Ragnarok Online - Staff Retroview  

The End of the World Online
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin



Rating definitions 

   Named after the war that will end the world, Ragnarok Online is about a war between humans and monsters. With a setup like that, it should come as little surprise that the battle system is a primary focus of the game. The other focus is character creation and building.

   The player begins as a mere novice, but they can grow into one of six classes, then into one of two advanced classes depending on which class they chose initially. A character's class determines which skills they can learn and which statistic bonuses they will receive. Character and class levels are kept seperate, and the class level resets with each class change. Every time a player's class levels up, they can either learn a new skill or upgrade an old one. As there aren't enough class levels to master all of the skills, players must choose carefully, especially since some skills have heavy prerequisites.

From humble beginnings... From humble beginnings...

   A character's class and skills can greatly influence how battles are fought, but generally the battle system itself isn't anything special and consists of a lot of point-and-click fighting with the occasional skill or item thrown in. Having a decent sized party can increase the fun, though the real enjoyment isn't in the battle system itself, but rather in the aforementioned class system and in equipment customization. By filling slotted equipment with rare enemy cards, players can further increase their favorite statistics or add special traits in order to become more powerful.

   Unlike some MMORPGs that impose heavy penalties to those who die, Ragnarok Online is very kind in this aspect. The penalty is so low that low level characters sometimes even kill themselves in order to quickly teleport to their save point. This is because the amount of time it takes to make up what is lost is often far less than the traveling time. Of course, the penalty is more severe for high level characters, but it's never particularly punishing. The difficulty itself varies based on where the character wanders, but there are plenty of low level areas and it is often easy to run away should players wander into a dangerous place by accident.

   As with most MMORPGs, the game features a set of programable hotkeys to make life easier for the player. These keys can be set for skills, items, and even emotions. While they can't include simple macros like some other games on the market, they are still a nice feature of the interface. Using abilities or items not hotkeyed, on the other hand, can be difficult without having several menus open at once. Since most combat is point-and-click, it can be difficult to open menus in the middle of battle unless the keyboard shortcuts are memorized, so it's best to just leave them open in most cases. The localization is decent in some places and bad in others. Though it's always being improved, the game still features quite a few errors. a mighty warrior. a mighty warrior.

   Though MMORPGs are never really complete, the amount of time it takes to become powerful and complete a lot of quests in Ragnarok Online is relatively low. It's still possible to spend hundreds of hours on each character, especially when collecting rare cards and maxing out equipment, but low level gameplay is fast-paced. This is actually one of the game's strong points, as more time can be spent hanging out with friends or questing instead of leveling up. It also makes it a lot easier to have multiple characters at once, especially since items can be easily shared between them.

   Unfortunately, one aspect of the game is hurt by the pace: the story. The story of Ragnarok Online is almost nonexistent, with only small bits and pieces appearing occasionally during quests and when talking to random NPCs. Even with these fragments, most of the game's quests are centered around the player gaining power, changing classes, or fighting a boss than advancing the story.

Hanging out in Payon. Hanging out in Payon.

   In the early stages of the game, the visuals were quite good, but by the time the game was actually released, they were relatively average. Anime artwork and colorful backgrounds are plentiful, but it still can't compete very well against the graphics of other MMORPGs such as Final Fantasy XI.

   One aspect of the game that didn't get left in the dust of ever-improving computers is the music. Almost all of the music is of high quality, and, despite often having to spend hours in the same dungeon, the music only rarely becomes old. The music is certainly one of the primary highlights of the game.

   While there isn't anything particularly special about the individual aspects of the game aside from the music, Ragnarok Online's speed is a very large draw. This speed greatly cuts down on the amount of mindless leveling and leaves more time for exploring, questing, and hanging out with friends. This also makes Ragnarok Online a good choice for casual gamers and those who want to play a MMORPG without wasting thousands of hours.

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