Ragnarok Online 2 Open Beta: First Impressions

Posted by on January 8, 2013 - 3 Comments »

There’s just something about the cuteness factor of Ragnarok that made me want to come back. It was probably about 10 years ago that I first played the original Ragnarok Online, my first experience with an MMO.

A super-deformed sprite of the original Raganarok Online, fighting the same creature type pictured in the background of the RO2 screenshot above.

I’ve gone back and played the original game many times through the years, and even picked up the game for Nintendo DS a couple years back, but never really got back into it after having experienced the updated graphics and gameplay of World of Warcraft.

But now, the long-awaited and once-scrapped sequel is finally in open beta, and I was keen to get back into the game. But just as I was about to download the client, an unexpected announcement from the game administrators seemed to thwart my attempts:

“…It’s with our deepest apologies that we announce we will not be able to provide the RO2 game service to players outside of our optimized countries – Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – due to our license agreement with the game’s developer, Gravity Co., Ltd.” — RO2 Administrator, AsiaSoft (source)

This announcement sent huge shockwaves throughout the RO2 community. Many players on the official forums have expressed disappointment and even anger, saying that they feel like they’ve been strung along for years, only to be told at the last second that they wouldn’t be allowed to play the game. But we also have not yet heard any clarification on the topic from the admins — is this a temporary thing? Or maybe just for the beta period? Will the full game eventually be released worldwide? I’d assume yes, but like I said, we’ve not heard that officially.

Regardless, I suppose the game servers have only intermittently received the message that only players in certain areas should be allowed access — I and many others located outside of those areas have still been able to sign up, download and patch the client, and play the game since after that announcement was made. I’m unsure whether that will continue, but I’m happy that I can at least review and share a few screenshots from what I’ve seen so far.

Screenshot from an earlier version of RO2 that ended up scrapped.

Logging in, the game feels familiar yet surprisingly new. Players of the first RO will enjoy being reintroduced to the storyline, classes and job system. The overhauled graphics still are that big-eyes, small-mouth anime style. The armor is still way too cute to provide as much protection as it actually does.  Characters still have a ridiculously large selection of emotes to perform in-game. And the monsters, although they don’t look intimidating, still hit hard.

But the look and feel of the game certainly have been updated considerably. While still not stellar graphically, it’s a huge upgrade from those tiny pixelated sprites of RO1. The earlier game always had big aspirations for clearer graphics – the site was full of wallpapers showing awesome, detailed renditions of the characters as they could be. But actually seeing your own characters in that light was left up solely to your imagination.

It seems to me that the new game has drawn from that same inspiration, and brought it to life in-game. A dream come true for the RO addict. Not perfect, but magical enough to keep me intrigued so far.

Other aspects of the game seem to be installations of what has become the “standard” look for UI — action bars along the bottom, bags opening up along the bottom right, a mini-map in the upper right, character frames in the top left, and quest objectives along the right side.

Gameplay also will feel very familiar to MMO players — the story is driven by quests, with quest givers accented with a ! and turn-ins with a ?. You’ll get the standard array of errands to run — go kill 4 porings; go collect 6 jellopies; or go craft 5 of your job item. As you level up, you choose which stats and skills you want to spend points on to improve, and you get access to higher-level areas and dungeons.

The world, although I’ve not yet explored it all, does seem small when compared to a game like WoW or SWToR. When questing, I noticed oftentimes you’d have to return to the same set of monsters several times to perform different tasks. These weren’t quests that should have been partnered up and done at the same time — they were built to be played back to back. If you’re not one for the grind, I suppose this aspect could get old.

The unique card system that the original game did so well is still in place. Each monster in game has a percent chance to drop a collectible card. Each card comes loaded with preset stats that you can use to improve your own stats. Each 10 levels (up to 50, the level cap), you’re allowed to equip one additional card.

Also similar to the original game, players can set up their own little shops anywhere and everywhere, although now they don’t need to be of the (now non-existent) merchant class to do so. Anyone interested in buying simply clicks on the shop owner’s thought bubble to see what they have to offer. The result is perhaps not as wide reaching sales as an auction house feature, but definitely a more personal buying experience, which is neat.

In terms of variety for game play, the limiting factor is that there’s only one player race. Customization is fairly detailed, however, with options for hair color and style, face style, eye style and color and voice. Starting out, players have five beginner classes to choose from — swordsman, magician, archer, thief and acolyte — which eventually branch into 10 second classes. The original RO eventually had more than 40 job classes that players could graduate into as they leveled, so perhaps that also is in the future for RO2. Players also choose between four crafting job classes.

As for the format of the game, the prevalence of an in-game shop for buying mounts, cutesy headgear that defined the first game, or any other number of items makes it look like the game is going to follow the free to play model with some paid content. A cash shop already is set up for the beta, and beta players who reached level 10 already have received in-game money as incentive to try it out (and then buy more). Many cash shop items also have expiration dates — so that awesome mount you buy could last only 30 days before you’ll need to buy another.

Overall, I’m not too far into the game yet, but I can see myself really enjoying gameplay. The limiting factor could be the extent to which paid services are required to enjoy the game. While I like the idea of supporting a game by paying for paid services, in some cases they can get out of hand and end up being more expensive than simply adopting a subscription model.

The gameplay, although nothing new, has been fun. The characters are cute. The customization options are fun. The monsters and emotes are adorable, even as they try to kill you. Will all this be enough to keep me interested? I’ll keep playing the beta, as long as I’m allowed, and try to gain more perspective as I level. Stay tuned. And check out some more screenshots from character creation and gameplay below.

If you want to wait for the full game’s release or can’t get the beta to work, check out the original Ragnarok Online, which is still available to play. And check back for video footage from the open beta coming soon (as long as I can still log in!)