Ragnarok Online Review

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Back in the day, role playing games during the late days of the Super Nintendo and the early days of the Playstation used to be a lot simpler--maybe not so much in their story and experience systems, but rather in their graphics and gameplay. While now, we have games that tug on every part of our PC’s system rig and incorporate lag and slowdown on a regular basis. Sometimes you just wish things would return to a more classic and more visually simpler day.


And then Ragnarok landed in my hands. Big things come in “simple” packages.

Based on the popular manga of the same name, Ragnarok is an MMORPG that returns to the visual style of Classic RPG’s while not sacrificing graphical integrity in doing so. With different optimizations for different user’s rigs, you can still have a four year old PC, (In today’s standard a rig considered embarrassingly outdated) play the game and still have it stunningly beautiful, crisp, and colorful. Play it on a newer rig, and you have cornea candy.


It’s this return to a classic style that makes Ragnarok stand out among all the other new MMORPG’s offered both in retail stores and around the internet. A lot of gamers ask themselves: is simpler, in fact, what they want? Most, today, want breathtaking graphics and a highly immersive environment that literally makes you feel that you’re in it. Unfortunately all of that comes at a price: games that have higher system requirements and a higher demand on internet throughput. However, if you’ve dreamed of classically stunning visuals optimized for your video card, and 60 FPS frame rates on average PC rigs, then Ragnarok is not merely right for you, but it should be required by law for you to experience.

"Ragnarok is not merely right for you, but it should be required by law for you to experience."

Gameplay

Let’s stop for a moment. Have you ever noticed that most MMORPG’s--even with their rich and creamy graphics--all tend to look the same as any other MMORPG’s? I’m betting someone new to MMORPG’s could definitely tell Ragnarok apart from the popular game Everquest in a single glimpse. Could that same person tell the difference immediately between Everquest and Final Fantasy XI; Everquest and Guild Wars; or any of those and World of Warcraft? It’s the reset of style that has Ragnarok boasting not only more but also more noticeable expansions than any other MMORPG on the net. It was a big risk Gravity Games took, in order to present something fresh into mainstream gaming, but it’s nothing short of a tremendous success.

 

Area Maps


Ragnarok’s Area Maps are much smaller then regular MMORPG’s, but are certainly nothing to laugh at or even crack a smile about. The maps are divided into grid-like sections. Entrances and passages out of the grid sections are represented as little warp fields that look much like a whirlwind. This makes for passages to other areas quite easy to spot out and is indeed a highlight for beginners and people that would get lost in their own museum. Map obstacles are also handled very well despite Ragnarok’s different visual style and viewing angle. Rocks are not mistaken, and paths that lead down and up are also easily spotted and navigated.

"Ragnarok’s Area maps are much smaller then regular MMORPG’s, but are certainly nothing to laugh or even crack a smile about."

Menus and Customizations

Menus and customizations are one of Ragnarok’s strongest points, and also one of its most simple. The world tells us how to dress and how to look, so why shouldn’t a game’s world do the same? You may ask yourself, “Why would I care about how my character’s look when they’re smaller than an inch on screen?” The answer is simple: Envy.

When you enter the world of Ragnarok, you’ll be embarrassed to see yourself so scantily dressed, next to fully experienced Knights who actually have armor and not bed sheets for clothes. When I first entered the world of Ragnarok, I wasn’t participating in any of the game’s fundamental missions, but rather I was chasing other players that had Aviator Goggles and asking them:

A. Where they got their pair;

B. How they got their goggles, and;

C. If I could buy their pair off of them.

To my dismay, not a single person would sell me their goggles. They claimed “They are too valuable to be sold or given away.” While I was first frustrated about not being able to obtain a pair the easy way, I admired the game for making such small things as goggles on your head hard enough to obtain that you have to be relatively experienced in Ragnarok just to find out where they are located!

Menus are key to Ragnarok. They’re as simple as possible, but have a wide variety of depth to them. If you’ve ever began an RPG, you’ll notice that it usually takes a few weeks of continuous play to even understand how to upgrade your characters skill and experience. But Ragnarok’s Skill Tree provides you with a good understanding right off the bat with its Training Grounds. It’s a relatively simple concept: when your character gains a level from battling experience, you’re given a set of options of what characteristic of your character you’d like to increase. If you want an all meat-and-bones battle-slayer, then increase primarily your strength. If you want a more clever and evasive character, increase your agility rather than anything else.


Visually, the menu interface itself reminds and resembles a lot like Apple’s Mac displays. In-game menus allow for customization of how Ragnarok runs. If you don’t like the background sound volume, the FX volume, or the menus theme, it’s all changeable in Ragnarok.

Parties

I know what you’re thinking, and NO there are no raves in Ragnarok

With that said, what MMORPG would be complete without letting players team up with each other so they don’t have to face the harsh world alone? Ragnarok allows easy integration and identification of your party within its menu system. Adding a player to your party is as easy a click. Monitoring who is in your party and their experience is as easy as opening a window. Sharing experience over a team is always easy with Ragnarok, and doesn’t require deep configuration and integration like a lot of other MMORPG's do.

Sharing Experience comes with two options:

 

1. Each Take – Allows the normal experience point distribution without the special party experience point features.

2. Even Share - Allows party members to share the experience points to help leveling with other characters.

Teaming up even has its rewards as parties that choose to collaborate receive 10 percent more experience points than those who take on monsters alone. Points are distributed according to which sharing option you choose.

 

Classes

Every MMORPG has its system of classes that allows you to choose what you want your character to be, and how they should act. Ragnarok’s take on it is the Job System.

Now, you don’t just have to be a knight or a sage, but you can take on being an assassin, thief, crusader, priest, blacksmith, alchemist, or lots of others (For a full list refer to below). If at any point you get sick of your job, (Providing you’re at a certain level) you can change to whatever else interests you. For example, a blood thirsty Assassin that along the road discovers religion can easily convert into a priest.

"For example a blood thirsty Assassin, that along the road discovers religion, can easily convert into a priest."

1st Job Class
Knight
Hunter
Wizard
Blacksmith
Assassin
Pries
2-1 Job Class
Swordsman
Archer
Mage
Merchant
Thief
Acolyte
2-2 Job Class
Crusader
Bard (Male)
Dancer (Female)
Alchemist
Sage
Rouge

Camera Angles

The art of the camera angle has had developers trying to create the perfect system for years, with every force seemingly against them: still no such luck. With no dynamic camera angles incorporated into the game, the camera angle stays stationary: an aerial view letting the player only be able about to control it with a 360 degree rotation. Think of your character as the Sun, and the camera as the Earth. The Earth rotates around the sun, but never moves out of its line of path. Sounds great I know, but once you find yourself in between two houses close together, the camera that was once reliable becomes a nuisance as you struggle to find your character and wonder what key will make your character go where you want.

Sound

Simple and Beautiful. Ragnarok sticks to the classic RPG look, feel, and sound. Sound effects are never over the top, but are simple and fit the setting. Don’t expect real life sword sounds to be mimicked in Ragnarok.

The sound is wonderful. Each map and region has a different and unique background sound to it. For instance, get lost in grassy hills outside of a village and you’ll get a peaceful nature-istic setting backtrack. Go into an area by the ocean, such as a port, and you’ll hear the calming waves of the ocean. Go into a creepy dark area, and you’ll get something generally “creepy and dark.” Everything everywhere is fitting.

Music is--I think--one of the game’s greatest strong points. The game boasts simple, yet elegant tunes. You won’t find cheesy, screeching guitar riffs that repeatedly haunt a lot of other games, but rather you will find peaceful, serene music, that is one part epic and two parts relaxing. Music doesn’t change when you enter into regular battle, so no annoying pauses and breaks in the peaceful music that surrounds you exist.

However if Ragnarok’s music isn’t your thing, and you prefer your own playlist on your computer--no problem, just turn the music volume off in the Ragnarok Menu, and let your tunes go from your desktop. But I guarantee, a lot of you will fall in love with the music and will hardly ever want to bring your own music into the game.

"...peaceful serene music, that is one part epic and two parts relaxing."

Graphics

Just like most retro remakes, the playing style is kept, but everything else (Textures, characters, and complexities) is overhauled. Ragnarok is no different.


Keeping the classic overhead 3D view, Ragnarok puts you into a simple, yet elegant world. The textures and color vibrancy will blow you away. The game retains an anime style as it stays true and faithful to the game’s magna origins. Character designs, while small, have a certainly different look to every character.

"The textures and color vibrancy will blow you away."

Maps themselves also have a nice assortment of different textures that make the game seem simply beautiful and smoother than water (The water looks quite amazing too). Trees look tall and massive, houses look nice and sturdy, and bridges look nicely crafted.


Like I mentioned before, the game looks different on different rigs. I tested Ragnarok on two “Economy-class” rigs. One with an ATI Radeon 9600 Pro, and one with an ATI Radeon 9700 Pro (A mere difference of one model). One may think with that little of a graphical card jump, the only thing the user with the higher end card would experience was better frame rates. But this is NOT the case.

 

The difference is most noticeable in the trees. More or less, it has to do with the amount of pixel shaders and rendering pipelines in each graphics card. The trees--while they have considerable amounts of depth to them on the 9600 Pro--had even MORE depth to them on the 9700 Pro. Textures themselves just tend to look smoother and crisper, and look more dynamic. However, this example can’t be summed up in a picture. The way Ragnarok’s impressive graphical style works is by tricking your mind by using motion to simulate 3D. It simply has to be experienced first hand to understand. Pictures themselves only paint half the story.

Ending Notes

If every MMORPG was a group at your old High School, Ragnarok would be the “Wanderers.” It doesn’t fit into any real group, but can nonetheless be part of any of them at any time. You’ll notice similarities to other games in Ragnarok, but at the same time, Ragnarok is as original as the TV Dinner. Ragnarok doesn’t require players to strain themselves with practice and tutorials to get a good chunk into the game, but if you do, it will not go unrewarded. Taking the plunge in Ragnarok takes you deeper, but doesn’t make it harder to return upwards either (Otherwise no commitment). The community within Ragnarok also contains one of the nicer crowds I’ve experienced from other MMORPG’s.

Pro's

  1. Amazingly simple yet brilliant graphics.
  2. No weeks of playing to get accustomed to.
  3. Music is relaxing and fitting.

Con's:

  1. May not be enough to satisfy hardcore MMORPG'ers
  2. With it's limited playing style, a lot of the battling action is mere point and click
  3. Actual monster variation is limited.

The Great:

  1. Runs great on a wide array of PC's. New and Old.

Special thanks to Scott Womer.


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