Digimon Survive was the game that managed to dethrone Stray on the day of release on the Steam sales chart. And although in general, according to the results of that week, it settled in third place, still the long-awaited (and long-suffering – the game was made and remade for a long time!) The release of Digimon Survive became a big event for fans of this famous franchise. But at the same time, the game was bombarded with negative reviews on Metacritic. Some say that this is almost the best project in the series, others call it one of the worst. Why such conflicting opinions and what kind of game is this in general?
Digimon Survive is not just for kids
Digimon is a large and significant Japanese franchise, a direct competitor to Pokémon. It all started back in 1997 with the release of virtual pets, a year later the first full-fledged video game was released, and since 1999, numerous anime series and films began, which became popular around the world. Well, let’s go – related products, toys, merch that bring billions in profits and the title of one of the main cultural and social phenomena of the zero (for Japan, anyway).
Over the years, of course, just an incredible amount of games has come out (mainly RPGs, fighting games, collectibles), but recently the flow has begun to dry up – we mainly saw online and mobile projects. The plot didn’t go well, and the development of Digimon Survive, as I said, was stalling.
But before talking about the new game, I would like to note that for many Digimon are bright childhood / teenage memories of how they watched the first series at the beginning of the 2000s. They were drawn in a sort of childish style (unlike, for example, Evangelion, which also featured children and large, robot-like monsters) and told stories that were simple at first. Kids get into digital worlds, where they meet good digital monsters who become their partners and friends (each digimon is tied to a specific child), and fight the bad ones together to save the real world.
Therefore, for many, including myself, when I was just starting to get acquainted with this world, the attitude was at the level of “For children”. But in fact, everything is far from being so simple. As digimon evolved, so did the series/movies. Of course, they didn’t reach the level of Berserk and the same Evangelion, and they didn’t intend to, but at the end of the 2020 film Digimon Adventures: The Last Evolution, I could hardly hold back tears (well, I didn’t hold back). The theme of the contradiction between the need to grow up and the desire to remain a child is shown here very strongly and emotionally. After all, as children grow up and lose their desire for development and something new, they lose contact with Digimon, and those who have become like family to them disappear.
This theme is also reflected in Digimon Survive, which to some extent looks like an evolution of typical digimon games. Here, great attention is paid to the plot, characters, emotions. At the same time, the story enters the territory of gloomy horror, which has never happened before in this series (in a similar variation, anyway). And in general, this is primarily an epic visual novel, and only then – a tactical RPG and collecting pets.
Therefore, those who, out of habit, came here for the last two things, were disappointed and began to criticize the project for having “too many letters.” There are many letters indeed. It annoyed me at first too. Yes, the characters and the story seem to be new, but everyone understands everything – it is unlikely that newcomers will look into such a game out of ignorance. The same themes, motifs, recognizable even outwardly images (the main character’s name is not Tahiti Yagami, but Takuma Momozuka, but he is very similar to his predecessor and also wears flight glasses), similar situations and even direct quotes.
A group of schoolchildren went on an excursion, got lost, got, it seems, into a parallel world where their school was abandoned, faced an unknown threat and met unprecedented animals. No one here calls them Digimon, but, I repeat, everyone understands everything and is happy to recognize the “dinosaur” Agumon.
So, when they talk about this whole interlude for a long time, and the kids with fright and big eyes scream 20 times: “God, who or what is this?”, “Are we in a parallel world?”, “What, are they talking ?” – of course, it’s annoying. But the further, the more interesting it becomes. It’s more interesting from the point of view of not the novelty of the script, but the sometimes shocking and not at all childish consequences our decisions can lead to.
So, communicating with one of the characters more or less, taking sides in disputes, and so on, we strengthen or do not strengthen the connection with him. And this directly affects who of them will die or not die. The story also depends on the formation of Takuma’s character – our actions and answers in the dialogues are reflected in the indicators of spirit, anger and harmony. Considering that all the characters, despite the anime cliches, turned out to be interesting in their own way, any death, of course, causes shock and realization of how much this game has evolved compared to typical “digimons”.
Yes, the moments of exploration, where we are forced to use the phone’s camera or the cursor to look for active points that will lead to advancement in the plot or to the discovery of a new consumable / piece of equipment, seem simple and monotonous, but there is nothing completely seditious here either – typical for quests and adventurous exercise.
Need to fight? So fight…on hardcore in Digimon Survive
Another thing is that many came here for a different genre. But also as a tactical RPG, Digimon Survive is competent. In battles, the height difference is taken into account, attacks from the back or from the flank deal more damage. Before the battle, you can arrange the characters. Pets gain levels, learn skills, you can hang crystals on them that give bonuses to characteristics or, for example, allow you to accumulate more experience.
Both friend and foe have indicators of resistance to the elements, and all the participants in the battles are correlated with each other according to the classical principle “Rock, paper, scissors”. The lack of a wide choice of classes, which can be changed almost on the fly, which is typical for Japanese tactical RPGs, is compensated by the abundance of pets and their evolution system, which allows them to take on different forms.
In addition, here, as in the Shin Megami Tensei series, you can communicate with monsters right in battle and, with the help of the right remarks, lure them to your side, replenishing the piggy bank with new pets. Also, the guys with whom Digimon are connected can cheer them up during battles, which increases their characteristics or heals.
Yes, there are fewer battles than dialogues, and the enemies do not resist at first. But, firstly, the developers initially talked about a hybrid of a visual novel and a tactical RPG, and secondly, no one forbids initially playing on the highest difficulty – believe me, somewhere from the ninth chapter, the evening will cease to be languid.
Digimon Survive is a game for the fans, but nevertheless it was not afraid to offer changes that many fans did not like. Perhaps they simply did not understand the very idea of growing up, which was so emotionally shown in the film “Digimon Adventure: The Last Evolution”. The authors, according to her logic, just remain the same children who still have potential, because they want and are ready to develop, strive for something new – which means that Digimon are still with them.
Pros: a fascinating story where our actions and decisions affect a lot; bright characters; interesting tactical battles (at high difficulty levels); the game looks and sounds great.
Cons: some dialogues and scenes are drawn out; too low difficulty in the first third of the campaign.
Questions about this game:
Digimon Survive is an upcoming role-playing video game developed by Witchcraft and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The game follows a group of teenagers who get lost in a mysterious world and must work with their Digimon partners to find their way back home. The gameplay features turn-based battles and a branching story with multiple endings, influenced by the player’s choices throughout the game. Digimon Survive is set to release on multiple platforms, including PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.
The developer of Digimon Survive is a Japanese video game company called Witchcraft. The company was founded in 2014 and has developed several games, mostly visual novels and simulation games, for various platforms, including Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC. Digimon Survive is Witchcraft’s biggest project to date, and it marks the company’s first foray into the world of action-packed RPGs. Witchcraft has collaborated with Bandai Namco Entertainment to develop the game, which is based on the popular Digimon franchise.