This is as close to Monster Hunter on PS Vita as it’s probably going to get.
Ragnarok Odyssey, the latest game from GameArts, the studio behind RPG classics Lunar and Grandia, aims to scratch that monster-hunting, loot collecting, action-RPG itch. Fortunately, it’s not simply a cheap “inspired” clone that rides Monster Hunter’s coattails; it’s a fine portable game that will keep your PS Vita occupied should you partner up with like a few like-minded adventurers.
You start by designing a character from one of six classes. These archetypes are analogous to what you’d find in a MMO, such as the ranged attacker, tanker, supporter, close combatant, and more. There aren’t many clothing options available at the start – -your class determines the outfit worn — but numerous hair, skin color, and facial options are available. I sighed at the fact that only one Black hairstyle exists — an Angela Davis/Jim Kelly-style ‘fro. Braids, fades, or twists are non-existent.
There isn’t much meat to single-player mode. You start in a central hub where you purchase and equip gear and pick up missions. That’s it. There aren’t many NPCs, and the story is just a barely-there vehicle to explain why you’re plowing through the monster ranks. As such, Ragnarok Odyssey is a far more enjoyable multi-player experience than single-player. Once you assemble a reliable crew the game’s fun factor skyrockets, and recalls the excitement during Phantasy Star Online‘s early days. Strong netcode keeps the online action moving briskly, but the group is bound to the lowest level players stages.
Like Capcom’s smash Monster Hunter, Ragnarok Odyssey divides the game world into multiple mini areas that are filled to the brim with all manner of nasty beasties. Your warrior has a jump, dash, and light and heavy attacks that combine to form impressive fast-paced combos, especially when filtered through a combat class like Sword Warrior, Assassin, and Hammersmith. Button mashing will produce effective results, but to truly devastate opponents a more deliberate attack plan is the key.
Every character has a launcher that sends monsters airborne. Tapping jump immediately after executing a launch attack sends your fighter upwards, too, so that you can do big damage in a situation where the enemy can’t strike back. It becomes a valuable tactic when you’re dealing with multiple enemies who bombard you with life-depleting attacks. Dashing and blocking are other life-preserving tactics, but the game would have benefited from a parry that would let you deflect blows while staying on the offensive. Attacks and dashing are metered by an AP bar that keeps you honest. It does, thankfully, refill quickly should you run out of steam amidst an aerial combo, so you don’t have to worry about hiding in a corner waiting for it to accumulate.
Enemies pelt you with both physical and status-based attacks that can quickly put you down (or to sleep!) if you aren’t in advantageous battle positions. Keeping an eye on your surroundings and the battle at hand is essential to overcoming the hulking boss characters that populate the game. These brutes can toss you like a rag doll if you aren’t careful, and as such, require careful tactics to overcome.
Fortunately, it’s not simply a cheap “inspired” clone that rides Monster Hunter‘s coattails; it’s a fine portable game that will keep your PS Vita occupied should you partner up with like a few like-minded adventurers.
Characters, by default, carry eight cards, but you can expand that number by visiting a tailor and purchasing additional card-carrying space. Although you can carry a maximum of eight cards, that doesn’t mean that you will. You’re limited by each card’s equip points, which pull from your overall card point pool. The best cards, naturally, carry a higher equip fee. The equip points limitation comes off as highly unnecessary — there’s no PVP, so I see no need for this balance obsession especially when monsters become increasingly harder to bring down.
Other random non-card drops can be used to strengthen weapons or sold at shops for cash. The issue with using drops to strengthen weapons is that they randomly appear; if you need to level up a sword and don’t have the proper materials, you have to replay area to try to get drops from specific enemies which leads to tedium. Money, on the other hand, goes a long way in Ragnarok Odyssey in terms of customizing your character. There are tons of physical add-ons available including new outfits, hats, and eyewear that gives characters unique looks. Dye jobs offer further customization.
The short mission lengths and focus on combat over story makes Ragnarok Odyssey a fine portable action-RPG for those who don’t want to wade through dialogue menus. The controls, too, add to this feel. GameArts maps most inputs to the PS Vita’s physical buttons, reserving touch icons for options and in-game emoticons. It plays like a console game — a positive in my eyes — as it doesn’t shoehorn in camera, touch, or accelerometer gimmicks.
How much enjoyment you’ll bleed out of Ragnarok Odyssey depends on how you choose to experience its world. Go at it alone, and you’ll probably put the game away after a few hours; it’s all about getting quests, equipping items, killing, and repeating the cycle. Team efforts, conversely, are a blast in both ad-hoc and online modes. Pick up Ragnarok Odyssey if you’re certain you’ll play online. Otherwise, try before you buy.