Untold Legends: Brotherhood Of The Blade
The city of Aven is the last bastion of hope in the dark world of Untaca. It is your sworn duty as a druid, knight, alchemist or berserker to defend the city at all costs. The cost unfortunately is countless fetching and killing in a very generic fantasy setting.
I really wanted to like Untold Legends: Brotherhood Of The Blade because as far as launch titles go it seemed to be pretty ambitious. With two very successful Norrath games already on the PS2 there is no doubt that the developers know how to make a good hack and slash RPG. Set in a new fantasy universe filled with random dungeons, fierce monsters and tons of loot I was expecting greatness. What I got instead is a competent game that seems to have drawn its inspiration out of a hat filled with random role playing game clichés.
The plot is by far the least important part of the game and is revealed slowly in text format as you drudge wearily from one quest to the next. It is a good thing that you have a journal to keep track of things as all the characters are so boring and generic that I forgot their names as soon as they were done talking. It all the amounts of fetching some vitally important item from a monster infested dungeon or killing some extra evil creature. Once it is done, the next even more evil threat is revealed or a more important item must be fetched. This is nothing new in the world of role-playing games but when presented in such a lacklustre fashion most people will have trouble caring.
For a launch game, Untold Legends looks pretty good and probably comes closest to replicating the visuals of a PS2. This is a pretty impressive feat for a portable device. Unfortunately, the colour palette seems to consist mostly of green, brown and grey which is quite boring not to mention depressing. There are a few nice hand drawn fantasy sketches but these are used to mask some rather lengthy loading times. The random dungeons are pretty generic and really feel cobbled together so once you have seen one you have pretty much seen them all. The outside areas look a bit better and even feature some environmental effects like rain. You still end up with a feeling of deja vu as you explore your umpteenth dark forest however. At least teleporters allow you to make your way around the gameworld quicker.
There are tons of enemies to battle but once gain nothing that we have not seen before. All the creature designs seem to be “inspired” by other fantasy works like Dungeons & Dragons or Lord Of The Rings. There is the occasional big, bad boss but overall there is not too much to get excited about. At the default zoom distance one can barely distinguish one creature from the next in any case. Zooming in reveals a bit more detail but makes navigating your surroundings a chore as you cannot see far ahead.
Initial character customization is disappointingly limited and while there are four character classes, their genders are predetermined. What you are basically left with is a choice of hair and skin colours. At least there is no shortage of loot to deck your characters out with and it is cool to see the transformation when new armour is equipped. If only the rest of the gameworld as not so static. All the non-player characters are nailed to the floor and there is very little interaction with your surroundings. One thing that I have to give the game credit for is the ability to save anywhere. This is something I wish all portable games would offer as standard. Since the plot is secondary to the action and not very engaging in the first place you can play this game on and off for a long period of time. It is a rather lengthy game but it was just too bland for me to want to complete it in one long stretch.
Since it is a hack and slash title, do not expect too much in the way of puzzles. Most of your time will be spent toe to toe with monsters while hammering away at the “X” button. Enemies are not particularly intelligent either and will simply charge at you trying to take you down with their sheer numbers. It’s not particularly difficult and even boss battles are a cinch as long as you keep quaffing health potions. Some variety is injected by the multi-player, which allows you to team up with three other friends in a wireless game. It is frantic and will probably be the main reason why some players will stick with this game. The simplistic gameplay along with the mountains of loot means that the game can be quite addictive at times but it is weighted down heavily by a feeling of been there done that.
The game features no speech which to be honest gives it a bit of an unpolished feel. With the boring lines from non-player characters, I guess the lack of speech is probably a blessing in disguise. The music is nice but forgettable and the same can be said about the sound effects. At least there is nothing that made me want to switch off the sound and everything actually sounds pretty good when played with headphones. Controls are fine for the most part except for a few awkward combinations like holding down the right trigger button along with circle in order to block.
While Untold Legends: Brotherhood Of The Blade is not a terrible game it is very hard to recommend unless you are a die-hard fan of the genre. The gameplay is very repetitive and the setting as generic as can be. It is puzzling that Sony opted for such a watered down fantasy setting when they have the rich Everquest universe to work with. It will definitely scratch your dungeon crawling itch but will probably be forgotten as soon as something better comes along. It is a good showcase for the PSP but not that great a game.
*Review originally published March 2005.