Review: Untold Legends (PSP)
I can’t say for a fact what it is that draws gamers to simple hack and slash titles, but they seem to get alot of play. The most specific I can get as far as current titles are the ones from Snowblind Studios, such as the Champions series as well as the Baldur’s Gate series for consoles. Well, imagine if you could take the near mindless button mashing goodness of Diablo 2 with you wherever you went. You (almost) can. Untold Legends takes the level up/gather items RPG mindset, partners it with some fine graphics and slaps it on the PSP. The result? Read on.
Untold Legends is held together by a fairly thin plotline that could be called a story, but we won’t go quite that far. You play the Guardian, a warrior chosen to… well, guard your city in the clouds from threats. Even though the skills of a Guardian haven’t been required in a long time, the need arises and, hence, the game unfolds. In all honesty, the plot for the game seems to be put together strictly to allow you to adventure into locales other than a forest or a dungeon. The story doesn’t really have what could be called twists, but I did think the game was over a couple different times when there was still plenty to do. A nice surprise for what I felt was too short of a game (that extended well into the 15-20 hour play time range).
You’ll start the game by creating a character within one of four classes, each with their own unique spin on combat. Some rely on spells while others rely on physical weaponry (whether that be a sword or a missile weapon). The character creation scheme leaves much to be desired as your character will be fairly cookie cutter. What I mean is, your customization options are limited as far as appearance and really making the character ‘your own’. There’s really no need to name the character you play in the game as you’ll simply be referred to as the Guardian in all correspondence.
Once you begin adventuring you’ll notice some stats you’ll need to pay attention to throughout the course of the game. You’ll have three bars in the top left corner of the screen which show you your current progress to your next character level, your Power bar and your Health bar. As you defeat enemies and complete quests you’ll be awarded experience points that push you to new levels. As you attain higher levels you’ll have access to upgrading your key characters stats, such as Strength and Dexterity, plus you’ll be able to learn new skills such as Shield Bash and Dual Wield (which lets you wield two hand-to-hand weapons at once).
The core gameplay consists of adventuring, inventory management and combat. You’ll be lead into the wilds and, initially, fight some very low level creatures that increase in difficulty, even if you retread the same grounds, as you increase in level and skill. As you fight enemies and complete quests you will be rewarded with various items, such as gold, weapons, armor and special items. Anyone who has played the Champions series of games on the PS2 and the Baldur’s Gate games for consoles will be very familiar with the entire Untold Legends system.
What I found is, as I progressed through the game, the items I received from my defeated combatants were more than enough to keep me stocked up. It seemed like the timing was spot on for weapons, armor and special items upgrades. Just when I was getting tired of my current weapon I’d defeat an enemy that dropped a hammer or a sword that did more damage than my current apparatus. New armor seemed to arrive at just the right times and health and power potions were available aplenty.
Locations span from dungeons and forests to cities, tundras and even a hellish abyss. I found that the locales seem to start to blend together a bit, leaving me with a wont for a higher selection of settings in which to explore and do battle. Overall, there seems to be a somewhat limited texture set that’s used. However, in juxtaposition to this, each location is randomly generated so, even if you venture into an area, leave it, then come back later, it will be different so trying to memorize where the good opponents or treasure chests are is a moot point. This definitely adds to the replayability factor in that you can continually venture into areas of your preferred difficulty and rack up the experience and the treasure.
Another fun aspect to Untold Legends is item combination. Throughout your travels you’ll find various items, such as fire gems, wind totems and other magical minutia. You can then combine these with non-magical weapons and armor to add new abilities to said weapons and armor. Find a fire ruby? Combine it with your war hammer to cause flames to leap from your weapon. You’ll also add fire damage and you’ll have a chance to do some extra special damage with each swing. It really helps to keep the item management lively as you’re not only looking for better weapons and armor, but better special items to combine with them to make them even better.
This leads to inventory management. This is a rather large part of the game and you’ll find yourself, quite often, hopping into your status screen to manage the new items you recently picked up. You may have to drop a lesser item to make room for a greater one just found. Luckily you have the ability to Recall back to your home city to do a quick sell and buy with the merchant. You can then free up some inventory space, immediately teleport back to your recent location and grab those items you left behind just moments ago.
It can be said that, after you’ve played an hour of Untold Legends, you’ve played the whole game. Unfortunately, that may be true. Other than leveling up and fighting tougher enemies, little changes between the first hour and the fifteenth hour of gameplay. However, there’s a reason Diablo 2 is still going strong as a highly popular game, both offline and online. There’s just something about getting that one more level, doing one more dungeon, or finishing off one more quest boss. It’s addictive. Untold Legends provides some fairly mindless gameplay that you can easily jump into and play for 10 minutes or three hours. Is it new and original? No way. Has it been done better? Not on a handheld. This type of game has never been done on a handheld. To be able to take this type of hack and slash RPG with you is half of its allure.
The controls make much sense and the learning curve is very shallow. You’ll be fully integrated and working your way skillfully through the game in less than 15 minutes. The PSP has a very responsive joystick that you use to guide your character around the game world. You’ll use the directional keys to choose and bind special abilities while your four action buttons are used for common tasks in the game, such as combat, casting spells, using special abilities and picking up objects. You’ll use the start and select buttons are used for other common tasks such as managing your character and saving your game. It’s all pretty intuitive and takes no time at all to pick up.
The combat in the game is usually managed with either hand-to-hand weapons, missile weapons or spells, depending on your class. My main run through the game was as a Knight and I chose to see if I could make it through the entire game with hand-to-hand weapons only. Other than two specific instances where archers were out of my reach (and I can’t say for sure if I could have reached them with a bow and arrow) I was able to manage all encounters with my melee weapons.
Multiplayer consists of co-op gaming in the single player campaign. One PSP starts up a server and others can join. As of this writing the game only support ad-hoc mode (PSP to PSP wireless connectivity) but there is software available that will act as a tunnel, allowing you to play online. Ad-hoc connectivity is quite good, actually, and connecting up to a server is quick and easy. Lag was practically non-existant and the PSP’s kept decent connectivity even as we moved around while playing.
Of course, the graphics and audio are as good as they get when it comes to handheld gaming. The graphics are easily on par with a PS1 and framerates are solid. There is the occasional slowdown if a multitude of enemies are about to appear on screen but it’s only slight and picks right back up. The sounds, overall, are of very high quality as well. In a certain portin of the game you have to fend off the undead. As they die you hear their bodies expire and give up what stale air resides in their lungs. It’s a very cool sound and, frankly, sounds quite disgusting.
Untold Legends, by no means, recreates the hack and slash RPG genre. It doesn’t really improve upon it, either. What it does do is provide gamers a mobile solution for a fun, mindless RPG that they can sink their teeth into at their leisure. Fire up Untold Legends, take a few minutes to make a character and get ready for hours of sword-swinging, spell-casting, orc-destroying fun.
FINAL SCORE: 81/100