Returning to Memories of Youth
When MMOs were first beginning to appear they were often aimed at players who were familiar with roleplaying games. As the market began to evolve and MMOs joined their fellow video games in the mainstream, companies began to realize that they could be crafted to appeal to many different types of people. In a world where children grow up with a cell phone in hand and access to the internet from birth, it makes sense to release games that would appeal to children. With the North American release of Digimon Masters Online, Joymax has released a game that not only appeals to children, but to Digimon fans of all ages.
Digimon Masters Online takes place in the world of the anime Digimon Savers (known as Digimon Data Squad in North America). Players take on the role of one of four premade Digimon tamers and together with their chosen Digimon are tasked with protecting both the real world as well as the digital world by the government agency DATS. For those unfamiliar with the Digimon franchise, Digimon are small animal-like creatures made of data, which live in a digital world connected to the real world. Digimon usually have combat skills and evolve into more powerful forms as they gain in strength.
Aesthetics – 7.5/10
One of the benefits of creating graphics based on the art style of an animated series is that the graphics tend to age well. Digimon from ten years ago look much the same today as they did then and in several years the characters in Digimon Masters Online will still look the same giving the game’s graphics a timeless quality. The downside to using this sort of graphical style is that the visuals are rarely top of the line for the time. In Digimon Masters Online both of these statements are true. The character designs are simplistic, but adequate, and backgrounds are vibrant. Fans of the Digimon franchise will feel at home as the Digimon are faithfully reproduced and characters from the Digimon Savers television series appear unchanged. Animations are well done, expecially some of the Digimon’s combat moves, and everything moves smoothly. While the game may never win any awards for graphics, everything fits with the game’s feel quite well.
The sound in Digimon Masters Online is a mixed bag. The sounds themselves are nothing special featuring rather generic effects. Some of the sounds, such as the evolution sound are taken directly from the television show. While the sounds are plain, the soundtrack is not. The music is catchy, featuring energetic beats that fit the game’s feel quite well. The only off-putting aspect of the music is that it almost always is upbeat even in an area that is supposedly “dark” and “scary”.
Gameplay – 7.5/10
In Digimon Masters Online, each player chooses one of the four Digimon Tamers from the Digimon Savers television show to play as a character. Choices range from the young prodigy to the wild child, but the choice is mostly visual with only small stat changes being assigned based on character. Once that choice is made, the player must select a starting Digimon as a partner. This choice is an important one as this Digimon is with the player at all times and serves as the cornerstone of your combat team. Additional Digimon can be added to a player’s roster by hatching a Digi Egg which can be received as a quest reward, cash shop item or rarely as an item drop. Tamers combine this egg with data that drops from enemies to create a rookie Digimon, which can then be leveled normally. Each Digimon can evolve into a more advanced form as they level up. These forms are more powerful, but drain the tamer’s soul points. Each form has its own skill points that are earned as it is used in combat, so active use of evolutions is necessary to train a strong Digimon.
Outside of evolutions, the combat in Digimon Masters Online is fairly simple with the usual auto attack and hotkey setup, though all commands are executed by the Digimon leaving the player character to stand around providing soul points. These soul points are constantly drained while a Digimon is in one of its evolved forms causing the player to mix and match evolutions as soul points are spent and regenerate. This adds some entertaining variety to what could otherwise become a rather boring system. Fights are fairly short and the inclusion of a myriad of quick, out of combat health regeneration foods insure that players can keep bashing enemies at a near constant pace. This comes in rather handy as kill quests abound.
In the early levels questing is a major source of money: Digi Eggs and experience as well as serving to give players a solid tutorial of most of the games main points. These missions chronicle the player’s journey to join the DATS agency and become a protector of the digital world. While this story might not win any awards, for young players and fans of the series it can be an exciting series of events. While questing is prevalent at early levels, as players rise in level the grinding of enemies becomes a more efficient way of leveling, especially as players begin leveling additional Digimon. There are daily quests spread throughout the digital world and that plus the fact that combats remains entertaining alleviate some of the sting.
Innovation – 6.0/10
It is an unfortunate fact that most video games borrow heavily from those that came before. This is especially true when it comes to MMOs. Digimon Masters Online is no different in this respect. Many of the games features such as player shops, quest based leveling and cash shops have been done before and in some cases done better. Despite this, as a game with Digimon in the title, it is unsurprising that they are the main focus of Digimon Masters Online. While other MMOs have utilized pet-based combat before, few have made pets the sole combatant. Add in the abilities of Digimon to evolve during combat and you get the one aspect that is unique to Digimon Masters Online. The Rock-Paper-Scissors interaction of Digimon types and the strengths and weaknesses of each Digimon's evolutions adds a new type of strategy that is not available in most MMOs.
Polish – 7.5/10
When bringing a game from one country to another the insuring that the translation of the game`s script is as accurate as possible is important. This is of the areas where Digimon Masters Online falls through. While the script is not the worst example of Japanese to English translation, there are several spelling mistakes and improper uses of grammar spread throughout the game. Even in the starting area, which is often the most polished part of a game, there are several errors including a rather confusing discrepancy in the gender of one of the characters who is clearly a girl, but who is referred to as being a character's brother. Translation aside, the gameplay itself is polished. There are few bugs of any real significance and the developers have, for the most part, been quick about dealing with large scale issues.
Longevity – 8/10
For fans of the Digimon franchise, the idea of fighting with and collecting the many different Digimon in Digimon Masters Online can hold a great appeal. With over fifty rookie Digimon to hatch, each of which have several evolutions, collectors can have a field day. Collecting and building a team of complementary Digimon is one of the main focuses in game and it is one that can provide entertainment for hours. Adding to this is an achievement system that contains achievements encouraging players to level each Digimon to level cap, complete quests, gather money and explore every inch of the world. Many achievements offer titles as rewards and give players a way to show off their accomplishments to others.
While Digimon Masters Online lacks an elaborate crafting system, the act of creating mercenary Digimon is an interesting system itself. By combining Digi Eggs with data found on defeated Digimon, a player can modify their mercenary Digimon, giving their new Digimon a power boost when starting out. This encourages tamers to try to make the best Digimon they can.
As mentioned before, Digimon Masters Online has little innovation in several areas and its social experience is one of these. Communication is handled similarly to most other MMOs. Chat channels exist which allow conversations between players in area, parties and amongst guild members. Guilds can be formed within game by purchasing a guild charter with in-game currency. Guilds mostly serve as a communication tool as there are few advantages beyond being able to utilize guild chat. While partying in the game is required only for the hardest of fights, the experience gained in a party can far exceed that gained solo. Digimon Masters Online contains player run shops, creating a player run economy that serves to draw the community together in city areas and create opportunities for interaction.
Value – 8.0/10
Value is always a hard category to talk about when it comes to video games. What one player values may be completely different from what another values. There are two types of players that Digimon Masters Online will likely appeal to. The first is a player who can become enthralled by the Digimon universe. Interacting with different Digimon and the characters of the television show, exploring the digital world and helping your Digimon to evolve are the focus of this game and while simplistic, it can be quite fun. The second player is the collector. There are hundreds of Digimon forms to evolve and collect and dozens of achievements to accomplish. For a free to play game, that is a lot of content to explore and experience. For players looking for a more robust game, Digimon Masters Online may fall short with its rather basic combat and lack of activities outside of battle. Regardless, the game is free to try and is a relatively small download and if these aspects appeal to you, it is worth giving it a try.
No matter how elaborate a review is, there is one thing that numbers can never really convey and that is whether a game is fun. The simple fact is that Digimon Masters Online is a fun game. It’s not perfect and it has a few obvious flaws, but the game is entertaining. For a child making their first foray into the digital world or for a long-time fan returning to the memories of youth there is nothing quite like watching your Digimon evolve for the first time. For gamers looking for a hard core experience or a huge world with a myriad of things to do, this is not the game for you. However, if the idea of collecting small cute creatures and making them battle to evolve them into big awesome creatures appeals to you, then you should strap on your digivice because the digital world needs you.