When making an action-RPG on a handheld system, there are two things you need to do to make it work. First, make sure it is an easy pick-up-and-play game in small doses. Next, put in a camera that works with a portable systems’ limitations. With Ragnarok Odyssey, Game Arts did a better job of fulfilling those needs than anyone else has thus far on the Vita.
Ragnarok Odyssey is based on the MMO Ragnarok Online, from which it borrows its enemies and backstory. Familiarity with it is unnecessary, since the story is secondary to the action; the premise serves only as a prop to support the gameplay. Giants and monsters have invaded human lands and, in a last ditch effort, the human military has enlisted the help of the mercenary guilds to destroy the giants first.
After the opening cinematic sets up the story, everything else is told via NPC dialogue, though it never really goes into any depth. The actual game progresses via short missions that you’ll choose from in the guild hall. They are timed up to thirty minutes long, though very rarely will you ever need the full amount of time. Most of the time, you’ll either use up all three lives you get per mission or succeed much faster than the time limit. The missions themselves range from killing a certain type of enemy to collecting enough of a material to taking down a giant boss. While there isn’t a large variety of missions, the combat is enjoyable enough that it doesn’t really matter.
The combat itself differs based on which of six classes you choose to play as. There’s the assassin, a very fast melee attacker; the cleric, a defense-first healer; the hammersmith, a slow-but-powerful melee fighter; the mage and hunter, two long distance attackers with limited defense; and the sword master, a basic balanced melee fighter. The style of play from each class is different, and it may take some time to figure out which best suits your preferences. Ragnarok Odyssey is prepared for that, and after a few missions you’ll be able to switch classes at will. You will also soon learn how to supercharge your fighter with DS mode. DS mode greatly increases your attack power and allows you to absorb HP from enemies when you attack them, though at the cost of losing life as long as it is active.
Character customization is a heavy focus as well. There are over a dozen different faces, hairstyles and voices for you to choose from for each gender, and these as well can be changed at will eventually, though at a cost. There’s also no leveling system in Ragnarok Odyssey. After each chapter your character will get stronger, but between chapter conclusions, the only way to improve is by enhancing weapons or armor with the materials you find in combat. Unfortunately, it is difficult finding the most limited materials at times, due to a lack of information on where to find them within the game itself.
Ragnarok Odyssey also has a solid multiplayer system. There is both an online and ad-hoc lobby available, and any progress made by your party of up to four people counts in your single-player game as well. Because of that, though, you can only go into missions that everyone in a party has either beaten or unlocked. There is an issue with lag at times, though it’s not gamebreaking.
The camera works great most of the time. The only issues I’ve had with it happen when targeting an enemy and rapid movements occur, as this causes the camera to flip out a bit and a complete loss of equilibrium. The graphics are very impressive for a handheld title, and the flashy and colorful designs make it look even better. The fact that the loading times are short and few is also very impressive.
There a few issues with Ragnarok Odyssey, but none of them are important enough to derail the recommendation of what is definitely one of the best games released on the Vita thus far.
Pros: Great, diverse, fast-paced combat; bite-sized chunks; lots of customization; good online play
Cons: Lack of a real story; camera can go crazy when targeting enemies; can be repetitive