|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Game Arts|
|Pub: Xseed Games|
|Release: October 30, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Use of Alcohol|
by Josh Wirtanen
When I first picked up Ragnarok Odyssey, my co-worker/friend Jenni Lada told me that I shouldn’t pick the Mage class. I took this as a challenge to my manliness and decided to pick the Mage to spite her. In fact, I even gave him some epic facial hair to prove just how manly he was.
It turns out, Jenni’s a better friend than I thought, and she had given me that advice out of kindness rather than as a challenge. Picking the Mage was a terrible idea. My bearded spellcaster simply couldn’t survive the waves of monsters that were thrown at him, and I ended up starting over with a class that wasn’t completely worthless in battle. (I do miss that beard, though.)
Now, I understand that this is a co-op game, and that the Mage could potentially be halfway decent as a support class in a group, but I have a feeling that most people who pick up Ragnarok Odyssey are going to be forced to play it solo. It’s a niche title on a system that hasn’t exactly sold a lot of units, after all. The fact that there are classes that are simply too ineffective to be much value for solo players is a pretty huge problem in my book.
And, unfortunately, that’s only one of the many glaring problems with Ragnarok Odyssey.
For example, the pause menu is completely counterintuitive. In just about any game ever made, hitting the Start button pauses the game, right? Maybe there’s a menu that pops up, maybe there’s just a floating piece of text that says “Pause,” or maybe the action of the game just freezes in place. Either way, “Start button equals Pause” is a decades-old control formula that I think we can all agree is a positive thing.
Ragnarok Odyssey doesn’t think so. For some reason, hitting Start brings up a menu, but it doesn’t pause the game. Now, you can pause the game from this menu, but since you do so using the X button, and the X button is one of the fundamental buttons you’ll be pressing in combat (X is your jump button, which, as I’ll explain later, is sort of important in combat), there’s absolutely no discernable reason that the game won’t pause when this menu pops up.
To make these frustrations worse, the “not really a pause menu” doesn’t even have touchscreen functionality. This is baffling, because the social menu (which is neatly tucked away on the side of the screen) does. It’s as if there were two completely separate teams working on menus, and the team in charge of the “pause” menu spent most of their time getting drunk and playing Monster Hunter. It’s just baffling to me that there could ever be so much inconsistency between menu systems within a single game.
Surely the gameplay makes up for the bad menu system and the fact that some classes are embarrassingly underpowered, right?
Well, that’s a loaded question, and the answer is both yes and no. You see, the combat is actually pretty cool. You have an attack button, a dash button, and two attack buttons, and a shoulder button that will allow you to lock onto your enemies. In addition, both classes I tried out have a combo that launches enemies up into the air where they will hover until you jump up and spike them back down to the ground like volleyballs. Slamming them down will injure and stagger all the nearby enemies, so when you have two or three enemies in the air and two or three more trying to crowd you, you can use this combo to deal massive AEO damage.
All of these things work together to build a combat system that feels satisfying. There is a lot of button mashing, sure, but there is also a strategic element to it all, which makes that button mashing feel a hell of a lot more deliberate.
This combat could have been excellent if paired with a halfway decent progression system. Unfortunately, Ragnarok Odyssey provides no such thing. There’s no XP or level-up progression here at all; the only upgrades you’ll get involve the equipment you wear, the weapon you use, and the cards you equip.
Yes, the game has a card system, which allows you to find cards out in the wild that affect your stats in various ways. It’s a neat little system, but it certainly doesn’t make up for the lack of an XP system. I want to be able to see my character progressing with each monster killed; I don’t want to repeat missions over and over again in the hopes that I’ll find a card that’s just slightly better than the ones I already have. If you come to a particularly hard portion of the game—which you will, I guarantee it—you can’t just grind a few levels and try again. You could potentially spend hours searching for a card that ever-so-slightly increases your stats. This isn’t fun; this is tedious.