Ragnarok Odyssey ACE Review: More of the same, but essential to newcomers
When I first played Ragnarok Odyssey on the Vita, I was starving for a meatier experience. Vita games ames were scarce so I would gladly hop on any RPG game that promised me hours of content, even if it was a bit repetitive. Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is the expanded version of the original, adding in some necessary features to streamline the gameplay, as well as a host of extra content that players can access immediately if they've already conquered the original game.
The bulk of the game remains the same as the original, meaning if you want to get the full details on the gameplay and mechanics, you can check out my official review of Ragnarok Odyssey here. I want to focus on what makes this version definitively better, what console has the superior version, and why Monster Hunter fans will feel right at home here.
For starters, Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is now available on both the Vita and the PS3 and comes with a fully implemented cross-save feature. Clear chapter 1 at home, transfer your save, and continue to chapter 2 on your Vita. The system works flawlessly and enabling the option will always automatically upload the newer save file online. Normally I'm not one to use cross-save, because I don't really hop between playing on my PS3 and Vita all that much, but as it happened, I had a vacation planned for the week I received the two copies, and found it to be extremely useful.
With that said, ACE doesn't come with a cross-buy option, so those hoping for the cross-platform experience will have to dish out double to have it on the PS3 and the Vita.
The character creation is still robust with even more options. Liked your character from the original? Import them
The game is all about the grind, and that hasn't changed in ACE. You're still going through various Story chapters, completing missions, collecting materials, crafting and upgrading weapons and various outfits, and buffing your character through the upgradeable card system. This time around though, you'll get the added benefit of hireable mercenaries to make clearing chapters on your own much easier.
You're allowed to take up to two mercenaries with you, choosing either a male or female from each one of the classes. However, you must pay them a fee when a mission is cleared. You'll have to decide whether to go alone and keep the cash rewards all to yourself, or get some help but lose out on the full reward. Keep in mind that finding people to play with online is now much easier, since PS3 and Vita players can play together.
Each class now has powerful ACE skills that can turn the tide of battle. These skills unlock as the player progresses through the game. The Mage, for example, will start off with a powerful Fireball spell, while the Sword Warrior has a powerful slash called the Magnum Break. Each class can have four ACE skills equipped at a time, and finding the right combination is key to maximizing the effectiveness of your class. Even though the Sword Warrior starts off with an offensive skill, some ACE skills down the line can change him into a powerful tank that can soak up damage. This specialization further helps when teaming up with others and forming the right party compositions.
Combat is fast and satisfying, and gets quite challenging in late game
The last new addition to ACE is the Tower of Yggdrasil. This dungeon is constantly randomized, essentially providing the player with infinite amount of challenges, as well as throwing random enemies at them each time they enter.
Normally, I'd always prefer the console version over a handheld version, especially for games that have cross-play abilities, but everything about the Vita version is hands down better. The graphics, believe it or not, look better on the handheld thanks to some gorgeous bloom effects which are strangely absent on the PS3 version. The control scheme also tends to lend itself better to the Vita, though this might just be a personal preference.
ACE skills can be fired off with the touch of the screen on the top right, and the devastating Dansleif Mode can be activated by touching the icon right above them. Since both of these icons sit right next to where my thumbs are already, it's just more convenient to activate them that way rather than holding a combination of buttons. Healing or using consumables is also much quicker on the Vita, with three quick slots sitting on the bottom right corner of the screen and can be tapped instantly to heal, whereas they require a button combination on the PS3. If you were planning on buying just one version of the game, the Vita version definitely gets my seal of approval.
Some might argue that Ragnarok Odyssey ACE could have been easily released as an expansion rather than a full-priced standalone, and on some level, I agree. I'm just not sure whether the new content justifies paying $40 all over again, especially since a lot of that original content can be skipped if you already beat it. Obviously the winners here are those who resisted buying the original and are now rewarded with a version that is much more full-featured, has even better online play, and contains gameplay tweaks that make the game much more enjoyable.