I wasn’t ready for my first proper Nexomon battle, and I have no issue admitting it. I’ve played creature-collecting games before. I’m well versed in the likes of Pokemon. I know about types and abilities and turn speeds. I’m also used to games like this holding your hand a little in the early stages, feeding you easy opponents to fight while getting used to the many mechanics and systems that make up the game.
Nexomon: Extinction, from developer VEWO Interactive and publisher PQube, simply operates a little differently, but that makes a big impact in the early hours of gameplay.
The most obvious way the game differs from those that inspired it is that the storyline is far more pressing than merely wanting to be the very best Tamer. This is a world teetering on the edge of destruction, and if you don’t get it all together in time, you are going to die. This adds a fun sense of urgency and menace to the proceedings, giving everything you do a bit more gravity than just feeding your own ego and winning a championship.
You begin the game in an orphanage, ready to start your journey to becoming a Tamer. Things take something of a sideways turn when a massive dragon attacks you, giving you no choice but to fight it. A mysterious stranger saves you before you can get obliterated, and so begins your journey toward hopefully saving the world. You choose your first Nexomonfrom one of the nine starters, and then you are thrown into the deep end.
Nexomon are not all cute and cuddly. Some of them, the terrifying Tyrants, wish to go back to the days when Nexomon were at the very top of the food chain and people were considered a tasty snack. It is up to you to find a friendly Tyrant, who may or may not even exist, and somehow figure out a way to restore balance.
Bring your A-game
On top of the higher-stakes storyline, which I won’t delve further into for fear of spoiling the fun, the game also has a fantastic AI to battle against. Rather than sit there and let you wallop them with your strongest critter, opponents will happily switch new Nexomon into the fight, always trying to gain an advantage over you. It’s refreshing, forcing you to think, plan carefully, and be prepared to change out your own fighters as you continuously look for an edge. The problem is that once you realize this, the offensive focus of the majority of creatures (or at least the ones I captured and encountered) turns it into a game of fielding your fiercest fighters. If you focus strictly on building up impressive attack builds, you should end up doing just fine in the majority of battles.
Truthfully, the early game can feel a little punishing. The fact that there are nine starters to choose from means you will meet a lot of Nexomon that are simply bad matchups for you. While the logical counter to this is to start catching Nexomon, this is another area where the game steps up the difficulty.
Catching Nexomon is a pretty deep system. You need to tire the Nexomon out through battle, feed it the right food, inflict a status effect on it, and use a Nexotrap that matches its type if you want to have the best chance of catching them. You will also need to enter a sequence of button presses while the trap activates, adding a bit of skill to the act of catching Nexonom. Very few of these options will be available to you when you first start. The combination of this and the more robust AI can make those first hours with the game feel like a challenge, or even a chore, but after some time with the game, it all adds up to an enjoyable experience.
If you lose a battle, the worst thing that happens is a simple reset in the same area of the game where you had the battle, so it’s not the end of the world to find another Tamer who is stronger than you.
A beautiful world
Nexomon: Extinction looks terrific, combining a bright, detailed art style with an old-school RPG aesthetic. This is a top-down game, and all the characters, creatures, and environments are wonderfully realized. As you explore each screen and venture through each area, you will meet all manner of characters, discover secrets, and be given sidequests.
There is also a constant theme of fourth-wall-breaking humor, as characters remark on exactly how strange and even cruel it is to force all these creatures to fight each other. Coco, a cat-like creature that accompanies you, is the primary focus for the game’s humor. They will utter various comments making fun of the creature-collecting genre, RPGs, and other such things that nicely balances with the pressing storyline, reminding you that you are playing a game and are meant to be having fun.
Visually, while the game looks stunning, it can occasionally use on-screen effects that made things very difficult to look at. There are no strobing lights, but almost a heavy chromatic aberration effect that turns the visuals into a rippling mess that can make some people quite queasy. There are moments during the game where I found myself trying to play the game while only half focusing on the screen. Thankfully, these are pretty brief, but some players may have an adverse reaction to those segments.
Overall, Nexomon: Extinction was a delightful surprise. I wasn’t expecting to be quite so challenged by the combat, and there is plenty to explore and do in the world. The story manages a solid balance between fun and serious, and the catching and battling systems add plenty of meat to the game, even for players with a lot of experience in the genre.
The game falls down a little when it comes to explaining how many vital things work, such as status effects, and occasional balance issues between attacks. Dynamic difficulty scaling means you will always be facing what the game considers to be the appropriate challenge, so there will be no easy grinding of levels for your Nexomon. I enjoyed this, but some folks out there might not find it as fun as I did.
Nexomon: Extinction presents itself as a bastion of the old-school, but then switches the script enough to keep on your toes, and with a price point that could only be viewed as fair, there is little reason for fans of the genre to let this one pass them by.
Nexomon: Extinction will be available on August 28 for PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for $19.99.
8 / 10
|+||Adds extra depth to traditional genre mechanics.|
|+||Challenging and engaging, you can’t sleep your way through battles.|
|+||The story stands out in a genre that can be quite stale.|
|–||There is not much help in the form of tutorials, so prepare for lots of trial and error.|
|–||Early game difficult may be off-putting to some but is worth sticking with.|