"Your Portable Looting Fix"
The biggest blow to Sony's PlayStation Vita launch wasn't its price, the competition from smartphones, or even the down global economy. No, what really caused the Vita to limp out of the game was the move of Monster Hunter from the PlayStation Portable to the Nintendo 3DS. Having lost their system-selling killer app (in their native Japan, at least), Sony now is trying to find new ways to make their new handheld into a lucrative purchase. Unfortunately, some developers have simply ignored the Vita for this reason, but some developers have responded to the vacuum in Sony's handheld library by trying to make their own versions of Monster Hunter. Ragnarok Odyssey represents one attempt to cash in on the action-RPG franchise's success, but unfortunately, it's not a particularly compelling take on the familiar formula.
Much like Monster Hunter, and unlike traditional RPGs, there is no story to Ragnarok Odyssey. All there is to the game is the acquisition of loot. You play a character from one of several pre-set (and formulaic) classes, and you go out of your town to do quests. These quests involve killing monsters, fetching loot, and returning it for more loot and more quests that will get you yet more loot. The entire game is an endless treadmill of buying, selling, trading, and forcibly taking material possessions. What little narrative there is to be found in Ragnarok Odyssey is acquired through multiplayer, where your interactions with other online players influence the game.
There's nothing wrong with making an action-RPG devoted solely to gameplay where the story is auxillary at best. Games like Diablo, Torchlight, and the aforementioned Monster Hunter developed massive fanbases by mixing RPG-style customization with simple yet addictive hacking and slashing. The problem with Ragnarok Odyssey, however, is the lack of depth to the gameplay itself. The options for character development and mission activities are limited, and the result is a game whose repetition may be a bit much for most gamers.
No matter which class you pick in Ragnarok Odyssey, your base stats and abilities remain the same throughout. The only way to improve yourself is through your equipment. While there are options for customization of your character's performance, using weapons and armors and magical "cards" to boost attributes and unlock new abilities, combat ultimately functions the same, mashing buttons rapidly. When the game gets more difficult, you have to alternate between mashing guard and dash buttons as well as the attack moves, but that doesn't offer a substantial change.
Ragnarok Odyssey is also guilty of an overwhelming sameness of level design and pacing. There are many quests, but they all fall into the same paradigm of killing monsters to get loot, and often you'll find yourself killing the same monsters in the same environments. The repetition is a shame, because the production values of Ragnarok Odyssey suggest that a lot of effort was put into the title. However, the effort didn't go into the basic gameplay, and ultimately the game doesn't go beyond a serviceable Monster Hunter clone. If you really need your fix of looting, it's an appropriate choice, but there are many better reasons to own a PS Vita—even if they don't fill the particular void left by Capcom's popular action RPG.
GameDynamo's Score for Ragnarok Odyssey (PS Vita)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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