Ragnarok DS completely ditches the online focus in favour of a plodding solo campaign about a bratty kid who loses his parents and sets out to become a grand adventurer
- Great job class system, simple control scheme
- Gimpy multiplayer options, highly repetitive, lame character interactions
Rangarok DS strays from its MMORPG roots with this handheld dungeon crawler, but even a great job system and simple stylus-based controls can't save this portable iteration from redundant combat and lacklustre multiplayer.
Taking the axe to a popular MMORPG and paring it down to fit on a handheld platform is risky business, particularly when the massively multiplayer online portion of the equation is what made the experience so enticing in the first place. Ragnarok DS may look and play very much like its online counterpart, but the sacrifices made to bring the game to a portable format wind up hamstringing the adventure. After slogging through many hours of hacking up scores of creatures with my small band of warriors, I found out the hard way this dry, generic anime RPG has a few decent carry-over elements and a whole lot of tedious grind.
Ragnarok DS completely ditches the online focus in favour of a plodding solo campaign about a bratty kid who loses his parents and sets out to become a grand adventurer. You team up with a mysterious amnesiac girl and a rotating cast of cohorts to fight monsters, hunt for treasure, attempt to muster up some local fame, and eventually save the world. However, the juvenile antics and whiny interactions between characters early-on contrast sharply with the game's overarching plot about the impending end of the world at the hands of a dark sect bent on resurrecting a long-lost deity. Instead of losing myself in the thrill of adventure, the game's story and character interactions just left me feeling plain lost.
The main quest often sends you meandering blindly through creature-filled wilds and deep into vast dungeons that are dense to navigate until you stumble across the maps for each self-contained area. Slaughtering random monsters and snatching up the loot they drop would get old much faster than it does if it weren't for the game's expansive job system -- one of the few reasons to press onward battle-after-battle. Early on you'll pick from a few core classes like Archer, Swordsman, and Merchant. These first-tier classes give you access to special gear and abilities, and they can eventually be upgraded to more powerful variants like the Hunter, Assassin, Priest, Knight, and Blacksmith classes. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to feed your character's experience coffer.
You'll find ample sword-fodder in the many unusual beasts that populate the land, and the straightforward stylus-only controls make dishing out the command to "kill" easy enough. Ragnarok DS' real-time combat system is designed for maximum convenience but at times feels lazy. Dragging the stylus around the screen directs your party's wanderings, and tapping the closest monster sends them charging at it with blades and spells at the ready. Special attacks can be stacked in a quick-swap menu, and delivering the extra pummelling utilises simple stylus doodle commands. Left to their own devices, your party will just hack away at a selected beast until it dies, though you can fine-tune other party members' A.I. to your liking.
Considering Ragnarok's MMORPG roots, it's really disappointing to find that the multiplayer component is one of the weakest areas of the game. I had to plow through a solid chunk of the campaign just to reach the Mirage Tower -- an area that lets you connect with up to two other players to tackle (surprise!) even more beasts. These bland dungeon levels are constrained and uneventful, allowing players to carve up whatever monsters are hanging around and proceed to the next stage. The only reward for your effort is additional loot, which can be just as easily obtained by playing through the main game on your own.
Strip away the camaraderie, competition, and character interaction of the online experience, and Ragnarok DS simply sticks you with all the hardcore monster-slaying and loot grinding of an MMO without the payoff of being able to crush other human opponents under your mighty battle-hardened boot. Obsessive Rangarok players may appreciate being able to take this portable adventure with them in the offline world, but there are far better RPGs out there for the rest of us to dig into.
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