The PS Vita seems as though it should be the perfect breeding ground for
role-playing games. With the indomitable Persona 4 Golden on the horizon,
there's hope for the powerful handheld yet, but there aren't as many fantastic
RPG experiences as one might think. Ragnarok Odyssey seemed
very much like it could be the renaissance JRPG gamers were looking for - at
first glance, anyway. It's not the smorgasbord of familiar addictive action we
were waiting for, but it's not that striking, either. Ragnarok Odyssey attempts
to cover all those bases, but it's just a serviceable fantasy RPG that should
get you through the dry spell if you've got nothing else.
At the very least the game allows for a varied character customization system
that was actually more fun than the game's grind. You can choose a gender, face,
skin color, and a voice, though there are no options to further flesh out your
fight with bodily customization. Once you've put a face to the name of your
character it's up to you to choose an appropriate class. There are plenty of
different playable classes to choose from, catering to nearly all play styles.
As you progress through the game, you'll have the option, of course, to go back
on these choices if you so desire, with the addition of the Salon to your
repertoire. From there, you can alter your class and appearance, though your
gear won't automatically be level-matched.
The armor system is actually fairly varied, allowing you to change several
different pieces with specific cards that each hold different augments. You can
insert these into pockets in the armor to make it your own, despite the lack of
variety in aesthetic options. Some characters will not be able to wear different
sets of armor, so they're not shareable across class changes, but you've at
least got some way to change up how each character looks.
What's truly bizarre is the manner in which the game plays out. Missions are
assigned and accepted in the mail room, where you'll take posted jobs at the
quest desk and venture forward to tackle them. The world seems as though it's
built for an open world endeavor, but that's not exactly how Ragnarok Odyssey
works. Aside from going out and completing quests, you simply don't interact
very much with the environment itself. It's quite a departure from the wildly
popular Ragnarok Online, and more constrained to the limitations of a "normal"
JRPG, which was admittedly a bit disappointing.
Each quest you accept encompasses collecting a lot of the same item,
returning with said items for a reward, exterminating groups of enemies, and
reaping XP or item rewards. It's all terribly mundane, and as you're herded
automatically back to your own main hub after the mission is completed you can't
help shake the feeling that you've been doing the same things over and over.
Because you have been. It quickly becomes a slog as you run through the same
quests again and again, with little incentive for doing them rather than the
in-game spoils. It's not very fulfilling once you've done the same things over
and over, and that's where Ragnarok Odyssey begins to falter.
There's a break in monotony when it comes to endbosses between quests, but
you have to take care to learn specific takedown strategies and keep your item
reserves fully stocked before heading into battle. If you're continually felled
in combat, there's no way to come back to grind and earn extra experience to
quickly catch up if you're underpowered. It's odd design quirks like this that
hold Ragnarok odyssey back from greatness and instead give you a frustrating
time rather than an entertaining one. Combined with the fact that most slain
monsters don't even help your characters grow as fighters, it's hard to find a
reason to keep chipping away at a game that just doesn't appreciate all the hard
work being put into it.
It's a shame there's little reason to push through the not-so-savory parts of
the game, as there are some intriguing battles with larger creatures that cull
interesting Monster Hunter-esque strategies, gorgeous environments, and a
formidable soundtrack to boot. All the components seem to be in place to craft a
unique JRPG challenge, but Ragnarok Odyssey simply continually
misses the point. The Vita still needs its share of JRPG goodness, but
unfortunately this isn't going to cut it. You might want to bide your time for
another, more fleshed-out adventure instead.