With the major success of Blizzards’ Diablo II back in 2000, many companies jumped on the bandwagon, flooding us with many cheap Diablo knockoffs. Some of those games turned out to be good in their own way such as the Dungeon Siege games, while others became nothing more than a Diablo wannabe. When the PSP launched, Sony Online Entertainment , who had also created Everquest, released an Action RPG called Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade. While it started off pretty fun, it became nothing more than another Diablo wannabe.
Like most western RPGs, you create and name your own character and begin your quest high up in the mountains in the city of Aven. A tournament has begun in order to find a champion of the crown. It is a prestigious title where you become a guardian and serve under the leader of Aven, lady Kaylee. Fortunately, you have won the tournament and become the new champion of the crown. Later that night, spiders suddenly attack an inn where you are celebrating your victory. While the battle is gruesome and difficult, you managed to take them out and as it turns out, a dark force orchestrated the attack. Being the champion, duty calls as you go track down the source of the evil and save the city of Aven.
That’s pretty much what you should bother knowing about, in terms of the narrative. It’s rare hearing this from me, but the plot is terrible. Part of the problem lies with how dull the plot is. The writers failed to completely captivate the player, and no matter how dire the situation may be, it never felt like there was any sense of urgency or interest. Occasionally, plot twists occur, but the execution was always lackluster.
Moreover, the characters are even worse than the plot. One of the major reasons I love to play RPGs is because of good characters and Untold Legends has no character I remotely care for. Their lines feel contrived, and they lack any trace of personality. Aven itself is also lifeless at points, with only the major characters and people who want your help idling around. Even by the end of the game, the plot never picked up and characters received zero development. This is why I mainly don’t like a lot of Western RPGs. Sure, Japanese RPGs may have cookiecutter plot and characters, but at least they’re a lot more engaging.
While the story portion may be a complete waste of time, at least the gameplay is pretty good, even though it’s extremely repetitive. When creating your character, you are given four jobs to select from. They are Berserker, Druid, Alchemist, and Knight. Druid and Alchemist are the mages while Berserker and Knight are the fighters. For each class, there is also a skill tree. When you level up, you are given points to spend on the skill tree to get some new abilities or improve on some traits. In addition, you are also given points to spend on stats to improve your characters performance . The skill tree feature was used in the Diablo games, and also in the popular MMO, World of Warcraft. The combat itself is very simple: You hack ‘n slash, rinse and repeat. That’s it. There are no puzzles to solve. No strategy at all during fights. Just kill a countless array of enemies and guzzle healing potions to ensure your longlivity. Simple eh? No matter what class you choose, and what build you may have, you will still be hacking and slashing like there is no tomorrow, just in different styles.
You are also given many quests throughout the game. Some of them progress you through the game, and some have spiffy rewards. You can obtain these quests by finding people with exclamation marks over their head– a method also used by World of Warcraft. Most of the quests revolve around fetching an item or killing a certain enemy, which is pretty barebones stuff. The world outside Aven is huge, and these quests take you through many randomly generated dungeons. Of course, being a huge world, there is a lot of walking and backtracking. The game is nice enough to provide a teleporter you can use at anytime. When completing a quest, you will be rewarded for your deeds.
There is also cooperative multiplayer that you can play wirelessly with up to three friends. It certainly beats killing alone non-stop, but good luck finding even one friend with a copy, let alone three.
The game is certainly a lengthy one, and there are a lot of sidequests to do. Having four jobs, and several builds does give the game some replay value, but you have to be crazy if you are willing to go through a shallow game with a terrible plot all over again.
Since the PSP has much more raw power than the DS, graphics for Untold Legends are quite good, especially for a launch title. While other launch titles showcase the PSPs beauty better, this one is still impressive. There are several good-looking environments you get to witness throughout the game even though the environments themselves are fairly generic. Monsters come in a lot of variety in many shapes and sizes, but the monsters themselves are on the generic side. By this I mean, I’ve already seen too many skeleton warriors and zombies in my lifetime to warrant another title relying on these boilerplate creatures. With that said, there are a couple of cool-looking spells and special attacks to witness from each job.
While the game is pretty to look at, the game has too many palate swaps seen in lot of interior dungeons. One time, you’ll go through a nice-looking ruin that uses a lot of blue shading. Later, you are in another dungeon with the exact design, but in a different color. It’s understandable to an extent since there are a lot of dungeons in the game, but the repetition occurs too frequently. The PSP is capable of PS2 visuals. Surely, developers could’ve done a few more dungeon designs, but it’s a start for a launch game.
Character designs are pretty good, but nothing special. You are given very little customization on the characters you create. The avatars on some NPCs look good, but the style is not my cup of tea. I am most impressed that every piece of equipment is displayed on your character when equipped, given how many different equip combinations there are in the game. It’s too bad developers didn’t put the same effort on dungeons.
Thinking back to what to what music the game had to offer, I came to a realization on how little music there was. Aside from the introductions theme, there was that generic, medieval town theme, and some field tunes, but that’s about it. If there was more, it must have not been memorable at all. Some of these songs give some ambience, but they’re all boring.
Who needs music though if you have the “pleasure” of hearing endless grunt noises from your character and foes. If you’ve heard one grunt sound, you’ve heard them all. In addition, I’ll mention that the sound effects are nothing out of the ordinary. Go listen to better music of your choice on your PSP or an MP3 player. You won’t be missing anything.
The controls are pretty good overall. The action is quite responsive, better than a lot of other Action-RPGs I’ve played. There are also a number of item short-cuts and a couple of quick actions you can trigger for your convenience. The camera can be a bit awkward, but you have the option to rotate, zoom in and out. The only problem I really had was movement. The analog for the PSP sucks due to awkward positioning, and you are forced to use it throughout the entire game. It’s fortunate other PSP RPGs allow you to use the much nicer d-pad.
Menus are straightforward and organized. Inventory management is a carbon copy of Diablo’s which still functions well to this day. Your item menu is basically a grid with items and equipment coming in all different shapes and sizes which you must fit together in the grid. Each equipment has its own section, giving players more room to hold stuff as long as it does not exceed the total weight.. There is also a helpful journal section that tells you your destination and how get there. The world is quite huge so this certainly helps, and the map you have is solid.
One very annoying factor is load times. They’re very frequent, and occurs every time you start the game, and every time you enter a room or area. Loading is around 5-10 seconds each. It may not sound long, but it adds up quickly. Loading is an issue for the PSP itself, but it’s much worse than average on this title.
It’s a total mystery how I had the motivation to complete this game. I found it addicting when I first played it, and even praised it. Looking back now, it’s just a mediocre game with a few redeeming qualities, and too much repetition. It borrowed good elements from other good RPGs, but it this meant nothing in the end, due to terrible execution. It served well as a good time waster, but there are much better options. Don’t bother with this game and go play something worthwhile.