Platform: PS Vita /Genre: Action Role Playing Game
Developer: Gung Ho Online Entertainment / Publisher: XSEED Games
The concept of having Monster Hunter on Vita shouldn’t seem foreign to handheld users. Hell, by all accounts Vita-owners should be treated to the news that an actual Monster Hunter title is in development. However, with Monster Hunter 4 being developed for the 3DS and only the 3DS, the cash-cow game of the east seems more and more unlikely to find its way to Sony’s newest handheld, at least not soon. Perhaps then, we can find solace in Korea’s own attempt to cash-in on the well-known action-RPG formula that Mon-Hun has made so popular? Ragnarok Odyssey is the latest spin-off from the Ragnarok Online MMO; it is a game that attempts to replicate an addicting formula, but falls short in several keys areas that make other action-RPGs so addicting. That being said, it did show a few positives hidden below its many layers of banality.
These types of games generally start off with a character creation phase that many players know, and to this regard it really does nothing special beyond allowing players to create some pretty ludicrous looking characters. While the customization is neither deep, nor engrossing it does add some layer of customization; just don’t be surprised if you find other players that looks exactly like you online. There is also an assortment of classes to choose from, but none really stand out as unique. If you’ve played one big-sword wielding character, you’ve played em’ all. That being said, the gameplay as a whole reflects a different approach on combat that we’ve seen other games take, but more on that later.
After you’ve spent your time in the character creation phase, you’ll be taken to the hub-town that will guide you towards your first mission. This brings me to my double-edge opinion on the games approach to single player. Ragnarok Online is clearly rich with lore, most MMOs usually are. However, I can’t say with complete confidence that it translates well to newcomers (i.e. me). Whatever small narrative the game is trying to provide is lost somewhere between maid-like quest givers and the eccentric hub-dwellers. Seasoned RPG players will have a hard time understanding (or accepting) the story presented to them in RO, but that’s partly ok because the story is clearly not the main focus; the game attempts to capture some of the lore – I assume – from Ragnarok Online, and use it to set the stage for the hundred or so quests that makeup the game. And it’s because of these quests one could forgive the lack of story because they actually nail that very essence behind RO being on the Vita. Rarely will you find yourself more than 35 minutes on any single mission; it’s even rarer to actually run out of time during one. It is easy enough to sit down, accept a mission, and slash/smash/cast/shoot your way to victory, all while on the go. If that doesn’t jazz the mobile EXP grinder in all of us, I don’t know what will. Actually, that is a lie considering there is no experience to be gained, but you get my meaning…
I will say this much though, the class you pick seems to weigh heavily on the difficulty of play – no EXP means that skill is of importance. I found that the Sword Master is very easy to use compared to the Assassin, which from the very beginning can be a very difficult class to use. Granted, this seems to become a moot point when you get to the later stages of the game, which becomes much easier due to better gear. Because of this, I continue to find it difficult to really enjoy too much of the games main attractions in questing. On the one hand, I am a fantastic sword master, but when I want to try out new classes the lack of certain skills (like blocking) make the transition difficult, nor is there any actual guide as to how you should play the character. I admit, this is a combination of my lack of understanding the other characters, but to some regard the game should be able to guide you through how each one works. Fear not though, if you get through most of the game with the sword hunter, and decide to switch midway to another class, you abundance of equipment and power will carry over. This makes the transition very painless (to a degree). Whether that is up your alley or not is one thing, but the balance between classes is rather disappointing and really takes away from the fun of the game in the early stages. The only thing that makes the gameplay some what different is the use of Danslief mode which is essentially a timed power-up mode. If you hit things, you do extreme damage and absorb health, but if you don’t, it takes away from your own HP. It is an interesting dynamic, and I wished they added more things like that. However, that the only unique tactic available and its the same across all characters. While the missions nail the pacing of the game, the gameplay associated with each class can either make or break the experience.
To further this point, I need to bring up multiplayer. I’ll get straight to the point; the online play is the one thing Ragnarok Odyssey great. It is easy to just walk into the bar, ask for a group quest and go all out. You could play the entire game on either multiplayer or single player, it would not matter. The only thing that would matter is the enjoyment, and hands down the game is much more enjoyable when playing with other people, as most games are. However – and this is not the game’s fault – the multiplayer component suffers because there just isn’t enough people playing the game. With less the stellar Vita sales, I assure you RO wasn’t going to push any more than were already out. Thus, the population of RO players is not nearly as high as one would like it to be. This hinders the experience because it can be frustrating to actually find people to play the game with. Is it the games fault? No, but it suffers because of it.
In regard to the quests and their associated stages, one thing that really stood out to me is how colorful and vibrant the world is. The OLED screen on the Vita really emphasizes this feature. Many of the levels you play through will be repeated though, so over time they will lose their luster (naturally). In addition, the level layouts seem rather uninspired. Just once, I would have loved a trap door or pitfall to have caught me off guard and taken me to new area. Just catch me off guard in a clever way! Alas, that did not happen. At the very least, the monsters were genuinely inspired; every new zone had new, vibrant monsters that required different strategies to take them down. Some needed slashing on the head, others needed to have their tails cut off. It’s nice to have that consideration; it’s something to remind me I need to do something else other than timed combination of hitting the square and triangle button.
Is this the action-RPG that the Vita has been waiting for? I am going to have to say no. While I enjoy the grind with friends on the online scale, the single player component does virtually nothing for me beyond playing a few missions when I’m bored and watching a basketball game. It will certainly kill some time, but that’s about it. The grinding masochist will find solace with this games attention to item gathering and synthesizing, but kills thousands of monsters in search of one rare card to trade in for another rare card doesn’t do it for me. I know it does for some people, but its small audience. It is not a bad game at all, it definitely gets what the Vita is trying to do, but it just falters in terms of gameplay making it rather average. It was a decent attempt though, I will give it that.
Jaime aka. Paco is an avid fan of JRPGs and Lakers basketball, both of which are doing somewhat poorly in their current state, however both seem to show positive improvement in the future. If you want to pop him a question, just comment below or reach him on his Twitter @RTBL1990