PlayStation Vita action game, Ragnarok Odyssey, is just a day away from its release in North America. It would be hard to classify the game under a specific genre when you look at it as a whole, but it definitely shares traits with “hunting games”—where players team up, battle large enemies, and gather loot—such as Monster Hunter, Gods Eater Burst and Phantasy Star Portable.
Ragnarok Odyssey includes many of the fine qualities that define the hunting genre: the endless slaughtering of peon monsters followed by huge boss fights; borderline OCD moments of feeling the need to collect materials to create better gear and ridiculous Great Swords. So, what makes it different?
Upon starting the game and making my obligatory white-haired Sword Warrior, I jumped right into the quest mode. They start you out with a brief tutorial on basic controls, as you beat down some of Ragnarok Online’s iconic Poring monsters. The very first thing I noticed was the gorgeous visuals and how smooth the controls felt. Now, I could go on and on about how nice the game looks and feels, but I’ll be honest with you—I was quick to disregard all of that when I discovered the air-dash feature.
Air-dashes are what set Ragnarok Odyssey apart from other hunting games. Jumps and dashes use up stamina, but only a minimal amount, leaving you with enough to easily air-dash from foe to foe. Although you do slowly descend after each dash, the amount of time you spend in the air makes it feel abnormally long. There’s something quite satisfying about launching a monster in the air and pulling off a 20-hit aerial combo for the kill.
That said, air-dashing did take a little getting used to, as I’d often fly over my enemies and overshoot them at times. This was easily fixed after trying out the enemy lock-on feature and getting a better feel for the dash itself. Once I got that part down, the fights were a blast. You can also abuse air-dashing to make your trips faster and more fun. It gives Ragnarok Odyssey more of an action game feel, but in the world of a hunting game.
The camera work may require some practice for first timers. As a ‘Claw/Crab Grip’ user, it took me a little while to get used to Ragnarok Odyssey’s camera, which can be controlled using the Vita’s right analog stick. On the plus side, there are other ways to move the camera about, such as the the L button to auto-focus to the direction your character is facing.
Once you get used to the controls, infinite air-dashing, and camera angles, everything else is pretty self-explanatory. After completing a few quests consisting of objectives such as killing a certain amount of orcs, collecting items and such, the game pits you against the Orc King boss as the last stage of Chapter 1. The fight itself isn’t too tough if you play smart and hit when you can, dodge when you should.
You can lock-on different parts of the Orc King’s body and break his armor pieces to inflict more damage. I found it fun being able to jump and get some upper body hits while evading his attacks by dashing away in mid-air, only to dash right back to give his head another beating, all in the same jump. After keeping this up for a few minutes, the Orc King will eventually fall to his knees and the loot is yours!
Character customization really starts to pick up after Chapter 1. There are various NPCs in the small hub town that offer necessities and various customizable features. As a reference to the original game, they’ve included cards you can attach to your gear that gives different attributes of your choice. As another homage to Ragnarok Online, there’s various collectible head gear for your characters. You can change your character’s initial physical appearance such as hairstyles, by purchasing new looks from stylists.
The single player part of the game is pretty fun, but without much of a story, there isn’t a lot to keep you wanting more, besides getting further in the chapter quests or to simply farm materials and make new equipment. Just like most hunting games, Ragnarok Odyssey’s core feature is the multiplayer game. So, without thinking twice, I got together with my long time Monster Hunter partner to give it a test drive.
In multiplayer mode, the quests and monsters are a little tougher, but with the help of a partner, it actually felt a lot easier and we finished most of the quests in a couple minutes. As far as drops go, there wasn’t any bickering between us, due to the loot system giving everyone the exact same drops. I could see how they tried to make things fair to the party by making everyone a winner, but I personally thought they should’ve gone traditional route, with everyone getting their own set of drops. There’s a nice feeling about being the only one to get a super rare drop (not to mention bragging rights), but this is also a nice friendly change of pace.
(As an aside, the gear and cards you find will have different attributes and stats from what your friends may get, so not everything is the same.)
After flying through various quests and sharing some laughs while maniacally killing Porings with 50-hit 2 player combos, we were finally up against the Orc King. Before I go on, do mind, we’re self-proclaimed Monster Hunter pros. Not only have we invested hundreds of hours in our beloved Monster Hunter games, but we’ve also taken on various other hunting games to high levels. That being said, the Orc King fight was a disaster. No matter how much we hit him, he just wouldn’t go down. We used up all of our potions and our three shared lives eventually went to nothing. Before we knew it, we had lost.
I don’t know what happened. Perhaps we were too cocky and rushed in, expecting an easy win, or maybe it was the game’s way of getting back at us for over-killing helpless Porings. Whatever it was, we were determined to win. On our second attempt, we were a lot more careful. We took less risks and punished the Orc King when the moment was right. It was another tough fight with some close calls, but we eventually took him down, and were finally rewarded with that feeling of satisfaction you only get from winning a long, persistent boss fight.
If you were never a fan of the original Ragnarok Online or weren’t satisfied with Ragnarok DS or other spin-off games, you might find Ragnarok Odyssey to be more to your liking. It’s a game that could potentially fill the hunting genre hole for PlayStation Vita owners.
Food for thought:
1. The multiplayer part definitely makes the game, and is especially fun to play with friends. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have Vita-owning friends, you can always share your adventures with random people in online multiplayer.
2. Infinite air-dashes make any game awesome. Also, let’s try to be nicer to Porings.