Ragnarok Online started in 2002 and was one of the first really well known Korean MMORPGs in the west that I can personally remember. While I haven’t seen as many people talking about the franchise as when it first made it big, the past decade or so has still been kind to it, even over here. The series has grown beyond just being an MMO and has reached more traditional gaming consoles such as the 2008 DS Ragnarok game that XSeed brought over. Heck, the west even got Ragnarok the Animation, an anime based on the franchise courtesy of FUNimation.
Then, 2012 marked two separate Ragnarok releases with Aksys releasing Ragnarok Tactics on PSP, and XSeed releasing the Vita-only Ragnarok Odyssey. And now in 2014, we are seeing an enhanced re-release of the latter as Ragnarok Odyssey Ace, this time on both the PS Vita and PlayStation 3.
You start out making your character, and well, Elder Scrolls this is not. The character generator is really simple, and doesn’t offer much variety. Half of the faces you get to choose from seem to be joke faces, too, which is disappointing. Ultimately, the character creator feels rather shallow. I suppose it gets the job done, but I was left wanting a lot more. I can usually waste hours on these things, but I was probably done in about 15 minutes here.
The premise of Ace comes off as equally shallow and simple: you are a new member of a guild and go out on missions they assign you. Said missions involve, you guessed it, hunting monsters. Yup, this is another in a long line of hunting games that are popular right now. Regardless of what the mission really is—gather materials to make weapons, explore a region, conduct research on a race of monsters—it always comes down to simply killing everything that you can. Half the time you don’t even need to read the quest information, as just running around and killing everything will lead to a completed mission. There is no real variety and not much else to really even say. The missions are shallow, and the only reasons they exist are to be an excuse to put you in an area to fight monsters.
That’s isn’t entirely a bad thing, though, if a straightforward hack-and-slash is your thing. The action in Ragnarok Odyssey Ace is fast-paced and frantic. As opposed to Monster Hunter, which involves planning and precision, Ace is just about cutting things up in a speedy fashion. Just moving around on the field with the dash option is fast. You can jump high and even maintain your air as you slash away. It’s a crazy fest of attacks, and combo chains. The action is simple enough to be understood b anyone, and satisfying to boot. With knockback and launch attacks you can send enemies flying. Give them a finishing blow to swipe them away (and maybe send them flying to enemies behind them), or smash them up in the air, jump up and start slashing at them as they are now incapable of escape or retaliation.
Under certain conditions you can even double jump and glide through the air to fight flying enemies—which is insane. Physics be damned, you’ll find yourself soaring through the air, bashing in birdbrains. This is all really fun. In a way, I almost wanted to forgive Ragnarok Odyssey Ace for its shallow parts, simply because it gives me more time to dedicate to this fun combat. The basic monsters in the game won’t pose much of a threat to you, and are simple enough to dispatch; however, when you fight the bigger more boss-like monsters, these battles really step it up. They will use knockback and launch on you as well and some can tower off the screen. These are interesting fights that involve some more thinking then usual, and may incorporate some different types of play.
Sometimes you can target separate pieces of their body (i.e; head, legs, arms, torso) and find a spot that will stun them or make them fall over. This is a great strategy to use in these situations. It’s also a good idea not to forget about your ACE skills (special attacks then can be equipped) and Dainsleif Mode. Dainsleif is an interesting mode that can be activated when your gauge is full, it will drain all your health but attacking enemies heals you. So, when Dainsleif mode wears off, you may actually have more health than when you started. Your strength increases greatly, and it prevents you from getting stunned by the enemy. You’re pretty much untouchable and can lay down some serious damage—it almost feels like getting the star power-up in Super Mario.
That said, the shallow aspects aside, there are a number of other noticeable problems with Ragnarok Odyssey Ace as well, and the combat isn’t good enough to make up for these, as they pertain to the combat mechanics themselves. The lock on feature never worked as well as I wanted. After defeating a nearby monster, it often decided to target something far away and moved the camera awkwardly. It’s a pain at times, and honestly you can play without it. I found myself not needing to really even target monsters all that much. However, the camera itself isn’t as well done as I would have liked either. At times, it becomes fixed and you lose control of it.
Furthermore, for a PS3 game, the sensitivity of the camera always felt off. In fact, the whole world in general feels a bit off, actually. It may just be the catch-22 of the physics-defying combat, but the world feels floaty. Jumping feels weightless, almost like there is no gravity. This weightless, floaty feeling is reminiscent of some older low-budget PS2 games, and seeing it again in a PS3 game just feels wrong. Additionally, Ace doesn’t even allow you to map the buttons to where you would like on the PS3 controller, which is a bummer given I did not find the default button layout to be that great. Thankfully, you are given six different button layout options, which—while not as great as being able to map buttons yourself—at least provided tolerable alternatives. I found myself playing with Option 6.
And then, we come to the game’s cross-platform nature. Being a re-release of a Vita game Ace allows some transferring of your data from the previous version, naturally. It even supports cross-play and cross-save functionality between the PS3 and PS Vita, so if you own both systems and both games, you can play at home on the big screen and take the Vita version out on the go. That said, this is one of those cases where developing a game for both PS3 and Vita leads to some significant compromises. I played Ace on my PS3 and immediately noticed the Vita-quality graphics.
Ace is by no means an ugly game. In fact, for a Vita title with as much game content as it has, Ace is rather pretty. But on the PlayStation 3 with a big screen TV, it’s just not up to par. While it looks nice on Vita, it looks like a budget game on PS3, and even more so than usual. The text boxes don’t even look right. The words only fit on the left half of these boxes so at least 50% of it is empty space. It looks like only the box was stretched from the Vita screen and the text simply stayed where it was. This may be a nitpick, but none of the words ever go past the center of the text box and there’s so much empty space, this is something you can’t NOT notice, and honestly it is kind of annoying to look at.
Ultimately, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace is a middle-of-the-road title, with decent combat and average everything else. I’m honestly at a loss. You could do worse than Ace, but you could do much better as well. If you’re looking for simple combat and a good single player experience, Ace might be worth a shot, provided you’re willing to put up with how average the game feels in general. It may also provide a good gateway into the Hunting genre, considering the ease of its combat. However, if you’ve other hunting-action games before, Ace is a lot like what is already out there and not as good.
There’s some decent online action to be had, and some interesting fights, but not much else. There are multiple jobs to chose from for your character, the ability to switch jobs back at the base, an okay-ish card-based skill system, and an average story. If that’s enough for you, by all means, have at it.
Food for thought:
1. Game Arts worked on this title, and there is even cameo equipment such as “Justin’s Goggles – Cool goggles worn by the legendary adventurer, Justin”.
2. Maybe this explains the physics-defying air combos as well, since Game Arts are best known for the Grandia games.
3. The floatiness can be seen in some of the characters’ movements as well. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh play, around with some of the Emote Actions the game gives you, especially the “Play Dead” gesture. Tap that one repeatedly and you’ll be treated to your character floating in the air shaking violently. It’s awkward, it’s hilarious, and it’s only something that can be seen in video games.
4. My PS3 copy came with a beautiful and full color instruction manual. It’s nice and thick at 53 pages, and it is nice to see certain publishers still spending the extra money on these things.