When the original Ragnarok Odyssey was released in October of 2012, the PS Vita’s library lacked a Monster Hunter-esque game. Now that consummate contenders such as Soul Sacrifice and Toukiden: The Age of Demons have been released for Sony’s portable system, competition has subsequently intensified. Hoping to satisfy the elevated expectations of players, developer GameArts (Alisia Dragoon, the Grandia series) has retooled their title- adding a substantial amount of content and bundling all the available DLC into a package called Ragnarok Odyssey ACE. While the game retains its role as a capable, time-intensive, hack-and-slash, the reappearance of a few problems has the potential to peeve players.
Like its contemporaries, Ragnarok Odyssey’s premise was slight, with player progression being the game’s driving impetus. ACE’s primary campaign makes few additions and amendments to its predecessor’s skeletal storyline- with the overarching objective of assisting a city in crisis told mostly through mission briefings.
The significant change here comes via The Tower of Yggdrasil, a four-hundred level tower which extends randomly-generated layouts, lofty loot drops, and a number of enormous bosses. While it’s a considerable addition, effectively doubling the size of the game, the appendage mirrors the problem with Ragnarok’s primary trek: there’s little sense of narrative urgency.
Like Monster Hunter, the focus of the game is gear improvement rather than the augmentation of your character. While the variation can put an interesting twist on traditional level grinding, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE remains frustratingly taciturn when articulating the prerequisites for progress. Too often players will hope to expand the abilities of their armor or the power of their weapon, and be turned away by a shopkeeper who announces that you don’t have the necessary materials. Similarly, mission requests lack pertinent information such as the location of a particular item or creature. Although this design decision might have been made to encourage self-discovery, most players will probably prefer to glean the information from a FAQ.
Obviously, returning players will most likely recall Ragnarok Odyssey’s surreptitious details, making the pilgrimage to Yggdrasil a bit easier. ACE allows the import of a Ragnarok Odyssey save file, importing appearances, job classes, as well as essentials such as Weapon and Monster Cards. Although the option for starting at The Tower of Yggdrasil or reacquiring clothing would have been a pleasing perk for vets, restarting the nine-chapter journey isn’t too tedious once you’re outfitted with a set of upgraded gear.
Ragnarok Odyssey’s job classes were both diverse and skillfully balanced for collaborative games. Smartly, ACE makes few changes. For beginners, the Sword Warrior makes an ideal starting point, offering a reliable balance of speed, power, and health, while also being able to guard against attacks. Hammersmiths swap speed for the ability to deliver devastating assaults- such as the eleven-hit Downward Strike combo. Meanwhile, Mages and Hunters offer players the ability to direct ranged characters. Coupled with their reduced defensive capabilities, these protagonists are suited for advanced players or in supportive roles. Clerics balance offensive power with a team healing capacity, while Assassins have the ability to dual-wield giving them an elevated damage-per-second proficiency. Nicely, ACE preserves its predecessor’s ability to easily switch job classes by changing your armor.
The incorporation of ACE skills are the one major adjustment to combat- in execution, these abilities help to endow combat with nuance and make several of the job classes more accessible to single players. Offering everything from formidable strikes, buffs, and healing powers, these draw from your action point pool, elevating the importance of the resource. Whereas starting as a solitary Hunter was frustrating in closed combat areas, now the addition of a timed explosive device allows players to pass early sections of the game.
Once Ragnarok Odyssey owners ventured online and gathered an adventuring party, they became privy to the game’s engaging combat model, which emphasized teams working cooperatively to juggle foes or to overtake hulking bosses. But that type of experience demanded a number of prerequisites- from bringing your portable within reach of a Wi-Fi signal to finding online acquaintances on the game’s oft-abandoned servers. Mercifully, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE strives to remedy this impediment. For offline play, the game ads a selection of mercenaries, allowing single players to take up to two CPU-driven assistants into battle. Although gamers can’t issue direct orders to their aides, they can choose from a variety of different classes, bringing healers or damage-inducers into specific missions. The artificial intelligence can be spotty at times- you’ll see your comrades knocked unconscious all too often in boss battles- but their help with fighting lesser enemies is valuable.
With ACE’s concurrent release across both the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita platforms, the game’s audience has the potential to double. While release-week popularity can quickly dwindle, speedy matchmaking seemed to indicate a bit of audience acceptance. With cross-play and cross-save support, ACE checks off nearly all the desired tick-boxes. All that’s needed is a cross-buy promotion to complete the trifecta of consumer-friendly functionality. Notably, ACE’s netcode demonstrates an improvement over its precursor, with few instances of lag or slowdown across several extended play sessions.
Aesthetically, both iterations offer a proficient perspective on the action, bolstered by a solid framerate and detailed character models. The downside is that a distressing amount of asset recycling is apparent across the range of environments and antagonists. That said, what’s in Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is visually appealing- with plush landscapes which are average-looking on the PS3, but undeniably attractive on the Vita. Building on Ragnarock’s strong music foundation, frequent Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu contributes “Roar of the Black Dragon” to ACE’s already stirring soundtrack.
Although Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is sullied by a few legacy issues, the incorporating of new content and mechanical tweaks help make to make this the definitive version. As long as players can endure a bit of monotony and don’t mind enlisting the help of a FAQ or Wiki, the title extends an enjoyable, and certainly extensive trek. Soul Sacrifice and Toukiden may still reign as the Vita’s best Monster Hunter clones, but Ragnarok Odyssey ACE’s adjustments and additions help to ensure its status as a plucky competitor.
Ragnarok Odyssey ACE was played on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita with review code supplied by the publisher.