Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: PSP (Available for download on PS Vita)
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Price: $29.99 – Available Here
Many gamers have likely heard of the Ragnarok franchise thanks to the fact that it’s star title, Ragnarok Online, has been a relatively popular and long running MMO for over a decade. Since then a number of spin-off games have been created for various platforms, most recently Ragnarok Odyssey for the Vita. However while Odyssey may have been loosely based on the world of Ragnarok Online, Aksys Games has brought Ragnarok Tactics over on the PSP. Will the deeper ties to the Ragnarok Online game work well for this new SPRG title? Let’s find out.
For those of you who may be concerned that you’re lack of knowledge about the Ragnarok Online storyline will prevent you from enjoying Ragnarok Tactics, you have no reason to worry because while Ragnarok Tactics takes place in the same universe as the MMO, no previous knowledge about the story is necessary, in fact there seemed to be zero mention of what may have occurred in the MMO at any point.
As for Ragnarok Tactics, players can create a character however they wish and then enter into the story mode. The player is a 17 year old member of the Toren Militia, a group of fighters who assist whoever needs help at any given time. The leader of the militia and yourself have been asked to slay some powerful monsters in the area and on the way to slay these creatures, you meet up with a Lord Knight of the Aura Republic and a High Wizard of the Branshaldo Empire. The four of you choose to help one another out in slaying these beasts and eventually part ways once the mission has been accomplished.
However the fragile peace in the nation is shattered when the king of the Brandshaldo Empire passes away, causing the Aura Republic to move on the weakened nation in an attempt to wipe them off the Grantria Peninsula and conquer the land for themselves. Being a member of the militia, the player is given the chance to choose between helping these two nations or simply sticking with the Toren Militia.
Ragnarok Tactics offers a stunning amount of replay value for a SRPG as players are often presented with multiple choices which will change their affiliations with different countries and even earn or lose you allies. There are three clearly defined routes that the player can take but actually five different endings to help spice things up and depending on who you side with, the storyline can differ greatly from what another player may experience.
However if you are concerned that you will be forced to play through the game five times to see all of the different endings then you will be interested to hear that Ragnarok Tactics features a special mechanic known as AIZ. Once you have finished the game once, the AIZ system will allow players to explore a different part of the game’s storyline by allowing them to venture backwards in the story to an already completed chapter and allow them to make different decisions.
One thing that makes AIZ even more interesting is the fact that their player stats, weapons and levels will be transferred as well, which may give you a temporary edge in combat depending on how far you’ve jumped back in the story. In fact, the AIZ system helps provide a more open experience than one would think, thanks to the fact that there are a number of sub-events that can be explored which, while not tied directly to the game’s storyline, are interesting to explore and a nice diversion from the main story paths.
Visuals & Audio:
Ragnarok Tactics’ visual aesthetics vary greatly depending what you are looking at within the game. To be a bit more specific, each of the character’s related to the game’s storyline have been given beautifully hand drawn portraits with a variety of different expressions and poses that match the dialogue and the various backgrounds to these story segments and the battlefields have been given an extensive level of detail and are gorgeous.
However the same cannot be said for most of the combat character models. While it is nice that every enemy within the game and the appearance of the various classes within the title match those from Ragnarok Online, the models are often presented in low-quality and have jagged edges which really show the game’s age and PSP limitations.
It is worth noting that Aksys Games has provided a little bit of an English dub which will play during the intro sequence, but for the most part this game has been given zero voice work outside of a little bit of Japanese voice work in combat sequences and skill usage. As far as background music goes, Ragnarok Tactics has suitable enough music which fits the setting well and helps make some of the longer battles less tedious.
Nearly all of Ragnarok Tactics’ gameplay involves the combat sequences where players will have to face off against a number of enemies on a gridded field and usually have to defeat them all without letting their main character die or any number of storyline specific characters that are described in the Loss conditions. The game is rather standard in most regards as the player will have to wait till a party member’s turn to move them or attack with them, though interestingly enough the player can choose to have an ally attack an enemy, then move away from them after the attack.
That being said, the fights in Ragnarok Tactics can tend to drag on for a long period of time and this is mostly thanks to the fact that the enemy AI always plays on the defensive and reacts to your actions. While this may seem intelligent, it feels cheap at times as the enemies in this game will usually only move once you have moved within range of their attacks, nearly always allowing the enemy to gain a first strike.
This means that players will often need to inch forward along the battlefield to avoid being overtaken by more than one enemy at a time, because thanks to some rather hard hitting foes, being attacked by two enemies at the same time often means a death sentence for that character. However it is worth noting that there is no permanent death in this title, which means you can use some of your side-characters to draw an enemy in and then pile onto said enemy with the rest of your party.
There are a few things that help set Ragnarok Tactics apart from your everyday SRPG and these are the Burst Attack and Overdrive moves. The Burst Attack allows fighters to attack an opponent with other allies in range, allowing up to four of their allies to deal large amounts of damage to one opponent in a single turn. The other is Overdrive which allows one character to use up to four different skills in a row and if you happen to use specific skills in a certain order, you can unleash a devastating super move. These combinations can often be found by talking to townspeople or through experimentation.
Outside of combat there are a number of areas that players can customize their party and herein lie a number of references fans of Ragnarok Online will appreciate. Every class in Ragnarok Tactics (a few are locked during your first playthrough) is named after one in the MMO and features a number of the same skills (a few names have been changed however) that these classes would have in the MMO. Players can also equip a number of different weapons, armor and hats to improve their stats and even equip a number of Cards which will provide other bonuses such as higher stats, more damage with certain elements and more.
To pad out the game’s roster player will be able to hire mercenaries for a onetime fee and select whichever class they require at the time, which certainly helps the game’s difficulty out as a number of ranged classes will benefit when mixed in with pure melee fighters as they counteract the game’s reactionary AI.
That being said, Ragnarok Tactics is a game that feels like it simply assumes the player has a large amount of time on their hands. As mentioned before, the reactionary AI and slow-paced battle with unskippable attack and move sequences mean fights can take upwards of twenty minutes at times and if you happen to lose, you must start all over. It is also worth noting grinding levels can sometimes be a necessity simply to advance in the game as players must fight against opponents that show no mercy and deal large amounts of damage to those who are unprepared.
Ragnarok Tactics takes a well-known formula and provides a decent SRPG experience with a number of unique features to keep things fresh for fans of the genre and plenty of monsters, classes and skills that should be instantly recognizable for fans of Ragnarok Online. That being said, while the game’s interesting and branching storyline and well-implemented use of the AIZ system may help drive the player forward through the game’s numerous battles, they can become very tedious at times and almost boring with what may be the slowest battle sequences I’ve seen in the genre.