Ragnarok Online Review: How This Classic MMORPG Stands Today?
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
Everyone that's into MMORPGs has at least heard of International Ragnarok Online (iRO). It was one of the first MMORPGs of its time to serve up 2D and 3D visuals giving itself an old school J-RPG feel to it. iRO has been around since 2002 and many things have changed in order to keep up with the times and competition. Does iRO have what it takes to stay alive in this ever expanding MMO market or is this age old classic past its prime? Before I continue with the review, there is something I must point out: since commercial launch, RO has been a Pay-to-Play service. As of September 2008, Gravity introduced a Free-to-Play server named "Valkyrie" in an attempt to win back some of their player base who left due to "Private servers". The shots and events in this review are all taken from the Valkyrie server.
When creating your character, you'll pick from a set number of hairstyles and colors, then pick your starting stats for your character's Strength, Agility, Vitality, Intelligence, Dexterity and Luck which all must add up to 30. You'll get plopped right into the training center which brings you up to speed. You can skip the training session if you wish, but it is a good idea to complete it as you'll receive lots of goodies that will come in handy for later.
Selecting your class
You'll have lots of choices to make when deciding what class to play. Players can become Swordsmen, Archers, Mages, and more. New to iRO are the inclusion of "alternative" 1st classes" which are Taekwon fighters that use no weapons and fight with their bare hands, Gunslingers that use lots of modern ranged weaponry like pistols, and Ninjas that can do... well... ninja stuff. With the exception of Taekwon fighters, Gunslingers and Ninjas are very high maintenance classes to play as and cannot be supported on their own. It's best that you should get some money and experience playing as other job classes before rolling a Gunslinger or Ninja.
After you level up your character's class to 40, you can advance your character to become either one of two different subclasses. Swordsmen can be promoted to either Knights or Crusaders; Acolytes can be promoted to either Priests or Monks, and so on. Additionally, there are "Transcendent" classes you can advance to. The amount of choice iRO gives you with character classes is insane and even a bit absurd. But that's ok since you do have nine character slots available.
Good old Prontera... You haven't changed a bit
iRO's combat is pseudo turn based, as with most MMORPGs today. You click with your mouse to move, click on enemies to attack, and use F1-F9 keys as shortcuts to use skills. There's a good amount offensive, defensive, support and passive skills available for all classes, plus the option to earn more skills through quests. Speaking of quests, they seemed very scarce and almost non-existent in past versions of iRO. But now, tons of quests are available to help you earn rack up that EXP, and the new quest window is there to help you keep on track with your quests.
Sniping from a safe distance
The presentation of iRO hasn't aged very well, or has aged very well, depending on your preference. iRO's visuals maintain an old school JRPG style with highly detailed 2D sprites and animations, while blending in 3D environments, although the textures on the environments can seem a bit dull to look at occasionally. RO's original soundtrack is still as amazing as it ever was with "SoundTemp's" wonderfully arranged audio filled with many different genres of folk, jazz, techno, alternative, rock and orchestrated beats that just set the mood for adventure.
Back when, iRO was considered to be an unholy grindfest. Today, it still feels like an unholy grindfest. While there is more emphasis on quest completion then before, it all comes down to grinding out base and job levels before you can get to the "fun" parts of the game (which would be partaking in Player vs. Player, the "War of Emporium" and hunting MVP bosses.) Battling it out against other players comes down to how well your character's stat build is, the equipment you're packing, and the opponent you're facing. While some classes arguably have many advantages over others, PvP feels decently balanced.
While it attempts to create an engaging experience for all, iRO's overall gameplay is definitely not for everyone since knowing your character's class, equipment and stat build is extremely important. You'll also need to take some time to manually distribute your stats after each level up. If you don't take great care in your stat distribution, you can find yourself not doing so well when trying to battle in higher level areas where you should be training in.
As I mentioned before, RO has been sectioned into two services: Pay-to-play (Ymir; formally Chaos, Iris and Loki servers merged together) & Free-to-play (Valkyrie). While the Pay-to-pay service does have some nice perks including increased EXP and drop rates, lower item prices and what not, the Free-to-play service seems like a total rip off in comparison. EXP and drop rates are at base level for the Valkyrie server, but prices on some very basic items are sky high, there's no safe limits on upgrading equipment and some particular equipment cards have been removed (I assume it's for PvP balance, but who knows? I don't.)iRO fails to create much of an immersive world due to bots farming for gold and spamming active towns. So how does Gravity plan to deal with these botting players? Why by adding random spawning MVP like monsters to get rid of them, of course. It's such a brilliant idea, right?
Wrong. It's an awful idea. Why Gravity can't simply give iRO some hack protection or have active GMs patrolling for bots, I'll never know. I seriously hope the Ymir server doesn't have to deal with this.Besides bots being around to break any sense of immersion, iRO constantly reminds you that you're playing a video game. Just about every Kafra NPC you meet will tell you that you're in a game world. Even if you're not worried about being immersed in the world of iRO, you'll still have yourself a good time. I don't know why, but there is something about chilling out under a shady tree with some buddies in iRO that just seems right.
Enjoying iRO is like having an acquired taste for particular foods. Those that have built up their taste for it in the past will most likely enjoy it today, but it may taste a bit weird for those that are trying it for the first time. Old fans of RO will love all the new features it has to offer, but may want to consider going back to the premium service (although if you like the idea of playing RO in "hard mode", the free service might not seem so bad.) The community is excellent, War of Emporium is still amazing, and Gravity shows lots of love for their supporting players with tons of events. The pros outweigh the cons here: iRO remains a timely classic.
- Good use of 2D and 3D visuals
- Tons of classes to choose from
- Tons of new features such as quest logs and skill trees
- Good community
- Excellent original soundtrack
- Pay-to-play and Free-to-play services available
- Excessive botting abuse
- Lots of required micromanagement of stats and skills
- Free-to-play service feels gimped