Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Review: much more of the same
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Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is more of the same, a lot more of the same, and the current assortment of new content and gameplay improvements may not be enough to warrant the steep $40 price tag, even for veteran aficionados of the cult action-RPG series.
- ACE skills further diversify class roles
- Mercenary helpers and Halomonas weapons relieve difficulty spikes
- The Tower of Yggdrasil offers profitable farming opportunities
- Still cringingly repetitive
- Post-game content recycles a lot of old enemies and bosses
- Camera issues and lock-on concerns still present
Fortunately, the game’s strength still lies in the gameplay, which is fast, fluid, and generally fun to master. This time around, the team has removed certain abilities to accommodate for several new job-specific powers called “ACE skills,” which you unlock by progressing through the main campaign. These skills do a fine job separating class roles more effectively, offering healing skills to Clerics or knockback and launch attacks to Hammersmiths, for example. Initiating these special skills requires the press of a button combination that is mapped to both the shoulder and face buttons. This can get very problematic when having to juggle with the lock-on feature, which feels broken and should be avoided all together, particularly during stages that are flooded with many enemies. In this respect, camera concerns are still present. This is especially true when things get tight and enemies crowd up against you, and the only real solution being that you button mash away or flee by jumping and dashing.
The game has not lost its love for monster hunting, because there sure is plenty of it. ACE does not abandon the card system for a traditional leveling progression, so repeatedly plowing through enemies to farm for materials and cards – which are equipped into armor slots and grants stat boosts, among other enhancements – is still very much the aim of the game. However, Game Arts has newly introduced “Halomonas” weapons, which render any other acquired weapon obsolete. These powerful weapons grow in strength by completing “Orders” sought out during quests. You can choose a branching path on the Halomonas tree then grow and customize your weapon as you see fit. You receive your first Halomonas weapon early in the game, which truthfully can be used to finish the main campaign and onward into post-game questing if you attend to it immediately. While much of the game’s original difficulty is alleviated because of this, it also enforces how pointless monster farming can be, principally concerning weapon drops that pale in comparison to Halomonas weapons.
For you multiplayer fanatics, online co-op feels much more class-based this time around, especially with the addition of ACE skills. Players fulfill their roles effortlessly with Clerics healing at will or with more offensive based classes tanking and luring enemies into submission. While the game can suffer lag spikes during moments of intense onscreen action, online multiplayer generally runs quite smoothly. That being said, this still feels like a pick-up-and-play title that you should experience with friends or online strangers. Later chapters can feel awfully monotonous and dull when soloed, but if for some reason you’re seeking offline help, ACE introduces Mercenary Helpers – a dozen AI companions available for the player to recruit. You can employ two mercenaries at a time to accompany you on your journey. Surely, they take a cut of your monetary earnings and they’re not particularly strong or reliable, but they do occupy the attention of elite minions and bosses that you’ll want off your back.
Visually, the game looks crisp and vivid on the compact PS Vita screen, sporting rich colors and lively cartoonish animations. The same cannot be said about the PlayStation 3 version, which does not impress with the same graphical impact that its portable counterpart expresses, but this is taking into account the software competition imposed on the console market. In that respect, both versions look and run identically. On the topic of accessibility between both platforms, ACE sports a nifty cross-save feature, but since the game is not cross-buy, it’s not particularly useful. The soundtrack covers a decent range of fantastical music, but its repetitiveness can tire you out, specifically during some of the longer boss fights. In any case, you can purchase music tracks from a merchant with in-game cash and select which song you want to have playing in the background.
The updates applied to ACE are fundamentally clear: additional quest lines, new weapons and skills, gameplay tweaks that improve accessibility, etc. However, the game does not stray away from its highly repetitive mission structure and many of the additions are just re-skinned nuances of old in-game assets. Nevertheless, newcomers to the series will be welcomed with plentiful hours of content. Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is more of the same – a lot more of the same – and the current assortment of new content and gameplay improvements may not be enough to warrant the steep $40 price tag, even for veteran aficionados of the cult action-RPG series.----
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