Review code graciously provided by PQube Games. This will have no bearing on my review, opinion or recommendation. My opinion is based on my experience with the Xbox One version of the game.
Ever since the dual launch of Pokemon Red and Blue way back in 1996, gamers young and old; far and wide, have been enamoured with the ‘Monster Taming’ sub-genre of (J)RPGs. There has always been something magical about finding whacky new travelling companions, training them up and watching them evolve into even crazier versions of themselves. Many have tried to capture this formula (pun intended), but few have managed to attract a following quite like Pokemon. That hasn’t stopped Nexomon: Extinction from trying, however.
You play as a customisably-named, customisably-faced young go-getter who has graduated from their Orphanage with an A+ in age. After conversing with a bunch of people you will never see again – and a few that you will – you set off to find your first Nexomon. So far, so textbook. Just as you’re about to get into your tried and tested starter-mon stride, you are visited by a ghost, attacked by a dragon, forcibly given a Nexomon, pushed into battling the aforementioned dragon, defeated and given a brief tutorial by the spirit of a long-dead, yet modernly dressed, ghost-tamer. Quite the introduction indeed.
Things calm down pretty quickly after this, and you are given some basic instructions and let loose on the world of Nexomon. Sure there is a world-wide crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen, a giant war between city-destroying Nexomon known as Tyrants and it seems pretty evident by the way some NPC’s talk, that you may be apart of the end-times, but for the most part, you will just be trundling along your merry way doing the usual Monster Taming stuff you’ve come to expect by this point.
The core of Nexomon: Extinction is it’s battle and trap system. As you wander the world you will see your fair share of suspiciously long grass. Within these mysterious shrubs, you will find wild Nexomon, ready to be beaten to near death and forced into your eternal servitude – probably via science. Battles are turn-based, with each turn consisting of one action. Actions are typically attacks, but also includes using items, swapping Nexomon mid-battle, and even running away if things go awry.
Each Nexomon has a type, which comes with inherent strengths and weaknesses against other types of Nexomon. Throwing a water attack onto a fire-crab is probably a good idea, whilst setting fire to that same crab, probably won’t get you anywhere anytime soon. It’s an intricate game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’, only there are significantly more options to your disposal.
Nexomon also boasts a stamina gauge, which is one of its most interesting and unique features. Each move a Nexomon uses costs Stamina (enemies included!). Stronger, or more complex moves typically cost more to use, meaning your ‘mon won’t be able to stay in the fight for very long. Of course, if you use a weaker move that costs less Stamina, it may take more hits to defeat an enemy, resulting in your Nexomon taking more Health damage. It is an interesting balancing act and one that adds a surprising amount of thought to each battle.
In addition to this, the battles themselves are surprisingly difficult, with most forcing you to expend a significant amount of resources to overcome. In battles with multiple Nexomon – typically battles with other Tamers, you could potentially expend the majority of your team, forcing a swift retreat to the nearest medic. This is where Nexomon drops the ball, unfortunately. Battles are long, arduous affairs that force you to fall back and heal constantly. It quickly descends into tedium, and the developers were well aware of this, as they scattered ‘healing rocks’ in most areas to limit backtracking. This is a bandage over an obvious problem, and it doesn’t take away that feeling of monotony.
Gameplay only goes downhill from here. Capturing Nexomon is a chore in and of itself. Once you have weakened a Nexomon enough, you can attempt a cunning capture by whipping out a trap and throwing it at their noggin. If all goes well, you got yourself a new Nexomon. If it goes badly, well, you have to try again. Traps have an incredibly low chance of succeeding, typically dancing around the 20%-30% mark during the early game, meaning you are going to watch your target break out constantly. A failed catch results in a free attack by the enemy, further adding to the annoyance.
To get around this niggling issue, you can feed Nexomon various foods, which will raise the capture chance. Each Nexomon has a food preference, meaning you want to have a pretty hefty supply of meals if you want to get the best catch chance. The catch? Feeding Nexomon uses up your turn, once again meaning you’re going to take a beating before you can attempt to catch again. Like combat in general, the act of catching these buggers wore on me incredibly quickly and I ultimately decided to stop trying. I found my team of cool looking, elementally-diverse Nexomon and stuck with them for most of the game.
RPGs are notorious for forcing players to grind to progress, with the best ones hiding that grind or limiting it to end-game content. Not Nexomon. Due to Nexomon’s high difficulty (or irritating levels…), when it comes to fighting bosses, you will be slapped around something silly if you don’t prepare. This means levelling up your party of six and gathering as much money as you can find to pick up curatives. These bursts of grinding lasted about half an hour, which isn’t exactly bad, but when a game is already tediously slow, slapping on an extra layer doesn’t do it any favours, that’s for sure.
So what makes Nexomon worth playing? The story and dialogue. Nexomon’s story is a mixture of super-serious, world-ending plot and fourth wall breaking quips. It’s interesting and genuinely quite funny. The game is chock full of side quests too, which results in even more interactions, meaning more humour being dispensed in your general direction. Whenever the game got a bit too monotonous, it managed to pull me back in for a little while longer with a quick jibe.
The world itself is also surprisingly large, with very little into the way of hand-holding or roadblocking. From the moment you get your first Nexomon, you can choose to ignore the story and go in several different directions. This resulted in a bunch of cool Nexomon, items and quests that can easily be missed if you are under the wrong assumption you have to obey every command given to you. It’s a surprising, and refreshing change of pace.
Graphically Nexomon looks pretty good. Colours are bright, the world is varied and the Nexomon you encounter are wonderfully designed, easily matching the quality of its competitors. This isn’t carried over to the music, which is woefully underwhelming with every track being an unfortunate mix of repetitive and forgettable.
Nexomon: Extinction has potential. It adds a bunch of features and systems that help it stand out from the crowd and its world is expansive. The game falls apart when battles start, however, and since that is the core of the experience, well, that doesn’t bode well. The game doesn’t have the chops to stand toe-to-toe with its monolithic counterpart, but this is a halfway decent attempt. If you’re dying for more Monster Taming action, then this might satisfy that itch, but otherwise, this ends up being a miss for me.
Toasty Seal Of Disapproval
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