Review by Joe the Destroyer
"Hulk smash! Brrrraaaaah!"
A game does not totally need complexity to keep itself afloat. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance showed that a game can have a very simplistic gameplay style and still be decent enough. It mainly achieved this through being short and sweet. Once you finally got tired of hacking off random body parts and constant usage of the same buttons over and over again, the game was over and you were in the clear. This process is meant to only be played for maybe 6 hours. Sadly, someone didn't get the memo when making this game, Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade. When making this game, instead of being treated to 6 hours of bashing anything that moves, short of yourself, you are treated to a good nearly 20 hour game. This means by hour 7, the game begins to stale a bit and you may want to shoot yourself. Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit harsh. There has to be something slightly rewarding to this game, as it is at least an okay play.
In Untold Legends, you take the role of a hero who has just won a fighting tournament and has become the guardian of the new ruler of your residence, Aven. The town has not known the touch of evil for many hundreds of years. On the day of the coronation of the new ruler, the town is attacked by legions of monsters. Your character rises to the occasion to battle these creatures, only to find that the past that your town unwittingly forgot is about to repeat itself.
This is the type of story you find in a fantasy hobby shop, a used bookstore, or a comic shop on a 50 cent rack full of used fantasy novels. Nothing that would cause a stir in the pants of most players, but certainly something that is pretty much adequate. There are no major turns or corners in the story's flow, though a few somewhat expected twists get thrown into the fray for more flavor. Unlike its PS2 brother Champions of Norrath, Untold Legends: BotB just does not possess a highly interesting tale.
When you start the game, you get a ho-hum snip of the storyline and you are plunged right into battle. The first thing you do is walk around and bash the life out of some unsuspecting spiders. It is here that the notice that the game's engine seems to run quite smoothly. There are no skips, burps, or blips; the animation keeps up very well and utilizes beautiful graphical tones and lighting effects, not to mention very well done controls that keep battle very simplistic and are neither overly tight or loose. Spells and auras surely look nice and the controls are just how they should be, but it's nothing we haven't exactly seen. Therefore, par for the course here.
The audio adds a bit to the atmosphere, but not really enough. The soundtrack does bring the thought to mind of battle and mystery as can be expected from a fantasy game, but only adequately. This means you can pretty much turn the music off and not even notice. The sound effects, while very decently used, seem very primitive for this kind of game. One would hope for something that would promote the massive offing of thousands of enemies, but unfortunately it all sounds like the same old bang-clang-boom you can expect from any other game.
Aside from just bashing your enemies, you do get an arsenal of special attacks and magic, all of which can be acquired and powered up as your character levels throughout the game. Unfortunately, they decided to just blatantly steal Diablo 2's skill system, where you have a tree of skills that must be learned in a specific order with specific requirements. On the plus side, it also allows you to build the character a very particular way. For example, if you want a character who will just wildly bash everything and never take no for an answer, there is a category of skills that will give you the easiest time achieving that. Aside from skills, you can customize your character's stats and equipment and make the either the most powerful tank you can think of or build a complete spell machine. All of these factors help keep the game from being a total wash and at least kept me playing all the way through it. Chalk that up for the developers.
Most of your character's mindless bashing will take place on many different quests that you can take. Counting both required and side quests, there are over 40 in the game. One might think that more quests instantly equates a better game. More in this case can be compared to being smothered; the more weight you throw on, the worse it gets. One cannot help but think of Arc the Lad 3 and its insane amount of quests. Sure, you enjoy doing all the side quests for the first five or so hours. After you've gotten about halfway through the game, you begin to realize that many of the quests are much of the same thing over and over and over again. You are asked to explore and area, maybe recover an item or get yourself something spiffy, and it's anticipated that you'll bash the daylights out of anything that moves. Repeat this process 20 or so times and you've got this game in a nutshell.
Another shining light at the end of the tunnel is the fact that you can link up with another friend and bash the holy hell out of the forces of darkness together. Like BG: Dark Alliance, you and a partner can team up and even take characters you already possess into the world surrounding Aven and go through the game's astounding amount of quests. While this system works spectacularly and can help add a little much needed spice to the game, there is a question of whether or not you and your partner will make it through the game. The person I was playing with eventually shelfed the game and hasn't played it since the week after it came out. Sadly, I was left with no one else to play with as no one else at the time had a PSP.
One minor nuance that also helped slightly keep the game actually fresh was the fact that enemies respawn. In most hack n' slash titles, when you kill an enemy it's dead for good. In Untold Legends, there's no such thing as permanent death. Because of this you can go back and power level your character to make sure that you can overcome any of the obstacles set ahead of you. This also means that you can more easily build your money supply rather than worrying about the fact that the money in the game is randomly set to a finite amount. Drakkan: The Ancients' Gates, I'm looking in your direction.
For a launch title, this is a decent achievement. However, if this were released towards the end of the system, you can almost guarantee it would be a budget title found in the deepest of the Wal-Mart dump bins. The game has all the makings of greatness, but it so under-utilized that you feel the developers just said screw it half way through the process. It's all ambition and no fuel to propel it. Because of this, the game does not completely bite, but it surely isn't one that the industry is going to remember ten years from now. The simplicity is beautiful, to be sure, but more meat is needed.
Graphics: Good use of lighting effects and tones, and great animation, but doesn't strive for much beyond that 7/10
Sounds: Leaves much to be desired 6/10
Controls: Simplistic and work just fine 9/10
Plot/Storyline: Pretty much what you can expect from any cookie-cutter fantasy title 6/10
Gameplay: Good for the first six hours, but gets old very fast 6/10
All Together: 6/10
*Plays very well
*Fun for a while
*Lots of missions
*...Lots and lots and lots of missions...
*Gets old before long
*Doesn't really achieve anything special
I only recommend grabbing it on a lower priced purchase or a rental... or hell, free. If someone just randomly gives it to you, it's okay to take it. It's not one of those games that you have to make up the banal alternate uses list for.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 05/11/06
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