The PS Vita is unfortunately lacking in the RPG department. Some could argue that RPGs are meant for the console, and yet some of the best RPG experiences I've had were on dedicated handhelds. It's no surprise that Ragnarok Odyssey feels like a breath of fresh air for the Vita and manages to capture an addictive mission-based formula that's built for playing on the go.
Ragnarok Odyssey is either a side story, spin-off, or some sort of offshoot to Ragnarok Online — an anime styled MMO that dates back to 2003. Looking at the game, you'd never really know it, besides some cliched character classes that can be found in both. Familiarity with the original game isn't necessary for your enjoyment, and while I have played Ragnarok Online, none of that knowledge transferred into my experience with Odyssey.
You'll start off with a fairly deep character customization that gives you access to six different character classes. Whether you want to play as the fairly offensive Sword Warrior, take the more defensive route as the Cleric, or play as the spell casting Mage, the game offers a good variety of classes that are sure to sit right with anyone's playstyle. What's more, choosing a class doesn't tie you down to it; instead, you're able to switch to other classes once you buy their 'outfit.'
Odyssey bears a familiar structure that a lot of handheld RPGs, specifically those tied to Sony handhelds like the PSP, already made famous. Like Monster Hunter, God Eater Burst or Lords of Arcana, the bulk of the game consists of picking up increasingly difficult quests and venturing out to said quest area to either defeat a certain number of enemies, pick up a certain number of items, or dispose of a huge and difficult boss.
It's an addictive formula for sure, as quests generally don't take longer than 10 minutes, even though you're given up to 30 minutes per quest. The fact that you're able to hop in, take down a bunch of monsters, gather crafting material and be done with it in such short bursts exemplify the portability of Odyssey.
Comparing Odyssey to Monster Hunter is a bit unfair, since the combat in the MH series is often times slow and a bit too tactical. I was relieved to see Odyssey take combat in a different direction, offering more fast-paced and fluid combat. In no time you'll be juggling opponents into the air and slashing them down in a beautiful flurry of strikes. The combat gets even more amped thanks to the Dainsleif Mode, which overpowers your character with a boost to your speed and attack power, but sacrificing health. This desperation move, however, is perfect for huge crowd of monsters or tough boss fights.
Odyssey consists of far more than just killing monsters and gathering items. Outside of the Guild Hall (the single player quest hub), you'll be able to purchase and upgrade your equipment, change your character's look, and most importantly, take part in online quests via the Tavern. Each quest that you complete in the Guild Hall will unlock in the Tavern, giving you and other players the chance to tackle these at a harder difficulty. This is probably Odyssey's best feature, increasing its playtime exponentially.
Perhaps one of the most surprising features, or lack thereof, is the fact that an XP or leveling system has been totally scrapped in favor of a power-up card feature. Aside from gaining a boost in strength and health after completing a chapter, the bulk of boosting your character relies on finding and purchasing various cards. Each outfit (class) has a certain number of card slots, and each card has a varying number of slots it occupies. You can further enhance your outfit to hold more, but even then, you'll realize that finding the perfect set up will consists of only a few cards.
The game allows you to save certain outfit loadouts, letting you switch before each mission, depending on what strengths you'll require from them. Limiting as the card system is, it is another addictive feature that will have you hunting for more powerful ones during each quest. It also makes sense, given the game's repetitive nature, that a leveling system was not included. Much of the game consists of repeating quests, which would then turn into grinding. This would undoubtedly result in over-leveling, and the card system keeps that in check.
So where does all the swiping come in? Turns out, it doesn't. Odyssey actually strays away from gimmicky touchscreen controls that require you to swipe enemies to kill them, or tap anywhere on the rear touchpad. Instead, the only touchscreen integration is purely for ease of use, such as quickly using any of your equipped potions and activating your Dainsleif Mode.
Visually, the game isn't all that amazing, but that's not to say it doesn't look great. It's no AC: Liberation or Uncharted, but it does impress in sheer visual flair and vibrant colors. Even with a screen filled with monsters, the game remains completely fluid.
Ragnarok Odyssey doesn't really have broad appeal. Those who enjoyed games like God Eater Burst and Lords of Arcana are sure to find Ragnarok Odyssey far more enjoyable. However, it truly epitomizes what an RPG on the go is supposed to play like, has impressive online functionality and looks great.