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JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Sony PSP games
Read our review of the PSP here!

Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade

Reviewed April 2005 by Alex Lifschitz

Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Release Date: March, 2005
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
Genre: Action RPG
Price: $39.99

In the hype that has surrounded the Sony PSP, many launch titles have been competing for the number one spot. SOE has fortunately developed a true gem for this little console. It has been called a lot of things, like a pocket Diablo, or a portable Baldur's Gate, or a simple port of Champions of Norrath. Well, after spending countless hours with this little beauty and its graphics, gameplay, customization, and multiplayer, I can only call it fun.

Gameplay

The gameplay is what you would expect from a simple hack-n-slash affair. You run around large world with different zones, using an assortment of weapons and spells to reach your goal. If you boil it down to this level of simplicity, it seems like a fairly uninspired and flat game. But Untold Legends is much deeper than that.

The story is negligible at best. A powerful outside force is threatening the town, so hack them to pieces, collect this scroll, save this maiden, etc. It's really unremarkable the entire way through, even up to the ending, but to be fair, the storyline has never been too important in this type of game. Missions consist of going to a certain area, beating a boss, retrieving what it drops, and returning to town for your next quest. Thankfully, a quest journal in your inventory menu and a handy expandable map will make sure that you never lose your way, and that you can find your destination quickly and efficiently. Combat is linear and somewhat repetitive, but a certain amount of strategy is required for getting past certain groups of enemies. It's hack and slash at best, button mashing at worst. The inventory screen as a whole is relatively simple to work with. It emulates a PC game in that you use the analog control to move a pointer around and compare, equip, and use different items. The interface translates very well to the PSP. However, one gripe I have is the loading times. Sometimes, they will be as short as thirty seconds, which is fine if you have friends to discuss your current game with, or just like looking at the nice game art they display during the load times. However, they can get ridiculously long. I've clocked in loading times of up to two minutes. It will even take a second or two to load the images in your inventory. Still, it's understandable given the amount of media in this game.

The bulk of the character customization is in your equipment, abilities, stats, and class. At the start of the game, you can choose one of four classes. There's the male Knight, a basic heavyweight melee attacker with a penchant for brute strength, and a recommended beginner's character; the female Alchemist, the mage of the game who can synthesize potions and transmute things like items into gold, or even summon an earthen golem; the female Berserker, who is a quick and deadly melee attacker who can also throw items (basically the assassin/ninja type of the game); and the male Druid, a jack-of-all-trades and a useful healer with a ground in the mage category. The Knight and Berserker can dual wield weapons, and the Alchemist and Druid can summon "pets" to help them along, like a golem or a tempest. While there is little customization in the character models themselves (you're limited to name, hair style, and skin tone), you won't notice, as once you get your first helmet, you character is pretty much cloaked in armor. Each class also has a certain set of weaponry and armor. For instance, a Druid or Alchemist can use bows and arrows, but Knights and Berserkers cannot. Likewise, Knights and Berserkers get heavier armor, and each class has different types of it (Alchemists have corsets, Knights have Plate Mail, etc.).Your experience changes radically with each of the classes, giving you a new approach to the game with different sets of abilities. As you level up, you can assign points to your statistics, which allows you to customize your character even further. Want a heavy fighter with healing capabilities? Give a Druid a lot of strength and stamina points. Perhaps you'd like a knight who can use a lot of abilities consecutively? Give your Knight a whole mess of intelligence points. You can even use points to move along an ability tree and learn more techniques, as well as improve their effectiveness. Weapons and items in this game aren't the typical multicolored sword classes you've come to expect from other games. The weapon designs, especially in the second half of the game, are genuinely cool and fun to look at, as are the items and armor. You can also combine items with enhancers like crystals and skulls, which add stat bonuses to the items themselves. When using these on armor, you receive a defensive bonus, such as an intelligence boost, while wearing it. For items, not only does it add a special effect to your attacks, but it adds a unique visual flair. Swinging an electrified spear is fun, but looking at a knight or berserker dual wielding flaming or frosted swords just plain looks cool. This gives the game an unprecedented amount of depth and style, as well as replay value.

Multiplayer Mode

The multiplayer in this game is nothing short of fantastic. Much like dungeon crawling in games like Diablo or Champions of Norrath, you continue a single-player game with up to four friends wirelessly (sorry, no infrastructure mode) with the enemies beefed up to the level of your most powerful participant. Playing with different classes is extremely fun and presents a whole new dynamic of co-operation. For instance, a Berserker can cast a spell which will speed up the Knight's brutal and powerful attacks, while an Alchemist snipes with a long-range weapon and synthesizes potions and dropped items into gold, while a Druid heals the group and uses an area attack to help get rid of the weaker enemies. Doubles of classes in a single game and even three or two player games add a new strategy every time. It also gives you the opportunity to share and trade items found during the single player campaign. However, you will find that you have to keep up with the Joneses, because the less you play, the more everyone else will, and you'll find yourself on the short end of the stick. I stopped playing for three days once, and when I tried multiplayer again, my friends had jumped ten levels apiece and I was left to catch up. The beefed-up enemies do give more experience, however, so lower-level players will gain levels much faster than usual. There are also conveniently placed menus and markers to keep track of your teammates. Sadly, there is no head to head versus play, but that would have been awkward, given the combat system.

Controls

The controls for this game are tight and responsive. The face buttons are used for different things. The triangle and circle buttons can be mapped to different spells using the directional pad, allowing you to cast them on the fly. The X button is to attack, and the square button is to interact with objects. Start takes you to an options menu where you can save your game, look at a map, recall to the town, exit to the main menu, and other things, while select takes you to your inventory where you can access your items, weapons, armor, stats, quest journal, and other menus. The L button allows you to use healing potions at will. Holding the R button changes these functions while you are holding it. While holding R, the triangle button shifts the camera directly behind you, left and right on the directional pad rotate the camera, up and down zoom the camera in and out, square displays an expandable map in the top right corner, circle blocks attacks, X changes between normal and ranged weapons, and L uses a magic (mana-restoring) potion. The analog stick is used to move. The controls may be a little hard to get into, but they will come naturally after a few minutes of play. This interface allows you to do most things on the fly, and is great for multiplayer when you don't want to spend time customizing every little thing.

 

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Graphics

The graphics, while not nearly PS2 quality, are beautiful and crisp. You can notice more detail while zoomed in on your character, but zoomed out, while showing less detail, is the best way to play, as you can see enemies from a further distance. The spell effects are a nice touch, and usually vary a lot in look and style. Some of the more impressive effects, like the druids Tempest, really show off the PSP's graphical capabilities. You're also able to see your weapons and armor from a distance, which is a nice touch. Looking at friends' items and armor in multiplayer is an experience that can intimidate new players and impress old ones. The unique class confinements in the way of armor and weaponry also add to the visual flair by allowing you to see everyone else's cool items. The graphics are remarkable, but not jaw-dropping.

Sound

The sound in this game is adequate for the game type. There are no voiceovers, which was a good idea, given the game's sometimes strange dialogue. There is a full set of player grunts and cries, enemy screams, magic sounds, and other effects. The music is usually a small looping file that, while unimpressive, strangely doesn't get old. It's a pretty standard range of sound effects. Nothing spectacular, but not disappointing. I just wish the soundtrack was more varied.

Conclusion

All in all, Untold Legends may be the deepest game available for the PSP, but it ultimately depends on your play style. If you don't mind some repetitive combat and missions, you will find a nice game in the customization and multiplayer options. This is a fun game that you could whip out and play with a group of friends, or even some strangers on the bus, and all in all, it is a fine alternative to the other games currently out for the PSP. A recommended purchase for all fans of the franchise. It doesn't bring anything new to the table, but what it does, it does well.

Playing Hints and Tips

- If you're a low level, find a friend who is at least twice your level and play with him/her. By killing or even just hitting your fair share of enemies, you will level up at an incredible rate. I tried this with a lower-level friend, and he leveled up eight times within the course of an hour.
- Deliberate when purchasing new weapons or items. Weigh the statistical benefits against raw power, and be aware that quests usually yield better items than you can purchase.
- To duplicate items, enter a multiplayer game with a friend. Give him/her whatever items you wish to duplicate, but do not save. Have your friend save his/her game, and turn off your PSPs. Turn them back on, and your friend will still have the items, but since you are loading from the point before you gave the items to your friend, you will still have them.
- Though there is no way to manually play over the internet, you can tunnel the game through your PC with programs like XBConnect or XLinkKai.

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

Not as beautiful as, say, Ridge Racer, but still good looking and a pleasure to the eyes. It's a game that you can use to show off the graphical prowess of the PSP.

Sound

While it isn't a fully loaded grand and orchestral soundtrack, the game's soundtrack and sound effects suffice for their purpose in immersing you in the game experience.

Fun Meter

Despite a number of shortcomings, this game is still a blast to play, especially with friends.

Addictivity

Hands down, the most addictive game for the PSP (aside from Lumines, of course). You'll be hard pressed to put this game down with the vast array of things to do and customize. SOE struck hack-n-slash gold with this title.

Total Score= 4.25 Dragons, 85%



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