Review by grasu

"There's just something missing here..."

Who didn't love Untold Legends before it's release? On paper, this game was the savior of handheld RPGs, the new champion, Diablo 2 IN-3D and in your PANTS, etc. Too bad it was all on paper.

With less than a year to make a game it's surprising that SOE even got as far as they did with Untold Legends.

As a whole, Untold Legends is not a bad game, but it's far from what was promised by SOE. Yes the game is big and there are a great deal of dungeons to crawl through, and yes, there are a few dozen monsters whose skulls you can bash, and, yes, there is multiplayer for 4 other humans. All of this looks great on paper, it's just that there seems to be something missing when you actually play the game.

Untold Legends may be the best ARPG ever on a handheld but it barely makes the cut as a decent game.

Graphics: 7/10

Among launch titles, Legends is one of the ugliest.

The game uses a modified Snowblind engine, the same used in games such as Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath. The modifications are for the worse, however, as the fire effects along with the rippling water effects have been removed from the game. The resolution is also much, much lower than in other Snowblind enabled games.

The engine also takes on all of the negative effects from it's original, including the blurring present on screen at times and the fluctuating framerate. While the framerate fluctuation is never bad, it can get somewhat annoying at times, especially when there are many effects and monsters on screen at one time.

On the plus side, the game does look pretty good overall. There are tons of effects to gawk at, like the lightning surrounding your weapon or the frozen beauty of a monster 3 times as tall as you. There are also plenty of weather effects and the lighting is obviously top notch, as it is in most games.

Finally, the engine can cram a good deal of detailed monsters on screen while keeping the framerate at an acceptable rate. Yes, the framerate does drop but it never does so until it becomes a chore to fight the hordes of monsters on screen.

Sound: 5/10

The sound is merely average. It doesn't make you want to turn off the volume, but there's also a good chance that you won't remember any of the tunes after you finish the game.

The sound effects are also mediocre, with only one or two instances standing out (the howling ghosts have especially scary sound effects). The lack of spoken dialogue is also quite disappointing as this was one of the major attractions of using UMD media. As for the clash of weapons and the grunts and screams of monsters they are all there so that you don't just travel without hearing a thing. They aren't all that interesting to listen to or all that compelling to make you gasp in awe.

One peculiar thing about the sound however, deals with its actual quality. There's some fuzz in the background at times and the music seemingly stops and starts whenever it pleases. As far as the quality is concerned, out of the 5 games I bought at launch, this one has the worst quality by far.

Gameplay: 6/10

Untold Legends does many things right. It's one of the best launch RPGs in console history, it's the best Western-style RPG on a handheld; it's the best handheld RPG since 2003, etc. All of those titles though don't make it any better of a game: Untold Legends just isn't all that compelling.

The story in ARPGs is usually so underplayed that most of them just choose to totally blow it off and include as little narrative as possible. Untold Legends takes a surprising stand concerning this issue: There is an actual story to get involved in! The narrative starts out in the usual, "we got invaded by peaceful creatures for no reason after 3 millennia of peace"-form but it quickly becomes darker, more mysterious and brooding. It appears that the people of your town, Aven, aren't all that benevolent, and that they've all forgotten about the Brotherhood that helped their city become the established metropolis that it is. As you progress through the story you'll witness quite a few shocking plot twists and a world rich in myths and history.

The only problem with the narrative here is the dialogue. None of it is spoken, but that doesn't make the people who speak less arrogant. Everyone seems to find a way to poke fun at your honorary guardian position or to under estimate your abilities, even after you've saved their asses countless times and fetched their toilet paper because they were sitting on the toilet too constipated to move. If I do crap for NPCs in a game, I expect them to change their opinions about me, not to keep chastising me.

Just like the dialogue the presentation is also sorely lacking... SOMETHING! There are no cut scenes, and there's no spoken dialogue.

The actual gameplay is archaic. Think of it in terms of Diablo, in 3D.

Untold Legends has only one city, Aven. You walk around the city, taking minor sub quests, and then you go out in one of the game's areas and complete each of the quests and sub quests you were given. The gameplay is addictive and fun, but there's nothing there to keep your interest for long periods of times.

Items are considered trite in this game. NPCs regularly give you the same junk items after completing their quests, along with a paltry sum of gold, which isn't even enough to buy a high level potion. The items you find out in the woods or buy from merchants aren't all that better anyway. There is no way to denotate which items are magical or which just have runes or gems added into them before picking them up. Also, no item has more than 2 attributes and the enhancements each item gives you are minimal. Except stat (strength, dexterity, etc.) augmentation, critical hit, and elemental damage items rarely give you anything else. Where's the enhanced damage, or skill bonuses, or anything else that makes items worth your time?

This lack of item polish is an disease that infects all console-style RPGs. Besides only giving you a few augmentations, items can only give you TWO of them at one time. That means that a magical item can only give you, for example, +8 Dexterity and +8 Strength. If you try to add a rune or gem to that item you won't be able to as no item can have more than 3 attributes. This all would be dandy if you actually GOT items that were worth your time. A great deal of the time in UL you get items that are 2 or 3 levels above yours and they STILL do less damage than what you have in your hand. URGH!!

Without items, there's little tying an ARPG together, and this shows in Untold Legends. Although there is a lot of ground to cover as there are 110 dungeons to explore and there are 4 races you can play as there is virtually no reason to play the game once again with another race as most of the items are going to be the same.

The classes in the game do, however, have quite few unique skills, which is very impressive. Knights have skills such as weapon masteries while Alchemists can summon monsters to aid their plight. The skill trees are not as vast as Diablo 2's but they are quite a bit more meaty than CoN's. The only real issue with these 4 classes is that they could easily be splint into only 2: Warrior and Magician. The Alchemist and the Druid are virtually the same as both use magic and can summon beasts to aid them. The Warrior and Berserker ARE IDENTICAL! The warrior can use both bows and swords as can the berserker. It would've been much better for this game to feature a bow-type race, a summoning-race, a warrior-race and a pure-magic race, not to try and combine all 4 concepts.

The 110 dungeons you get to explore range from huge, to small and they feature a variety of tilesets... all very boring. All of these tile sets are taken straight out of other Snowblind-engine powered games, with a precious few being slightly different. Worse yet, the game is split into sections and, while you're free to explore all sections as you please, all dungeons in that section use the EXACT same tile set. Considering that there are 110 dungeons, that leaves about 7 tile sets for all of them. Can you say re-pe-ti-ti-ve?

Another very peculiar thing about the dungeons in this game is that the quests INSIDE the dungeons only "activate" when you speak to the quest-giver. In other words, if you don't speak to the sick-chick, the old granny with the crystal in the woods will never appear on your map. Due to this, during my first play through, I had to defeat each dungeon twice! GUARGH!!!

The final peculiarity about the dungeons is that they're all made out of square or rectangular rooms. Perhaps an effect of the random dungeon generator, perhaps just lazy programmers, this design choice makes dungeons even more boring than they already are.

Well, now that I gave you all the negatives, are there any positives to Untold Legends? Well, the game is huge. Even if it's repetitive, the game has 110 stages and FOUR races. That's more than any RPG on the GBA since... ever!

The monster designs are also splendid. You haven't lived until you've seen a monster 3 times your size, attacking you on a screen this size. And monsters range from all shapes and size. There are pigmen which use magicians and brute force against you, huge trees which uproot themselves and attempt to maul your character, spiders of all sorts, ghosts which appear and disappear in thin air (creating one of the best monster effects EVER), and all kinds of other grotesque, huge, or sickening creatures to fight against.

The actual fighting is also a great deal of fun. Control is tight and the cueing of certain functions is genius. The analog stick does a great job with directing you towards your goal and each button tap exerts an extremely exact and precise maneuver. The multitude of skills also helps battling become a good deal of fun as you can unleash your own monsters on your enemies or just simply maul them with a quick flurry of hits.

Finally the game is addictive. It's an action RPG, so some repetitiveness is a given, but it's extremely addictive and there are many quests to undertake and many monsters to kill as you go on to saving Aven.

Multiplayer: 9/10

If this game would be online I'd give it a 10 on the spot. Untold Legends features one of the most refined multiplayer experiences since Diablo 2.

Using either Ad Hoc or Infrastructure modes up to 4 players can engage in cooperative dungeon crawling. The real treat here is that partying up with others ISN'T to your disadvantage. There's experience sharing, a trading interface, and more.

Gameplay is lagless and the whole game doesn't drop along with the host.

The only complaints I have about multiplayer is that it should've been online and they should've included PvP, but otherwise this is a good as it gets for non-PC ARPGs.

Overall: 7/10

Untold Legends stinks of rushed. The developers seemingly did everything by the book and while that looks good on paper, there should just be more SOUL to an RPG than just giving it 110 dungeons and thousands of useless items.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/30/05


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