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Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade
Review By: Jared Black
Developer:  Sony Online Ent.
Publisher:  Sony Online Ent.
# Of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Action RPG
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  Yes (Ad Hoc)
Accessories:  Memory Stick Duo (34kb)
Date Posted:  5-2-05

Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is a great example of how the PSP is already changing handheld gaming for the better.  Not only is it one of the few RPGs to ever launch with a system, but itís also the first time a console-esque hack Ďn slash has been done right on a handheld system.  While itís not a standout title by any means and somewhat basic compared to its console brethren, Untold Legends is a promising beginning to the PSPís RPG library.

You are the Guardian, whoís job it is to protect the princess and people of Aven.  After Aven is attacked by a mysterious group of spider creatures, you set forth as to vanquish them.  Soon enough, youíre recognized for the hero you are and are sent out on other conquering missions.  If youíve played any game of this type before the storyline and how it plays out wonít surprise you, but itís still good enough to keep you interested and secondary to the action anyway.

The fact that this is a handheld game is apparent in the presentation, which is minimal in comparison to console games in the genre.  There are four character classes to choose from, including Knight, Berserker, Alchemist, and Druid.  Once a class is picked only a few characteristics can be customized (like hair color) and even then the player may only choose from one of several pre-set options.  Additionally, both the Knight and Berserker classes are extremely similar as are the Alchemist and Druid classes.  So youíve really only got two distinct options to choose from, either the brute force route or the magic route.  In fact, when leveling up the game actually recommends each attribute (dexterity, strength, etc.) to two classes at once.  To be fair each class has a different set of skills that are learned over time and have different styles, but overall each pair really isn't that different.

Everything else is fairly generic as well.  The environments are basic in nature, with few interactive objects or landmarks other than the occasional breakable object and treasure chest/tree stump/etc.  For example, walking over a burning fire elicits no reaction at all and itís impossible to fall down holes.

Most enemies use the standard run up and wail on you method of attacking; however, SOE also wisely included a number of enemies that fire projectiles from afar or use patterns that add some variety to the gameplay.  Most enemies come from the typical fantasy mold (screaming women archers, various mutated animal forms, phase spiders, etc.), although their designs overall are strong.  Some single enemies can fill up an entire vertical section of the screen, and the game will often throw several at you at once.

Where the game really makes up for the mediocre presentation however is in the control scheme and sheer number of levels available.  The game controls much better than I expected a hack Ďn slash to on the PSP.  The analog nub is a little loose for this kind of game, but SOE compensated for that by not requiring super-fast reflexes and stop on a dime reflexes.  The R button acts as a toggle for the other buttons, so itís easy to access additional functions without contorting your hand.  Aside from the camera controls (which felt very awkward turning with the R button and D-pad), itís a setup that works well for this genre.

Itís a good thing that the controls are comfortable as well, since youíre going to be playing for a long time.  The game throws 100+ levels at you relentlessly, and theyíre almost all pretty expansive.  Fortunately the game makes it easy to jump back and forth from dungeon to town via a Recall stone, which works just like the Recall spell does in the Ultima series.  Youíll never want for more baddies to kill or areas to explore, thatís for sure.

Even though most of the gameís advertising is centered on the big selling point of 4-player wireless multiplayer, itís never been a big draw for me personally.  That probably has something to do with the fact that I donít have any geographically close friends that have a PSP and the game only supports Ad Hoc mode (direct connection to other PSPs), and I imagine that many other people have this same problem since itís so early in the systemís life.  Still, it should prove to be a great feature for those of you lucky enough to have PSP-owning friends, and I can definitely see it being a blast since itís so similar to console games in the genre.

On the whole, the graphics manage to impress.  Zoom in and youíll see a surprising amount of character detail, sharp textures, and smooth surfaces.  As I mentioned above environments are basic, but whatís there still looks really good.  Enemy design is standard fantasy fare, although the designs are well realized and a few characters (particularly bosses) manage to amaze.

Really Untold Legendsí only weak point is the sound.  The music is generic fantasy stuff, more annoying than memorable with most tracks used repetitively throughout the game.  Sound effects fare better, with unique magic and battle sounds that stay consistent throughout the game.  This is one area Iíd definitely like to see upgraded for the sequel, because a great fantasy score can go a long way in a game like this.

HIGHS:

  • Youíll be playing for weeks, and this style of gameplay holds up well over time.

  • Some nice variety in enemy attack patterns and techniques.

  • Competent online support is a big plus, but what else would you expect from Sony Online?

LOWS:

  • The whole experience is fairly generic, from the limited character design options to the somewhat barren environments.
  • That musicís gotta go.

FINAL VERDICT:

This review is a lot later than I thought itíd be, and I still donít feel like Iíve seen everything there is to see.  Even though the entire experience is a fairly generic one, the constant acquisition of new weapons and armor and the varied enemy AI (especially for this genre) make it rarely dull.  Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is probably the best launch RPG to ever hit a system and should be a part of any adventurerís library. 

SOE has went on record stating that a sequel is underway, so my quick wish list is for more detail in character creation and environments, a better music score, and Infrastructure Wi-Fi support so us losers can enjoy the multiplayer too.

Overall Score: 7.5

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