Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom

SOE's hack and slash arrives Boxguy-free. Unfortunately, that's not the only thing missing...
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: November 28, 2006
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People like to crap on the PlayStation Portable for being, well, port-able. Yes, it's been the home of more than a few games that made the jump from the PlayStation 2, but there have been a few (mostly first-party) experiences created specifically for the system. And now, a good year and a half after it first hit, we're starting to see a sort of weird reverse jump where titles born on the PSP are actually graduating to something you play on a TV. Whether formed by the desire to expand the market beyond the portable or just subsidize development costs and release it on multiple systems, both Mercury Meltdown Remix and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom are graduating to home consoles.

It's the latter of the two that I'm concerned with. Concerned not just because this is, y'know, the review for the game, but legitimately worried that the game may get a bad rap for being... well, let's just say it, it's an entirely mediocre current-gen (portable, even) experience wrapped around the guise of something that almost looks next-gen. It runs in HD, yes, and does so competently, but the beyond the initial ooh factor of just seeing all those semi-hi-res textures lies a game that gets tedious almost immediately, and is further bogged down by a horrid camera and worthless storyline.

This isn't something that was entirely unexpected. In fact, from the second the game has been shown off, it's been something of an ugly duckling. Jokes about the original character design, the infamous "Boxguy," started almost immediately, and Dark Kingdom couldn't catch a break. It probably doesn't help that the game just screams generic, and I think it's mainly just the fault of Sony Online Entertainment employing artists that, while well-intentioned, aren't especially keen on creating worlds that stray far from fantasy truisms.

The result is a game that feels in almost every way like it fills a slot. It's a purely pedestrian fantasy tale of trying to overthrow a king corrupted by dark powers, peppered with a thin combat system and mild magic elements. The three main characters in the game, a warrior, mage and scout boil things down the most basic of character types, and never really end up growing into anything remotely interesting. So you trudge from area to area, hacking and slashing away with a branching combat system that mixes light and heavy hits, and generally just do this until the play time hit double-digit counts or you die of boredom, whichever comes first.

There are attempts to mix things up. Some basic puzzles include such mainstays as moving things and flipping switches, but these are hardly the kind of distractions that pull you away from the pain of trudging through another area to beat up on stuff. I bitched about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance eventually becoming repetitious, but it at least threw in ample boss fights that included mini-game style challenges that used the SIXAXIS. Dark Kingdom does none of those things, instead forcing you to navigate worlds that are infinitely more open than MUA's boxy rooms, yet never approaches the fun factor of Raven's hack and slasher.

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