Warriors of the Lost Empire - Staff Review  

A Diamond in the Rough?
by Sean Kepper

Click here for game information
Easy to Moderate
12-15 hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Warriors of the Lost Empire is an oft overlooked title for the PSP. Players should expect a dungeon romp that lasts about twelve to fifteen hours. While dungeon crawling, players will be up to their necks in enemies.

   The game's story isn't very heavy or very well translated, but it does come with its own charm. Cut scenes are narrated, including the actions of the protagonist. Insight is often given to just who that person is, but otherwise the hero never says a word and just stays silent. The basic premise is that the previous emperor of Rome took off with one of his servants and founded a new city in the servant's honor. Dark magic took hold of the city, contact with the emperor ceased and dark creatures started walking the streets. The hero, a mercenary, is called upon by the current emperor to investigate the city and find the missing emperor.

   Warriors of the Lost Empire is broken down into two types of areas: a very small town used as a hub and the dungeons. There is no large cityscape or overworld to explore, just the dungeons. The town offers services in the form of item and equipment crafting, as well as the item box, which will be discussed later. The dungeons are all four to eight floor complexes where the hero can only escape by using a mystical amulet given to him early in his quest. The game flows as follows: hero enters dungeon, hero climbs to deepest floor, hero defeats a boss, and finally, hero warps back to town. After several of the dungeons, the hero will receive a new skill and then return to the town hub. Upon return, the hero reports to his superior and then preps for the next dungeon crawl.

   The hero can be one of four characters: a Highlander (specializes in large weaponry), a Gladiator (specializes in dual-wielding), a Dark Seeker (sword and shield expert with some combat magic at her disposal), or an Amazoness (specialized in the bow). Each hero has ten skills, eight of which must be unlocked over the course of the story. Of these ten, four can be equipped at a time, thus giving the characters a little bit of customizability. These skills level up when used. Furthermore, the heroes receive attribute points on leveling up. These points can be used to increase their base stats or their weapon skill. An interesting thing to note is that attribute points can be recovered at any time, allowing for unlimited re-customization of a character. While each character specializes in a single weapon style, they are free to equip a secondary set of equipment and specialize in it as they see fit. In fact, magic bonuses on secondary equipment affect the hero even when they aren't using them!

How can a mere shield hope to block that? How can a mere shield hope to block that?

   Combat in Warriors of the Lost Empire is extremely fast as is normal for the hack-and-slash genre. Movement is very reliable and the game plays very easily. Sometimes combos go a little out of control and can leave the hero in a bit of a tight spot when surrounded by enemies. The amount of combinations that can be pulled off through the chaining of weapon strikes, skills and secondary weapon strikes is immense. A good player can hold their own against a dozen enemies by knowing the reach, speed and recharge time of their attacks. When played well, enemies can be juggled, kept on the ground, or herded into traps. Enemies can also be set on each other. In fact, several areas include powerful monsters that, if you lead them to each other, will duke it out, which can be quite fun to watch.

   That being said, the enemy AI is pretty dumb. It is possible to run them into the same trap over and over again until they die. The enemies tend to use the same tactics over and over again: they swarm the hero and sometimes deal a lot of damage to themselves as they get in each other's way. The camera does get in the way of the action a little bit, but that is mostly because the player is too busy to bother moving it. Simply clicking the right shoulder button is enough to realign the camera in a meaningful way.

   There is no money in the game. Instead, the hero picks up weapons, upgrade components, healing items, and trap items (bombs, etc) while exploring the dungeons. The smith can break down extra weapons into base components, and anything other than weapons can be traded to the item merchant. The merchant sells new weapons and armor (in case nothing better was found while exploring), trap items and healing items. These are done using a simple bartering system. Equipment can be blessed by the smith. These blessings can be increased in power through careful manipulation of the ingredients, but no real help is given by the game to really figure out how this works--the player is expected to use trial and error to figure it out. The proper enchantment of a hero's equipment is vital, if the player doesn't wish to spend hours grinding for XP to compensate.

   Whereas most games use the status screen to make changes to their equipment and stats, Warriors of the Lost Empire uses the Item Box. This is a big box in the middle of town (and found between areas in the last dungeons) that is used to store all of the hero's equipment and does all the regular screen duties. This means that the player must return to town to assign attribute points after leveling, equip skills and even equip weapons. There is no way to change any of these while away from town! All weapons and accessories that the player picks up are magically transported to this box and it is often very frustrating to have to warp back to town just to try on a new shield (or even see if it is better!) or to assign attribute points. Hours were lost to senseless backtracking just to visit the box.

Meet Slicey,,, and Dicey! Meet Slicey,,, and Dicey!

   For the most part, the graphics are well done. The effects are pretty, the models are detailed and are even customizable. While not gorgeous, they are still easy on the eyes. There are few dungeon types and after a while everything starts to look the same. Other than that, there could have been more enemy models, and there is a slight problem with some of the animation: it appears as if some key frames are missing between actions. Apart from that, the load times in Warriors of the Lost Empire are almost non-existent and help keep the player in the action.

   Like the graphics, the game's audio does a decent job as well. The usual battle effects are heard, the voice clips used in battle enhance the experience, but where it shines is in the music. Some of the tracks are really uninteresting, but a few of them are really well done--enough to jack up the volume and really pay attention to them.

   Warriors of the Lost Empire is as hard as the player wants it to be. Each dungeon is assigned a difficulty and the first eight can be chosen in any order. Difficult battles can be made trivial by leveling up or crafting new gear, or by abusing the traps strewn about the dungeons. With a couple of exceptions, boss battles are handled just as easily--they are just regular enemies with higher stats. Depending on the character the player picks, the difficulty fluctuates. The Amazoness, when well played, is difficult to even get close to, while the Highlander is bound to be surrounded quite often. Even regular enemies can often kill a hero very quickly by surrounding him in a swarm. A single knockdown attack can get the player killed. This is of course mitigated by the fact that upon death the hero respawns in town with all their experience and items as they were when he died. This removes all risk from the game and rewards the player for trying to storm a dungeon over and over again (and therefore grinding XP and items in the process).

   All in all, Warriors of the Lost Empire is a below average game. It has addictive combat, is very forgiving when the player dies, has decent audio and visual qualities, but its lack of a decent storyline, its horrible Item Box, and extremely repetitive gameplay really hurt it. It is a good title to pick up for players that enjoy hack-and-slash games, especially for those with friends that they could play with, as this title is loads more fun when played with another! For those that don't, it would be better to simply pass it up.

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