The Playstation Vita came hot out of the gate way back in February, with 24 titles at launch. However, since then the portable system has been facing a long drought for games, and what we did get (Resistance: Burning Skies) was a tremendous slight against the system. However, Vita has since seen a resurgence of quality. Now we have Ragnarok Odyssey, the first serious RPG on the system and the Vita’s answer to the 3DS’ Monster Hunter. But is it truly the answer Vita needs? Well, quite possibly.
Ragnarok Odyssey follows the same overall story of the previous entries in the series, but don’t worry if you haven’t played them. Essentially, the series follows Norse mythology and takes place shortly after Ragnarok (the Norse version of the apocalypse). You’re a mercenary with a small band of humans as you help defend the town of Rune Midgard from Giants and other monsters that remain after Ragnarok.
You start off Ragnarok by first creating a character. You have nice selection of faces, skin colors, hairstyles, and even voices. While not the most amazing character creator ever, it’s nice for something on a portable system. Ragnarok Odyssey has six character classes to chose from: the well rounded Sword Master, the fast and agile Assassin, the self-healing and extremely armored Cleric, the magic powerhouse Mage, the powerful Hammersmith, and the long range Hunter. Each class focuses on combos, and requires different strategy and timing to master.
While Ragnarok Odyssey does have a story too, it’s nothing too substantial. You work with your captain, and he keeps you informed of the growing Giant menace. However, Ragnarok Odyssey‘s main strength is it’s gameplay. It follows an easy (and familiar) system. From town, you can gather potions, weapons, cards, and accessories to use in battle. From there, you meet the quest giver, pick the mission, and take the portal to the next mission.
The way missions are set up is awesome, and it’s perfect for a portable device. Most missions have a time limit of 30 minutes, but most of the time you can finish them in 5-10. The mission lengths are perfect for doing a quick run when you’re on the go. It’s awesome to play when you’re on your lunch break and don’t have a long time. The Vita definitely needs more games with this quick mission mentality.
Ragnarok is also really entertaining, as you have to hack your way through wolves, trolls, blobs, lizards, and more. The boss battles are challenging and require a lot of quick thinking if you want to survive. The bosses of Ragnarok Odyssey all require you to study them and their attacks in order to figure out the best time to attack and what to avoid. It can be challenging, but you will feel amazing when you finally gain the victory.
Combat is a mixed bag. The fighting is very fast paced, and you’ll have to master all the combos to make the most of your class. Enemies can interrupt your combos, unless you hit them enough that they get stunned. From here, you can launch the foe into enemies or a wall, or juggle them in the air for additional damage. In between that, you’re guarding or dashing away to avoid damage. You also have a stamina meter that drains as you dash, run, and use heavy attacks. However, it refills quickly enough that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of combat. When you’re in a tight spot (and have a full AP meter), you can also unleash Dainsleif mode, which allows you to strike without interruption and gain back health every time you strike an enemy.
The challenge can spike on a moments notice, as you can get jumped by groups of enemies when you least expect it. Some of the enemies are extremely powerful, and it can be very risky to interrupt their combos. While Ragnarok can have a lot traffic during fights, I never experienced any frame rate issues in single player. However, when the monsters rush you, it can cause the camera to switch first person perspective, and that means you won’t be able to see what your character is doing. It doesn’t happen often, but it can lead to you taking a lot of damage before you get out.
In Ragnarok Odyssey, you don’t level up in standard fashion. Yes, your base stats go up a little when you complete a chapter, but if you want to see any significant growth, it’s your equipment that you focus on, especially Monster Cards. Your armor or outfit can store up to a certain amount of cards, which give you stat merits and flaws depending on the card. You can buy Monster Cards in the shop, or you can get them from defeating monsters. You can increase the amount of cards you can carry by expanding your outfit with money and ingredients from quests, and the same goes for powering up your weapons.
While getting new items or outfits is awesome, it sadly doesn’t happen as often as you’d like. The red armor I used for a while came around Chapter 2, and my next sword came in Chapter 3. While the whole “loot drop” aspect would have been cool, the fact that the weapon and armor upgrades don’t come often made those upgrades even better. When that red armor purchase was made, it felt like a like a real accomplishment. This wasn’t something given to me or randomly dropped. After going through two chapters with 10 stages each and replaying them to make sure I had enough items to get it, that sucker was worn with pride. Just the same, playing through 20% of the game to get a new whatever is a little much. Ragnarok could definitely use more stuff.
One of the best things about Ragnarok Odyssey is how it doesn’t take the whole “touchscreen display” and shove it down our throats. Aside from typing in a character name, activating some modes, and saving, the touchscreen isn’t used at all. No random swipes or anything needed. We’re not saying the touchscreen has no use in future games, but only when it adds to the experience. Ragnarok Odyssey didn’t need it, so they don’t use it much. It’s advice more future Vita games should follow.
Finally, there’s Ragnarok‘s online multiplayer mode, which is – for the most part – great. You can team up with groups of other players to form four-man squads and complete the missions together. The ability to join up with others is fantastic, especially for some of the tougher missions. Items picked up are given to the other players as well as the one who picked it up, so there’s very little stress involved. For the most part, it works well, though you’ll want to make sure you are with a party with good internet connections. Otherwise, you’ll encounter very noticeable frame rate drops. This can be bad to a point you’ll just want to leave the group.
Ragnorak Odyssey is fun, but I wish it just had a little more. As cool as it was to work for that red armor, it was annoying when several party members had the same armor. I do wish it had more outfits and weapons, not just for damage, but to make my character more distinguished as well. Having more faces and voices would be nice too; however, this could also be fixed with DLC.
Another issue that will come up is repetition. You should expect to go to the same areas multiple times to kill the same kind of monster (though a few more each time), and myriad fetch quests. So if that’s not your style, this may not be the RPG for you. However, you should give Ragnorak Odyssey a try because despite the repetition in some areas, it’s still a fun game to play. The areas you explore are bright and have some of the best graphics on the Vita. The enemies will present you with a challenge: no matter how many times you play Ragnarok, it feels a little different each time.
Ragnarok Odyssey is a great game and a real credit to Vita’s library. It’s an experience everyone should at least try. For those looking for an RPG on their little system, congratulations. Your game has arrived.