Review: Ragnarok Odyssey (PSV)
Title: Ragnarok Odyssey
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.1 GB) / Game Card
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: GungHo Online Entertainment
ESRB Rating: T
Ragnarok Odyssey is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Vita has been straddling the fence between the casual and hardcore gamer markets since its release early this year. The debut of PlayStation Mobile, an increasing number of touch-only downloadable titles, and a focus on ‘perfect bite-sized’ gaming has generated plenty of content for the tablet/smartphone gamer. Those of us that want the beefier, larger-scale experiences still have some options, but it is nice to see the release of a lengthy RPG that offers plenty hours of gameplay on a mobile platform; the medium with which the genre works best.
One descriptor that has been popping up all over the opinions about Ragnarok Odyssey is ‘repetitive’. While the word aptly befits the style of the game, the repetition is strangely addictive with short intervals between each rewarding sense of accomplishment. If you enjoy the single-player mode of something like Gran Turismo, you know that doing the same thing over and over again can be enjoyable if executed properly. In Ragnarok Odyssey, you are given one quest at a time with a simply defined objective, giving the game a laser focus and separating the combat aspect from the strategy/preparedness portion of the experience.
The base/lobby area is where everything begins in Ragnarok Odyssey. Among many other features, here you can choose/upgrade your weapons, adjust your look, shop for and sort your inventory, and take all the necessary steps to prepare for the next quest. Instead of using a character leveling system, the game features ‘cards’ that each have unique attributes, selective disadvantages, and varying costs. The most basic cards can be purchased, but the best/rare cards are dropped by defeated enemies. Depending on your outfit, a finite number of card points are allowed, limiting the amount you can have equipped. You might then be faced with choosing between a card that increases your HP and diminishes your attack power vs. a card that slows you down but intensifies the likelihood of a critical hit. The card combination possibilities are endless and as you upgrade your outfits, you will gain card points, increase the maximum number of allowable cards, and experiment with what suits you best.
In addition to the card system, weapons can be refined and outfits can be expanded. Performing each of these actions requires a certain amount of Zeny (the in-game currency) and specific inventory items. Zeny is gained from completing quests and inventory items are dropped from slain monsters. When a quest is completed, you can view all the inventory you’ve gained while out on your mission and you can then check to see if you have the necessary items/Zeny to upgrade your gear. After a certain point in the game, you can also change ‘jobs’. Each job is linked to a specific weapon and you can wield only that weapon while performing that job. Hammersmiths use hammers, swordsman use swords and so on and so forth. Each job has its own separate upgradability in the weapon and outfit departments, adding even more depth to the strategy/customization of Ragnarok Odyssey.
After your equipment is in order and you’ve accepted the next quest from the Quest Counter, you’re ready to embark on your journey. Your objectives are usually menial tasks like collecting a certain amount of a single item or killing a certain number of a specific enemy. The X button jumps and the square button dashes. Both of these movements use up a regenerating bar that acts like the ‘stamina’ of most other games. The triangle button is a quick attack and the circle button serves to push enemies away. Attacks can be strung together in combos, most commonly beginning with a launcher. Holding circle launches an enemy and then allows your character to jump as well, opening up the possibility for multiple aerial attacks. As the fight rages on, a gauge on the upper left-hand corner of the screen fills up. Pressing R and circle simultaneously engages Danslief Mode, a timed berserker feature that consumes your HP but increases your speed and enhances your attacks. You can also enter this mode by tapping the icon on the screen (there’s the touch feature you were all waiting for). Fallen attackers will always drop items and will rarely drop cards. You are given a time limit during which to complete your objective and if you die or complete your mission, you’re transported back to HQ and the process begins again.
The visuals in Ragnarok Odyssey are good, but there is a quality disparity between mission sequences and the lobby areas of the game. Characters seem more polished when you can stop and talk to them. During combat, the environments contain large amounts of bad texturing and pop-in happens with entire monsters. We navigate the world bit by bit, with only a small section of the map available to us between loads. An area will usually have one or two routes to take and a mini-map does a good job indicating where we’re going and where we’ve come from. You’ll see a blue arrow in front of the routes available to you and moving your character towards it will load the next screen. The camera control on the right stick is impressive but is hindered by the lock-on functionality that occupies the same stick.
Ragnarok Odyssey should be commended for its minimalistic voice acting and the text heavy story development. RPG’s have suffered from terrible representations of monster or character voices and GungHo Entertainment resolves the issue with this title by excluding such unnecessary additions. An RPG works best with a whimsical 30-second audio loop that changes with the area of the game. The audio in Ragnarok Odyssey fits that description accurately.
Both ad-hoc and online multiplayer modes are supported in this game with up to 4 players at a time. The progress of the player in your party who has advanced the least determines the playable quests. I have not experienced any server or connectivity issues and the game plays much like its single player counterpart. Inventory items can also be exchanged using NEAR (there’s the NEAR functionality you were all waiting for). As clunky or confusing as it is, the NEAR application offers a great alternative to grinding when you need that last ‘broken horn’ to upgrade you hammer.
RPG’s usually only appeal to RPG fans but that is not the case with Ragnarok Odyssey. The timed quests and automatic transporting to and from HQ alleviate some of the pointless wandering that plagues many games of this genre. If you’re against grinding for skill points and farming for level ups, you don’t have to play that way and you will not be at a disadvantage for it. If that is your style, you can replay the same quests over and over until you have the necessary items to refine your weapon, giving you the godly edge that you so tirelessly seek (overcompensating for something huh?). The repetitiveness that has been so quickly deemed detrimental actually works with this world and gameplay style. Vita skeptics have been waiting for that ‘one game’ that will warrant a purchase of the mobile console and although this one may not be it, it offers hours upon hours of immersive Norse Mythology and addictive quest conquering. For the mobile gamers using their DSto play Pokemon, or their Vita to play Final Fantasy PSOne Classics, Ragnarok Odyssey might be for you.
*All screenshots used in this review were taken using the PlayStation Vita’s built-in screen capture functionality.