Ever since Diablo, hack-and-slash RPGs have become a dime a dozen. Scores of imitations to the popular PC game have been released across every console under the sun with varying results, so it’s no surprise that the PSP got one right at launch. Sony has spent sometime with this type of game before on the PS2 with Champions of Norrath and their experience shows with their PSP release of Untold Legends, the first of certainly many hack-and-slash RPGs for the system.
Untold Legends sets you into the role of the protector of the city of Aven. Basically, you’re a cop before crime started. So, for the most part, you do nothing and the town mocks you and considers you worthless. Most of your time is spent in the bar until one day random spiders decide that they want to invade the town and then your skills as a fighter are finally called upon. The spiders are only the beginning and you soon are sent out to travel the land and save Aven from an unspeakable evil.
None of that really matters. The thing about hack-and-slash RPGs is the storyline is there just to set the record straight, to give you some sort of reason for existing. Then, it takes a backseat to the action. Untold Legends is no exception to this unwritten but widely appreciated rule. Sure, there are lots and lots of dialogue sequences between you and the people you encounter, but the game is all about exploration and killing things, so you’re likely to ignore more of the discussion.
Since the storyline is useless it’s a great thing that the gameplay more than makes up for that. This is a very solidly designed hack-and-slash mainly because there are so many different areas to explore and so many enemies to eliminate. For the first hour or so that I played this game I simply wandered around various catacombs beneath the city of Aven and killed creatures and had a great time doing so. Portals make it easy to travel from area to area and you can exit dungeons at anytime with the press of a few buttons which makes this a great game for travel. Since the dungeons are randomly generated each time you load them there’s always enemies to kill in them no matter how many times you return – another plus for Untold Legends.
Leveling up your character is arguably the best part of this game. Leveling allows you access to various abilities, such as duel-wielding or dodging or even summoning creatures, depending on your class. What I liked most about the leveling system in this game is that it was completely up to me what I chose to upgrade. My fighter character dual-wielded a lot so I pumped points into that particular skill, but I decided to ignore most of the defense upgrades since I had items that already increased my defense. Leveling up is all up to you and it makes for a different game every character you play.
Almost as involving as the leveling system is item collection. There are literally hundreds of different items that you can collect and equip yourself with. My fighter character (there are four different classes to choose from Alchemists, Druids, Knights and Berserkers) dual-wielded two different swords, one that healed him randomly because of an item I collected and another sword that would instantly kill some monsters it came across. I had pieces of armor that all had various effects, mostly from items that I added to them.
But of course, not everything is perfect with Untold Legends. It can sometimes take a bit for the game to load up which creates lots of thumb-twiddling. More importantly, while the areas in the game are fun to explore, they feel very, very restrictive and claustrophobic. There are very few wide open areas and throughout most of the game I felt like I was being led around on a leash which certainly didn’t feel good considering how many options I had with my character. Finally, I would have liked a map that was a little more descriptive. You’re given a world map but no map for any of the smaller areas outside of a little one on your user display that’s very little help.
Your traditional overhead camera leads you through the environments that you’ll traverse throughout your fifteen-hour journey through Untold Legends. I would have liked the camera to allow a farther back zoom since you get attacked quite a bit by ranged weapons from off-screen but for the most part it works well. The graphics are pretty competent and expected for an adventure like this. Most of the outdoor areas are different and unique, but many of the dungeons look repetitive and very grey. What stands out most graphically are the varied enemy models that you’ll encounter during your journey. Each leg on a spider is animated as it walks and enemies pull back on their bows when they attack. A repetitive orchestrated score accompanies you along the way that encourages you to play with the sound off.
A four-player wireless multiplayer mode is just icing on the cake for this game. Loading up the game with some friends and fighting scores of foes is even more fun than the single-player mode, but even without a group of buddies this is still a game worth owning. There are dozens of different quests, more than a hundred different monsters to kill and even more items to collect. If you’re looking for some hack-and-slashing, this is the game you need to pick up.