If you know your Norse mythology, then Ragnarok Online may conjure visions of a game filled with mighty Viking warriors fighting in the final battle of good and evil between the forces of Odin and Lokiís army of giants and trolls. Well if thatís what youíre expecting in the game youíre in for a big surprise. Ragnarok Online may pay titular homage to the twilight of the gods and be set in a world known as Midgard, but it is a Japanese-style RPG game through and through. At least I donít remember there being any sagas in which Thor had to vanquish smiling bouncing mushrooms, but I could be wrong. Anyway, if youíre not into the whole manga/anime thing you can be pretty certain that Ragnarok Online is not for you. Otherwise you may want to see for yourself what has made the game such a huge hit in its native Korea.
Starting out in the game is simple enough. As in all MMORPGs in Ragnarok Online you start by creating a character, but in this case the process is straightforward and streamlined. Your initial statistics are determined by selecting which traits you want to emphasize over the expense of converse traits. For example, you can make yourself stronger but it will come at the cost of intelligence. In a nice touch this attribute distribution is accomplished entirely without numeric ratings by dragging a plot on a graph towards the attributes you would like to emphasize. You donít have to select a class at this point because all players enter the game classless. Once you reach level 10 in the game you can finally pick a class (or job) and specialize. When it comes to selecting the look of your character things are streamlined too much and youíre left with limited choices of hair styles (all spikey anime styles, of course) and hair color. Next name your character and youíre on your way.
When you enter Ragnarokís world youíll immediately see the best and worst of its graphics. The world is very colorful and detailed, although very distinctly anime. The camera view is the typical top-down view found in console RPGs developed on the Pacificís western shores, which is sure to please the gameís target audience. On the downside the game has some issues with the camera angle obscuring objects and doors and when you begin the game the castle gate through which you need to pass to really enter the gameworld is obscured from view by two of its towers.
Once in the castle you will be presented with a choice of entering the game or going to a special tutorial area. Believe me, whatever you do select the option to start playing right away because the game features one of the worst ideas for a tutorial Iíve ever seen. The tutorial area will have you spending a lot of time talking to NPCs and reading the text of their responses in small conversation balloons. They will go into plenty of details that wonít mean all that much to you since youíre not familiar with the game in the first place, but you had better pay attention. In order to exit the tutorial area and start playing youíll need to pass a test. Yes, a test. You are presented with a multiple choice exam that tests your ability to remember minutia that you read among a bevy of information and must get at least 80% of the answers right in order to proceed. If you forgot what the F12 key was for, tough luck. Go back and reread everything and try to retake the test. This is such a frustrating and annoying process that I banished my first character to an eternal existence in tutorial hell. Not my second, character though. He was born with the divine inspiration to skip the whole ordeal and go straight to the game world.
Not that his existence was totally charmed though. He was stuck with that dreaded dilemma of ďOK, what now?Ē Thereís just no effort here to ease players into the game. After much wandering and talking to NPCs and other players, I eventually found my way to some slaying of enemies, but not before I had my share of deaths at the hands of bouncing and smiling fungus. Donít fall into the ďI wonder whatís behind that doorĒ trap at the start of the game as it is more than likely something happy and bouncy that will kill you before you can even click your mouse button once.