By: Casey Curran
Monster Hunter is a very “love it or hate it” series, and Ragnorok Odyssey is the kind of game that tries very hard to cater to the “love the idea, hate the execution” audience. As someone who falls in that category, I can safely say that it succeeds, though not without some of its own problems along the way.
For the most part, the controls are very tight and responsive. I played as an assassin, who thanks to his reliance on hit-and-run techniques required mastering the dodge button or dying very quickly. In most cases getting hit felt justified, where I knew I did something wrong if I took damage. Aerial combat was more difficult than it needed to be, however, as I had trouble hitting the right target in the right spot in the air. Thankfully dodging still worked like a charm so I rarely took damage because of it.
The one area that does seem lacking is the lock on. It feels like it only works when it wants to, which got so bad I had to switch to Uncharted just to make sure there was not anything wrong with my L button. Once locked on, switching targets was just as unresponsive. It was not overly broken and the game is playable without locking on, but there were too many moments that could have been improved by a better targeting system.
This game looks fantastic on the Vita’s screen. It doesn’t use the system’s capabilities to its full potential, but the colors are vibrant, the characters are well animated and the areas look vibrant and varied. The fighting animations in particular are very well done; they are all very distinct and fun to watch while the spells have some impressive effects.
This is accompanied by some sound effects that make combat feel a little more satisfying and addicting. The music is mostly forgettable, but this is not too much of an issue as it gets the job done.
The game is all about loot. Every monster drops tons of loot with crafting allowing you to build new weapons/armor or cards letting you upgrade your current ones or gain extra abilities. This made the game a very addicting experience, though not without a few issues.
The sense of progression leaves a lot to be desired. It feels like this game could have really benefitted from a leveling system, as that could have made loot gathering get an extra layer to its addicting quality. The developers tried replacing this with weapon building, as your weapons ultimately make you stronger, but this can feel a bit empty.
Upgrading weapons, while essential, did not add as much as I hoped to my character as I was still using the same basic attacks 15 hours later. There were some differences, but they did not prove to be enough. It ended up neither having enough depth for an action game or customization as an RPG for me to forgive its shortcomings in either.
Another thing that bothered me was the mission structure. Missions are divided into “search for loot” and “face this boss” flavors with the occasional one that mixes both. Despite a good variety of locations, this made the missions feel too cut and paste.
Loot missions can also be unclear as it will tell you what to collect with no clue on how to get it. Most of the time this was fine, but every now and then it would come from some random or obscure source that left me wandering aimlessly or dying from fighting too many enemies I did not need to. Also, when all it takes to face a boss creature is to select it off the menu, the game feels less satisfying than putting a build up to a confrontation with that giant monster.
Ragnorok Odyssey is a game that tries taking the Monster Hunter formula and tweaking it for people who like the idea of the series but have trouble enjoying it. It removes the slow combat and drab art style in favor of fast-paced action in a colorful, anime-inspired world. For what it is, Ragnorok Odyssey is a good excuse to pick up your Vita — I just cannot help but feel it could have been so much more.