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Review: Ragnarok OdysseyRagnarok Odyssey Ragnarok Xseed Vita
Developer: Game Arts
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: October 30, 2012
ESRB: T for Teen
Japanese media has a strained relationship with giant monsters. Maybe this was born as a natural progression to kaiju films like Gojira and the like, where giant beasts acted as natural disasters, leveling cities or causing general mayhem until they were barely defeated, scared off by a superior monster, or just got bored and went back home to make some ribs or something. The fact is, this trend is maybe even just as popular in gaming, with Monster Hunter games being almost assured sales in Japan. Japanese media has capitalized on the villainization and wholesale slaughter of the giant beasts, and that has built a comfortable niche for Ragnarok Odyssey.
The Vita title adapts the Monster Hunter concept of hunting giant monsters, but the framing forms the distinction between titles. This can be a challenge, and not every game is up to the task. Unfortunately, in a world where Monster Hunter would be Godzilla, Ragnarok Odyssey is strictly a Godzooky title.
Ragnarok Odyssey follows the tale, as so many games do, of a mercenary fresh to the company. As the newest member, players must aid in a war of Norse influence and Ragnarok Online lore, in a conflict waging between humankind and the Giants. Recent history has giants right at the doorstep of Rune Midgard, the main kingdom, so the burden of victory is all the more important. It's a Monster Hunter-like game, so the story clearly is not hugely present nor important, but it is designed, at least, to be enough to frame the gameplay.
The player's first steps on the shore of Ragnarok Odyssey are into the character creation. Players can choose from 18 faces, 19 hairstyles and 16 voices per sex, plus several skin-tones and six classes. It’s a pretty decent array of selections, though the classes are initially bound, causing for a frustrating lack of experimentation in the player’s initiation into the world. This is irritating if you end up pouring any resources into your weapons and armor.
Fortunately, this isn’t a permanent condition, as players can, after a while, switch classes in their room freely. This is a heavily equipment-based game, however, so it is wise to keep to one class and roll with that -- or would be, were the equipment not so bottlenecked. It’s an issue compounded by the fact that this freedom comes only after the tutorial missions are done, meaning one will either have to experiment with a completely different class in an environment lacking the safety of tutorial, or will have to halt the progress they’ve just made to go back and do early missions.
Ragnarok Odyssey requires players to continuously make progress in order to improve equipment, and there’s no significant benefit to sticking around a chapter in order to grind or gather. (Un)fortunately, the narrative takes care of the grinding for you. Instead of missions being generally substantial in some way, the large majority of them are just glorified fetch missions. These missions require killing a certain amount of random enemies, or collecting a certain amount of objects from defeating enemies or breaking boxes.
Occasionally, Ragnarok Odyssey requires boss fights, as to be expected, and these are gratifying, but not generally worth the hassle of those in between. Aside from that, while later bosses do require more strategy, the most challenging part is frequently just a grind to bring down the huge amount of health they have, which tries patience more than wit, especially with the less beefy classes, such as Assassin.
Ragnarok Odyssey presents itself well on the Vita hardware, however. It isn’t the pinnacle of what the PlayStation Vita is capable of doing, but it looks good, even inviting, with a wealth of colors in an era of brown-and-blooms. It shows off what one can expect to generally see in a Vita title, which is a high standard, even if environments of the hub town and level designs of the different areas themselves are relatively bland by way of repetition. Character designs are interesting, and, while many missions have players trudging through the same monsters by virtue of the repetitive quest design, the monsters are relatively diverse at least, and bosses, within the constraints of the art design and lore, are varied enough to be interesting to look at.
The best way to describe the OST would be “perfectly adequate.” It varies enough, but isn’t a stand-out feature, and the fact that a lot of missions are mundane, you’ll likely find yourself putting on your favorite Shania Twain tracks or LFO albums and muting the game’s audio. Also, given the fact that many missions require trekking through the same areas to perform mundane tasks, many of the songs will become as repetitive as the gameplay itself.
The PlayStation Vita is still a new console, offering new options for control and design, and Ragnarok Odyssey does the most important thing many games can do with this: it avoids using that to a fault. When a new console offers some new gimmicks and doo-dads to play with, it’s easy to fall into trying to use those for every possible thing, but the Vita’s new features are very lightly implemented into Ragnarok Odyssey, primarily using the back or front touchscreen for extraneous special attacks that can be used instead through other means made clear in tutorials.
In fact, the actual gameplay itself is the most enjoyable part of Ragnarok Odyssey. The speed and strength of different classes are balanced nicely, allowing the Hammersmith to do massive damage, but being slow and more likely to take damage, whereas the Assassin can weave in and out of attacks to hit the enemy, but do small amounts of damage. All the classes, except maybe the mage, play smoothly, but every one of them serves a different play style. Played with friends, everyone could serve a function, and the multiplayer element may take the edge off of the monotony.
Unsurprisingly, Ragnarok Odyssey’s a multiplayer game, through-and-through. The single-player campaign offers little excitement, and has too many pratfalls to make it great. It is very front-heavy in hurtles for getting into gameplay, and when it picks up, it never really feels like it earns its keep. Friends are an absolute commodity for taking Ragnarok Odyssey from a mediocre title to being a draw for Vita owners. Genre fans may find this title to be just the beast they were looking for, but in a world of giant monsters, Ragnarok Odyssey may find itself best suited to return to the sea.
+ Gameplay is fluid and fun
+ Classes are diverse
+ Graphics and art design are sharp and attractive
- Missions are monotonous
- Beginning bottlenecks experimentation
- Boss fights are often HP tanks
Overall Score: 6.0 (Out of 10)
Ragnarok Odyssey is a genre piece for fans of the franchise or Monster Hunter-like games that doesn’t compete with either.
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