This is one legend that should have spent a little more time being told.
Anyone that has played a previous SOE game on PSP or PS2 should know exactly what they are getting themselves into with Untold Legends. Titles before this, such as the Champions of Norrath series on PS2, were relatively mindless hack-n-slashers that allowed for enough customization to keep players interested for a solid amount of time. Players heading into Untold Legends wouldn’t be wrong in assuming more of the same on PS3. Instead of the slightly dumbed-down slasher they know and love, they will find an even more mind-numbing and infinitely less interesting affair that will have them cursing SOE for years to come.
In fact, I would go so far as to say this game approaches Gauntlet with its elementary gameplay. Just as Gauntlet disappointed us by only allowing players to level their characters up in simplistic and uniform ways, Untold Legends puts players on similar rails and forces them to march to the beat of someone else’s drums.
Before I stray too far into my “This game lacks personality and style” rant, I’ll fill you cats in on the storyline and basic gameplay. Untold Legends pits players against their former king and his corrupted minions as they fight for to rescue their homeland. Like previous SOE games before it, the storyline in Untold Legends takes a backseat to the action between cut scenes. Players will rip through throngs of unholy or otherwise demonized soldiers, monsters, and wildlife that get in their way. When you defeat an enemy, they drop orbs of Life, Mana, or Essence, Untold’s currency of sorts. Players can use a number of different spells or skills depending on the character they have chosen to either directly damage their enemies or cause various other effects such as increase their own damage to dispatch of enemies quickly.
For anyone that looks at my critique and says “It’s unfair to compare a franchise that began on the PSP that makes the jump to PS3 to a PS2 franchise,” I offer this. How much sense does it make to take a genre that you had to dumb down for a handheld and keep it simplified for a next-gen console title? That is exactly what we are dealing with in Dark Kingdom. While I have a limited experience with the previous Untold Legends, I know enough to say with confidence that the developers didn’t do enough to the original formula to pass it for a next-gen title. Everything about your character, from its initial selection to customization and development, is ridiculously simplified.
Starting with the pathetic number of different selectable characters, of which there are only three, Dark Kingdom drops the ball on just about everything it could. All players can choose from are the Warrior, the Rogue, and the Wizard. The “Barbarian/Wood Elf/Dark Elf/ect.” Selection is completely done away with. And what options do you get with your Barbarian, Rogue, or Wizard? Oh, only the ability to change the color of their armor/clothing. There are no options for changing the sex (though it does play into the story a bit with the Rogue).
But why such an emphasis on the character choices you ask? Ask any fan of the hack-n-slash games what the main draw to a title such as this is and they will tell you the character advancement and customization nine times out of ten. It pains me to say that the lack of options for initial character selection isn’t the worst part, but in fact the character advancement is instead. Whereas the Norrath characters would use a skill tree ala Diablo 2 to advance, Dark Kingdom relies on a much more restrictive “star system.” For every level you gain, you can add a star to a skill to increase its strength. Stronger skills for each character open up after a certain character level regardless of what choices you have made prior. That extra depth in character development is dashed and leaves a huge void when playing this game. Items and “money” are also incredibly elementary, killing the experience further.
Ultimately, it’s how all of this “simplification” affects the core gameplay, and it certainly doesn’t help. My earlier comparisons of this title to Gauntlet hold true in its gameplay as well. Everything feels very arcade-ish, from the way you recover health and mana to the way you “purchase” new armor and weapon upgrades. Players can craft armor from the essence they have picked up at any checkpoint along the way, instead of having to wait for the next town. This may be convenient, but I guarantee players will curse the health drops when they are in a sticky situation and can’t get to a checkpoint to recover their health. Potions have been a staple of this studio’s console titles for years, but they were also dropped for whatever reason. The only thing keeping this game from being a Gauntlet clone is the absence of monster generators.
Dark Kingdom has had an uphill battle to fight since it was first shown. People knew that this game wouldn’t really wow them visually, but it’s hard to imagine that the gameplay that we found in the Norrath series could actually become any simpler. Norrath felt like a simplified Diablo 2, but it was cool because you could still pimp out your character across the three difficulty levels. As a fan of the Norrath series, I hope SOE can salvage this mess for future releases because this simply doesn’t cut it, especially on the dawn of the next-gen console race.
July 12, 2006 – Revealed before E3, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom was one of the first titles announced as a launch game when the PS3 hits North America this November. PSP owners will be the first to recognize the franchise as two previous installments have been released already on Sony’s handheld. Dark Kingdom will be the first console version of the hack ‘n slasher and expectations are high that the game will be a tad more fleshed out then its portable brethren.
Dark Kingdom’s story centers around a corrupt king who uses his trusted guards, known as the Dragon Shade, to put an end to a growing rebellion. Throughout the course of the game secrets are revealed and the team will find themselves fighting against the king who sought their services in the first place.
The Dragon Shade consists of three members: Scout, Warrior and Mage. Each character will be playable in the single player story, and each will have their own storyline and motivation for bringing down the king. Dark Kingdom will also support 4-player co-op online throughout the entire single player campaign. It hasn’t been revealed yet what class the 4th player will be. Other online modes include the obligatory arena deathmatch mode and CTF and Last Man Standing. No other little tidbits have been revealed.
While the visuals which appear to be tightening up with each new set of screens, the gameplay appears to follow the traditional hack ‘n slash formula, and we’re cautiously optimistic that Sony will toss in some more meat to the somewhat shallow gameplay. This remains to be seen however. No work yet on other online modes or
The game is set for a November launch, although it’s possible that the game could slip if it’s not ready in time.