The Bigger They Are… – Ragnarok Odyssey Review For PlayStation Vita
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita.
Need some portable hack n’ slash fun? Well then look no further, as Ragnarok Odyssey for the PlayStation Vita might just be the next title for you! Based upon the Ragnarok Online MMO universe, the title has more action, adventure, and massive monster battles than you can shake a Poring at! What makes it worth your hard-earned gold, you ask? Well, read on and I’ll tell you.
The story of Ragnarok Odyssey (or simply RO for short) is separate from that of the MMO, although it too is based around Norse mythology. A massive surprise attack from an army of giants was launched on the continent of Rune-Midgard, and many towns have been destroyed in their wake. Only a single fortress (Fort Farthest) was able to hold them off, mainly thanks to the mercenary group Fate’s Scales, who heroically fought them and turned the tide. However, the giants proved to be cunning in their tactics, which caused the leaders of the Scales to become very wary – especially since the kingdom’s knights were all but obliterated.
Enter you, the player, a fresh-faced novice within the ranks of the Fate’s Scales. You are quickly sent out on simple tasks to help with small problems, but are quickly thrust into the war against the giants and must fight with every ounce of strength you have – not only for the kingdom’s sake but for your own survival! Ragnarok Odyssey won’t be winning any awards for best script, since it sets its focus mostly on gameplay, but the mythological narrative presented gets the job done and will keep the gamer entertained in between missions.
Speaking of which, RO‘s gameplay mainly divides between two aspects: missions and the Fortress. In a similar fashion to the Monster Hunter series, players embark on timed missions with a general goal. Tasks can include taking down a certain number of a specific creature, collecting a mass amount of items, or slaying a single monstrous foe. Each mission has a set difficulty portrayed in stars (one is the easiest and five is the hardest) as well, so you’ll always know what you’re getting into. The only problem with this setup is that it makes the game feel really long and drawn out, grinding away with several “go kill this many enemies in that area again” missions in between boss battles, which is where the real fun is found (but more on that later).
Combat in game takes a class-based hack n’ slash approach, with players able to choose between six different classes – each with its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Sword Warrior is fairly balanced with even stats all around, the Cleric is all about defense and healing, and the Mage is capable of unleashing powerful spells at the end of their combos – at the usual cost of having very low health. Returning players from Ragnarok Online will also be happy to know that each class is based off of one from the MMO, so if you’ve already got a favourite then you can more or less jump right back into their shoes!
The actual combat itself is fairly standard for the genre, utilizing three different attack types: Combo, Knockback, and Launch. Combo attacks are your basic weak-yet-fast hits used to string together… well, combos, while Knockback and Launch are slower but more powerful and can send a staggered foe either flying backwards or up into the air – as well as usually taking the form of a Skill pulled from the MMO. For example, after combining four Combo attacks, a Mage’s Knockback and Launch attack will become Firebolt – unleashing a brutal burning blast able to hit distant enemies.
As mentioned above, bosses play a large role in the game, and since the story is based around attacks from giants, that’s what you get to fight! When up against a larger boss monster, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, your foe will have different body parts for you to attack instead of just generally hacking away. Certain limbs will have better damage resistance, and in some cases may even have breakable armor covering weak points – so watch how much damage you’re doing to your targeted part, and make sure you’re hacking away at the right location. Secondly, dependent upon the creature’s size you may be able to jump up and off of it, gaining more altitude than you would normally – scaling the beast like you’re in a heart-pumping, anime action scene. It’s a shame that these epic battles are few and far between, as they really make RO stand out from other Vita titles.
As for avoiding taking damage, a player’s best bet is the Dodge – a quick dash in the direction of your choice. Using this, gamers can slip around a monster’s attacks or simply close the gap between themselves and their foe. Now, it is possible to block as well to receive greatly reduced damage, but only if you’re a Sword Warrior or a Cleric – every other class is out of luck! While this fact will be annoying to any player thinking of playing a class other than these two, the real issue comes down how both Block and Dodge are implemented. Neither mechanic can be used while an attack is underway, so if you’ve chosen to use a Combo that involves a slow or complex movement, you’re going to have to wait until it’s done. What makes this a problem is that most enemies aren’t stunned or shaken right away, meaning they can still act while you’re doing damage to them – and you can’t do jack to avoid a now inbound attack. All of this leads to players either having to kill a foe with bug bites (ruining the whole Combo aspect of play), while ducking and blocking their way around, or risking damage while attacking (which is a death sentence for characters with low defense). Overall, while a lot of fun, combat still feels considerably slow and clunky because of it, never really feeling as good as it could have been.
Sure, the fact there are six classes available means there is a lot to choose from in terms of styles, but since this is mainly a close-quarters game, some setups shine a lot more than others. It’s simply easier to be a melee-oriented character (especially one of the two previously mentioned who can block) who can actually take a hit up close than it is to be a squishy ranged one – that’s just how these things go. While it’s still possible to play and beat the game with any class, you will find yourself leaning towards a couple certain ones – never really sampling the wide palate available.
To help counter this imbalance, RO features both local and online co-op modes. Up to four pals can take on missions together, fighting their way through hours of play. Gamers simply need to create a Multiplayer Room in the Fortress’s Tavern, decide on a mission, and they can get started. This is where the title’s action really comes into its own, as playing along with friends not only allows you to adopt tactics you couldn’t while playing solo, but it also gives a great sense of teamwork-related satisfaction when you take down a massive baddie together. Multiplayer is exactly how RO should be played, so make sure you’ve got some buddies handy and schedule some gaming sessions.
Another few key aspects of play are Cards and Dainsleif Mode. The latter of the two is a special combat mode than can be engaged after filling the tension meter by either attacking or being attacked by monsters, or by collecting red gems – which can found in destroyed objects or dropped by dead foes. When triggered, players gain supremely augmented attacks and speed, at the cost of constant health degeneration. In order to survive and get the most from this mode, gamers need to constantly attack enemies, as every landed hit will return a small amount of your HP. This ability is a blessing for players, especially when overwhelmed or battling a giant. Just be careful the cost doesn’t outweigh the gain!
Much like the MMO, every player’s outfit has a set amount of Card Slots, to which a number of Special Cards can be inserted. These items add different buffs to your character, ranging from total HP increases to Knockdown resistance. However, many cards also remove other stats, which usually counter the actual augment. For example, a Card that increases attack will probably decrease defense. Every character’s outfit can only fit a certain amount of Cards though, and some take up more space than others. If you need more space, your outfit can be upgraded with more slots by the Fortress’s Blacksmith.
Speaking of the Fortress, that’s where you will be spending most of your time when not out on the field. Here you can buy healing items and Cards, upgrade your weapons, and change or expand your outfit. Players will also find the Kafka employees and Tavern, where they can look at and undertake their missions. The Fortress is a nice central hub for gamers to relax between combat, whether they’re there for a long while to set up their character, or just passing through to their next assignment.
One very large highlight for RO is its visuals, which are nothing short of amazing for a portable title. Everything including characters, enemies, and the environments has been designed in a way that not only reflects the Ragnarok Online universe accurately, but remains unique enough to not feel directly copied from it. Should you feel the need for some nostalgia, different class outfits can be bought from one of the Fortress’s Stalls. These costumes are exact replicas of the ones found in the MMO, so you can relive your Ragnarok Online days while you slay some enormous baddies. Factor in pop-free textures and super smooth animations, and you’ll see that this is one of the best looking titles on the portable market – no complaints here!
RO also delivers in spades for its audio, both on sound effects and music. The soundtrack consists of a wide array of music, from long sweeping tones under a heroic brass melody to lively and bouncy strings themes to portray the hustle and bustle of Fort Farthest. Every note played is very pleasing to the ear. As for the actual sounds, RO is surprising in its detail. Aside from the usual whoosh, thwap, and other onomatopoeia found in combat, gamers may notice that each class has its own footstep noise. Where, say, the Mage class would walk with a very soft step, the Sword Warrior (whose outfit is equipped with heavy metal greaves) moves with a very metallic and weighted sound – the amount of detail is very surprising but equally welcomed. Add in over 10 voice actors to choose between for both male and female characters, whose roster includes the talented Johnny Yong Bosch (Rush – The Last Remnant, Torian Cadera – Star Wars: The Old Republic), and this is one title that is as good on your ears as it is your eyes.
When the last giant falls to your might in glorious combat, you’ll see that Ragnarok Odyssey is a great addition to your Vita library – whether or not you were a fan of Ragnarok Online. While it has some shortcomings in terms of gameplay, class balance, and mission spacing, it is still a fun and entertaining experience. So grab your sword, bow, or whatever weapon tickles your fancy, and enlist to fight the giants today – before they step on your house!
Final Score 4.25 / 5.0 and your very own pet Angeling!
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