If you follow the MMORPG scene, it won’t have escaped your attention that a certain title recently released a “Classic” version for players who wanted to strip out all the gameplay updates, go back to basics and experience their journey over again, just as it was 15 years ago. That’s fine for the inhabitants of Azeroth, but there’s another legendary MMO game that is also offering players a nostalgic reboot: Ragnarok Online.
This Korean game actually predates World of Warcraft by several years, debuting in 2002. Based on the popular 1995 manhwa (Korean comic) by Lee Myung-jin, as the title suggests it mixes Norse legend with Asian design for a truly unforgettable adventure. The comic series ran to 10 volumes, inspired an animated series and eventually spawned Ragnarok Online, a virtual world where fans could experience this rich and unique world for themselves.
Rightly revered as one of the pioneers of the modern MMO genre, Ragnarok Online has remained one of the leading titles in its field for almost twenty years but underwent considerable changes along the way. Most notably, the 2010 update – dubbed “Renewal” – radically changed key gameplay mechanics, tweaked stats and added a whole new tier of class types. Some fans loved it, others didn’t.
European publishing rights for Ragnarok Online have now been picked up by 4Game, a platform which also includes Lineage 2 and RF Online, and the company is offering players both new and old the chance to roll back the clock. Well, almost.
Whereas something like World of Warcraft Classic is a straight relaunch of the original core game, the new “Revo-Classic” version of Ragnarok Online is something more interesting and balanced. It’s a combination of fan-favorite features from before the Renewal update but retains the more popular features that have been added since. It’s not often a nostalgic reboot gets to offer the literal “best of both worlds” but Ragnarok Online Revo-Classic pulls this balancing act off in style.
For returning or lapsed players, that means a return to the graceful job system of old. You start the game as a Novice, and once you reach Level 10 can choose a First Class job type to specialize in – Swordman, Archer, Knight and so on, which in turn opens up a new skill tree. The Renewal update added a third tier on top, but some fans felt this diluted the core appeal of the different classes, so in Revo-Classic it’s back to the simple but deep skill trees of the original game. It also means a welcome return to the core locations with evocative names like Prontera, Payon, Umbala, and Glastheim, though new territories and class types will be reintroduced over time through monthly content drops.
The emphasis on teamwork has been underscored, with epic MVP boss battles to tackle with others, but you’re all in competition as well – only the best warriors will deal the killing blow that grants the best loot and bonuses. There are also the expected PvP options, with a battle arena for testing yourself against other players but Ragnarok Online will go even further than that when the Wars of Emperium feature launches, pitting thousands - yes, thousands - of players can clash in truly epic battles.
Customisation plays a big part, as in any great MMO, with rare pets, cards, headgear and costume items allowing you to make your character utterly unique. There’s also a thriving marketplace for player-made items, so if you want to level up your crafting skills there’s a whole in-game economy to dive into, where top-level players will pay handsomely for the best kit.
There are even specific rewards awaiting the first player to reach level 99/50 in the shape of a legendary crown, with more bonus items unlocked for each class type as you max out. The levelling system has been retuned, striking a balance between rewarding meaningful progression and an old school sense of achievement that means you’ll feel every new level has been properly earned.
For newcomers who have never played Ragnarok Online before, well, you’re in for a treat. This is a game with one foot firmly in the robust mechanics and dense world-building of the classic MMO era, and the other in modern design priorities. The storylines are brilliant, as you’d expect with so much source material to draw from, and the gameplay will draw you in like few other role-playing titles. Online games don’t endure for almost two decades, attracting millions of players, without delivering the goods.
Ragnarok Online is available to play for free right now. Just visit the official site and download the game client to see what you’re missing!