Ragnarok Odyssey is a deceiving game. When looking at videos, trailers, or any kind of pre-release content, the game appears to be several things. On one hand, the game looks a bit like Xenoblade Chronicles (especially the combat system), drawing forth hopes that the beautiful graphics and seemingly expansive landscapes would translate into a huge, story driven, action-based JRPG. On the other hand, the crafting system, monster fighting, and loot system brings forth the possibility of a new competitor to Monster Hunter.
As it turns out, Ragnarock Odyssey is neither of these things. Not even close.
Based on the MMO franchise Ragnarok Online, Ragnarok Odyssey is an attempt at creating a single-player experience based on the established lore, featuring unique bosses, a story mode, and expansive mission based gameplay. The combat is simplistic: attacks are done using the Triangle and Circle button. Depending on your class, this can be the fire of an arrow, the slash of a sword, the long-range power of a staff, or a few other things. The six classes are unique, and carry their own strengths and drawbacks. The warrior class is balanced in all fronts; the berserker has a massive attack and little speed and defense; the assassin is incredibly agile but can’t do massive damage in each hit. It’s very much an Action RPG, but with some exceptions.
Unlike traditional action RPGs, your player character does not level up. Instead, the player gains higher HP, defense, and attack at the end of each chapter. In addition to this, weapons can be refined to do more damage, and your armor can be fitted with “cards” that can increase attack, provide poison resistance, and many other things of that nature. To balance this out, better cards can only be found in tougher areas, and the amount of cards you can put on each piece of armor is incredibly limited at first (until gathering materials to expand that ability). Without a leveling system in this kind of game, the progression feels stiff, and without the need to gather materials to improve yourself, there would be zero motivation to even attack most minor enemies.
The general story follows a kingdom that hires the player as a warrior to keep the land from invasion. To do so, they need to complete quests and defeat bosses that are the culmination of each group of missions, or chapter. Without exception, these exclusively include “defeat these enemies”, “protect this”, and “collect this many items”. With the exception of boss fights, every single main quest in the game feels like the side quest in a superior RPG. The only “story” that comes in are sparse text bubbles in between certain missions that you don’t even have to initiate. Even worse, the bosses don’t have much personality to speak of. Hitting certain body parts does more or less damage, some attacks will mess you up, and you need to break their armor to do more damage. Besides that, every boss just feels like a larger, stronger, and more colorful version of a basic enemy.
In addition to the task, you are given a time limit with which to beat a given quest. They take place in a specific area (which you are immediately teleported to), and are usually 30 minutes, a gross overestimation of how much time a player needs to beat most missions. Even with the ability to collect more loot, every area is so disjointed and linear that doing anything other than completing the mission just feels boring. In addition to this, areas on a map not relevant to the quest are actually blocked off, counter-intuitive to what you would expect in this kind of game. On the positive side of things, the sword slashing does have an addicting tendency to it, and the five-or-ten minute missions are perfect for handheld play .
To make matters worse, the combat has little depth to speak of. Outside of guarding (which has almost no practical use), SP mode (which allows you to attack rapidly with no knockback and higher attack power for a little while once you fill up the bar), and some air combat, the only real tactic in Ragnarok Odyssey is to hit the Triangle button over and over again. That is not due to a lack of skill, either — that is actually the most effective way to beat the game. Some bosses are hard (and some later bosses have some brutal attacks), but the entire game is generally very easy.
A hub world is also present in the game, though it is undeniably small. There are shops that distribute potions, cards, weapons, clothing, hats, music, and quests. In addition to this, there is a personal room that allows you to change classes, save, buy DLC , collect Near items, and change your equipment.
The other thing in the castle area is a Tavern that allows you to take on more challenging multiplayer missions with up to three other friends online. I haven’t had the opportunity to play with anyone, though the missions are available to play in single-player (and they are much harder solo). I can’t provide a verdict on this one way or another, but I imagine that the multiplayer would provide an extra-layer of fun to this kind of game.
Ragnarok Odyssey is a game that looks excellent in photographs, but doesn’t really hold-up in game. Everything looks nice, and the visuals do a good job of presenting a much more expansive land than is actually available, but it does not push the capabilities of the Vita in the slightest. The sound is alright, but the minimal voice acting is grating (and was quickly silenced in the options menu). Otherwise, the translation is very good, and for whatever writing there is, it all reads like a well produced video game.
By the time I finished every single-player chapter at 17 hours, I felt empty. What I expected was not present in any extent, and what I got instead wasn’t even a high quality alternative. There are no glitches, and the game doesn’t do anything wrong, but it just isn’t good at all. It’s dull, repetitive, and boring; a game of sidequests on a system that is capable of much more.