When it comes to downloadable-only offerings from the PlayStation Store with Minis, PSP games and now PSOne Classics, in addition to PlayStation Mobile, there are plenty of ways to stay busy on your Vita. However, bigger retail releases have been lacking lately, especially when it comes to RPGs for gamers to enjoy. When the Vita was nearing release, I had visions of playing a grand and sprawling open world RPG in the vein of recent releases like Dragon's Dogma or Kingdoms of Amalur. Games like this might seem out of place on a handheld, but with the right design decisions and pacing, it could work extremely well (games like Uncharted and Assassin's Creed have already proved that the Vita could easily handle a game like that.) While Ragnarok Odyssey is by no means a fulfillment of that original vision I had about a year ago, it is most definitely a step in the right direction and a welcomed addition the Vita's growing library of exclusive titles.
The previous two games I mentioned, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, are both great games on the Vita. They prove that console-quality experiences can be had on the handheld by bringing spin-offs of two of this generation's most beloved franchises. Furthermore, games like Gravity Rush are showing us that original and unique IPs can work on the Vita as well and Ragnarok Odyssey is another exclusive that proves this point.
Ragnarok Odyssey is inspired by the popular MMO Ragnarok Online and features references to Norse mythology. You begin the game with a beautiful CG cutscene that would make any Final Fantasy game jealous and dive right into character creation. You have a whole host of options to choose from including gender, face designs, hair style and color and much more. You also must pick from one of six different classes: Sword Warrior, Hunter, Hammersmith, Assassin, Mage and Cleric. You can probably guess how each class plays based on their name alone and you wouldn't really be wrong.
The basic design of the game has a central town as the hub of your adventures where you can manage your inventory and equipment, purchase and sell gear, perform minor customizations to your character, talk to NPCs and ultimately select quests to embark on. The general plot of the game involves your enlisting in a brigand of warriors that hunt monsters to protect the town. Think of this game as essentially a mixture of Monster Hunter and Phantasy Star Online with quite a bit less of a learning curve.
While the class you select will very much decide what types of weapons you can use, it doesn't really change your general strategy in combat too much. For the most part, combat consists of mashing buttons until the enemies on the screen die. Quests are generally kill X of this creature or collect X of this item. The story doesn't ever really advance too far beyond the initial hook to get you interested. All of this being said however, once you start playing, you will probably find yourself addicted like I did. Once you select a quest to complete, you are sent to an instanced map. All quest areas are just a series of maps or rooms for you to travel through, but this is still exciting for two main reasons: 1) The load times are almost non-existent and 2) they did a great job of making the game feel like a big world, even if it is just a series of small connected rooms.
Even though you will mostly just be rolling your thumb across the face of your Vita to perform various different combos and attacks, Game Arts did an admirable job of giving you the illusion of a deeper combat system. You can lock on to enemies and based on which order you press the buttons or how long of a delay you space between button presses, combos can play out quite differently. Even melee classes can charge in from a distance or launch enemies into the air to continue their assault. All of the missions are designed in such a way that they can each be completed in a span of roughly 15-30 minutes, depending on the job, which is perfect for on-the-go adventuring. While this game is still very much an RPG, you don't actually level up in this game. Instead, you assign different cards and gear to your character that raise specified stats. While this system works well, the stat and ability junkie in me would have preferred this system to simply augment a traditional leveling/ability unlock system as opposed to wholly replacing it.
The art direction is quite beautiful, especially for a Vita game. At the speed that the action takes place, it's easy to forget that it's all happening on a handheld device. The score is epic and inspiring, with enough tracks to unlock to keep it from getting too stale. One of the best things this game offers is the ability to play with other people. You can join a group with up to three other players to adventure through the game. This is highly recommended as some of the bosses in the latter portions of the game are very difficult to take down by yourself.
Ragnarok Odyssey doesn't reinvent the action-RPG formula and is not a step forward by any means, but it is the first game of it's kind to be available on the PlayStation Vita. With dozens of hours of content, online multiplayer and thousands of ways to customize various different characters, you would be hard-pressed to find a better way of scratching that RPG itch on the system, as it is an entirely passable action-RPG in its own right.
Let us know what you thought of this review and the game in the comments below!
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PlayStation Vita provided by XSeed Games.