"The worst MMORPG out there."

Ragnarok Online is, simply put, the worst MMO RPG I have ever laid eyes upon. Ignoring its graphics (which realistically cannot be judged based on a modern system since the game is five years old) and the fact that the English version is years behind the Korean version in updates, Ragnarok Online is essentially a button-mashing game that consists of a thousand or more pre-pubescent idiots clicking repeatedly and mashing F1.

The first point in which Ragnarok Online fails at is balance. The way Ragnarok Online works is a "Job" system. Every monster a player kills gives the player a certain amount of experience toward their base level (which determines stats) and their "Job" level (which governs their skills and special moves). The problem is, the jobs are horribly unbalanced, especially at higher levels, because of the way it works. But to start with, the character creation system. The player can choose from about ten different hairstyles (and all of five or six different hair colors). They then proceed to distribute their beginning stat points, which is done on a large six-sided figure with one stat listed on each side, and blue shading in the center, which will expand based on which side of the figure you click. The problem is, the game gives the mere illusion that the player has control over this when they essentially pick from a preset, as taking certain attributes will subtract from attributes on the other side of the spectrum (for instance, if you choose Vitality as one of your attributes to raise, Intelligence goes down, and vice versa). After picking stats is a long, drawn-out tutorial that, while teaching the player how to control the game (even though the game's controls consist of pointing and clicking) is incredibly boring (although to the developers credit can be skipped). After wasting a good allotment of time reading these tutorials, the player gets warped automatically to a starting city based on their choices in a survey on the way out of the basic training building. This is where the job system rears its ugly head.

Every character starts out as a "Novice", and must advance ten job levels to be able to advance to another job. After Novice, a player can become any job they choose. They can choose from Swordsman (a generic fighter class), Acolyte (healer), Merchant (vendors), Thief, or Archer. The thing any player with a keen eye will notice is that thief is significantly stronger than every other class, and a player on their second character (or a first-timer who was smart enough to read the RO message boards or a walk-through) will know that the second job for the acolyte becomes significantly more powerful than everything else. The other classes either require an insanely huge base of money and items to play (Archer), spend their whole time getting rid of penalties without getting any real bonuses (Swordsman), or are useless in combat and as a result can never sell anything to make money so their moves (damage based on money) can work (Merchant). While Swordsmen, Archers and Merchants are busy spending all their time spawn-camping weak monsters, the acolytes and thieves are busy in the advanced dungeons, leveling up at about twice the pace everyone else is (the acolytes can heal undead monsters, many of which are for mid to high level characters to kill them rapidly and gain tons of experience, and thieves almost never take damage and have a "double-attack" that lets them kill monsters much faster than anyone else, except for possibly acolytes).

So, after playing for a few weeks to a month, you eventually get the prestigious "Job Level 40", which means you can advance to your second real job. Most first-timers to Ragnarok Online will go all the way to Job Level 50, assuming incorrectly that getting a higher job level will help them later on. The second jobs are where the classes become even more unbalanced. The Assassin (one of the Thief-based jobs) and the Monk (the "good" Acolyte-based job) are significantly more powerful than every other job. Assassins get the ability to dual-wield weapons, which when combined with their ability to attack twice with one weapon at once allows them to do more damage than just about anyone else) and the Monk starts getting massive attack bonuses, in preparation for their third real job, as well as "spirit spheres" which can be summoned for a small amount of SP and used to do massive damage. Because the assassin and the monk are significantly more powerful than every other class, they again have an easier time levelling, and reaching the goal of Level 99 and Job Level 40 (the job level resets after reaching your second job), at which point they can go to their third job. This is where the game becomes so worthless and the Assassin Cross (the Assassin's third job), the Stalker (an evolution of the Rogue, the other job branching off of Thief) and the Champion (the Monk's third job) become so overpowered that they can beat quite literally anyone else at Player-vs-Player combat (which is the only thing the game is good for later).

The game becomes worthless and unrewarding after the completion of the second job because, instead of being rewarded for getting as far as you did, and getting your ultimate class immediately, you get to do nothing other than LOSE ALL YOUR STATS AND SKILLS AND GO BACK TO BASE AND JOB LEVEL 1 AS A NOVICE! If nothing else in this game shows the developers greed, the way they force people to spend another few months (and the monthly fee that goes with it) to get to their third Job does. Again, thieves and acolytes (except to make it not look like what it really is, the developers give them the title of "thief high" and "acolyte high") get their levels back in half the time everyone else does. And once the Thieves and Acolytes get to their third job is where the game totally goes down the hole. By the time you've gotten your third job, there's really not much for you to do except level up a bit more and then go into Player-vs-Player. However, Assassin Crosses, Stalkers, and Champions (the two Thief jobs and the Monk evolution) dominate the Player-vs-Player fields due to a few moves - Breaker, Meteor Strike, Asura Strike, Divest All and Occult Impact, all of which are Assassin Cross/Stalker/Champion moves and all of which are generally one-hit-kills or very close to it (except for Divest All, which merely can be spammed to temporarily un-equip people's weapons and armor long enough to make them defenseless kills). These one-hit-kill moves turn player-vs-player combat from needing a basic understanding of which attacks are strong against what to a button-mashing contest between the three overpowered classes to see who can Breaker or Asura Strike faster. And worst of all is that anyone who wants to fight fairly (instead of just spamming a hot-key over and over) is generally hunted down and killed immediately by someone spamming a one-hit-kill move.

In addition to the horribly unbalanced Player-vs-Player is the "War of Emperium" (WoE for short). WoE lives up to its namesake, being the most agonizing thing in the game. WoE is Player-vs-Player, but between groups of players (called Guilds) that fight for control of various castles and bases located in one of the three major cities. The castles start off with no one controlling them (when they get reset) and are filled with various monsters and bosses. While a neutral base is very hard to take (you will need most of your guild there to help you, with everyone at a high level), a party of Assassins and Monks (or Assassin Crosses and Champions) can take on any monster much faster and with fewer people than a party consisting of players with other jobs. The worst part about WoE is that guild leaders will run around trying to recruit anyone and everyone they see into their guild, often leading to dying in battle with monsters because idiots will spam you with requests to join their guild (even though this is supposedly illegal in-game and can get you banned, no one ever gets caught). Once the bases are taken over, that guild must defend their base against everyone else. The problem with this is that one Assassin Cross or Champion can take on more than one person and win with little to no difficulty, due to spamming Breaker and Asura Strike, leading to non-spammers either grouping together in groups so big that it would take an entire legion of Assassin Crosses to kill them and destroy their "Emperium" (a giant rock that lets a guild control a base) or avoiding WoE like the plague. The other problem is, Assassin Crosses can simply become invisible and walk right through to the Emperium room, destroy it (which warps everyone not in the conqueror's guild out) and win without having any skill whatsoever besides the ability to press a hot-key rapidly.

Besides the horrible job system is the mediocre game-play mechanics, which are nowhere near good enough to warrant paying per month to play. The whole game is driven by a point-and-click system, no keyboard involved, except for making hot-keys to spam in Player-vs-Player. Ragnarok Online has a paper-doll system much like Diablo 2 for equipment. This game also clearly borrows the slot system from Diablo 2. Every so often, a monster will drop a card of itself, which you can put in armor or weapons that have slots in them. The various stats in the game are somewhat equalled out, though there is no way to get them all to maximum, even at level 99, so you have to carefully pick and choose stats that directly benefit your character build, and never screw up because if you do, you never get to re-do your stats, unless you have not yet attempted your third job, when you lose everything anyway. The biggest problem with this game's mechanics is movement. Many of the maps, such as Nifelheim, the Clock Tower dungeon, and the guild bases in Aldebaran are long, twisting, and confusing, with thin, winding paths that do not always make sense (especially when water is involves and there's a path in the water that you cannot see because there is virtually no sense of depth). There are also several places where it appears that your character could walk down, and shave several minutes by not having to walk all the way around a tiny hill, but it never happens this way. To the game's credit, there is a mini-map. However, in many dungeons (especially the guild bases which are the most confusing things ever to go through), there is no mini-map to assist you in finding your way, and you will wander aimlessly throughout the area for a while searching for an entrance or an exit.

The skin to this horribly unbalanced, dull game is a world full of pseudo-anime sprites. However, anyone who plays through most of the areas in the game will immediately notice that most of the monsters are just palette-swaps of other monsters. Take, for instance, the Poring - the basic pink blob monster that is generally the first one a player sees. Besides the basic pink Poring, you have the green palette-swapped Po-Poring, the orange palette-swapped Drops, the Santa Poring (the basic Poring sprite with a Santa hat) and the Angeling (the basic Poring with small wings). All of these monsters are simply palette-swaps of the original, or just the same sprite with small additions. A note should be made that the sprites in this game are nowhere NEAR the level of Diablo 2, which came out more than a year before this game. In Diablo 2, one of the most notable things was that armor actually showed on the character. However, in Ragnarok Online, only the weapon (and weapon sprites are re-used for more than one weapon), shield (there are only four shield sprites in the whole game) and head-gear (upper, lower, and middle head, not that many of these either) show up when equipped on your character.

Another thing that is worth complaining about is the fact that half the cards and the sprites that go with them depict naked and/or scantily clad women. This may not be the worst thing in the world for teen-aged/adult players, but many of the players are children that are 14 or younger. Examples of the cards (and the sprites that go with them) are most notably seen in the Isis monster (a human female with a snake tail from the waist down which has bared breasts but no visible nipples, even on its card) and the Maya monster (a pre-pubescent girl in a sort of cricket bio-suit which appears to be getting raped by tentacles attaching her to the suit) which has bared breasts visible on the sprite for the monster and on the card (with visible nipples and almost-visible genitals). Consider this in a game with more than one file to prevent players from swearing in-game (it's so bad you can't even say "Assassin" without being censored) and GMs who will ban anyone who bypasses the locks on sight in the interest of protecting the same children who are allowed to view nearly-full frontal nudity but not swear.

My final word on this game is simple - it simply is not worth paying for to play. In fact, many people who play this game do not play it on the official servers, but on a pirated one with an increased experience rate and raised maximum stats. This "game" really isn't even a game at all - it's a button mashing simulation. If you really want to play a game like this, go buy Diablo 2 and its expansion and play that online instead. Final score is 3, because of the horrible gameplay issues and graphics that are worse than a game made a year before it.

Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 06/29/05

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