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Sean Pettibone

Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade (PSP)

By Michael Palisano

Sony Online Entertainment's excellent Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade brings the action-RPG genre to the PSP in fine form. Featuring hundreds of items, levels and monsters, this deeply engaging title should keep players occupied for hours. The solo quest is highly entertaining and quite challenging, but the real appeal lies in its multiplayer experience, which represents a giant leap forward for handheld gaming experiences. Untold Legends' fantastic visuals feature smooth animation and expansive worlds, tied together with an interesting storyline, an evocative score and fantastic character designs to create an engaging title. Read our review and find out why this accomplished RPG is one of the best PSP launch titles.

Set in a mystic world divided by good and evil, Sony's Untold Legends finds players battling to save the sanctuary city of Ayen from an invasion of dark forces. As the city comes under attack, players venture alone or with up to three other players in a variety of quests. The first impression you'll probably have is that the game is highly reminiscent of the company's classic EverQuest games, with a similar medieval theme and style of play and some interesting similarities, the game world in Untold Legends is separate and distinct from the EverQuest universe. That said, the gameplay in this game is quite similar in approach and implementation to Sony's Champions series on the PS2. Both titles are action oriented RPG's where the action takes place in real time. Both titles also offer a similar angled, top down isometric perspective. However, Untold Legends' greater emphasis on combat and co-operative play gives the game a unique spirit that makes it a unique experience. At the start of the game, players can select from one of four unique races: Knights, Alchemists, Druids and Berserker classes. Each of these races brings a unique set of abilities to the Brotherhood. For example, the Alchemists have greater magic abilities while the Berserkers excel at close range combat. Which characters you choose also affects the types of weapons and items you can use. Your character type doesn't change the game mechanics that much however, but it definitely plays a large role in your strategies in how you approach enemies.

During the game, players earn experience by defeating foes, which can then be used to level up their character in a number of ways. You can upgrade your character in one of four key areas: Strength, Dexterity, Stamina and Intelligence and distribute these experience points as you see fit. Players will also find a variety of objects in the game with more than 1,000 unique items including health, potions, weapons power-ups, jewelry, and weapons. There are also a number of quest items that unlock additional areas of the game that will help you progress deeper into the action. In addition, additional items such as weapons, clothing and, spells can be purchased at one of the many shops hidden throughout the levels, obtained in chests, or traded with other characters. There are many types of weapons such as blades, slingshots, arrows and, axes to use to name a few, with a number of variants and upgrades. Each weapon in the game offers players a unique attack though some of these can only be used once you attain the required experience level. Players also have access to a number of spells and special attacks that cause a great deal of damage. These special weapons and spells are especially useful when multiple enemies attack simultaneously. Players will need to be equipped with armor, and can protect themselves further by adding shields and other clothing items add more protection from attack, and can be switched easily from the main menus at the inventory section. These inventories can be quite large, but you can choose to drop or sell excess items.

In addition to battling enemies, players will find a number of NPC characters to interact with who'll give them advice and clues. Untold Legends' basic mission structure is straightforward, requiring players to complete objectives before they can move on. However, players earn a great deal of experience and gold when these are completed, so they are worth the struggle. There are more than 100 different basic missions in the game and many areas are generated randomly which allows for a great deal of variety. The game's flow and pacing are excellent, and the battles and foes you face become more intense as you gain experience and journey deeper into the game's dungeons. Some of the boss encounters are particularly interesting and challenging, requiring a great deal of skill on the part of players. Just don't go in unprepared, because these foes will dispatch under-equipped players quickly. Untold Legends' basic features are standard RPG fare by this point, but the implementation is smooth and coherent, with excellent production values. Untold Legends' structure is somewhat linear, though players have some freedom in the paths and order they'll complete missions. When a player dies they can automatically revive at the same location, and can also return to the surface city of Ayen using the recall stones, or use the teleports located throughout each level. The game's large scale and depth is surprising for a handheld, but it definitely lives up to the developers' ambitions of creating a large, cohesive world on a portable system.

Controlling the characters is relatively simple with the PSP's analog nub used as the primary source of movement. This technique offers smooth, responsive control that makes for an exceptional RPG. The battles take place in real-time, and require some dexterity with the fire button. You can also block an opponent's movements without much effort once they reach the higher levels. You can attack with the basic weapon using the X button, with special attacks assigned to the O button. Players can also unleash a magic spell or attack using the shift buttons. A handy onscreen map comes in handy throughout, especially in the underground dungeon portions of the game. Managing and using items is easy, and players can assign different weapons to buttons quite easily using the D-pad. The game's top-down perspective allows you to see a great deal of the action easily and clearly, though we wish we could rotate the screen or zoom in. Untold Legends' menu and interface are surprisingly easy to navigate and use, with a simple drag and drop icon based system that works well. These menus allow you to see your character's vital statistics such as power, health and class. Additional menus allow you to manage armor, weapons and potions inventories quickly. These screens are very smartly designed, allowing you to see your status immediately and quickly return to the game. Saving your progress is relatively easy as well, allowing players to save their progress at virtually any point at the pause menu.

From a visual standpoint, Untold Legends delivers a smartly designed world that offers an immersive, deep experience few handheld titles to date have even approached. The top-down isometric approach gives players a good view of the action, though this fixed perspective does tend to become monotonous after awhile. The environments themselves are beautifully rendered, with richly detailed worlds that range from the tranquil home city of Ayan, to dark fiery dungeons deep below the surface. The game's engine is remarkably smooth, with an excellent frame rate and silky animations that allow for fast-paced RPG action. Untold Legends' character and world design is also excellent, with a large number of unique monsters and characters populating the game world to create plenty of variety. Adding to the game's atmosphere is an epic soundtrack that plays throughout the game, which gives the adventure a robust, almost cinematic feel. The game's production values are excellent throughout, making it one of the most visually impressive titles on the PSP so far.

Untold Legends' single player experience is engaging and exciting enough, but the game truly comes alive in its multiplayer modes. Using the PSP's Wi-Fi capabilities, players can connect locally and play through the game's levels cooperatively with up to 4 players. Setting up the games is relatively easy, allowing players to either join in a game in progress or host a game themselves. You can set a number of parameters including the number of characters in your party, the maps you play on and more. What's really cool about all of this is just how seamlessly it works, with the multiplayer options offering a robust experience that suffers little in the translation. This is definitely something other handheld portables haven't even begun to approach. While the limited number of characters pales in comparison to console and PC RPGs, the game definitely shows the potential and promise of the PSP, making it a taste of things to come on the console.

Unfortunately, the game does have a few minor problems that slightly detract from the overall experience. The major complaint lies with the load times, which occur whenever you switch between the city surface and lower catacombs and dungeons. This does tend to hurt the flow and momentum of the gameplay significantly at points. The other major problem lies in the game's camera system, which as outlined earlier, stays stuck in the same isometric viewpoint throughout. However, these problems are minor and shouldn't dissuade players from purchasing this otherwise excellent title. Untold Legend's gameplay is smooth, with a great real-time combat system that makes battles go very quickly. The gameplay offers plenty of depth, with dozens of levels and quests to complete during the course of the game. Its visuals are also quite impressive, and the strong production values also extend to the excellent score. While the game isn't flawless, it offers a solidly entertaining solo mode and outstanding multiplayer support. Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade makes an excellent launch title that showcases the PSP's potential. This is a solidly entertaining title that should please fans of the action/RPG genre.

Grade: B

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