Publisher: Aksys Games
Release Date: Out Now
Free-to-play MMOs are made and shutdown every day, making it a genre that provides a nice distraction, but one that struggles to create a lasting impact or franchise. Back when the genre was emerging, though, some games managed to create a name for themselves, one of which was the Korean-made Ragnarok Online. Since launch, the game has seen countless updates, shifts in pay schemes to compete with the expanding market, and even a failed sequel.
Despite such setbacks, the Ragnarok brand still occasionally steps out of the MMORPG realm, with the latest entry being ApolloSoft“s Ragnarok Tactics for the PSP. Combining the world of Ragnarok Online with the gameplay of a strategy RPG, Ragnarok Tactics offers an experience that, while not a knock-out, manages to satisfy.
The story opens by outlining the history of Tactics' world, unfortunately not the same world as Ragnarok Online. Tensions are mounting between the Branshaldo Empire and the Aura Republic over control of land while the independent Toren Militia is investigating an increase in monster attacks. Your character is thrown into the middle of this conflict, with the choice eventually falling on you to choose which sides to prioritize and fight for. While the characters aren't very compelling and the story sometimes feels like a morality play, the sheer amount of branches to the story is impressive. Though you get a glimpse of what happens on other paths, Tactics is definitely a game designed for multiple playthroughs, with a huge amount of content for those with the patience to play the game more than once.
Unfortunately, patience is something you will need in spades to get through the game. Battles are long affairs. With a combination of huge maps, AI that usually only moves when you“re in range, and the sheer number of opponents you“re always against, expect to spend 40 minutes on average in each battle. While this can make the gameplay feel like a chore, the biggest issue is that there“s no real difference between the scale of a story battle and that of a free battle, making some moments seem more uneventful than they should be. Were it not for the ability to save at any time during an encounter, Ragnarok Tactics would be the antithesis of a portable game.
Like in an MMO, you have a good amount of control behind the appearance, voice, and skill/stat build of your characters. Those familiar with Ragnarok Online will mostly be at home with Tactics' job and stat system, though jobs are locked into using certain weapons and some jobs aren“t in the game at all. Also, not all jobs are created equally, with a couple being exceedingly overpowered compared to the rest due to their attack stat also being a stat that governs speed. Outside of that, the gameplay is competent and, thankfully, doesn“t match the grind of the MMO that inspired the SRPG.
Visually, Tactics is a reminder that even last generation“s portables can still show some muscle. Though battlefields are often reused, they feature interesting aesthetics and are sometimes revisited with different weather effects. Probably the best feature of Tactics is the character art, which manages to be reminiscent of Ragnarok Online while still maintaining its own style and identity. The battle sprites are instantly identifiable as their jobs and fans will be glad to see small touches like the casting circle.
On the audio front, the game offers a solid soundtrack, though it would have been nice to hear variations on familiar Ragnarok Online songs. Voice clips are played in Japanese during battle and, while some of them are truly grating, there are multiple options for both genders.
At the end of the day, Ragnarok Tactics doesn't offer anything unique to the genre, nor does it offer as satisfying of a use of the brand as it could have. Still, it manages to be completely inoffensive so long as you don“t mind long battle times on a portable system. For those that Tactics can hook in, there are a multitude of story paths and options to take that could easily eat up hundreds of hours. As someone who came into Tactics purely for the Ragnarok branding, that“s not me, but it“s hard not to be impressed with how much content is up for grabs, showing that Ragnarok Tactics isn“t just some hollow attempt to cash in on the MMO“s success.
+ Large, branching story mode
+ Beautiful scenery and character art
- Long battles
- Designed for multiple playthroughs
Overall Score: 6.5 (Out of 10)
Although nothing earth-shattering, Ragnarok Tactics offers just enough to keep fans of Ragnarok Online and SRPGs satisfied.