Review: Ragnarok Odyssey ACE (PS3/PSV)

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Title: Ragnarok Odyssey ACE
Format: Blu-ray Disc / Game Card / PlayStation Network Download (PS3 5.2 GB) / (PSV 2.1 GB)
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Game Arts
Original MSRP: $39.99 (PS3) / $39.99 (PSV)
ESRB Rating: T
Ragnarok Odyssey is available on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.
The PlayStation Network download versions for each platform were used for this review.
Copies of this game were provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
The opening has no cut scenes to introduce characters to you. Instead there is a kind of cut-out-on-a-Popsicle-stick animation with pop-ups above and text below the characters.  I realized right away the best way to take in this kind of animation is to watch the characters and then read the subtitles. Otherwise you miss the animations which are quite amusing.

The game has a kind of Town Square or hub area with the HQ for solo players, Tavern for multiplayer, Blacksmith and various other vendors. The HQ area is where you begin. There are salespeople to give you supplies and a box to keep some of your things in for storage. You start in a tutorial and the basic stuff is handled very well. After each quest you have to determine what to do with your loot and then save manually. After your save you reappear in the HQ.

Characters are very customizable which is always such fun and always takes me too much time because I love this part of any game which includes it. You can make 42 different outfits. (Can you hear Josh’s shallow breathing into a paper bag? I can.) Make sure to check out all the faces because number 17 is a horror. You don’t want to miss it! I chose assassin as my initial “job” or class.

Instantly in the first encounter with NPCs they mention the Allfather and Thor. So I guess we must assume we are playing some part in the story of Thor. Or are we?

Cards! Cards for all occasions! Basically they are upgrades. You don’t level as such. You collect stronger cards and equip them. Use cards on your clothes for buffs. Expand your wardrobe’s card carrying abilities to add more and also change-up your cards. Some cards stack, some cards become outdated. Some cards are purchased but the rarest are dropped by enemies.

Check your inventory to carry the strongest weapon for the job. Make sure to carry and equip potions for healing and the like. All these things are your bread and butter. Attacks are relatively simply done in real time.

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Thankfully, RPG lovers love the business of “leveling” whether it’s called that or not. We thrive on building individual battle stats and then trying them out! It’s about half the job of every good RPG made! And this one does an excellent job most of the time. The weapon refining and cards and clothes combine for a rich and deep experience.

Tinker, tinker, tinker! Some folks think if they aren’t engaged in a battle or a puzzle or fetch quest they aren’t really playing the game, whatever that game might be. They do not count comparing cards and leveling equipment as game play. Oh! But it IS gameplay! RPG gameplay on a sublime level. One can actually tell the difference in one’s very mind between the way the brain has to work in battle with split second decisions from how it feels to plan your attributes! These parts of RPG gameplay go together like peanut butter and pickles on a hot dog bun. They compliment each other perfectly! And if you’d rather use jelly that is okay too, which is the point!

On the downside there is a slight problem with knowing which items to sell to have enough currency for upgrades and which items to keep to use as materials for those same upgrades. Monsters drop cards, weapons, and a wide array of other items. I just lived Josh’s nightmare. I spent thousands upgrading a weapon I am not allowed to use in my role as assassin. I could keep the weapon and get clothes to change into the job the weapon is for but I don’t want to change jobs just to wield a staff. Lesson learned. One way to mitigate these issues is the Billionaire Pot: a large floor vase into which you throw your flotsam to receive more useful jetsam. It’s pretty sweet! You don’t have to simply sell useless junk. You can make it into more useful items! That said, you still don’t know what anything will necessarily transform to when you throw things into the pot.

The Tavern has an ingenious method of allowing players to use a type of horn to speak to the merchants without having to go out and reload the square and then go to the stall and then….you can see how this shortcut helps. Kudos indeed to the devs for thinking of that.

Interestingly, the quests have time limits! You can tell how much fun I thought that was going to be by virtue of the exclamation point at the end of that sentence. In the beginning the time limits were meaningless. There was lots of time left after defeating enemies and making benchmarks. Then I got to my first Big Boss fight. Or so I thought. My mistake. My goal was not to fight him. My goal was to collect the crated items around the area while not being squashed into jelly. The lower time limit should have been my clue.

Hire AI Mercenary Helpers at the Quest Counter in the HQ. Use the triangle button for the menu before choosing a quest. Their AI is middle of the road but they do help, especially with the hit counter. Their level is the same as yours. I hired a healer and a mage to have some balance.

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Speaking of different powers, in order to change your clothes so you can play as a different class, or “job” in the jargon of this particular game, you have to go to your closet, put on the outfit, go into Outfit Set List and then you may save the one you’re wearing for quick changes later. You can then use Change Equip to associate weapons, cards and potions for each outfit.

Finally and briefly regarding gameplay, the new letters ACE in the title of the game refer to button combos used in attacks. That’s all. This edition has more than that to offer above the first PS Vita only version. Here we have cross-platform gameplay with PS3 and PS Vita online, off-line solo play with or without hired NPCs, all previously offered DLC and a ludicrous amount of after-game content in the form of a tower containing 400 levels of procedurally created fights.

A quick word about Cross-Save. I love it. It works. It’s got a quirk. Cross-Save loads fine when the PS Vita is connected to the servers via WiFi, and 3G I’m sure but that point’s mostly moot. So, say I update the save on the PS Vita before leaving home and then on the bus, absent WiFi, I want to play. It will only load the save file if I turn off Cross-Save. Otherwise it says it can’t find a signal and it stops and will not load.

Visuals:
The graphics have been up-rezzed but not entirely redone. It lends another layer of charm as we move into the realm of current gen where graphics almost make you think your TV is a window directly to another reality. This appears charmingly a game, which is not to slight it. The designs and execution of the graphics are well done.

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Audio:
The music is entirely performed on synthesizers and is very reminiscent of Zelda games from the N64 days. Well done for nostalgia points here.

In addition to all the other customizations, you can buy, with in-game money called Zeny, various in-game musical tracks from the game and mix and match the soundtrack to your liking. This puts Ragnarok Odyssey ACE ahead of nearly every game for complete anal retention. You may totally re-score the whole game.

The ambient sounds as well as music and battle sounds are appropriate and work well together.

Online/Multiplayer:
Co-op with up to four other players across PS Vita and PS3 unlocks after Quest 3. Ad-hoc multiplayer for up to four other PS Vita players is also available however local co-op for PS3 is not.

Communication with other players is via gestures, prearranged and customizable pop-ups like “Trophies, Yo!” and by typing. There is no voice chat.

I had a great time attacking a boss with my random multiplayer pal Joseph. He played as a Cleric class so was able to heal as well as fight which came in handy since my level and experience is still low. The good thing is that the game scales the missions in multiplayer to the lowest level present.

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Although it’s possible to play the whole game solo with AI helpers, you realize right away the rewards are richer playing live multiplayer. The loot drops are better and the battles are more fun with live friends.

Rooms may be set-up with a variety of parameters including friends-only and password protection so you never get stuck with someone with whom you’d rather not associate. On the other hand you can leave it all open and have a free-for-all or quick join someone else’s game.

Conclusion:
My few disappointments include the absence of clearer, more obvious instructions, information about the way Cross-Save works in the absence of a WiFi signal, and the fact that it’s Cross-Save but not Cross-Buy. Particularly the latter because you shouldn’t have to pay $79.98 to go between PS3 and PS Vita. If they want to charge for both they shouldn’t price them at $39.99 each. It would be a more attractive offer at $29.99 or $59.98 for the pair as that’s a more familiar price for gamers. The price isn’t a deal-breaker for one or the other platform but it likely is a deal-breaker for both.

Small disappointments aside, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE plays on PS3 and PS Vita beautifully and harkens to a recently-passed era of consoles. It should be a blast for the fiddly-type of RPG lover with all its options. It’s really a lot of fun!

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

 

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Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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