By Tyler Lubben / April 16th, 2014
|Title||Ragnarok Odyssey ACE
|Release Date||April 1, 2014|
|Platform||PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Back in college, I spent the better part of a semester playing Ragnarok Online, a sprite-based MMORPG with anime-inspired art and characters. It was a fun distraction, but I ultimately got bored of the same old grind every day. How strange, then, that today I’ve so embraced monster-hunting games. I’ve professed my love for the genre a few times in the past. There’s a certain kind of joy you can get from repeatedly going after huge beasts to collect materials to make progressively more powerful equipment. Ironically, it can be a bit of a grind similar to the MMOs I get bored of so easily, but, for players who can look past that fact, there’s often a greatly rewarding experience waiting inside. Just coming off playing games like Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Soul Sacrifice and Toukiden: The Age of Demons, it was my hope that Ragnarok Odyssey ACE would deliver a similarly enjoyable experience.
The original Ragnarok Odyssey is set in the same universe as the 2003 MMO. Of course, given the fact that one is a top-down RPG and the other is of the monster-hunting genre, that didn’t exactly do much to prepare me. I did, however, know what a Poring was beforehand, so… there’s that. With a name like Ragnarok, you can probably guess the game would have some Nordic themes. While this is true, the connections are pretty loose, with only passing references to things like Valhalla, and some monsters named after creatures from Nordic mythology. The game starts much the same as other monster-hunting games – you are the newcomer in a town with an established group of hunters, and it is your job to venture out and kill different enemies or collect materials in a series of progressively more difficult quests. That said, it isn’t exactly fair to boil a game down to its most basic concept like that, so let’s take a closer look.
Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is an updated version of the original game released in 2012. Many years after the events of Ragnarok left the old gods dead, forcing humans to fend for themselves against a race of giant monsters, you come to a fort city that stands as one of the last lines of defense against the giants. As a new recruit to the Pacification Squad of the Scales Mercenaries, your job is to go out to explore the wilderness and clear out the various monsters that might threaten the city. Starting a New Game, you create your character with the various amenities you’d expect – gender, hair, face, skin color, voice. You also pick one of six jobs here: the average-powered Sword Warrior; the slow, but mighty Hammersmith; the DPS-focused Assassin; the supportive and defensive Cleric; the ranged Hunter and the elemental-heavy Mage. Choose carefully, however, because your chosen job locks you out of all but one weapon type for the beginning quests, though you gain the ability to switch jobs a little later on if you want to try out different fighting styles. As is usually the case for me with these types of games, I went with the superior stopping power of the Hammersmith.
If you’ve ever played a monster-hunting game, Odyssey ACE is going to feel more than a little familiar. You first speak to the receptionist at the Quest Counter, who presents you with a list of quests. You can also buy healing and curative potions here. The leader of the group, Eadgils, and other members are available to give their input on the current situation, but they’re otherwise pretty forgettable. After picking a quest, you are transported to the designated area. Most quests involve either killing a certain number of monsters, or collecting a certain number of items (which you get from killing monsters). Players can see their health bar at the top of the screen, as well as the Action Point (AP) Gauge which depletes as they sprint, jump or dodge. Players explore a series of segmented maps, fighting monsters and collecting items along the way. In addition to forming different combos and juggling enemies with the Triangle and Circle buttons, you can also activate the special “Dainsleif Mode” that increases your damage and speed at the cost of draining your health. However, attacking enemies during this mode will also restore your health, so, as long as your damage output is greater than the drain on your health, you can potentially end up with more health than what you started with. Once the mission objectives have been met, the quest will end, and players can collect their reward and acquired materials. Once you’ve completed certain quests from the list, the story will advance, allowing you to eventually take on tougher quests with more challenging objectives. Now, questing is all well and good, but the other main feature of monster-hunting games is the acquisition of materials to make cool new equipment. So, how does this mechanic play out in Odyssey ACE?
It’s here that I really have to try to look at this as someone who hasn’t been spoiled by the Monster Hunter franchise. The selection of both weapons and armor is fairly limited. Hrokkr, the blacksmith, will sell you a small selection of weapons, but they’re all fairly mediocre. The vast majority of the weapons you acquire will come from random drops as you defeat monsters. These will have slightly randomized stats different from the ones you can buy at the smithy. However, there are very few truly different designs for each weapon type – the biggest difference between the majority of them is that they are simple recolors. You can also give the weapons slight stat increases by refining them with the materials you find during quests. Even so, you won’t be building the same kind of vast arsenal of cool-looking weapons that you’d see in similar games.
It seems that Odyssey ACE sought to rectify this with the inclusion of “Halomonas Weapons” that are upgraded slightly differently than the others. Rather than simply buying small stat increases, players are given a list of mini-quests to apply specific upgrades and skills to these weapons. These still tend to boil down to killing a certain number of specific monsters or collecting certain materials, but it at least allows you to craft a weapon the way you want, rather than just getting a few extra points of damage. These weapons also start a bit weaker than others you find or buy, but completing a few orders to increase their damage will easily put them above and beyond the standard ones you get out in the wild. Unfortunately, aside from the one that Hrokkr gives you, Halomonas Weapons seem to be pretty rare, which is a shame because I would have enjoyed being able to explore this mechanic more than I did.
The tailor, Rune, can also make a modest collection of different one-piece outfits. As it turns out, however, the differences between them are purely cosmetic – there is absolutely no discernible distinction in their defensive ratings. While that might seem disappointing, it at least means you can choose your outfit based on personal taste, rather than stats. Playing as a Mage, but want to wear a full suit of armor? Go right ahead. Stats are important, however, so, to get the most out of what you wear, you’ll want to use the materials you find on quests to expand the number of slots your outfits have. These slots will allow you to apply Cards that you either buy at the Quest Counter or get off defeated monsters. These cards give a variety of different bonuses, from simple stat increases, to adding status effects to your attacks, to increasing the speed and damage of combos. Weaker cards only take up one slot, but, as you find better ones, they can end up taking up several slots per card. This allows you to craft a character with abilities that that best suit your play style. Plus, Linde at the Item Shop sells various hats to help make your character a bit more unique.
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