Ragnarok Odyssey ACE - Review  

An ACE On My Big Screen
by Sam Marchello

20-40 Hours
+ Easy to access online co-op play
+ Responsive interface.
+ Tons of customization and classes
- Too many filler missions
- Frustrating, repeated bosses
- Vita to PS3 upscale isn't the cleanest
Click here for scoring definitions 

   The Monster Hunter clone is nothing new. Developers have been competing in trying to perfect the formula, and in turn provide strong competition for Capcom's juggernaut of a franchise. While nothing has come remotely close, GameArts has created a newbie friendly and accessible clone in Ragnarok Odyssey, and has since released an enhanced edition with Ragnarok Odyssey ACE, available on both the PlayStation 3 and Vita. While we reviewed the original game on Vita, for the purposes of our ACE review, we will be focusing on the PlayStation 3 version.

   Since Monster Hunter clones aren't exactly known for deep storytelling, it should come as no surprise that narrative is practically non-existent in Ragnarok Odyssey ACE. Essentially, players enlist as new warriors tasked with completing quests and slaying giant monsters by a Norse Guild. For what it's worth, the localization provided by XSEED Games does make for some interesting and colourful dialogue when chatting with NPCs between the missions.

   Structured in nine chapters, each with nine quests each, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is an easy game to jump into. Players can select a gender and class, and then customize their physical features to their heart's content. In fact, the most of the character creation options within the game are extensive, and will definitely ensure that no two players should look alike. If players regret their initial class and customization choices, fear not for it's easy to make the switch to a new class without losing any progress made. In fact, the game encourages players to try each class and experiment to find the one that best suits their play style.

   Missions within Ragnarok are timed, but quick affairs. In a lot of situations, players are given an ample amount of time to complete the task at hand. The only problem with this is that there isn't much variety in terms of the quests provided. The majority of the missions are "slay x number of monsters" or "find x amount of an item." In fact, outside of boss encounters, these are the only style of missions offered and are not very enticing. Ragnarok is a game that definitely could have benefitted from more variety in its mission structure, because it gets stale fast.

Big fish, deadly poison. Big fish, deadly poison.

   After missions are completed, players are sent back to a hub wherein they can use materials found in dungeons to refine or craft better items, purchase new consumables, outfits and accessories, hire mercenaries (if playing solo), or enter online multiplayer via the tavern. Raganrok deserves tons of praise for its easy-access multiplayer options, as creating rooms or searching for rooms with filters is a piece of cake. In fact, once in a quest, the game moves seamlessly from the hub to the new area. With a good connection, the game is a very smooth experience. The benefits to multiplayer are many, as it makes taking on giants with a friend all the more rewarding. There's a ton of satisfaction to be had when playing online because, let's face it, the hired goons in solo play are simply meat-shields meant to take abuse, and the AI isn't always the most responsive.

   Refining items is a huge part of success in ACE, along with collecting new cards that can be equipped. It's important to pay attention to the attributes when refining one's weapon because new properties are added or changed. Furthermore, as dungeons are completed, players will be given new cards that can equip. Cards in ACE vary in rank and attributes, and once again must be given careful consideration before jumping into combat. There's a huge variety in cards and weapons, each offering both positive and negative attributes. However, there's a lot of junk in terms of materials, cards and weapons, and the game doesn't do the best job of helping players sift through the garbage.

Norn sometimes provides useful information... sometimes. Norn sometimes provides useful information... sometimes.

   As Ragnarok's difficulty gradually ramps up, one way to combat problems of monotony is to utilize combos and the two types of attacks: standard and knockback. Players can combine these with ACE skills that can be purchased from the hub and mapped to the L1 + face buttons. The more combos players create, the easier of a time they will have in missions. Players are also only allowed three types of potions that can be equipped for each mission, so understanding each of their properties is a must so that they can be well utilized in combat. Once ACE skills and potions are selected, they cannot be changed mid-mission.

   While the Vita version supports tap features for potions and ACE skills, the PlayStation 3 version will definitely have players crunching their fingers on the controller to ensure they are holding down all the required buttons to make an action occur. This can be uncomfortable at times, and the button mapping is more complicated than it needed to be. That's not to say that that the interface is awful, it just takes some getting used to. There's also not much extra to be found within this new packaging, as the ACE edition essentially offers all of the original game's DLC, a few new dungeons, rebalanced gameplay and an extra episode after the ending. The one real benefit is being able to import your save from the original game into ACE.

   In terms of visuals, ACE is vibrant and full of life. Unfortunately, the PlayStation 3 version suffers from a lot of graphical missteps, most notably clipping. Since this version is also an upscale of the Vita version, a lot of the graphics look as though they needed to be smoothed out and cleaned up, as it's rough looking and unrefined. ACE's soundtrack, however, isn't half-bad, and players can purchase new tracks to listen to through the item shop. There's not a lot of variety in the score, but it's serviceable nonetheless.

   Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is a good game to play in bursts because it doesn't demand a lot of one's attention or time. It's even more enjoyable when you have a friend to share it with. Unfortunately, there's just not enough variety in terms of missions or gameplay to keep the game engaging. ACE is a likeable game, but does nothing to make itself distinctive from games like Gods Eater Burst or Monster Hunter. If anything, the game is best enjoyed in co-op, because that is where it shines. ACE may not be top-tier in its class, but it's a solid title for those in need of a mindless hack n' slash title, but don't want a heavy time investment. It's just such a shame how shallow the gameplay and mission structure are.

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