Review: Ragnarok Odyssey Ace – Getting a Second Wind
Coming from a period of lacking big-time “hunter” RPGs just a few years back, the PS Vita has suddenly found a pretty big assortment of loot-based, endlessly-engaging RPGs to choose from in a relatively short amount of time. While back when the system launched there were few and far between, Sony’s portable system is now home to a plethora of the increasingly-popular genre: Soul Sacrifice, Toukiden, and now the returning re-release of Ragnarok Odyssey.
Much like the struggle between David and Goliath, the majority of the “hunter” RPG genre is split between two camps, as the towering Monster Hunter reigns over nearly everyone else in the genre. With enhanced content, more missions, more equipment, more weapons, and most of all, more monsters, where does that leave Ragnarok Odyssey Ace coming nearly two years after the original’s release?
Starting players out in typical RPG fashion as the fresh-faced warrior ready to take on the world, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace plays as a third-person action RPG where, much like the rest of its genre (and of course to those that played the 2012 original), the focus of the title comes from a vicious (but engaging) cycle of taking on quests, battling monsters, and gaining a variety of new skills, weapons, and attributes to grow even stronger. While the game is fairly light on story and plot, progression comes from the continual advancement of a player’s stats, mixed with the flow of new missions that take you on greater journeys, and often against even great enemies.
Given the title’s “Ace” identifier, the game is a re-release of the original 2012 Ragnarok Odyssey, but filled to the brim with new content making for an appealing package to both fans looking for to jump into the genre headfirst, or as a tempting offer to fans looking to upgrade their original game.
Even with a game already packing in several dozens of hours worth in missions and content, Ace generously adds in lots to look forward to for both fans of the original title and for first timers to the series, as plenty of new missions, weapons, and tweaks are present to make Ace a worthy follow-up re-release. New gear and items notwithstanding, Ace‘s new “Tower of Yggdrasil” mode alone can provide enough content to satisfy players for a full title half its length.
Ragnarok Odyssey Ace is a game of generosity and excess — the game always contains new challenges to take on, new areas to explore, new loot to gather, and new monsters to fight — and often — struggle against. Thankfully, this works mostly to Ace‘s advantage as the title packs in a big punch, making the game an alluring package for those that want a Monster Hunter-styled adventure.
However, for all that this title does right to “re-do” and improve on some of its predecessor’s lacking features, Ace more often feels like a re-tread of not only RPGs as a whole, but also of itself. While the title gives the appearance of giving players continual progress, it often feels as if it’s an exercise in running in place rather than for going the extra mile.
Whether you chalk it up to the genre as a whole (not unlike the rigorous uphill climb that comes with similar genres like MOBAs or RTSs) or to faults within the game’s own lack of clear direction or unforgiving learning curve, Ace certainly has a wealth of content to delve into and missions to take on. Yet for the uninitiated to the series (or to this particular breed of RPG games, as a whole), it will often feel like getting past an immovable object when accounting for the rigorous levels of understanding the game’s combat mechanics and lengthy lists of gear, weapons, and their numerous combinations.
Likewise, Ace is no stranger to the rigors of level-grinding: as a necessary part of any RPG for progress and gaining strength/experience, it’s certainly an expected part of the experience. Yet the degrees to which the title relies on level-grinding often feels monotonous and artificial. Although nearly RPG has level-grinding to some degree, typically it is adjacent to a title’s unique gameplay mechanics, wherein this game it becomes a crutch to much of the experience.
While the game provides a great variety of engagement in its combat scenarios, so too does it struggle against the necessity of providing a steady stream of new experiences to shakes things up, a big drawback considering it as a title capable of providing 50+ hours of gameplay, or more.
This game certainly suffers in these circumstances for its single-player campaign, given it is a fairly lengthy one, but with a bevy of customization options for both the player and their gear, there is still much to admire in the title that will definitely cater to the hardcore RPG player’s desire for more, more, more. Likewise, the game’s presentation and art certainly is appealing on the PS Vita’s smaller screen, although with some slightly outdated visuals upscaled for the PS3, it does begin to show its age slightly.
Like any RPG adventure, the hero of the journey starts from small beginnings and gradually works their way up to big adventure with greater reward, conquering quests, monsters, and enemies of the like in their path. Like those adventures, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace promises all of those in excess – with a dizzying amount of content, reward, loot, monsters, equipment, and challenges waiting, and enhanced with the game’s added content, it comes as a potential dream to RPG owners (particularly on PS Vita). But once the first dozen or so hours sets in of its repetitive goals, it rarely plays like one.
Under the watch of the other big hitters in its genre like Monster Hunter and Soul Sacrifice, this game still provides plenty to look forward to and enjoy in its many hours of questing and monster-hunting — it’s just the hours it takes to get to that point might be a bit off-putting for the young adventurer in waiting.