I am by no means a hardcore RPG player. While I have enjoyed many RPG’s over the years, a lot of the intricacies of role playing games are ultimately lost on me. I can appreciate depth in any game but there becomes a point for me where my interest becomes lost and I am unwilling to make the time investment to fully appreciate what some RPG’s have to offer. I feel compelled to offer that as a bit of disclosure. This being said, I found Ragnarok Odyssey for the Vita quite the pleasant surprise.
Based on the MMO series, Ragnarok Odyssey is an Action RPG that focuses strongly on combat. One of things I don’t love about RPG’s is following dialogue trees and performing what I think are menial quests. While this is fun for some it isn’t for me. I was a bit cautious going in here but the focus on action and combat caught my interest. I also found the RPG elements simple enough for someone like me to get in to and enjoy. In Ragnarok Odyssey, you play as a human mercenary. A chain of mountains, too high to traverse, has mysteriously been destroyed revealing a land full of giants. Conflict ensues and you are tasked with protecting the human cities. There are several player classes available to choose from at the start of the game. These classes range in abilities and player skill that are optimized for the four player online coop. The idea here is that if you are going to be playing with friends and the different characters have complementary skill sets. Playing on your own is a fun experience in its own right though.
Quests are conveniently collected and accessed via a counter in a central tavern. Loot, equipment, cards and all other items are amassed by defeating the wide variety of enemies that are encountered. The problem is the quests don’t offer too much in the way of variety. Even when the goal of a quest is to collect five “something’s” those “somethings” are found by killing enemies. The game makes up for this somewhat with a good variety of enemies to fight and various boss battles. Enemies employ elementary tactics such as flanking and swarming. This simplicity may sway those that are looking for a deeper overall experience. Since the story involves fighting giants you can expect some big enemies. This is not quite on the level of Shadow of Colossus big but still generally pretty fun even for me as someone that generally doesn’t like boss battles.
Given the focus on combat here, control is key. The controls are quick and precise. Even though you really only use one this is yet another testament to how much I like the Vita’s thumb sticks. Attacks are mapped to the circle and triangle buttons and you can string attacks together to form combos. This is something I really like about this game. Instead of having to memorize a bunch of different combos which I inevitably always have to go back in to the menus to remember, Ragnarok Odyssey uses a simple and progressive combo system that works in chains of five strikes. It is simple enough to allow lesser skilled players to be effective yet offers good variety in the amount of attacks to keep combat engaging. This system is also well documented in the game’s manual which is something else I really appreciate.
Inevitably there are times when you must deal with several enemies at once (almost too many sometimes). There is a handy lock-on triggered with the L button that shows both the enemy’s range and health. Lock-on is very effective for keeping track of the faster moving, flying enemies as well as boss battles where you can target specific body parts that can help weaken the boss. Successful strikes on enemies fill up a secondary meter which can be engaged once full. Think of this as your typical powered up, beast mode but with the twist that while in this mode your health slowly depletes. Only by attacking do you stem the loss of your HP. It makes actually engaging this mode a little bit more strategic. The extra effects when in this mode remind me a little bit of Devil May Cry. I certainly found the combat to be a challenge at times but with all of this at your disposal it remained a lot of fun.
Instead of an XP type system where the character levels up through game play, Ragnarok Odyssey uses a card system. Cards can be added to the character outfits to enhance specific abilities. The game forces you to choose wisely though. As you would expect, enhancements are rarely without compromise. Outfits can be enhanced with the loot you receive in your quests and weapons can also be upgraded. This hits just the right note of depth for me but I fear that some of my colleagues and friends that play RPG’s will find it too shallow for their liking. A further problem with all of this is that repetition sets in very quickly. While the four player coop mode serves to help stem that, you need to have the luxury of either having four friends to play with or finding three public players that are willing to play together and you enjoy playing with.
Ragnarok Odyssey is no slouch when it comes to visuals. The crisp anime graphics are highly stylized with lot of flashy effects. Both your characters and enemies are colourful and well detailed. There are some nice landscapes and backgrounds which give the impression of good draw distance but this is met with often weird pop up of things like vegetation that enemies often clip through. Environments are by no means an open world to explore. Quest areas are very much linear with occasional branching paths. In the heat of a battle these things aren’t all that detracting from the experience and for the most part the frame rate stays solid throughout.
A medieval soundtrack sets the tone for your adventures and generally remains unintrusive. There is no voice acting. All of the dialogue between characters must be read. What stands out most are the sound effects. They really have a sense of impact during combat. Hitting a big Orc or bear sounds substantial whereas hitting smaller, weaker things does not. There are also several audible cues that help you during game play such as when you have made a successful strike or when an enemy dies. This might sound trivial but when you are facing a bunch of enemies and there is a ton going on on-screen little things like this are extremely helpful.
With Ragnarok Odyssey’s focus on combat I found myself enjoying this game much more than I anticipated. Simply put, Ragnarok Odyssey is more accessible than a traditional RPG. While this is great for a more casual player, the hardcore RPG gamer might be underwhelmed with the games lack of depth. The four player co-op option is great if you’re looking for something to play with friends but what keeps this game from being really great is repetition. As accessible and fun as the combat is, the gameplay is far too repetitive. So in the end, Ragnarok Odyssey falls a little short from being considered one of those “must have” games for your PS Vita.