[Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher for the contents of this article]
Over the past couple of years, the PlayStation Vita has become home to a number of games in the hunter genre, the first of which was Ragnarok Odyssey, released back in the fall of 2012. As is becoming routine for these types of games, an upgraded version has now launched for the PlayStation 3 and Vita, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE, offering up new content and various other bells and whistles that are worth a look-see for fans of the original, and might even convert some of those who were originally unwilling to take the plunge.
Ever since the original Ragnarok Odyssey hit the scene shortly following the launch of the PlayStation Vita, games that revolve around the simple formula of running around enclosed environments, beating the stuffing out of anything that moves, then returning to a hub to upgrade your gear, buy new items and repeat, have become commonplace. Games like Soul Sacrifice, Toukiden and the upcoming Freedom Wars jump to mind, each offering their own take on the same infrastructure. Their settings are typically very different, their fighting engines vary, the various systems that are at play are unique and the type of hub or hub world players spend their downtime in are usually a bit different.
What sets Ragnarok Odyssey apart from its fellow hunters is a brighter and lighter atmosphere, giving players a chance to tackle larger-than-life monsters and interact with grinning NPCs without feeling like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. You are absolutely a part of an epic battle that could determine the fate of your world, but the picture is never painted in colors of doom and gloom. It’s light, fast-paced and fun, and it doesn’t hurt that RO also happens to be one of the best looking games on the Vita.
For those who are confused about what XSEED’s Ragnarok Odyssey ACE has to offer, you’re basically looking at the exact same game that was released back in 2012, plus a whole bunch of new content (missions, weapons, gear) and a few nice tweaks to the gameplay. It’s everything that worked about the original Ragnarok Odyssey, just more of it. If you loved the original, you’re likely to enjoy plowing through the game for a second time just to experience all of the new monsters and levels, including a massive, randomly generated endgame dungeon called the Tower of Yggdrasil. And those gameplay enhancements feel so at home in the game that it’s a wonder they weren’t included in the first place. But we’ll get to those in just a little bit.
First, let’s break down what Ragnarok Odyssey is all about for the uninitiated. Then we’ll delve into what ACE improves upon, including cross-play functionality with the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
Like most hunter games, players will spend quite a bit of their time at Fort Farthest, the standard hub world for this particular game. In the hub, you’ll have access to a smith for crafting and upgrading weapons, seamstresses for selling and upgrading outfits and accessories, as well as an energetic dude who is very excited to give you a haircut and alter your appearance later in the game.
There’s a place to take on missions and buy helpful items, as well as a host of NPCs just waiting to chat you up or progress the game’s admittedly light plot with conversation. There’s also a tavern for handling cooperative play but, again, we’ll get to that in a minute.
Once you’ve picked your class (each with their own gear and abilities), it’s off into the world of monsters where your job is to adventure across a collection of interconnecting maps to achieve whatever your current mission’s goal requires and trounce baddies. Regular enemies are decently varied but typically allow you to fall back on the same old series of combos you’ll inevitably become comfortable with in all of that button mashing goodness. Boss battles are the real treat of Ragnarok Odyssey, however, each requiring actual tactics and attack pattern recognition to topple. Not surprising for one of these types of games, the vast majority of your time will be spent visiting the same dozen or so locations and pummeling slightly different collections of enemies in order to grab loot and move further into the campaign. You should know what kind of gameplay to expect in a hunter and, for the most part, Ragnarok Odyssey pulls it off nicely.
What I really enjoyed about the game, though, is the freedom that’s afforded in its customization options. Outside of being able to change up your face, hair and clothing color, Ragnarok Odyssey allows you to swap classes by simply equipping the appropriate gear. Tired of juggling enemies with a massive sword? Change your gear and pound them into the ground with a drill-hammer. That getting a bit dull, too? Then why not put on a robe and a pointy hat and get to frying and freezing anything that moves as a mage?
The various weapons you’ll find and buy, as well as your clothing, will allow you to fine-tune your stats and abilities, as will collectable cards that enemies drop in the field of battle. Recognizing your weaknesses and equipping the appropriate gear to even them out allows for a lot of freedom in refining your character to your liking and also means that, even when playing with a group of fellow warriors, no two archers, clerics, etc. are going to be the exact same.
Another high point for Ragnarok Odyssey is the online play, which allows you to jump into a game with your fellow adventurers and get to questing. RO one-ups many of its colleagues in the chatting department, allowing characters to act out various emotes, quickly access customizable catchphrases, or flat-out type whatever your heart desires. ACE also allows you to upgrade weapons and change gear without having to leave the tavern, a very welcome addition since the previous outing.
Along with all of that extra content we were discussing earlier, ACE also adds a couple of new features that fit into the game quite nicely. New class-based ACE abilities allow players to unleash yet another devastating series of moves on their enemies, allowing for even more customization, and now you can even take up to two NPC mercenaries into battle with you. RO is a bit more difficult than many hunting games in the later stages, and having the ability to bring a couple of computer controlled allies along for the ride when you can’t play online means that there’s some wiggle room when it comes to finally toppling some of the trickier bosses.
My review of ACE also included the PS3 version of the game, which works exactly like the Vita version of the game, only with button presses instead of screen taps. It’s the exact same game, but I felt more comfortable playing ACE on my portable since that’s where I spent all of my time back when Ragnarok Odyssey first released. An extremely nice feature is the ability to save in one version of the game and continue playing on the other, as well as the ability for PlayStation 3 and Vita fans to enjoy multiplayer in shared rooms. Both features worked swimmingly during my review time.
And for those of you who played the original RO and don’t want to start from scratch with an upgraded version of the game, don’t forget that your old character and gear can be seamlessly transported into ACE, meaning you can basically think of this as a New Game + mode complete with lots of new content and a few other nice features.
Ragnarok Odyssey ACE doesn’t exactly reinvent the game, much less the genre, but I feel like the additions are enough to warrant a runthrough, especially if you missed out on the original. It’s a game that’s built for lovers of combo-heavy brawling and targeted at fans who enjoy grinding, loot and semi-mindlessly mowing down hordes of enemies with a few online friends. It may not be a revolution for the hunter genre, but it’s a solid evolution of one of the genre’s more entertaining offerings.
Players: 1 - 4
Platforms:PS3, PS Vita
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Xseed Games