Digimon Survive Review: Digivolve or Die

After numerous delays and what looks like a surprise release, Digimon Survive is finally out in the wild. Part horror visual novel and part tactical RPG, it follows a group of lost college students teleported into a world of monsters. Their goal is to figure out why they are there and escape the dangers of this unknown land with their lives.

Despite Digimon Survive’s long development period, there are still quite a few annoying bumps along the way, preventing it from reaching the heights that fans have so hoped for. Translation problems are all too common. The pace of the story is a little too slow. And the tactics-based combat is a bit too repetitive. It’s a shame because, despite these issues, Digimon Survive remains an engrossing experience.

Digimon Survive Review – Digivolve or Die

The story begins with the cast on a school camping trip to some local ruins. When a series of landslides hit and block the way to the Beast God Shrine, The Kemonogami, a local girl, Miu, offers to help. But things don’t go as planned and they are sucked into a portal to the land of digital monsters.

The Digimon world is more dangerous than in many other games. The main characters can die in the fog that sometimes covers the island, and the Digimon themselves don’t understand how their home works. To complicate matters, the main group of antagonists decided to sacrifice human children to the fog to fend it off, which is why they’re so interested in our main cast.

This adventure unfolds over a prologue followed by 12 chapters divided into three sections each: Exploration, Free Action and Linear Narrative. Exploration and free action are basically the same, although free action has a movement limit, while exploration does not. In these sections, you’ll choose from a list of places to visit with a number of unsolvable objects, such as furniture, a strange tree, or landmarks. The ultimate goal of visiting these locations is to meet other characters in the story and increase their affinity, the system Survive uses to track how much others like Takuma, the player character.

Affinity offers a list of dialogue options and increases when Takuma says what the characters appreciate. From time to time, you will make a karmic choice, a complementary system that tracks important choices and revolves around three axes: Harmony, Wrathful, Morale.

These are never as black and white as a ‘good option’ or a ‘bad option’, but more nuanced and realistic. I never chose a Wrathful answer and felt like I was a jerk or tied to a good/bad guy binary option. The fact that each choice is a different but reasonable way to handle a situation helps create a greater sense of self-expression within the system.

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Most karma choices appear in the linear story sections, which are between or after the exploration and free action segments. These usually include a set goal or destination, although sometimes you can choose between people to talk to or places to explore. In any case, you will have to visit a specific area or talk to a specific character eventually, so that they all go to one place.

The affinity system pairs particularly well with the intricacies written into the cast and adds a palpable sense of realism to Digimon Survive. As in real life, the personalities here are varied and understanding some characters is easier than others. I immediately connected with Minoru and Mio, for example, but there were other characters I never really understood – and that made it difficult to increase their affinity. Others were still in between, and I could get their answers right about half the time. These various interactions give the very tangible impression that you are interacting with real people.

Digimon Survive Review Digivolve or Die

Part of the reason personalities are so strong is because of their variety. The main cast members could have easily been standard anime archetypes in the Power of Friendship with “Never Give Up!” attitude. Refreshing, they are not. Instead, the way they think about and interact with situations is managed with nuance. When one of the cast negatively impacts the morale of the group, there is a discussion of whether they should be released to preserve the group, with each character having strong, independent opinions.

Some characters also don’t get along with their Digimon partners, which further adds to the game’s sense of authenticity. Two of the students, Ryo and Shuuji, are complete jerks to their monsters, so much so that I started to feel bad for their Digimon. They are thrown into this life or death situation attached to such hateful people. It’s something that changed the way I play the game, and I hung out with Ryo and Shuuji because I thought increasing their affinity would make them kinder to their Digimon. In the end, my efforts were in vain as all four died in my game.

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The visuals in Digimon Survive are breathtaking. The character sprites are all fantastic. Each character design is aesthetically pleasing and matches their personality. Characters are also animated for a short time as they enter the screen. It’s a nice touch even if there’s only a little of it. The characters feel more alive than in other visual novels like early Ace Attorney or GNOSIA games. The effect isn’t quite as dramatic as 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, but it’s effective and reinforces the concept that you’re playing through a Digimon anime.

The environments are just as beautiful. They are a mix of 2D sprites with polygonal structures in 3D space. The cinematography of the scenes takes full advantage of this space. The camera will deliberately swing through the story scenes as they progress. The amount of drama added to the story beats from the camerawork shows what’s possible with visual novels in a 3D space.

The orchestral soundtrack works as a complementary backing layer to what each scene is trying to convey, falling into dark tones or rising into a bombshell where necessary. No arrangement ever seems out of place. Fortunately, the music is excellent. You will hear a lot of it.

There is dubbing to fill in some gaps, but it’s not in most scenes, and it’s exclusively in Japanese. The lion’s share of the scenes are made up of text only, so you’ll only be guided by the soundtrack – the click of your buttons as you progress through the dialogue. The voice acting is wonderful, emotional and able to convey the harsh changes in a character’s psyche. Even though an English voiceover was out of budget, I would have liked to have the Japanese voiceover throughout the story.

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Despite my enthusiasm for the visual novel portion of Digimon Survive, all is not good. The translation is poor, with many grammatical errors. The sentences contain continuity errors and some dialogue does not make sense for a given situation. An optional cutscene contains an editor’s note. Need at least another proofreading pass, if not two, shocking how many stupid errors in the script.

There is another system in the Visual Novel parts of Survive being added. It’s Takuma’s phone camera. On location screens, Takuma can pull out his phone’s camera and scan the area for warped spots. Focusing the camera on this location will reveal hidden items such as training items or encounters such as battles. The game tells you where to point your camera 90% of the time. There are places that aren’t explicitly shown to the player that reveal the background knowledge of the island, which is good. That’s about it, though. The camera is never really more than another button to press.

Digimon Survive’s worst problem is its pacing. It’s incredibly slow and not always in an interesting way. Survive doesn’t believe in subtlety or trust the player to figure things out the first time. More often than I would like, the text will attempt to clarify concepts that were already clear. If a character is acting weird, Survive will make sure you notice.

Cutscene transparency isn’t the only issue; too often, Survive’s pace turns boring. In linear story sections, you’ll spend your time doing the same task in far too similar locations. There are three chapters that see Takuma running through look-alike hallways and performing the same actions, and Part 5 has an insufferably mind-numbing section where you go down several tunnels while trying to convince your teammates they’re seeing illusions – again. and even.

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I’ve avoided talking about the tactical RPG part of Digimon Survive for so long because it’s essentially an afterthought. Like most TRPGs, combat takes place on the typical grid-based battlefield where each Digimon performs moves in turn and the order is based on each character’s Speed ​​stat. Characters can attack, defend, use abilities, or use items as intended. Despite the general monotony, there are two unique twists to combat, Digivolving and the Talk feature.

Story Digimon can evolve at will during battle. Being in their evolved state has a fixed SP cost – the mana version of Survive – per turn. Any turn your units move and don’t contribute to combat is wasted SP. This adds another layer of strategy to fights that require more elements like this. There is an elemental resistance system with type perks, which would help, but it never mattered in a way where I had to learn them.

The Talk feature lets you improve Digimon’s story or recruit Wild Digimon to your party by correctly answering questions to charm Wild Digimon into loving you. Once charmed, you can either ask them to join you with a random chance of success, or give you an item.

This system is cleverly linked to the story in a very smart way. Sometimes you won’t be able to improve Digimon’s story by talking to them because their human partner was sad or angry and wouldn’t talk…

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Digimon Survive Review: Digivolve or Die

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