attack that has a nice cut in graphic as well. Basic attacks are pretty bad and there is an awful lack of a lot of things in the open world though and that ultimately makes it seem less impressive.
The game focuses on having two Digimon partners instead of one. They are born fresh out of eggs at the beginning of the game. The tutorial is nice to teach you most of the things, but some features like ExE (basically fusion) is not available except under very specific circumstances. You raise them, train them, and use them to help you discover what is going on with all the Machinedramon in the story. You are free to proceed at your own pace though some things are gated behind the story and certain regions of the game will not be unlocked until the story requires you to go there
The main thing to do in battle is time your character's cheer to build up enough points for your Digimon to activate their special abilities that will help you win. A good timing can earn 4 or 5 times as many points as a badly timed one. Most special attacks take 150 points in battle and you will rarely see it being used because it is likely that one group will easily kill the other. Either you one shot your enemy or your enemy one shots you. For the most part, your Digimon will battle on their own, leaving you with more of a watcher role. You can literally stand back and watch them fight most of the time.
The biggest problem in the game is maintaining the health of a Digimon. A Digimon has things like happiness, fatigue, weight, bond, battle wins, and disicpline. They can also get sick and get injured, which further creates frustration. Digimon get hungry a lot and it becomes difficult to maintain their diet until you unlock Veemon and additional fields to grow extra food. If you fail to meet feeding and bathroom, the Digimon get sick and the cure is an insanely expensive 2500 for a CHANCE to heal sickness. If you battle below a certain amount of health, your Digimon just gets injured and you have to get bandages for it. You also need to carry things like Portable Bathrooms for your Digimon. With only 20 item slots to begin with, there's very little you can do. To make matters worse, Ultimate and Mega level Digimon require an insane amount of food to feed them. Meramon's restaurant helps, but it is insanely expensive for how little Bits you get per battle (you get like 100 per battle when his food costs like 1500). The sad part is failing to meet any of these requirements causes the Digimon to spam emoticons and screams at your face every three seconds or so. You will spend most of the game struggling to just make it work.
There are also the six basic stats of HP, MP, strength, speed, wisdom, and stamina. Right from the beginning there are more than a dozen stats you need to micromanage to trigger evolutions. Digivolution is triggered once enough of the conditions are met. Because of this, you have to be careful and plan ahead otherwise you will get an evolution you probably do not want. A lot of requirements for Mega Digimon will not be able to be met until you max out your gym equipment and go through several generations of rebirths. This makes it difficult to get the exact Digimon you want. You're basically going to need multiple pages of spreadsheets to plan if you want specific Digimon. If you screw up, you better hope you have an old save from a few hours back to redo your Digimon's stats and let's not even talk about how luck factors into your training with higher difficulties cutting your training results even further. You also have to unlock the requirements to know what your Digimon needs. The game does not tell you unless your Digimon talk to you after battle, then you unlock one requirement at a time.
Then there's the absurd difficulty spikes. Just because two Digimon are of the same level does not mean their stats are similar. There are level 20+ Gabumon easier than a Level 7 Garurumon. The first major enemy is a Machinedramon that appears near the end of Chapter 1, but when you encounter it, it will basically three shot each of your Digimon unless you've gone through many rebirths already or you have the perfect type match up and knew about it ahead of time and then basically make your Digimon Mega level already. This makes the game insanely grindy where you have to basically wait for a Digimon to die so you can retrain it. You do get a big stat boost, but it also means you have to grind your Digimon all over again. The higher growth does little to improve the acceptability of having to constantly wait for your Digimon to undergo rebirth and waiting for them to reach Ultimate or above in order to continue the story. Expect to have to retrain your Digimon every 4 hours or so of play time.
A big problem is when your Digimon are not at the same evolution level because each evolution level is something like a difference of a few hundred stat points across all stats. The number grows as your Tamer levels up and gets more passives that boosts the evolution bonuses. When your Digimon die, you basically need both to die at once so that they can at least fight other Digimon together instead of watching one of your Digimon kill the enemy in one hit while they can kill one of yours in one hit. The lack of control over Digivolution makes it an awful experience.
The camera is also pretty bad. Even with the markers it can be hard to spot items you can pick up on the ground. The poor draw distance only makes it that much worse. Digimon will have double exclamation marks on their heads when you are near something you can gather and question marks when you are near recruitable characters or story related NPCs. Yet, even when you rotate your camera, you will not see the highlighted spot.
A lot of Digimon recruitment ends up in simple fetch quests or a fetch quest plus a short battle. It was interesting at first, but then they start making you recruit more if you want to make progress in your story. They also purposely make the items available two maps back in a place you probably alrady visited.
Final Score: 3/10
The death and rebirth of Digimon is a okay concept, but ultimately, the game gives the player very little control. Combat is almost entirely automated. The lack of control over evolution makes it all the more frustrating. While the world feels great, its execution is flawed by all the micromanagement necessary to take care of two Digimon. The survival aspect of the game ultimate makes the game even worse. The needless spam of your comrades only makes it all the more annoying and pretty much intolerable to the point where I just played the game muted most of the time. If you really want to play a Digimon game, go either Dusk/Dawn for the DS or Cybersleuth for the Vita/PS4. Those are a significantly more enjoyable experience. The survival aspects of the game just suck out any joy of the game and severely limit your ability to enjoy the openness of the game.