Review: Hack, slash, pick up item, repeat. Hack, slash, pick up item, repeat. Hack, slash, pick up item, repeat.
Role-playing games and handheld consoles haven't been matches made in heaven. Role-playing games on handhelds such as the GameBoy Advance have lacked features, have lacked replayability and visual power. With the arrival of the PlayStation Portable, handheld games in general are beginning to resemble their console counterparts in many ways. Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, developed and published by Sony Online Entertainment, is the first role-playing/action game to be released for the PSP. The developers released a product that shows the prowess of the PSP, although Untold Legends fails to really surprise.
Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is the first of what is probably a lengthy series for the PSP. A sequel is already being developed, and the original bears resemblance to the famed EverQuest series. Untold Legends is a classic slash-and-hack title, which contain plenty of role-playing elements. One characteristic possessed by all role-playing games is an overly complicated story. Untold Legends does not fail, as the game features a complicated storyline that failed to capture my attention for a number of reasons. First of all, there is no actual voiced dialogue, as the story itself is presented with text. Most of the story is revealed in the beginning, and you will encounter a few people that are always standing in the same place that reveal a little more. In a nutshell, the Brotherhood of the Blade is an ancient order that has been fooled around with and now the citizens of Aven are living with the consequences. You must save them, yet as you progress you will learn that perhaps the citizens of Aven deserve what has become of them and their town?
Before you start out on your quest, you will have to choose and customize your character. There are four different character types to choose from, although two resemble a warrior with strong moves, while the two other classes are compatible with those that prefer magic to strength, and long-distance weapons as opposed to dual wielded powerful melee weapons. The character customization scheme is very simple and there aren't many options, although I can live with it.
If you are a fan of role-playing games, then the gameplay in Untold Legends won't come across as anything new. There are basically over 100 levels for you to transverse through, filled with dungeons, quests and monsters. Dungeons are plentiful, as since they are randomly generated, you can revisit particular dungeons to gain experience or obtain items. All of the dungeons are filled with hordes of enemies, leading up to classic showdowns with mini-bosses or bosses. There are dozens upon dozens of different monsters that await you in the dungeons. However, most of the enemies simply tend to surround you on all sides, with long-ranged enemies firing projectiles from a distance.
Honestly, this is a hack-and-slash in its truest sense. There are so many enemies that after a while it simply becomes repetitious. The first few hours are extremely engaging, yet the sense of repetition sets in after a while. Even the mini-bosses fail to be that original or different from the other enemies. Another problem that plagues these dungeons is that all of them are laid out in the exact same way, and same scenery bunched with hordes of the same enemies can turn Untold Legends into a frustrating experience at times.
Thankfully, there are some things to do besides completing monster-filled dungeons. The game lacks puzzles, although there are quite a few mini-quests involving tracking some a certain item or killing a certain enemy. Speaking of items, they are very plentiful in this game. I spent a lot of time collecting items and then selling them, although you don't need the best equipment to beat this game. I liked the ability that allowed you to improve your equipment by attaching certain stones (similar to the Diablo series). As always in role-playing games, leveling up your character to improve his/her stats in also a top priority.
What I love about the PSP is the multi-player options that the system possesses. Unfortunately, you are unable to play Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade online, however you have the option of playing this game in cooperative mode with the use of the built-in WiFi network. You and up to three other players within a small vicinity of each other can complete the levels simultaneously. You even have the option of playing where you last left off in your single-player game or starting a new adventure. This is perfect for those times when you simply can't get through a particular dungeon by yourself.
Untold Legends is fairly lengthy, as I am nearing the final dungeons with a solid 17 hours or so under my belt. Before all is said and done, I think that the 20-hour mark will be broken. Once you beat the game, you have the option of starting from scratch with a new character or starting from scratch but being able to use your leveled up character. Personally, upon completion of this game I will have to urge whatsoever to start over. However, if you are a huge RPG fan this will probably be in your PSP for a while until something good comes out ? perhaps a Final Fantasy adventure.
Load times, which are a staple of the PlayStation Portable, are pretty bad. Starting up a game or loading dungeons takes 30 ? 60 seconds, which doesn't seem like much but is fairly frustrating when you are waiting to begin playing. However, since games are on UMD's, not much can be done to prevent this.
Graphically, Untold Legends does not amaze but it gets the job done. One of my main gripes was the repetition in the dungeon layout, as more variety would have been more pleasing. Besides the dungeons themselves, the various environments are fairly bland and not extremely detailed. The characters look good, although the lack of deep character customization takes something away. The character movements and animations are brilliantly executed, which is one thing that was done well.
The audio in this game is a mixed affair. The lack of voiced dialogue certainly prevents the game from reaching the next level in terms of ingenuity, and it also leads to a lack of cut-scenes. The background music is also your standard group of looping instrumentals, yet the music never really stood out and I usually turned off the volume and listened to an iPod instead. The sound effects are also quite basic, and I think most of the sound effects in hack-and-slash games are actually recycled over and over.