Review: Ragnarok Odyssey Ace (Sony Playstation Vita)

Ragnarok Odyssey Ace
Genre: Action/RPG
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: 04/01/14

Over the past few years we’ve seen a few “hunter” themed games, following the success of Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. Most effectively emulate the key features when compared to Capcom’s trend setting formula, while also adding some kind of new mechanic into things along with whatever exclusive concept or theme that explains the need for puny humans to literally square off against ginormous monstrosities.

Being a New Jersey resident, Hurricane Sandy knocked out my power for a whole week in 2012. Fortunately, during this time publisher XSEED released the initial Ragnarok Odyssey game for PS Vita, a game I was considerably interested in, being a fan of both the Ragnarok and Monster Hunter game franchises.

I charged the PS Vita with a car charger, in case you were wondering.

I put a considerable amount of time into the game, but only partially due to the fact that it was literally my only choice for playing something new that interested me at the time. While I didn’t feel the game necessarily relieved the Monster Hunter itch it was attempting to scratch, I did enjoy my time with it. The lighthearted take on Nordic Armageddon the Ragnarok series is known for was expertly put into play throughout Odyssey, and the vibrant visual design and “epically whimsical” soundtrack all worked to great effect. The gameplay was typically simplistic, especially when compared to the dramatic nature of the combat in your choice of Monster Hunter game, but it still was fun.

Since ACE is more of an update and expansion on the original Odyssey than an actual sequel, I’ll summarize the various ins and outs of the initial game for those who aren’t up to speed. If you did play the original, please feel free to skip ahead.

As mentioned earlier, Odyssey is an apparent bid into the “hunter” type action/RPG games made popular by Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. Players will create a character that will be stationed at Fort Farthest, the game’s traditional village/hub, where one can take quests, purchase items, upgrade equipment, and talk with the colorful cast of NPCs. As a member of The Pacification squad, your character’s duties are simple: beat the crap out of monsters, which you’ll be doing a lot of. Beating monsters and completing quests will net you an assortment of items, weapons and materials, as well as zeny, the Ragnarok world’s form of currency. Based on the weapon you equip, your character can be one of six job classes. The Swordsman, or ‘Sword Warrior” in ACE, is the most well rounded, the Hammersmith does the most melee damage at the expense of maneuverability, the Hunter utilizes ranged attacks, the Assassin excels at speed, the Mage can use different elemental attacks, and the Cleric can heal themselves and other party members.

Unlike similar games, Odyssey doesn’t feature an armor or weapon crafting system. Better weapons will come your way as either random drops during quests, or by purchasing them from the blacksmith NPC, whose selection will increase as you progress through the game’s main story chapters. “Refining” weapons will add the typical “+1″ to their statistics and can be done with specific materials. Armor, on the other hand, is handled by way of “outfits”, which can offer initial base bonuses, and can then be “expanded” to utilize a number of slots the player can put “cards” into, which alter their statistics in various ways. Though they serve no statistical benefit, much like those in the Ragnarok Online game, hat items can be created with materials and worn for no other purpose than fun.

The card system is where most of Odyssey‘s customization comes into play. Cards can be obtained randomly during quests, purchased, or even traded. Cards can feature a number of statistical bonuses as well as statistical detriments. Collecting cards becomes Odyssey‘s primary reason for grinding, a staple in any game of it’s kind, and experimenting with various card builds allows a large variety of possibilities. What is unfortunate is that the usual assortment of badass armor sets seen in similar games is sacrificed in favor of the card system, rather than included with it. While equipping cards can statistically alter your character, running around in only a modest assortment of static outfits considerably takes away from the “hey, look at me” element that is a driving force in games like Monster Hunter. It is possible to dye the outfits different colors, but this is hardly a substitute for not allowing my character to look like walking death.

Quests in Odyssey follow the same rinse, wash, repeat flow of things as they do in similar games. Defeat X amount of X, collect X amount of X, which is usually obtained by defeating X, so and and so forth. If you get knocked out three times, your sent back to the fort. Much like the series it’s a part of, Ragnarok has a good assortment of monsters to smack around, many of which will be instantly familiar to those who have played other Ragnarok games. Occasionally it’ll be time to tackle a giant boss, which are all visually intimidating and exciting to behold.

Combat in Odyssey is considerably more fast paced than any other game that could be compared to it. Using normal and strong attacks will chain strikes together at a rapid pace, and aerial combos are plentiful. In something like Monster Hunter, you might be surprised to see more than three standard enemies on the screen at once. In Odyssey, however, there are often instances where you’ll be spamming attacks into a group of a dozen or more, and then be treated to an additional wave once the first have been beaten. Comparing the feel of the game’s combat to something like Koei’s Dynasty Warriors is not too far fetched in the slightest, but in attempts to ground things down towards its Monster Hunter inspiration, Odyssey features an AP/Stamina bar that depletes when you run, when you perform the evasive dash maneuver, or when you use skills.

Odyssey, again like other games featuring the rinse, was, and repeat flow of things revolving around the mass genocide of giant monsters, offers a multiplayer mode for up to four players. Similar to Monster Hunter, the online component is handled by way of a separate hub, in Odyssey‘s case, the tavern, where quests vary, and are generally more difficult as they are meant to be attempted with multiple players.

So moving on, is it worth your time to revisit this version of the game if you’ve already put a good amount of time in the initial release? Your mileage may vary, but the short of it is no. However, if you missed Odyssey the first time around, and are now possibly interesting in giving it a go, the extras offered in Ace compliment the core content nicely, and for the marginal sum more you’d stand to pay for this release versus its initial counterpart, it makes this the version to dig into.

Firstly, it’s important to understand what Ace has to offer that the standard release of Odyssey did not, and sadly, it isn’t much. Certainly not enough to warrant trudging through the entirety of the initial product’s content, which is required since the actual new content offered in Ace is buried at the end by way of the “Tower of Yggdrasil”, which is most likely to only be of interest to those who simply can’t get enough of the game. The tower contains 200 floors of randomly generated content, that will basically allow you to grind things out the wazzoo if you feel inclined. I actually think this is a great addition to what was already there, as item collecting is without a doubt one of the main reasons to keep coming back to something like Odyssey, but the fact that Ace requires you to literally go through the entire set of core story quests again to access it is kind of mean. You can import your Odyssey character over into Ace if you choose, but this function only adds to the sting of the slap in the face that is being required to play through a large amount of quests you’ve probably already exhausted the first time around.

Besides some new items here and there and various tweaks to the gameplay, the two major additions to Ace next to the Tower of Yggdrasil content is the Ace skill sets and the ability to hire AI controlled mercenaries to fill out your party while taking on single player quests.

So yeah, no new jobs classes to play as.

The ACE skills vary depending on the job you’re using, and basically act as Diablo style special moves that use a portion of your AP bar, and require a cool down before they can be used again. These definitely add some more variety and options to the hacking and slashing you’ll be doing during quests that don’t end with a showdown with a boss monster, and also add some more potential strategies to use while engaging a boss monster. The AI controlled party members are also a welcome addition, and while those who put enough time into the initial release might not find them necessary this time around, they can act as effective decoys against boss monsters.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Ragnarok Odyssey is a fun take on Monster Hunter for sure, and the inherent charm and aesthetic of Gravity’s game series is delivered here in spades. For those who passed on the initial release the first time around and are considering giving it a go, this version comes recommended. The additional content compliments whats already there seamlessly, and the $34.99 asking price is without a doubt worth whatever extra over what going for the original release might cost you. For those who already put considerable time into the original, you will no doubt feel like Ace should have been offered as an add on content pack, as requiring you to play through the exact same content a second time, with only a handful of new things available, doesn’t seem fair, especially since a large portion of the money you’ll spend on it is going towards something you likely already paid for, and definitely already played. If you don’t mind playing through the core content again, The Tower of Yggdrasil you’ll have access to at the end will most likely be worth your time, I just wish the journey to get to it wasn’t so familiar.



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