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