The Vita is finally starting to pick up some steam in the games department but what most fans have been clamoring for is Monster Hunter. Sony might just have the next best thing in Ragnarok Odyssey. From developer GungHo Online and publisher Xseed, this title brings a lot to the table in its small package and utilizes the Vita to perfection. At a time when the pickings are light, Ragnarok Odyssey is a game you need to have in your Vita collection.
There is a story to be told in Ragnarok Odyssey, but it’s not really much of one. Giant monsters have invaded the land and humans, down to their last hope, must fight back to save their race. The story is told almost entirely through conversations with NPCs, so if you are looking for a deep and compelling story, you ain’t getting it here. Instead, the game is all about tossing players into the fray and seeing how they fare.
Everything begins with an epic opening video that gets you pumped up for an action-packed battle. I seriously had to show everyone I could because it blew me away. After the intro you will be given a character customization screen that is extremely deep. Pick a character class and then get started picking from over 19 hairstyles, 16 voices, and much more. Players will also need to select their class of character; a swordsman, long-range hunter, a cleric, hammersmith, Mage, and Assassin. Each of these classes present their own strengths and weaknesses to take into consideration but don’t worry if you pick wrong, the game allows you to change in between missions.
The meat of Ragnarok Odyssey centers around questing through missions to move through the many chapters in the game. Pick a mission from the guild, head out and complete it, then return to pick another. The quests are broken down between gathering a set amount of items or killing a set amount of enemies, so nothing new to see here. Missions are given a set amount of time to complete and you can only take one mission at a time. Most of these can be completed well before the time expires, so there is usually no worry there.
After accepting a mission and heading out of the guild, you are automatically transported to where your quest will take place. These places break down into multiple small maps that tie together and are full of all sorts of monsters. Killing these monsters or destroying boxes will drop valuable materials that you can use to craft new items or expand current ones. Bad guys will half the time already be on screen when you enter a new area and the other half of the time they will show up as a trap when you enter a specific spot.
Combat is a good mixture of button-mashing and well timed dashes. Players will have a main melee attack and advanced skills that can be used at different points of your melee attack to achieve varied results. There is an ability to guard as well but most of the time it is best just to dash out of the way. Everything from attacks to dashing is controlled by the good old AP meter, which causes you to have major issues when it depletes but thankfully refills quickly. Most battles will have you doing enough damage to then catapult your foe into the air, smack them around a bit up there, and then send them back down to the ground. The fighting is fast-paced and can really become hectic as you progress through the chapters, when there are far too many enemies on screen and not enough space to get away.
The battle system is not without its flaws however, as the difficulty can spike up at the drop of a hat, leaving you crying on the ground after you have died three times and failed the mission. The game has also decided to give a lot of enemies the ability to interrupt your attacks far too easily, even though you are laying into them with your weapon. It can become a pain to have multiple enemies around you knocking you down, stunning, and hitting through your combos. These issues are minor and while they can aggravate you at times, they never take away from your experience and leave you feeling negative.
One of the bolder decisions made by GungHo Online is to not have a leveling system in Ragnarok Odyssey. The game instead has you collecting cards, which can be equipped to boost your character. Each player’s outfit can store up to eight cards, with the ability to expand your clothing to equip more expensive cards. These cards each have their own equip cost, so you will have to do a bit of math to equip your best set of cards. Bonuses from the cards range from healing up, elemental weapon damage, and defense up. Aside from just cards, you can gather materials through your missions to use refine your weapons, expand your card slots, or buy headgear to make your character extra fancy. The headgear doesn’t give any stat bonuses, it’s simply a fashion statement, as you can wear earmuffs, viking helmets, and more.
The move to leave out a leveling system might be a deal breaker for some people but it really works well in Odyssey. One of the knocks on it however, is that at times you will feel utterly helpless to move past certain bosses because you just can’t seem to gather the right materials to upgrade your weapon or expand your armor. Some materials can only be acquired from certain bosses and can fall at random. Lump this with the fact that the game does a terrible job of telling you where you can go to collect the resources needed.
One of the big perks with Ragnarok is the ability to play the missions locally or online via a tavern in the game. Each online room will have a leader who can select the missions and can be played with up to four people. Players can only compete in missions they have either beaten or at least reached in the single player campaign. For example, if you have only gotten to Chapter 3, Mission 2, then you won’t be able to take part in an online party that is on Mission 3 or Chapter 3.
Online missions are a great way to see just how well the classes mix to form a great party and provide a lot of fun to be had. There is however a major issue with lag in the game, as the game will lock up and stutter for a second or time during missions. This often comes at the worst possible times and I found that it happened most when playing with four people. Interactions online are simplistic and don’t try to take away from the experience. You can either select to pull up a keyboard to type a message or select from preset commands like “hey” or “let’s go”.
One of the biggest areas of success in Ragnarok is with the controls and the use of the Vita touchscreen. Controls are almost entirely done with the face buttons, with the only use of the touch coming in the form of using potions or interacting with other players. The use of potions via the touchscreen works with three equipped potions in the bottom right corner that you press when needed. Its only issue is that when the pace gets crazy on the screen, I had a tendency to hurry and press the wrong potion. The use of touch is refreshing in that it doesn’t force a lot of needless swipes on the screen and does what’s best for the game.
With the presentation, Ragnarok Odyssey is one of the more visually appealing games that the Vita has seen. The game is extremely bright and colorful, with a great blend of flashy attack visuals and smooth animations. The levels could have use a bit more detail and can feel a bit dull, but the game manages to hide this behind all the enemies and attack animations. One of the best and most amazing things in the game is the load times, or lack of load times. Yes they are in the game, but they are so minimal that you will hardly spend any time waiting to get into a mission or move to a new area.
As I said in my opening statement, Ragnarok Odyssey is a Vita game that you need to pick up and enjoy, because it is one of the best experiences on Sony’s handheld yet. Sure the game has some frustrating moments and can become a bit repetitive, but it delivers intense action, smooth visuals, and an online experience that will have you coming back for more. It’s not Monster Hunter but who cares, it’s good!