|Dev: Game Arts|
|Pub: XSEED Games|
|Release: April 1, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol|
by Sean Engemann
Ragnarok Odyssey was released in October of 2012 to less than stellar reviews, on a system that is scraping to find quality games--the PS Vita. XSEED Games has decided to give the game a second chance, hoping to make things right with Ragnarok Odyssey ACE. This upgrade includes more monsters, new skills, a four-hundred floor tower to tackle and a few more changes to keep the action moving. It's a huge injection of content, but there are still flaws both major and minor in the gameplay mechanics and user interface that needed to be addressed and sadly were not.
Let's start with the positive improvements, and jump right into combat. The fast-paced, combo and chain heavy system allows you to pummel waves of monsters, launch them in the air, beat them while suspended there, then drive them into the ground. There are six classes to choose from, each wielding an exclusive weapon type and sporting their own tactics. Sword Warriors are well-rounded melee fighters, Hammersmiths are slow but can crush crowds with a swing of their drill hammer, Assassins lack strength but make up for it with speed and agility, Clerics have high defense and healing powers, Mages unleash elemental spells and Hunters strike from afar with precision bow skills. Each class is interesting enough, though they all have a hard time functioning without support.
The problem in the original game was that missions either had to be tackled solo, or through local or online multiplayer which unfortunately lacked a populous community to find help. Grinding levels isn't an option since you don't gain experience, instead having to upgrade your weapons and equip randomly dropped skill and stat boosting cards to your outfit in order to have a chance against tougher foes. Ragnarok Odyssey ACE has two new features to help combat this handicap. First, along with the PS Vita, the game is also available on the PS3, with full cross-play functionality, which hopefully will increase the pool of players to join up with on missions. However, should you prefer playing solo, you can now recruit up to two AI controlled mercenaries to tackle quests. Thus my Cleric is now complimented with the heavy hitting Hammersmith and sniping Hunter, allowing me to focus on keeping them healthy while throwing in a few mace strikes here and there.
Playing in a group, whether alone or with friends, is by far the most enjoyable route, and now there is a real feeling of team synergy with the inclusion of ACE skills. Up to four of these useful powers can be equipped, tailored to specific classes. Most of them provide powerful attacks, buffs, and healing, some of which embolden the entire group. They eat away at your AP meter and have cooldowns, but you'll be constantly watching for them to refresh, since they are immensely useful and fun to watch.
The biggest update has the be the Tower of Yggdrasil, with hundreds of randomly generated floors that keep building the intensity but reward you with rare drops, especially from some mammoth bosses. It nearly doubles the length of the game, but unfortunately is only accessible after you've completed the nine chapters of the main story. Thus, if you found yourself trudging through mission after mission without much satisfaction, the extra content certainly isn't something that will entice you to revisit Ragnarok Odyssey.
There are still plenty of flaws in the mechanics that never got fixed. The menu screens, for instance, should have been navigable via the touch screen, but still require button controls. It wouldn't be a big issue, except the menu screens are very cumbersome, and certain long lists have no fast scrolling. The Start button still doesn't pause immediately, having you press a second button before skimming through the menu without fear of being attacked.
The game also hasn't simplified the quest and loot screens. You're given a mission but have no indicators as to where to find the enemies or items required for completion. You can sell items directly after completing a mission, but can't scan through them to check their usefulness before turning them into cash. Upgrades require specific components, but you are not given any indications on where to find them. It's all random.