Close up of the party.
Ragnarok Online DS wasn't a game I was really interested in before walking into XSEED's office. I had feared it was a dry hack-and-slash game that would require a lot of mindless grinding and button mashing. Thankfully, it wasn't anything like I had feared and was much more impressive than I had ever imagined.
The first thing I need to state is that Ragnarok Online DS is not an MMORPG, but a single player game with an optional local wireless dungeon. That is not a bad thing, however, as the game is still quite fun and should appeal to those looking for a fun loot-gathering game on the DS.
The most entertaining aspect of the game was the combat. As I moved the main character Ares and his follower around the world map with the stylus, I encountered many foes. Much to my delight, combat against these enemies simply required me to tap the screen and bam, Ares started attacking. Before too long, my party was surrounded by a group of enemies, but I was quickly able to tab my skill button at the top right of the screen. I then drew a quick circle with the stylus which caused Ares to sweep around in a circle, dealing damage to all enemies. Next I tapped another skill and drew a slash across another enemy, making Ares strike out again, killing the foe. The combat was fast paced and very engaging, reminding me very much of last year's Summon Night: Twin Age.
Not hack-and-slash, but tap-and-slash.
Considering the game's MMO roots, character customization is very deep. Ares starts as a Novice, but as he levels up, he can change classes at the guild. Some of the available jobs are Swordsman, Mage, Hunter, and Merchant, all of which offer different skills and have access to unique, job-specific quests. As characters level even higher, more advanced jobs become available. A fun little aspect of the game is that characters will change clothes depending on what job they are, but headgear and weapons will change the appearance of the character when they are equipped.
As characters progress, they gain in base level and in job level. As you gain in levels, you gain points to distribute into different stats. Deepening the progression is when characters reach a high enough level, they can limit break their character, which will drop the entire character back down to level one, but will grant them a ton of bonus points to redistribute. This makes changing jobs slightly easier, as characters are more powerful and companions are still strong, so it's quick to relevel your character back up to a high level again.
With a collection of characters to assist you, the loot gathering aspect of Ragnarok is even more fun as up to two other party members of varying job classes can assist you in battle. Weapons and armor can also be modified in town, but it's ideal to hunt out a specialist for the item type you're trying to improve. Certain enhancers are more likely to be successful at the specific fusions, meaning you just need to take care when deciding what to fuse as to not lose your items.
With tons of job classes, lots of loot to gather, and a barrage of quests to complete, Ragnarok Online DS is a game that will keep you busy for as long as you want. It's a fun, addictive little game with an amazingly simple to use combat system and lots of variety in how to do it. While I wasn't looking forward to the game's release this winter, I am now very much wanting to get my hands on it again.