Digimon Survive Review

Digimon Survive Review (PS4) – A Dark Digivolution

Launching as part of the 25th anniversary of the first Digimon anime, Digimon Survive is meant to be a celebration of the series with a dark twist. Instead of retelling the original story in a new way, like the 2020 reboot Digimon Adventure, it follows a different group of high schoolers who during summer camp inadvertently enter a creepier, foggier version of the Digital World. As a visual novel with tactical RPG gameplay, the game includes branching storylines, possibilities of character deaths, and satisfactory grid-based combat. However, the plot suffers from extra padding and an unusually stiff Karma system, while the gameplay and presentation are diminished by a no-frills, bare-bones approach. Our Digimon Survive review awaits you below.

The Digital World takes a dark turn

By taking a more realistic spin on what it would actually be like for a bunch of students to be unceremoniously thrown into a parallel world, Digimon Survive challenges the happy-go-lucky romp that the original anime tells. Being thrust into a dangerous place full of monsters with no food or supplies and no ability to communicate with your family or the police would be a traumatic experience for most people, let alone teenagers who thought they were going to have fun on a field trip. Then some other monsters literally come out of the woodwork, speaking human language and saying they’re friends for whatever reason. Some people would steel their resolve and trust these strange and powerful beasts, especially after seeing them use their powers to defend their human partners, but it’s understandable for others to be distressed and overwhelmed by the entire situation.

Also serving as an undercurrent to the story’s harrowing tone is the core theme of a discomforting but real practice in history: the ritual sacrifice of children to appease the gods. It’s a heavy topic, especially for a series known for cute, cuddly monsters. But if there ever was an opposite to human-Digimon partner bonds, this would be it. The scariest part is that, unlike the real world where this practice is considered pointless by today’s standards, it apparently works here: Sacrificing children sustains this warped version of the Digital World. It’s still heinous of course, no matter the justification, but it serves as a reason for why the antagonists seek to capture the teenagers.

Digimon Survive Review

Karma undone

The darker tone and theme allow the plot to open the possibility of some students meeting terrible fates. I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that the game goes out of its way to make saving them tough. To be clear, it’s not difficult to do in terms of gameplay, as it only requires you to raise your affinity level with them early enough by talking to them frequently and picking the dialogue choices that make them happy. It’s difficult because of their behavior, to be intentionally vague. It’s one thing to be stressed out and terrified, as that’s part of the point for this game, but it’s something else entirely to take that out on other people and Digimon. Besides, since affinity levels are tied to how far your friends’ partner Digimon can evolve, it’s easy to give other members of the team more attention.

This is partly because, similar to Danganronpa, the game flips between sections for exploration and sections for free actions with a limited number of moves. There aren’t enough actions to make everyone’s affinity level high by the end, so there’s pressure to focus on a few friends and ignore the others. Otherwise, the plot twists from the middle to the end of the game are largely telegraphed or obvious if you’re familiar with any of the Digimon animes. Some parts of the story can also drag their feet for too long, especially one section in the waterway.

As far as dialogue choices are concerned, the game has a Karma system that is interesting but ultimately clumsy. Certain options will lead the story down one of three paths: Harmony (friendly), Wrathfulness (aggressive), and Moral (just). But while Karma has an impact on the evolution of Agumon, your character’s partner Digimon, and will decide which ending you’ll receive, it is terribly forced. You’ll frequently be given dialogue prompts with three choices, all color coded and obvious to the point that there’s no tension. Whatever you choose has no real impact on the immediate scene, and by the first few chapters you will know which Karma path you want, so these decisions quickly lack a point.

Digimon Survive Review

Tried and true combat system

While the story mechanics are hit or miss, the tactical combat is solid given its simplicity. If you’ve played Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea, you’ll have more than enough experience to breeze through most fights on the normal difficulty setting, which you can adjust at the start of a battle. Each Digimon can move once, attack or use an item once, and talk once if it’s a partner Digimon. You’ll need to keep in mind some of the typical systems in the genre, like terrain height, attack range and area of effect, elemental strengths and weaknesses, and directional positioning for side/back attacks and flanking.

Combat doesn’t get too much more complicated than that. Character progression is very generous as well, with Digimon frequently leveling once after every battle. Talking in battle can get you stat boosts or persuade a free Digimon on your team after a few correct responses. And you’re going to need free Digimon on your team as there are many points in the game where your friends’ partner Digimon are locked out. If you fail to win over a Digimon you want, you can easily restart a battle for another shot or enter another free battle at your leisure. Treasure chests on the map are usually placed out of the way, so you’ll need to think about whether it’s worth sending someone there. You can also set the battle speed to x3 in case watching the same Digimon evolutions and attacks becomes too tedious.

That said, the system is rather basic and has room for more depth compared to other TRPGs. There is a good idea with skill crystals, which give Digimon additional attacks in their moveset. But a Digimon can only equip up to two crystals at a time and stat-boosting ones usually take priority, notably stamina and skill potency crystals that can sometimes double a Digimon’s HP or SP. If there were a way to earn more equipment slots or combine crystals together, it would have added a needed layer of strategy for builds. The game could also have included any vendor that can buy, sell, or trade items to make items less static.

Last but not least, you can replay the game over again in New Game Plus, giving you a chance to save any characters you couldn’t before. Apart from affinity levels and Karma, this carries almost everything over, including your inventory and full roster of Digimon. It also unlocks optional Mugen Recollection battles for extra items and challenges.

Digimon Survive Review: Final Verdict

Though not as successful as Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, Digimon Survive has the workings of a cult classic mainly for Digimon fans. The story, despite a few insufferable characters, explores a darker reinterpretation of the original series to its favor, and the combat system is executed moderately well for as simple as it is. The game’s art style and music have its moments too from composer Tomoki Miyoshi and artist Uichi Ukumo. However, many plot points drag on longer than necessary, the Karma system is forced, and the UI is lackluster. Developer Hyde has a spark of a good idea here, but it might not last long enough to merit a sequel.

  • An interesting, original reinterpretation of Digimon with dark themes
  • Good use of visual novel system
  • TRPG combat is simple but it works well
  • New Game Plus adds replayability
  • A few characters are insufferable
  • Several plot points belabor the point
  • Karma system is overly forced
  • Low number of equipment slots limit builds