After many delays, Digimon Survive, developed by HYDE and published by Bandai Namco, has finally released on 29th July 2022 and is available on every major platform.
“Digimon Survive sees a brand-new group of teenagers, led by Takuma Momozuka, get lost on a school camping trip, finding them transported to a strange new world of monsters and danger.
As they fight their way back home through an animated world of difficult decisions and deadly battles, players’ choices throughout the game will impact the evolution of their monster allies, and the final ending. Battles in the game are fought in 2D, in a more classic SRPG style.”
A visually stunning novel
The visual novel-style gameplay sets Digimon Survive, which accounts for around 70% of the game. In essence, a Visual Novel is a genre of game which tells its story through interactive text that you choose the outcome of any given scenario. They also feature static characters and locations in the background, which change as the story unfolds – if the character is gasping in the text, their picture changes to represent that.
I’m typically dissatisfied with static characters used in this way as it’s a cheap albeit effective way for a game to tell a story. I’m left in awe here, as the artwork is gorgeous and is ever-changing throughout the whole adventure. In contrast, the backgrounds are serviceable but aren’t the main focal point.
Digimon Survive nails its aesthetic, in and out of combat! There are situations with more action/movement within scenes where the game moves to utilise its SRPG environments. Surprisingly, this isn’t a downgrade in any way.
There is one downside to the narrative, though. When I start a game, I want to jump right in and get to it. With Digimon Survive, the game is story-heavy, especially at the beginning. I played for a couple of hours, with only a tutorial and story. It seems they have tried to combat this with a setting to speed up the narration, but the story could have been broken up through some combat.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
The decisions which you’ll make throughout the story are going to have a significant impact on how the narrative unfolds. There are a few different mechanics, one being a Karma system which impacts the story’s outcome.
Throughout the story, you are asked to get involved in the conversation and presented with three options to choose from, which are linked with one of three types of Karma: Moral, Harmony, and Wrath.
- Moral decisions are tied to doing the right and logical thing, regardless of how hard that decision is – The colour yellow represents this.
- Harmony choices are more peaceful and passive in response, less risky – The colour green represents these.
- Wrathful decisions are generally selfish and focus on the task, regardless of the cost or risk. The colour red represents these decisions.
As you make these choices throughout the story, they’ll change and take you to a different outcome; I’ve been shocked at some of my results as I’ve played quite passively.
Interestingly, the choices you make are linked with Agumon and his evolutions, and he’s the only Digimon who is affected in this way – at least with my time with the game. It ties in beautifully with the foundation on which Digimon is built. The relationship between Digimon and their human partner shapes their evolutions.
You can build rapport with the other characters outside the Karma System. You’re given many opportunities to talk with the other characters and try to help them by boosting their confidence or just listening to their side of any given situation. Play your cards right, and your rapport will build with them, increasing your Digimons’ power during Combat.
What you would expect from a Strategy Role Playing Game
While the game is primarily a visual novel, they haven’t made any sacrifices with the combat gameplay but haven’t added much to the formula either; there’s nothing groundbreaking.
You can change the fight’s difficulty at the beginning of any battle. Then you choose your roster of Digimon who will participate in the encounter. In some battles, characters are pre-selected, and you fill out the remaining slots.
During combat, your character can talk to each other and, depending on the rapport you’ve got with them, will increase the effectiveness of the boost they receive. Interestingly, there are passive effects linked with this too mechanic too. The best example I can give of this happening is when using Agumon and setting him up to use an attack; other Digimon help by boosting his stats before he launches his ability. Or, when moving across the field, Digimon starts to heal each other. It’s fantastic when everything comes together at the right time.
Outside of your partner Digimon, you can recruit other monsters from battles. At first, I found this frustrating as you have to talk to the Digimon you want to recruit. They’ll ask you three questions. Answer enough of them correctly, and you’ll gain an opportunity to ask them to join you or give you something. If you fail these questions, the Digimon will get angry and receive a boost to one of their stats.
I’ve never felt under-prepared for any battle throughout the story. This is because there’s always an option to ‘Free Battle’. At any given time, when you’re given the opportunity to talk to other characters or investigate an area, there’s always an option to battle, and these can be repeated infinitely.
I feel like I abused this system in that by the time I came across the fight boss fight, I was 20 levels above it, and this was a recurring theme throughout my time with the game – I enjoy breaking RPGs!
Digimon Survive is nostalgia at its finest and deep enough to keep me invested as an adult.
I love turn-based combat in RPGs, but initially, this was my biggest gripe with Digimon Survive – SRPGs can be painfully slow at times, and they know it. Usually, an obvious toggle on the screen enables you to increase combat speed; this wasn’t available here. After looking around in the settings, there’s an option to increase battle speed (two times, three times, and four times speed), which has dramatically increased my enjoyment of the game, especially in the early hours of playing.
While I’ve mentioned that I’ve done a fair amount of grinding within the game, you can enable auto-battles and select the criteria for the fight. Cranking up the battle speed, enabling an All-Out style command and watching my Digimon destroy all opponents has strangely been enjoyable. The fact that the game is gorgeous helps as it feels like I’m watching an anime.
It feels as though there was a slight technical issue in Chapter 3. The audio quality changed, and everything became a little quieter. This could be the result of voice actors working during the pandemic. The quality was restored a few cutscenes later, so it didn’t impact my enjoyment but was noticeable.
The delivery of vocal lines wasn’t a big selling point for me. I’m a member of that niche community that would prefer dubbed audio. My playthrough has consisted of reading and moving on before the spoken dialogue is delivered.
With the time that I’ve spent with Digimon Survive, my honest rating is an 8/10. While I’ve enjoyed the story, I have found myself increasing the text speed and blitzing through the game to review. Some events caught me by surprise throughout the story – which I won’t go into here as it’s spoiler territory! This is a unique entry into the Digimon franchise with its visual novel-focused narrative and SRPG combat.
If a sequel were to be developed by HYDE, I would like more enthesis on combat as right now there is a 70/30 split of Narrative/Combat. Your choices throughout the game affect Agumon and his evolution, adding a layer of depth. It just feels like there is something that is missing.
This game is a visual novel, supported by SRPG gameplay. It’s because of this that it won’t appeal to everyone, but on paper, this shouldn’t appeal to me, but I have adored my time with the game.
I’m looking forward to my second playthrough on New Game +. There are multiple endings, collectables in the form of memory fragments, and a whole horde of Digimon to collect and evolve.
On a more personal note, I’ve played this on PlayStation 5. Due to the visual novel narrative, this plays perfectly on the PlayStation Vita using Remote Play. This is a fantastic addition to your Nintendo Switch or Steam Library if you’re a member of the Steam Deck community.