I remember playing Ragnarok Online, the first one, quite a while ago and semi-enjoying it. I liked the isometric views and even enjoyed some of the gameplay, but it was a bit of a mess much of the time. I walked away more confused than entertained. At the same time, I met reader after reader after reader who seemed to have grown up on the game. This "grind generation" was made of steely reserve and tougher stuff than I was because the game was notoriously grindy. How did they play it?
Even now as I was looking for a few different views on Ragnarok Online 2, I came across a video that was hosted by a player who acknowledged the "boring grind" that left players with literally "nothing to do but level alts," yet he played the game to the max level, several times. If only we could get these guys to put that much energy into world peace, I might be having dinner in the middle of a former warzone right now!
I found number two to be a bit like its older version but surprisingly modern and more fun than I thought. But only a bit more fun.
The first thing you'll notice in Ragnarok Online 2 is how much more modern the game looks. Compared to the original, the second generation looks downright slick. If I compare number two to other modern MMOs, however, it looks pretty typical. It's pretty and stylized, and the characters move fluidly, but I've seen it all before. I have a feeling that original-title fans will be a bit disappointed with the more modern graphics. After all, the original's isometric style and simple graphics are the things of memories, literally, and it's sometimes a mistake to "upgrade" memories. Honestly, I would have preferred that the developer kept the original look and feel and added a few nicer tweaks like better effects and nicer music while keeping the viewing angle the same. I might be weird in my preference, though.
I leveled my archer by running quests in the newbie area, quests of the sort that we're all familiar with. There's some quest text, possibly a cutscene or two, and you'll be sent off to kill ten whatsits over and over. I didn't mind the light grind, as I've said before, and compared to my memories of the original, this second generation run was easy-peasy. Normally, low-level quest areas or tutorial areas are so incredibly linear that they feel a bit like being pushed out into yet another series of quests that, in their turn, will just push you out further. The newbie area sort of tossed me around the same area for a long time. While I was busy doing the same quests over and over, at least I was following a decent story with a few serious characters and bits of interesting lore.
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I was sent to a dungeon as well and had to interact with bits of the environment to complete tasks. As I leveled, I was able to pick from an assortment of typical archer skills. Once I hit level 25, I could choose a secondary job that specializes my abilities. Would I go with Ranger in order to keep in line with the ranged class or roll Beastmaster in order to buff myself with the abilities of animals? Either way, it sounded like more of the same. To many players, this treadmill is just what the doctor ordered, but I find it tedious at best.
At least the game looks good, or at least good enough in areas to impress. Swimming is done as it is in many other MMOs, allowing players to dive underwater and make a splash. The character models are good, but the monsters are really where the design shines. I'm a massive fan of stylized content but tend to appreciate the less cutesy branch of the tree. Still, the adorable monsters that populate the game are well-made and animated smoothly. As I find more of these foreign free-to-play games, I am still finding delightful new creatures that seem to come out of the imagination of an eight-year-old on too much paste.
There is also talk of controversy in the community about how to achieve the very best equipment. PvP seems to be the avenue that many players take, taking turns in an arena that opens up twice a day. I didn't see the warning for the arena when I was playing, but I might have been too low-level to gain access. Either way, there is plenty to be paid for in the cash-shop, so players can always go that route.
Fast travel is accomplished by riding brooms around, but the trips are often so short that I could have just hoofed it and saved the cash. If anything, the broom travel is a neat way to look around the world from a different angle. You can also earn mounts or buy mounts in the cash shop, and they look good. As in "modern MMO" good. The bird mounts actually caught me off guard with their size and color range. There are some interesting costumes as well, and armor becomes more elaborate as time goes on.
When it gets down to it, Ragnarok Online 2 is yet another grindy, foreign import that doesn't do much for the industry. The original, if anything, had its age and isometric view angle to set it apart. This second version does away with both of those things and replaces them with a modern grinder that offers a bit of fun for some and nothing but a massive grind for others. The funny thing is that there are thousands -- if not millions -- of gamers out there who appear to worship the grind. I have no idea why, unless they are hanging out with groups of their friends while they do it. I can only believe that games like Ragnarok Online 2 succeed because the need for some sort of max-level glory overpowers the need for fun. I'd rather have a good time.
Next week I will be looking at Arcane Saga, another re-do. This time it's a remake of Prius Online, a game that I was originally impressed by until I played it for a while. I fell asleep halfway into the journey, but this new version is supposed to offer some new twists. I will livestream the game (hopefully, an improved version) on Monday, the 17th of June, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our livestream channel!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!