CES 2006: Untold Legends: The Warrior's Code Impressions

SOE leads us through a land of peril in a nearly finished version of its new PSP dungeon crawler.

LAS VEGAS--Sony Online Entertainment is displaying many of its 2006 wares at a meeting room at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, and we marched into undiscovered handheld fantasy realms during a demo of Untold Legends: The Warrior's Code, the follow-up to the dungeon-crawling adventure released alongside the PSP last year. After spending some time with an earlier build and then seeing the game in something close to a final state, it looks as though The Warrior's Code will represent a marked improvement over its predecessor.

As we've mentioned previously, SOE has made significant changes to this second iteration of The Warrior's Code, from its streamlined equipment- and spell-management screens to its stylized visual flair and improved graphics engine. We got to see many of these new features in action today, and the game was looking much more polished in general. Perhaps most noticeable to veterans of the first Untold Legends will be the game's increased focus on storyline, which the developer says was frequently requested by fans. The Warrior's Code will have a number of nicely rendered video cutscenes, along with quite a few in-game cinematics featuring animated characters and solid voiceover that will help convey the dramatic tension of your quest.

We got to take a look at a new level in which a number of the game's freedom fighters are battling against the monstrous forces of the warlord who's wrested control of the kingdom. This level took place in a blasted-looking trench filled with enemies, and as the player fought northward through the horde, a number of off-screen siege weapons were hurling burning projectiles into the player character's path. In our last look at the game, we saw helpless artificial intelligence characters that accompanied the player through the introductory sequence of the game. This new level featured more AI-controlled allies--but luckily, this time they were armed and ready to do battle alongside us. We only got to see a few minutes of this new mission, but apparently later on you'll be able to take on and destroy the siege weapons that have made your life so difficult.

In our own playtime with the early sections of The Warrior's Code, we've found the gameplay changes to contribute to a generally more cohesive feel. The new equipment menus don't make you drag and drop your equipment to fit onto a grid, they merely have a sequence of slots that are easier to browse. Some minor changes have been made to your equipment setup as well. For instance, passive buffs are no longer on your spell tree, so you won't have to waste valuable talent upgrade points on them and can focus on purchasing offensive spells instead. The passive effects have been moved to the "runes" screen--you can equip two runes at a time to get two different effects, though once you remove one, it's lost forever. Hopefully the various minor tweaks to the game's equipment mechanics will make it a more cohesive experience overall.

At any rate, The Warrior's Code still delivers the sort of button-hammering, dungeon-crawling action that fans of this sort of game have come to expect. SOE has fortunately added a good bit more variety to the combat with each character class's optional beast form, not to mention charge attacks, counters, and the like. Untold Legends: The Warrior's Code is now due out in March, so stay tuned for more before then.

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