A Monster Hunter style RPG for the Vita.
The action RPG Ragnarok Odyssey, developed by Game Arts, is not your typical RPG game. The game is in a similar vein to Monster Hunter and, as such, is a very good fit for the Sony handheld. Favouring a mission based structure over a winding storyline, and a reasonably simple co-op play system, Ragnarok Odyssey is very well suited to the type of mobile gaming that the Vita can offer, in the same way that Monster Hunter was a good fit for the PSP. But it does have a few problems that may well limit the game to being a cult hit. Still, let’s take a look…
Set within the Norse based Kingdom of Midgard, the player takes on the role of an adventurer and tasks them with essentially killing loads of monsters. There is an underlying storyline involving invading giants, but it very much takes a back seat to simply picking up a mission from the headquarters and then heading out to fulfill it. The missions can range in how long they take to complete, and generally involve killing some beastie or another.
The player gets to choose a class when they create their character. It should also be noted that there is a decent amount of customisation available for your character, something which can make your character stand out somewhat when tackling a mission with friends. Anyway, there are different classes available that conform with the standard offerings found in most RPGs. You have the Sword Warrior and Hammersmith for close quarters, the Assassin brings agility to the table, the Mage and Hunter offer long ranged combat, and the Cleric is your healer.
And this brings me to one of the problems that I had with Ragnarok Odyssey. As already mentioned, the player can take on missions alone or cooperatively with three other players. The problem is that the different classes have very particular roles on the battlefield, and some of them are simply not suitable for solo play. Whilst in a team, the long range abilities of the Mage or Hunter can be used to great effect, and the support offered by the Cleric is invaluable, using these characters in solo play can, to differing degrees, be incredibly difficult. The classes are just not balanced towards the single player.
The class that you choose dictates what sort of equipment your character can use, although later down the line it is possible to change your class if you wish. The equipment is one of the ways in which the player can improve their character as the game progresses. Unlike most RPGs, Ragnarok Odyssey doesn’t offer an experience driven character progression mechanic, but rather relies on better equipment and the use of cards for improvement.
This is actually quite interesting, and a little strange. Game Arts are trying something a bit different here, and should be applauded for it, even if it doesn’t quite feel as natural as a XP based system. Basically, the player will find, or trade with other players, collectible cards that will add stat improvements or effects to their character. These cards have to be equipped though, and the number you can equip depends on the armour you are wearing. So, progression through the game will bring more cards and better equipment to allow the equipping of a greater number of cards, allowing your character to become more powerful. It is a simple system, but one that is very different to what RPG players may be used to.
The combat itself, as Ragnarok Odyssey is an action RPG after all, is nicely done. There is a certain amount of button bashing involved, but combos are available and launching an enemy into the air before slamming them back to the ground to cause other enemies to be stunned is quite satisfying. There are two attack buttons along with jump and dash, and it is really easy to pick up. Which is handy because there will be a lot of fighting in Ragnarok Odyssey.
Which is perhaps the games’ biggest weakness. It becomes repetitive very quickly. The monsters that you face are impressive, but are frequently re-used. When combined with the lack of variety in the gameplay, Ragnarok Odyssey can quickly become monotonous to gamers who are perhaps not used to grinding gameplay. That being said, repetitiveness is a fault that can be leveled at many games, it just depends how much you invest in the game as to whether that is an issue or not.
Visually, the actual gameplay is quite good, with a bright and colourful theme running throughout. The cinematics are really impressive and enjoyable to watch. The sound within the game is adequate, as is the touch screen integration which is used quite subtly for inventory access and such.
Ragnarok Odyssey’s biggest problem is the lack of gameplay variety. Everything else about the game works quite well, and the game has the advantage of being the only game of its type on the Vita at the moment. The quick hit missions are well suited to shorter gameplay sessions and the controls are nicely laid out. But you still have to get past the repetitive nature of the missions, and that will put off a lot of players.