Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom Review
Years after Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance saw brisk success on the PS2 and Xbox, developers are still making fantasy action games that combine some RPG elements into the game. Sure, we can probably trace it further back to the success of the Diablo games, but let's not split hairs here. Sony Online Entertainment has been pushing their Untold Legends series of games ever since they decided to stop making the Everquest-themed Champions of Norrath games. After two decidedly boring PSP games, the Untold Legends team has launched a next-gen action/RPG title on the PS3. But has Sony Online learned anything since their last couple of games?
No, they haven't. Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom looks fairly next-gen at first, but the action is decidedly stuck in a PSP frame of mind and after a while you might realize that even the graphics aren't really too great. And sure, there's a story here and I tried to pay attention, but it's the same old poorly thought-out fantasy crap that you see time and time again. This time, the delivery is terrible, the cinematics can't be skipped, and the in-engine cutscenes are laughably bad.
But surely Sony Online got a few things right, didn't they? You can bust out big combos with the three characters (Warrior, Scout, Mage) and get all kinds of great loot and smash faces even harder, right? Yeah, kind of. In what must be the strangest decisions I've seen in months of playing new games, Sony Online made it so that your character never gets new weapons - all you do is power up your current ones. The warrior's got his massive hammer, the scout's got her pair of curved blades, and the mage has his staff. Sure, you can upgrade your armor by looting stuff that falls from monsters' bodies, or even "create" armor at shrines with the souls of the monsters you kill as a form of money. But no new weapons? This is a cripplingly bad idea. In fact, there aren't stores where you shop at all; you break down items you don't want at shrines into "essence" and then make new items through the shrines. But the selection of items you can create is pretty bare, and the stuff you find is often better than the stuff you can make.
Even the new loot you get mostly looks the same. There seem to be at most a few pieces of art for each area of your character's body, like the shoulders, boots or legs, and all the different items you can get switch between those three. You'll hardly look any tougher at the end of the game as you do at the beginning. Sure, you can spend points as you level up on more stats for better attack power and the like, and even spend skill points on some new abilities with some nice special effects, but getting all the way through this game is an exercise in tedium.
Online cooperative play is starting to catch on in the next-gen game arena, and here in Dark Kingdom up to four people can play together over the internet through some strange implementation of the XFire game-centric instant messaging system. XFire feels really weird here in a PS3 game, and it really underscores one of the PS3's bigger downsides in online play - each game has to have its own, separate implementation of internet matchmaking and gameplay. Now, some people might say that online co-op is always a good thing for a game, but I think that Untold Legends on the PS3 is a good counter to that argument. The game is boring as hell and it doesn't improve in the slightest when you get a few people together to play online. You can't even get some voice chat going to talk with the other people in your game. Make a note, game developers, that your game has to be fun in the first place if you want people to have fun when playing online together.
In the end, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is just plain boring. The equipment you can pick up is hardly unique, you're stuck with your weapon the whole time, and even online play doesn't save this one. Even the graphics wind up making it look like it was a PS2 game shuffled over to the PS3 in the last six months of development (I haven't done any fact checking on this one, but I think this is actually true). While there aren't really any other fantasy-based games to launch alongside the PS3, I recommend you just wait till one comes along that actually does what games are supposed to do: entertain you.