Review: Ragnarok Odyssey for Vita

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Title: Ragnarok Odyssey
Price: $39.99
System(s): PS Vita
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher (Developer): XSEED (GungHo Online Entertainment, Game Arts)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood and Use of Alcohol
Pros: Six different character classes which you can switch among at anytime after chapter two. Lots of different kinds of weapons, armor, cards and accessories to strengthen characters. More than adequate assortment of customization options. Has offline, local multiplayer and online multiplayer options. There are 9 chapters worth of campaign quests as well as supplemental extra quests. Quests are more difficult in groups than when played alone, offline. Easy to string together combos for all classes. Can backup or restore game data to or from the internet. Catchy soundtrack
Cons: Have to level grind through multiple areas many times to find needed armor/equipment/accessory pieces. The difficulty level jumps after about chapter three. Some classes are nearly impossible to use in single player. Online multiplayer sometimes has some little lags or hiccups. Inventory can only be managed at the tavern box or room wardrobe.
Overall Score: One thumb up and one thumb sideways, 88/100, B+, * * * 1/2

I’ve been needing a good Vita multiplayer game. Not something like Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation where multiplayer is supplemental and nothing like the real game experience. I’ve been looking for a true online experience. Ragnarok Odyssey delivers. It provides a great opportunity for Vita owners to stick together to weather the storm. Not only that, but it also offers an admirable single-player experience. We may not have Monster Hunter or Phantasy Star Online yet, but Ragnarok Odyssey is just what Vita owners need to tide us over while we wait.

Fight giants to save Rune Midgard

You are a mercenary. A newbie, sure, but you have a lot of potential. You wouldn’t have been hired if you didn’t. You better make good use of it too, as you’re now at the major fortress outpost standing between the Sundered Land, where the fearsome giants live, and Rune Midgard, a kingdom of humans trying to fight back and stay alive. Mercenaries have been hired to help supplement the Rune Midgard Knights, and they’re definitely needed. The giants leaking through the gap in the Millenium Peaks that lead to the Sundered Land are tough and they’re bringing some huge monsters with them.

Fortunately, players aren’t facing off against these giants right away. I mean, even a minor Hill Giant could completely wipe a beginner out in one or two hits. Instead, players create an Assassin, Cleric, Hammersmith, Hunter, Mage or Sword Warrior character and gradually work their way through various chapter missions, growing stronger and finding better equipment, until a point finally comes where giants and their associates aren’t much of a threat.

Admittedly, the Ragnarok Odyssey story isn’t super engaging. It’s a set-up to provide an excuse to go after tons of monsters, both big and small. People who want to pay attention to it will notice a few clever lines from XSEED and a pretty basic story about a war against colossal beasts. People who don’t care can ignore the NPCs with their word balloons and focus on beating up stuff with flashy attacks.

Hack-and-slash at opponents alone, then find some friends or strangers and hack-and-slash some more!

People who have played Monster Hunter or more recent Phantasy Star games will be familiar with the flow of Ragnarok Odyssey. Players enter a tavern and speak to the woman behind the counter to obtain a quest, either alone or with a group of other players. The person or group then goes to the door to leave for the area. There, the goal will be to either kill a certain number of monsters or find a certain number of a specific kind of material. There is always a time limit of between 15 and 30 minutes, but that’s never anything to worry about as most missions can be completed in under 10 minutes. Players can be knocked out up to two times in an area, with the monetary award going down for each KO.

Should a player or group members be knocked out too many times, the mission is declared a failure. Players don’t receive the award if the mission is failed, but do get to keep all materials/weapons/cards acquired. If the party succeeds, a monetary award is bestowed along with all found materials/weapons/cards. It’s a good system, especially since failure still provides a chance to come out stronger if you’ve found the right extras during the previous mission. Completing the story and campaign missions unlocks more.

Battling is a free-for-all similar to most other action RPGs. There are two attack buttons, one standard and one that can launch enemies. The player’s goal is to hit them in different combinations to beat them all up, while also dodging at the right moments and knowing when to abandon certain monsters and focus on others. There’s a simple lock-on system, engaged by pressing the left shoulder button and switching targets with the d-pad, which makes going after the right enemies even easier. Combos are easy to engage, and even beginners will find themselves stumbling into some pretty effective manevers.

These missions and battles will be difficult in single player, and the class chosen at the beginning of Ragnarok Odyssey can make them even more challenging. The Sword Warrior, Assassin, Cleric and Hammersmith are all safe choices for people just starting out, or who will focus on the single player experience. They’re fairly well rounded and balanced. The Hunter and Mage, however, are best played in multiplayer, as their ranged attacks and weak defense means people have to rely on a group of companions to stay alive.

It’s in multiplayer that Ragnarok Odyssey shines, since every story and extra quest can be completed there. Even better, the main campaign can even be advanced by playing offline or online with friends or strangers. The only downside to this is that difficulty does scale, making it more challenging when more people are involved, and there may be an occasional online hiccup or slowdown.

The difficulty of Ragnarok Odyssey isn’t something to joke about. After the third chapter, I noticed things got really difficult, really fast. If people take the time to play online and grind through available missions to get enough extra materials to upgrade weapons and equipment and gather equipable cards, then they’ll be fine. People who try to breeze through the game, however, will be hit by a brick wall they can’t surpass unless they do lots or replaying.

Speaking of upgrades, people unfamiliar with the Monster Hunter style of gameplay should know that Ragnarok Odyssey isn’t an RPG where players “level up.” Yes, a stat boost is granted after completing each chapter, but there aren’t experience points or levels. Instead, players have to focus on strengthening equipment and collecting cards. Outfits have slots for cards dropped by monsters. Cards have certain abilities or skills attributed to them, which make players stronger. Weapons have specific strength values and abilities, and going to the blacksmith refines them and increases their attack. That’s where the grinding comes into play. The blacksmith and tailor characters require certain monster materials to build up equipment. Players have to fight those monsters and hope the right items drop. Think of it as a more realistic approach to the action RPG.

This is how you make a Monster Hunter clone.

In terms of the whole action-RPG, quest-based adventure, Ragnarok Odyssey doesn’t do anything new. It gives you a quota of monsters to kill, sends you off into a closed area to do it within a certain amount of time and rewards you with money and materials for your efforts. The thing is, it doesn’t have to. Ragnarok Odyssey knows it is a Monster Hunter clone and it just sets off to mimick that experience as best as possible while also mixing in a healthy dose of Ragnarok Online and Norse mythology references. The single player works well, the multiplayer even better and it’s the perfect game to play in short bursts as you work towards a greater goal of making the toughest and baddest character around.

Site [Ragnarok Odyssey]

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