Jun 212013
 

 

Chances are if you’ve looked into Korean MMOs you have at least glanced at Ragnarok Online. One of the best known as most successful MMORPGs titles to have come out of Korea in the last decade or so, the game met massive success. With distinctive art style, job system and strange mixture of anime and Norse mythology it developed a fanbase of millions which is still going strong today. Naturally even with multiple updates and events taking place daily it was only a matter of time before a sequel was made in 2007 in the form of Ragnarok Online 2: The Gate of the World. Met with a poor initial reception, the game was repeatedly upgraded over three years before eventually being closed down.

With the last effort having met with failure has its remake Legend of the Second learned from the mistakes of the past or is it repeating them? Unfortunately it’s a little of both.

Following on from the original the title is after the war with the Freyjanity, cult of the now sealed away dark god Freyja. Following the massed kidnappings of children by the cult, the Knights of Prontera led by Zeras Hyperion waged a bloody war against them. After a prolonged campaign the Knights fought their way to the laboratory where they were being experimented upon and seemingly ended the cult.

Managing to rescue those abducted, many of those kidnapped had been orphaned by the Freyjanity were taken in by the knights, none of who realized the power the experiments had granted them. Ten years after these events, the orphans have grown into teenagers and are preparing to graduate from the Elemento military school in Mt. Mjolnir. Unfortunately for them, Freyjanity’s influence stretches deeper than any realized…

Having departed from many elements iconic from the original RO, the change which will strike many veterans is the visuals. While keeping the overall cutesy/often semi-demonic art style the series is known for, it has shifted from a Diablo-esque isometric view of the world to a fully 3D state. With graphics more refined than the semi-sprite based game and tweaks in the visuals to make it more in line with the original manwa, the sequel has a very different feel to it.

Unfortunately this feels more like a step down than a step forwards. The exaggerated designs and more cartoonish looks of things simply don’t hold up as well when viewed in a third person perspective. While a few details might look nice and on their own they’re perfectly fine, when compared to the original they look less interesting. Furthermore, while the world has some of the most insane and stylised monster designs I have seen since Star Ocean, many parts feel unfortunately run-of-the-mill. The building designs and overall look of areas once you remove the monsters have nothing to really make them stand out. They seem like they could be from almost any MMO of the Korean art style it follows, and are ultimately just generic.

That last point is ultimately the game’s biggest flaw – There is so much here which has been done to a reasonable standard, but nothing to make it stand out on its own or differentiate from its competition. This would be a problem on its own but when you take into account the original and how well it adapted its various ideas and elements, it starts to become a severe let down.

This is obvious in almost every area of the game from what is offered. The classes ultimately what you’d expect and resemble what was seen in the original with your tanks in the form of Swordsmen, ranged support Acolytes and DPS Wizards. Each have a few abilities to their own and upon reaching a certain level have the ability to switch class. Acolytes for example can become Monks or Priests with new groups of abilities and a different playing style. While reasonable, this doesn’t go the extra mile that the original did with such ideas. Along with more unique classes such as the Merchants, RO made class shifts some epic challenge of ability and skill whereas here they’re just one more stage in level progression. The same goes for many aspects of character customization and bonuses gained through progression, we’ve seen them all done far better previously. The titles system, achievements added next to your name which boost your stats, is brought back again but quite a few seem surprisingly uninspired. Titles themselves being given for everything from gaining a certain degree of cash to killing a certain open area boss to dying several times.

The combat itself is definitely mixed at best. Many of RO2’s class powers early on are relatively simplistic, which allows for new players to easily get used to the mechanics and system but none of them look especially visually stunning. The Swordsman’s initial abilities of causing bleeding damage, a heavy strike and a AOE attack all feel very basic as does the short range smite, buffing and healing abilities of the Acolytes. There’s nothing here to initially suggest the game will offer anything more than you’d find in World of Warcraft, and to be honest even the later abilities even have this problem. They all feel like something you’ve seen a thousand times before. Are they effective at what they do? Definitely, but barring a few exceptions such as summoning a flying magical hammer, they lack the visual or effective distinctions needed to make them feel memorable.

What is memorable is the combat which can easily become frustrating. Satisfying as it might be to smash down a demon summoner or eight foot tall ant monster, you’re going to be frustrated repeatedly by the lock-on system. The fact you can clip through monsters and cannot automatically turn to face a foe you have targeted means melee is far more of a chore than you would think. You’re going to come across the problem where you’ve phased through the opponent you’re fighting and the game registers as it being behind you, refusing to let you attack. While this is easily corrected with most monsters, fast moving or argoed bosses on the move become a nightmare to try and attack. As a result many fights become static and a simple exchange of attacks blow for blow. This ultimately turns quests hunting down monsters into a series of slugging matches rather than planned assaults.

Speaking of the quests, they’re what you’d expect for an MMORPG. It’s the usual mixture of fetch quests, shopping lists and “go here and kill X” you would expect from any game. Unfortunately unlike the more interesting titles of their kind like Rifts and Guild Wars 2, they don’t do anything to make your tasks unique. The few times they do try to break from the mould results in more frustration than it does enjoyment with a number of quests involving you simply running back and forth speaking with several characters. Going up to one, having them say a sentence before you are sent after the next person like some personal emissary.

Many users expecting to find more advanced controls and options to customize settings will likely be frustrated with the limited graphical options. While sound settings for the game give a decent degree of customization, allowing you to set the game to your preferred volumes, the graphics systems settings could definitely do with more methods of control. Ones which would allow PC users to take advantage of better graphical fidelity or even just an FOV slider.

So what does work in the game?

Well, for starters grinding is considerably less of a chore than in RO. Especially at the early levels you progress much faster and feel you are getting somewhere quicker, even if the eventual rewards aren’t as enticing.

While the missions themselves are often generic, RO2’s other mission system adds an interesting element to gameplay. The khara system-as it’s known-consists of a large number of challenges. Some allow you access to titles, others reward you khara points to let you unlock more challenges later and other rewards such as class or job. While a fair few boil down to shopping list quests as the normal missions, they tend to be more challenging. Others task you with everything from reaching a certain level to accumulating a certain amount of cash to going out and slaying a powerful monster somewhere on the map.

The differing rewards and degree of choice you are offered make these stand out more. They make you feel as if you are in greater control of your character rather than just being ordered about by others. Furthermore considering how to spend khara points and when to save them is a welcome dimension which adds a greater degree of consideration rather than just accepting missions on sight. Many are also blocked off and unable to be unlocked or taken up immediately, giving you some additional interest in seeing when each one opens up.

Beyond the combat the game offers a job system which ranges from blacksmith to artisan. These can be completely ignored, but they allow you to set up a shop of your own to sell off items you craft. The crafting process in question requiring you to gather and refine materials to make items, along with learning how to make them in the first place. While this might sound generic, the fact you can set up your store in any location you wish and the amount of leveling involved is an interesting choice. One which, again, makes you feel as if you have a greater degree of personal control and investment than other MMORPGs.

Finally, certain class choices within the game for upgrades do feel like interesting and varied additions to the game. Ones like the Beastmaster and Assassin are visually distinct and have a very different playing style than every other class, also allowing for radically different changes in roles once they are attained. Allowing for either vastly greater specialization in a single role or switching roles within parties almost entirely. It’s just unfortunate you have to push your way through the comparatively bland first classes to reach the secondary classes.

Not to mention the music which is well above average for online titles, giving a surprising degree of ambiance to each area.

There are a few good gems within this, it’s just unfortunate that they are buried beneath very mundanely generic or frustrating elements and aren’t more prominent in the game. That or made difficult to enjoy due to the game’s visible lack of polish and almost unfinished state. How unfinished is it? You can spoil the entire first arc of the main storyline by progressing too far through the opening level and running into the traitor as an enemy mob.

Ultimately I would be lying if I said I hadn’t enjoyed playing Ragnarok Online 2 despite its many problems, but it’s also very hard to recommend. Anyone who has played the original will likely consider that to the superior game and MMORPG junkies will find little to make it stand out from the crowd. If you enjoy the art style, don’t mind very generic mechanics or have little experience playing MMORPGs then you might have some fun with this one. Otherwise, in its current state, you’d do better to just look at the original Ragnarok Online.

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We received a review code for Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second.  All opinions are honest and of the minds of the Paranerds.com staff.

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