First Impressions – Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second

A game five years too late, Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second nonetheless still manages to sate the voracious MMORPG player’s appetite.

Running madly around the world of RO2: LotS and jumping with abandon like World of Warcraft has conditioned me to, it felt like I was coming home to Ragnarok Online. A game long in coming, Legend of the Second is the second iteration of Ragnarok Online 2, and us lucky gamers in Singapore and Malaysia are the first in the world to get our grubby paws on the game’s first English language service.

And what a homecoming it is. RO2 is exactly how I had always imagined vanilla RO would be in three dimensions. The 3D rendering of the Asgardian landscape as well as the classes are welcome throwbacks to my teenage days where I wandered Prontera stabbing Porings at random. My RO2 character was taller and more realistic, and dare I say more grown up; the quests were also flavoured with the structure and familiarity today’s MMORPGs’ quests have given to us. Best of all, RO2 has become a truly seamless game, unlike vanilla RO where moving from one area to another required a transition time.

Despite its modern features, it’s true that Ragnarok Online 2 is a game five years too late. Where it once might have been the forerunner of MMOs, it has been overshadowed by the expectations that the numerous triple-A free-to-play MMORPGs have created. Unfortunately, RO2 doesn’t bring much innovation or improvements that you haven’t already seen in current MMOs in the market. While it retained many flavours from the original game, I’d like to see the developers take up the challenge of putting in some new features to the gameplay, or even content (Ed’s Note: The fine folks at NCSoft and ArenaNet broke many atypical MMO feature stereotypes with the awesome Guild Wars 2).

RO2 adds, on top of character jobs, a ‘life’ profession to your character. This brings out the roleplaying aspect of the game, since you can choose from professions such as a chef or an alchemist. Where the first Ragnarok Online had separate character and job levels, RO2 has two different experience bars as well, for professions and characters.

We’re only a couple of days into the game so we’re still in the starting area, but as far as we can tell, the leveling in RO2 is a lot less grindy compared to the first game. The process is smooth and almost addictive with your typical kill or fetch quests. Drops are frequent and the requisite number of creatures you have to slay never exceeds single digits (so far, anyway).

Pulling up the main map also shows you where to go for your quests. The mobs you need are highlighted in red, while the NPCs you have to report to are stamped with your standard question or exclamation marks. While the Ragnarok Online series has never traditionally supported user-created mods, Gravity has done its best to provide all the functionality a player might need. They have, however, stopped short at giving players complete freedom to customise their interface. Players are limited to displayed one or three horizontal bars of hotkeys, stacked vertically atop each other. Bags and option buttons are also not moveable.

While there aren’t quite enough prompts to tell you what to do when you level up, MMORPG players will find the process quite intuitive. The C button brings up your character sheet, while other hotkeys can be checked out via your hotkey map in the options.

Localisation is done in-house by Asiasoft, but it feels like the team was in a rush to put the game out in time for its debut at Licence2Play. Many quests lack proper titles, and instead share the same quest name but with an ascending number at the back. Like many MMOs, there are opportunity galore for Easter eggs in quest titles, so perhaps the localisation team just hasn’t found the time to add those in. We did, however, spy a trio of musical grasshoppers singing Led Zep’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, albeit with an Asgardian twist.

Ragnarok Online 2 is really your standard MMORPG in a nutshell, with an atypical UI and slew of fetch/kill quests, but fans of the Ragnarok series will find this new world, rendered in 3D, overwhelmingly nostalgic. And while the game itself might not be appealing at first glance, the nostalgia factor will pull players in, and the decent gameplay (so far, anyway) – and hopefully better localisation by Asiasoft – will serve to keep them playing.

We’ll be continuing with our thoughts on Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second as the days go by. In the meantime, you can download the game client for yourself and enjoy the rest of the Closed Beta Test till Dec 12 2012. The Open Beta will begin on Dec 27 2012. Alternatively, watch me at my stream channel playing as an Acolyte with Afiz (Swordsman) for the next two nights!