Ragnarok Odyssey is not the only spin-off of GungHo's hugely popular MMO, Ragnarok Online, due to be released soon. There is also the PSP's upcoming tactical entry Ragnarok Tactics. Developed by Apollosoft, which includes many former members of Summon Night developer Flight-Plan, and published in North America by Aksys Games, Ragnarok Tactics looks to help keep the PSP's reputation of being a home for well-loved tactical RPGs going a little longer.
"Ragnarok Tactics looks to be a very solid addition to the tactical RPG genre."
Long in the history of Ragnarok Tactics' world, the Holy War ravaged the landscape. Caught between both gods and demons, the humans eventually managed to seal both behind a barrier in order to bring peace to the world. Of course, as is the nature of humanity, such a state did not last long. The game takes place many centuries after the Holy War, on the Grantria Peninsula, an area home to numerous warring tribes without any clear ruler. However, the balance has been upset by the arrival of the Branshaldo Empire from a now-forgotten distant land, causing the tribes to join together to form the Aura Republic.
These two nations operate under very different ruling systems. The Branshaldo Empire has been under the control by the Branshaldo family from Chardo Castle in the town of Barraf since its inception, with Emperor Bernard III the current ruler. On the other hand, the Aura Republic has retained its confederal status, being ruled by a committee currently chaired by Counselor Gilsede from the Aura Council Hall. At the time of Ragnarok Tactics a truce is in place between the two states, and it is only a matter of time before something tips them into further conflict. There is also a third influential force in the region, the Toren Militia, who act as general peacekeepers for the populace. Players are given the option of choosing which side they wish to fight for, and thus determine which side of the story they will bear witness to.
Aksys has promised that players will get to experience an epic tale with a fairly dark theme. The game is confirmed to have five different endings and multiple paths players can take depending on their decisions throughout the game. Players aren't forever locked into their choices, however, as the game includes a feature that allows travelling back to an earlier point and make a different decision, seemingly similar to "The World" feature in the PSP version of Tactics Ogre.
Players create their own character, selecting their gender, class, hair, and voice. There are ten initial classes to choose from, all taken from the MMO, with another four able to be unlocked on a future playthrough should their conditions be met. Accompanying the player character in combat will be a number of story characters, including guest characters who the player has full control over, and mercenaries who the player can hire to bolster their forces. Story characters are restricted to their particular class, while mercenaries can change classes, albeit at the cost of returning to level one each time, but with bonus points provided to compensate.
In addition to the rulers of each nation mentioned previously, there are a number of characters who the player will meet on their journey. These include characters from all sides of the conflict: such as Toren, founder of aforementioned Toren Militia, famed for his monster exterminating exploits; Yuri, a member of the Aura Republic military who takes his role extremely seriously; Cynthia, a temperamental Branshaldo citizen with a deep-seated hatred of the Aura Republic; and Fiona, a dependable young member of the Toren Militia, orphaned by a previous conflict before being taken in by Toren.
As expected from a game with "Tactics" in the title, grid and turn-based strategy is the template on which Ragnarok Tactics is built, which is detailed further in our RttS impression. Units receive experience points during battle for their actions, and upon gaining enough to level up players are given a number of points to improve the character's attributes. Gameplay appears very solid, and should be able to impart that "just one more turn" feeling that is a hallmark of many well-loved tactical RPGs.
Despite the difference in genre between the two games, some elements of Ragnarok Online have been retained, such as sitting to restore health, and the iconic Porings. The world map follows the point-and-click format, with plenty of story battles accompanied by several more optional side battles to help players improve their party as needed. Sidequests are plentiful and come in three main flavours. Story-based ones involving the main characters provide plenty of scenes that further detail the background of the characters and their personalities.
A second set of optional quests features many generic tasks given out by NPCs for various rewards, such as defeating a certain number of enemies or fetching specific items. Finally, there are another set of more event-based sidequests, most of which are unlocked after multiple playthroughs, this time featuring the various NPCs in the world and often taking place over multiple sections. These quests will usually reward players with either new items or an additional party member and Aksys promises great variation in how they will play out, ranging from quite touching to the rather bizarre. With all the sidequests and routes on offer, players will have plenty of reason to keep playing outside of a single completion of the estimated twenty-hour main quest.
With the usual large number of releases before the holiday season, there is a danger of Ragnarok Tactics flying under the radar. However, those with an interest in tactical RPGs should keep an eye out for it, as it looks to be a very solid addition to the genre in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. Ragnarok Tactics is currently due to be released for PSP, with the downloadable version stated to be Vita-compatible, on November 6, 2012.