Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom - Staff Review  

The Fall of Dureth... Or Is It?
by Sean Kepper

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Easy to Very Difficult
12-15 hours
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   Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is a typical hack-and-slash game that released alongside the launch of the PlayStation 3. It boasts a lengthy single-player campaign that can be played with a friend locally or with up to three other people via its online component.

   The players all belong to a military unit fighting a war in the north of Dureth. Upon the defeat of their enemy after many years of battle, they learn of the events that transpired in their home country during their absence. The king, mad with demonic power, is turning against his country, and the heroes vow to put a stop to it. The story is bland at best and is definitely not going to sell many copies of the game.

   Either alone or with friends, the first player is always the focus of the storyline. This lack of interaction with the heroes controlled by the other players leads to a level of disconnection from them, as they don't feel any involvement with what is going on--except as hired hands. Each character has their own motivation for completing the quest, which provides the player some motivation to play through the game with each of them. There are three characters that can be chosen--the fighter, the mage, and the scout. Early level heroes of the same class can be highly different from the others, but towards the end of the game they all converge, removing their individualities.

   At every level, the heroes get two points to spend on abilities and a skill point. Every ability defines a trait that may or may not be useful for the hero, so specializing correctly is very important, as doing so incorrectly will make the game extremely difficult later on. Skills are very important and can be leveled a total of five times each. Each level increases the utility of the skill, which makes them more viable to use. At level 45, the level cap, the hero will have powered up all nine of their skills. A hero can be equipped with four skills at a time. This set can be changed at any time by the in-game menus.

   Furthermore, the heroes can find an assortment of armor and orbs from the bodies of fallen enemies. The armor increases the base stats of the hero, while adding additional effects such as stunning the enemies when they attack the player. Orbs are used to modify a weapon's effect and appearance and can add slaying effects (one-hit-kills on certain enemy types), elemental damage, or utility functions such as seeing enemies on the mini-map. Equipment can be purchased at any save point by spending the essence that the player has accumulated during the quest and old equipment can be turned into essence.

   The battle system is straightforward hack-and-slash. The players must simply mash the buttons to swing their weapons in various combinations, but the use of skills can help speed up the slaying of the countless monsters that are thrown against them. When slain, enemies have a chance of dropping various pieces of equipment, as well as three kinds of essence. Red essence replenishes health, blue regenerates mana, and yellow is the game's currency. All essences are drawn towards the heroes that need them. If they aren't needed, they stay where the enemy fell, until they are needed. Stationary essence will be drawn to heroes in range, as soon as they are needed. A problem with this is that a hero can intercept them, even if they do not need them--this can lead to some frustration in multiplayer games.

   While regular battles are quite simple, the boss battles can be quite difficult, even on the lower of game's four difficulty levels. It is very easy to perish, as they hit hard and can be difficult to figure out how to defeat. Button-mashing against them often leads to premature death, so the players are forced to adapt to different strategies.

   The difficulty is rather low compared to other offerings in the genre, but some moments will leave the players pulling out their hair. Some of the puzzles are just evil, some enemies hit way too hard, and some of the platform areas are just hard to navigate due to the camera angle changing of its own volition. For most of the game, the camera is fully under the control of the players, but in multiplayer it sometimes moves into the walls and obscures the view.

   The voice acting is for the most part very well done. Most of the characters are voiced believably. The music and sound effects are also decent, but nothing really stands out. The visuals are crisp and flow with very little slowdown. The characters and monsters are all detailed and well animated. In 720p, the game looks good, but not beautiful, as other games do at that resolution (such as Heavenly Sword and Folklore). They do the job but won't impress upon anyone the need to buy the system. Furthermore, the loading times between levels can be rather lengthy but don't occur very often.

   All in all, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom delivers a solid hack-and-slash game that is better experienced with friends than solo. It is lengthy, offers challenge that varies from nonexistant to extreme, has some pretty visuals, but doesn't deliver on the storyline. As such, it is recommended for those that are looking for a fun game to play with their friends, but it should be ignored otherwise. The different difficulty levels lead to a certain level of replayability, but once again, without others to play with, it won't keep a player's attention for too long on repeat playthroughs.

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