QooApp was invited to Bandai Namco’s Hong Kong office to try out some of their upcoming titles, one of them being the new tactical RPG, Digimon Survive on the PS5. The demo showed off a 10-minute section of the story during the middle of the game, and a single combat encounter with over 17 Digimon to try out.
I went into the game knowing nothing, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is a TRPG. While it doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the genre, Digimon Survive still has a good amount to offer for fans of the TRPG genre, and Digmon fans with its clean execution of mechanics, and faithfulness to the series.
Digmon Survive releases on Nintendo Switch, PS4,PS5 Xbox One, Xbox X|S and PC on July 28.
*The images we captured from the preview were taken from the Traditional Chinese version of the game.
▍Digimon Survive’s Story
I got a brief look at around 10 minutes of Digimon Survive’s story during this press demo. Bandai Namco doesn’t want us to show you the exact dialogue in the story, so the images below will have their text blurred out, but here’s a short run-down of the part that I was able to experience. Mini-Spoilers ahead.
Digimon Survive’s demo started partway into the game, with Takuma, Minoru, Aoi, Ryo, and their Digimon stumbling across an abandoned school building. A fairly cliche “haunted school” trope, but with the gang being inside of a new digital world, anything could happen.
The gang travels around the school, looking for signs of a strange noise they keep hearing until they eventually come up on Ryo and his Kunemon, after a brief exchange, Takuma takes out his cellphone, which is able to reveal digital anomalies surrounding them, and discovers that the room they were in is entirely covered in giant cobwebs.
During this exchange you could talk to each of the members individually, getting some more insight about the situation and affecting their mood based on the tone you take with them After speaking to every member, you head outside and the scenery changes from day to night, and as the gang leave the room and Aoi is suddenly attacked, and as Takuma turns around, he sees..!
This section of Digimon Survive’s story was pretty cliche, but it’s hard to say how much of the story will be like this, and since it takes place in a brand new digital world separate from the main series, the story probably will veer off into more original territory.
The addition of using a smartphone to reveal the world is a pretty neat touch, as it helps modernize the series and gives players today something to relate to the character with. We see things digitally through our phones every day, and for something like that to literally be used to reveal things in a digital world is fitting, and leaves you wondering what else could be hidden, and why hide it in the first place.
▍Simple, and Engaging TRPG Combat
As someone who played through the Disgaea series, Fire Emblem Three Houses, etc, I was curious to see if Digimon Survive could bring something new to the table, or if at least it was able to execute on the same fun aspects of those titles.
In terms of being a TRPG, Digimon Survive is definitely on the tamer side, with battle animations not quite as flashy as those in Super Robot Wars, or as bombastic as Disgaea, but the amount of mechanics and variables you have to account for make Digimon Survive’s combat pretty refreshing.
■ Enemies can act in between your Digimon
In Digimon Survive, allied and enemy Digimons take turns between an action order. This means instead of having a single turn dedicated to moving all your Digimon at once you have to move one Digimon at a time, and possibly have the enemy take the next turn.
At first, this felt a little jarring as I was used to the systems in Fire Emblem where you and the enemy take turns deciding the flow of the battle, but this certainly wasn’t an unwelcome change. Now with so many elements on the field moving independently I had to account for so many things that could happen in a battle. Maybe a unit far off to the side would have been targeted for an attack but they’re moving last, or a dangerous enemy could be defeated quickly but the current unit was too far.
I do like that they implemented this with an attack advantage system. At the end of each Digimon’s turn, you can position them to face the enemy. If a Digimon gets hit from the side, or from behind they’ll take bonus damage, potentially killing them from an otherwise weak hit. This works both ways though, so it adds for even more strategy because you can now more effectively lure enemies in out of position, while also having to be careful of your own.
This also kind of eliminates the tactic of positioning all your units just out of their range before attacking the enemy all at once, which was kind of an easy way to cheese difficult scenarios in other titles. I’m sure there are still many ways you can implement a similar strategy, though with units taking turns it just won’t be as effective.
■ A Digimon’s Relationship with its Master is key!
One of the most important aspects of the Digimon series is the relationship between a Digimon and its master, and Digimon Survive incorporates that even in combat. The Digimon from the main cast is associated with their master, giving them the option to talk to them in the middle of battle, buffing their stats tremendously by hyping them up.
While it does seem like it gives the starter Digimon a huge advantage over the recruited ones, keep in mind the buffs are very brief and can only be used once a stage, and since the starter Digimon can’t cover all elemental types, your recruited Leomon is still going to be a force to be reckoned with.
While it’s probably not going to make or break battles, it will prove useful in clutch situations. It also helps make the relationships between the main cast more believable and brought me back to watching early Digimon and seeing Taichi and Agumon work together.
■ Conversations with other Digimon make sense
Speaking of recruiting Digimon, It wouldn’t really be a Digimon game if you were stuck to only a few of the 1000s of Digimon the series has to offer, and Digimon Survive delivers on that front with its recruiting system.
If you’ve played Shin Megami Tensei you’ll be pretty familiar with this system. During battle, you can have certain Digimon talk to others on the field. Pick the right choices based on the context, and you can recruit them to your party, peacefully subduing them and adding another Digimon to your repertoire!
Fail and the enemy Digimon will be riled up, buffing their stats. I honestly didn’t find this to be a big deal since talking to another Digimon doesn’t take up a turn, meaning if you really wanted to play it safe, you could always weaken them a little, talk to them, and finish them off if it fails. At worst they get slightly harder to kill, and at best you get a free Digimon, and another turn so it’s always worth going for.
■ Attacks are flashy enough
As much as I love tactical RPGs, one of the weird issues these games can have is their attack animations are a little too long, or just not flashy enough. You want the right balance between the two since the game’s combat doesn’t need you to do a whole lot mechanically but also want it to be fairly quick since you’ll be doing it a lot.
Digimon Survive’s attacks during my play time ran a pretty good balance. Most attacks lasted at most six seconds, which isn’t that long. Also being able to hold the X button to make the animation go faster during a move, lets you decide on the spot if you want to watch the whole thing, or just skip it, instead of only being committed to one or the other.
Maybe later on in the game you will get even flashier attacks, and since they’ll come much later in the game, I’m sure the new animations will be more welcomed than spurned.
■ Camera is a little clunky
One thing I’m not a fan of is the game’s camera. Maybe because I haven’t played a TRPG in a while, but I found the camera work in Digimon Survive to be a little clunky, mostly because I couldn’t find the option to pan the camera up, only options for zooming in and out. This makes it hard to select, or move Digimon behind certain areas, which isn’t something you want to deal with during play.
Without the option to pan the camera up, I found myself constantly having to rotate and shift the camera slightly to know where exactly my Digimon could move. I’m sure I somehow either missed the buttons for doing so, or this is something that you can work your way past as you play the game. But at the time of the demo, it definitely felt clunky enough to hamper the experience a little.
▍How’s Digimon Survive at a Glance?
After going into Digimon Survive with no knowledge of the game, I was pleasantly surprised. From a fairly engaging premise that left me wanting more, to the fairly polished TRPG gameplay And with so many Digivolutions you can transform into just during battle, Digimon Survive is shaping up to be a pretty solid tactical RPG for Digimon fans, and fans of the genre.
If you’ve been itching for something like Disgaea, Fire Emblem, or Final Fantasy Tactics, or are just a fan of Digimon, Digimon Survive is worth a shot. If you haven’t been into the series or this genre too much, this game could be a good entry point into the genre for you.
Digmon Survive will be released worldwide on July 28, for the Nintendo Switch, PS4 Xbox One, and PC on July 28, with compatibility available for PS5, and Xbox Series X|S.