Review: Ragnarok Odyssey (Playstation Vita)

Ragnarok Odyssey
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: XSeed Games
Genre: 3D Action
Release Date: 10/30/2012

I really enjoy the Ragnarok franchise. I tend not to like MMORPGs, but I actually had fun with the core game. Back in 2010 I reviewed Ragnarok DS and found it to be one of the better RPGs released for the system that year. So when I heard there would be not one, but two Ragnarok games released for Sony portables in 2012, I was pretty pumped. Aaron will be covering Ragnarok Tactics for the PSP down the line, but today we’re looking at Ragnarok Odyssey for the Playstation Vita. This game is perhaps the closest to the actual MMORPG out of the three, even though it does have different classes and the like. In fact, there were several times I felt like I was playing a fantasy version of Phantasy Star Online for the Sega Dreamcast. Unfortunately though, Ragnarok Odyssey is nowhere as good as that game, and the end result ended up being one of my least favorite games of the year. Let’s see why.

Let’s Review

1. Story

The truth of the matter is that there is no story to Ragnarok Odyssey; the entire game is a series of fetch quests and nothing else. Even the manual is up front about that. At the beginning of the game you are given a tiny bit of story about how you are a new recruit to a mountain location, with the end goal being that of killing a bunch of giants, but after that initial setup, there is no story at all. It’s just “kill X number of creatures in Y minutes” or “collect X number of items in Y minutes.” There are less than a dozen people to talk to in the entire game and aside from three of them, they all say the same exact things constantly. The three that have variable dialogue don’t have a lot, but at least they have one new conversation per quest. Aside from that, this is basic hack and slash and little else.

There’s no real exploration either. Quests have a time limit so you can’t really look at the world at large. When you finish a quest, you’re immediately brought back to the only town in the game. All the town has are stores to purchase things in and quests to fulfill. It’s very bare bones, and so, if you are the type of gamer who plays RPGs for the STORY (which is the whole point of an RPG after all), you’re going to be seriously disappointed here, because there is less here than in games made with RPG Maker. Of course, Ragnarok Odyssey isn’t really an RPG, action, MMO or otherwise as you don’t level up, customize your stats or the like. As such, it’s a button mashing beat ’em up or a 3D action title, but as it hasn’t be marketed as such – more the disappointment to be had all around.

So with no real story to be had save for the basic plot hook, no world to truly explore and nothing to do except engage in the same few hack and slash fetch quests over and over again, I obviously can’t give this top marks in storytelling. Ragnarok Odyssey is almost the antithesis of storytelling in a video game.

Story Rating: Worthless

Although the game doesn’t push the Vita’s graphical capabilities at all, Ragnarok Odyssey is still a nice game too look at. You can sort of customize the appearance of your (mostly) silent protagonist, but there aren’t a lot of options to be had. Still, the odds of you encountering a character that looks just like yours when playing with friends is slim. Monsters are very stylized and stand out from what you normally see in an RPG. Sure your typical fantasy RPG has orcs and dire wolves just like Ragnarok Odyssey, but the art style here is dramatically different from the usual Dungeons & Dragons fare we see in these games. Even though there were a lot of monsters that were nothing more than a palette swap of each other, I still really enjoyed the models and was glad to see someone break the mold of what you normally see for cannon fodder.

I will note that I did encounter regular low level slowdown throughout the game, especially when there were a lot of monsters. Frame rate could be choppy too, so even though the game doesn’t have what one would consider top level graphics for the Vita, the programmers still could have used brushing up on their skills, as there is no reason for either to occur.

So overall, the game looks okay. The slowdown and frame rate issues can (and will) interfere with the playing of the game on occasion, but really only if you’re using the archer, as then you have multiple attacks with multiple enemies and that seems to just kill the game at times.

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

There isn’t a lot of voice acting in the game. Most things have a single line of dialogue that they will repeat until you are sick of it. The voice acting isn’t very good either, so it is probably a good thing that there is so little of it. The music, however, is fantastic. The tracks will get easily stuck in your head, and they are a lot of fun to listen to. You can purchase tracks (with in-game money, not real money) to listen to for the fun of it and you can even set what is playing as the default background track. That’s kind of nice. The soundtrack to Ragnarok Odyssey is by far the highlight of the game.

Sound effects are hit or miss. Weapons make different noises based on what you have equipped and what attacks you use. Monsters make only one or two noises based on if they are attacking or being hit. Your character will breathe heavy when running. So there is a lot of variety, but most of the sound effects don’t sound quite right. The labored breathing sounds like someone exhaling really hard without any idea of what it is like to actually run hard and fast. Monster noises sound uninspired. Walking sounds like you are in a dungeon even when on a plain or a bridge of ice. There just isn’t a lot of detail paid to the little things, and that’s a shame, because those little things are what help to create an immersive experience. With little attention given to the story and sound effects, it’s hard to get into the game at all.

Sound Rating: Decent

4. Control and Gameplay

Here is where Ragnarok Odyssey lost me completely. It played like crap. There wasn’t a single thing about playing the game that I actually enjoyed, and I could constantly see multiple ways the game could have been done so much better. It was a truly dull and boring experience for me, with so many issues it was hard to believe this team had ever made a 3D action game before.

Let’s talk character classes first. You have a choice of six. The Sword Warrior is your typical all around melee character. The Hammersmith is your tank. The Assassin is fast, but has little defense. The Mage need a meat shield but has powerful ranged spells. The Cleric is the best defensive and support character. The Hunter is, well… terrible in every way and should be avoided. Its “ranged attacks” barely go past its body, basically making it a melee class rather than a long range attacker. It’s also the second slowest class in the game, so in large encounter situations where you are boxed into a tiny area, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be dead. Don’t take that class. That’s all I can say. I experimented with all of them, but man, there is nothing redeeming about the Hunter, which is a shame, as I loved the Archer style class in Ragnarok DS.

Then let’s talk controls. First, the camera angles in this game are deplorable. It’s been years since I’ve dealt with a game whose camera was this bad. You can only move it when you aren’t locked on to an opponent, but the camera will happily move on its own for you, making it so that, at times, you can’t see either your character or the enemies attacking it. The camera is also very slow to rotate, and you can never get a good angle with it. The camera will be one of your leading causes of death, and there’s no way the game should have been released with it in such a state.

Let’s talk locking on to an opponent now. You need to use the L Trigger and the D pad to do so, which is not a comfortable feeling, especially when you have to run with the L Trigger and constantly adjust the camera with the R Trigger. This is just so badly laid out. Worse yet, cycling through enemies with the lock-on function is inverted, yet nothing else in the game is. So if you want to switch to a monster to the right of the one you are currently targeting, you have to press left. Ugh. There is also a notable delay between when you press the L trigger and when it actually locks on. You have to also HOLD the trigger in rather than tap it to lock on or lock off. Finally, there’s also the problem with that the camera will not move once locked on. So have fun if you are locked on to a flying enemy.

Then there’s the big fact that Ragnarok Odyssey is NOT a role-playing game by any stretch of the imagination. I need to really stress this, simply because if you go in expecting it to be one (it doesn’t helped that it was marketed as such, and some shoddy publications are still showing it as such), you will probably be frustrated or disappointed. This is your typical 3-D action button masher. You do not level up. You do not customize your character. There is none of that in this game. Rather, you get slightly more powerful at the end of each chapter and… that’s it. You can kill tens of thousands of monsters and it won’t gain you a single hit point or let you do any more damage. Instead, you’ll have to look for item drops. You might get materials to upgrade your weapons or armour, things to sell, new weapons or even cards to equip to your armour so that it has new effects. The problem is that all of these are randomly dropped, so you never know what you are going to get. You could be playing as a Hammersmith and get dozens of weapon drops, but never any hammers. You could really be stuck trying to upgrade your weapon so it can actually do decent damage, but never get the items you need, nor have any idea of where to find them. You won’t know what creature will drop what item until you kill it, so you can spend hours replaying quests trying to find something that will drop the one item you need… only to discover it’s in a quest you can’t get to yet and you don’t have the raw power to get past the one you are currently on. It’s just amazingly unfriendly, and if you go in thinking this is more Final Fantasy than Monster Hunter, you’re just going to end up pissed and frustrated. So good luck getting that one card to drop so that you can trade it in at the card shoppe for the one you actually want. Oh, but to trade in, the card has to have specific values and as they are randomly occurring and card drops are extra rare in the first place…

Example story. I really needed to upgrade my weapon so I could take out the Orc King. However, I couldn’t find the last item I needed. The trick was, it could only be dropped by the Orc King. Ugh. So what you have to do is shoot it in the head (and only the head) until it drops the item, then get yourself killed, then revive in town, then upgrade your weapon so it does decent damage. This is just stupid to me, and I can’t imagine who would think this is quality game design. I’m all for challenge, but suicide as the only way to actually progress in the game? Baroque this is not.

My final pet peeve with the game is twofold. There is noticeable lag between when you press a command and when it occurs. Even then, the actions of your characters are much slower than those of the antagonists. You’re telling me that the Assassin, the fastest character in the game, takes longer to drink a minor healing potion than it does for an exceedingly large and slow enemy to make it all the way across the screen and connect with an attack? Terrible. Just terrible. This makes healing rather useless until after combat, and never during the actual battle. Sigh. It’s also hilarious that the same buttons used for potions are the same you use to attack, but you have to hit the select button first. So if I want to use a potion, it’s hit select (with lag), hit x (with lag), exceedingly long animation sequence of drinking the potion while the game is still going on (don’t get hit) and then having to hit select again to close the potion menu. This is just terribly done and it wastes valuable seconds. Just hit select once, you shouldn’t need to close it. Or have the potions be R Trigger and the button. It should be one fluid motion to heal, not three!

Basically, this is not a game I would wish on anyone. The thing is playable, and once you get past the sheer number of idiotic design choices and flaws that populate the engine… you have your basic 3D button masher. There are countless better choices out there, especially for the price tag. Ragnarok Odyssey is just poorly designed and with a lot more time spent in the quality control portion of game design, this could have been a lot better. Honestly, just some button mapping could have helped this game, because most of the time I was thinking how much better this would play with a keyboard.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

Unless you have a lot of friends that own Ragnarok Odyssey AND you all like just playing hack and slash affairs that require little skill or thought, there’s not a lot of reason to replay the game. After a certain point, you can freely switch between the classes, so there is no point in starting over. There are dozens of quests in the game, but all you can really do is replay them over and over again, and you’ll be doing enough as is, since you’ll have to go back in multiple time for enough gold and item drops to upgrade your character. The quests are all the same with the only difference being your location, the number of things to kill/collect and your time limit. Trust me when I say doing the same thing over and over without any variation or story to break things up gets old FAST. I can’t see too many gamers bothering to finish the game unless they are huge Ragnarok fans. Hell, I love Ragnarok and I was still bored to tears by how dull this was. I guess at least the option for multiplayer and the bonus side quests are something…but at the end of the day, all you’re doing is fetch quests without story from beginning to end. Yuck.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

6. Balance

For the most part the game is balanced well enough. Each quest is slightly harder than the one before, and because there isn’t any leveling up, there is no need to grind in the way we normally think of the term being used. Instead, the game’s difficulty raises dramatically with Bosses, who have a TON of hit points and do copious amounts of damage. It’s not Demon’s Souls level brutal by any means, but you will probably die a few times on bosses (or whenever you are in a trapped section with enemies) until you figure out their attack patterns and you find the right location for the right item drops to upgrade your equipment. This means playing the same very easy quests over and over again, hoping for the right items, so that boss fights don’t take forever and a day or trying to beat the boss with equipment that isn’t up to snuff, hoping you have the hand-to-eye coordination to make it through without getting hit.

I have to re-iterate, this is not a HARD game. It’s just a badly designed one. Terrible control layout and camera angels are offset by extremely easy and repetitive quests that you will have to do over and over as you try to get the right item drops for the right items. The game’s pretty much broken in every way possible. The most trouble you’ll have is dealing with the camera angles during boss fights.

Balance Rating: Bad

7. Originality

On one hand, Ragnarok Odyssey takes the franchise in a whole new direction, even if it is a terrible one. It’s very reminiscent of MMORPGs and even the core Ragnarok game itself, albeit with different character classes, methods of progression and on a handheld system. On the other hand, it felt a lot like Phantasy Star Online, just without the sci-fi elements and the same level of quality. Of course I could also call it a second or third rate Monster Hunter knock off, but let’s be honest, Monster Hunter is heavily inspired by PSO, so in doing so, it would be calling this a knock off of an homage, and that just gets weird. It’s not good when a game released in 2012 feels a lot like a game released in 2000, but the older game played better in every way.

I’m glad GungHo (the original publisher and owners of the Ragnarok license) and Game Arts decided to take some chances with Ragnarok Odyssey. It’s definitely not a game I’d ever recommend or want to experience again, but I applaud them for trying some different with the franchise and for jettisoning everything that makes an RPG an RPG while still trying to hang on to the fanbase. It wasn’t a success, but trying and failing is better than stagnation.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

Oof. Ragnarok Odyssey does pretty much everything I hate in a game. Nothing but fetch quests? Strike one. Nothing but extremely similar fetch quests? Strike two. No story? Strike three. Terrible camera angles? Strike four. Terrible control layout? Strike five. Completely unbalanced product that could have used several months more of tweaking? Strike six. If this was baseball, Game Arts would not be known for their offensive skills.

I hated playing this game. The sheer repetition alone bored me. Doing the same quests over and over to farm items, hoping that this one time would net me the item I needed? Yuck. That is a terrible reward system. I get that it’s common in MMORPGs, but here’s the thing – you also level up in those games. You can customize your stats, not just your appearance. You get a decent story of some sort in those games. None of that is present in Ragnarok Odyssey. So all you do is repeat the same quests until you’re strong enough to do a NEW one over and over again. How is that remotely entertaining? I mean, I’m sure it is for someone and if so, more power to them. I just don’t get it, especially when the grinding is based on random item drops instead of a defined end goal like leveling up. Ragnarok Odyssey is pretty much all of my gaming pet peeves rolled into one terrible 3D action game disguised as an RPG. No wonder Aksys, who has brought over Ragnarok Tactics, gave this a wide berth.

Addictiveness Rating: Dreadful

9. Appeal Factor

Now, I hate this game. That much should be obvious by now, but there are definitely people out there who probably like or even LOVE(!) this game. That’s fine. That’s cool. Every game is someone’s favorite. So who would like this? Fans of the Ragnarok franchise who don’t have the same pet peeves I do. People in desperate need of an action RPG for their Vita. Trophy hunters (most are very easy to earn; it’s just time consuming). It’s apparent that Ragnarok Odyssey will have a niche fan base at best. Many that pick it up won’t like it, but there will probably be a small but strong following that meet up to play multiplayer quests and the like. I honestly can’t imagine what the appeal would be to spend dozens of hours with this game, or how one could do so without getting bored, but a lot of people seem to like fetch quests, as they are all too common in RPGs these days. So while Ragnarok Odyssey isn’t for me, or most gamers, there will be some that can look through the collective of flaws and bad programming designs to have fun with this. Good for them.

Appeal Factor Rating: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

With a price tag of $39.99 and very little content, I can’t say Ragnarok Odyssey is worth the money. Even if there was more variety to the content, I still couldn’t recommend it due to the control issues and design flaws I feel this game suffers from. Out of the thirty games I’ve reviewed this year, this was honestly the one I liked least, which is sad, because I was pretty excited for it. If you really want a game that is nothing but hack and slash and the occasional purchasing item time, then this game will be up your alley. If however, you play RPGs for stories, don’t buy this. If you play RPGs to customize your character’s stats, don’t buy this. If you play RPGs for a wide variety of missions, don’t buy this. If you buy RPGs to see your character grow and/or level up, don’t buy this. Basically, this is a game very few people will enjoy. If you’re one of them, then awesome. I’m glad it found an audience. I like both Game Arts and XSeed and I especially like the Ragnarok franchise. This just wasn’t the game for me. In fact, it was basically the anti-game for me. Unless you really like repetition for forty or so hours with no variety whatsoever, this isn’t going to be a game you enjoy.

Miscellaneous Rating: Bad

The Scores:
Story: Worthless
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Bad
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Bad
FINAL SCORE: Pretty Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Ragnarok Odyssey leaves behind the RPG elements of the MMO and DS action RPG in favor of more 3D action elements akin to Phantasy Star Online and Monster Hunter. Unfortunately Game Arts’ creation doesn’t live up to either of those franchises and the end result is an unbalanced mess that has little story and a lot of repetitive fetch quests. Most of your time will be spent replaying the same few quests over and over hoping for that one item drop so you can finally upgrade your outfit or weapon or perhaps trade in for that card you so desperately need. There is no leveling up or character customization so people looking for traditional RPG elements will be disappointed there. That said, if you can look past the fact the game is nothing but button mashing fetch quests, it’s playable, has a wonderful soundtrack and some excellent antagonist designs . This is decidedly NOT a game for everyone and it tends to be heavy on my own personal pet peeves, but for those that can look past the game’s many faults, you’ll probably be part of a very niche but loyal fan base that defends this title with bared teeth and furiously frantic fingers. For those that know Game Arts pretty well, consider this more Dragon Song than Silver Star Story.



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One response to “Review: Ragnarok Odyssey (Playstation Vita)”

  1. […] its colorful world, association to the Ragnarok Online property and simplified gameplay, and while it didn’t appeal to everyone, it was a fine enough first attempt. Well, a year and a half later, we have Ragnarok Odyssey Ace, […]

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