Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade Cooperative Multiplayer Hands-On
We take the Wi-Fi mode of SOE's new handheld dungeon crawler for a spin, along with some backup.
SAN FRANCISCO--The Game Developer's Conference is in town, and Sony Online Entertainment isn't wasting the fact that an assembled industry crowd is present. As a result, its using the opportunity to show off a near-final version of Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, its upcoming dungeon-crawling action role-playing game for the PlayStation Portable. We've gotten a look at the game's single-player portion previously, and today we got to go hands-on with the game's Wi-Fi cooperative mode to see how the gameplay has shaped up for multiple people.
If you've played any number of past PS2-based dungeon crawls, such as Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath, you'll feel right at home in Untold Legends. You roam around a wide assortment of varied environments, using spells and weapons to singe and slash hordes of gruesome creatures. Gold and new equipment frequently drop from slain monsters and treasure chests, which you'll pick up on the fly as you attempt to complete various quests. As you gain experience and level up, you'll distribute points to your basic attributes, like strength, dexterity, and intelligence, and you'll be able to unlock new skills from a skill tree that varies depending on which of the four classes--knight, berserker, druid, or alchemist--you've chosen to use.
Sounds fairly standard, right? Now imagine it with three other players fighting alongside you, and then imagine there are no wires connected to your PSP whatsoever. Yep, none! Wireless multiplayer really is grand. We hacked our way through a fortress overrun with spiders and found that the extra backup came in awfully handy when we were fighting a whole bunch of the buggers at one time. SOE has made some noteworthy tweaks to the co-op experience to make it smoother for everyone involved. There's a minimap with color-coded indicators that show where everyone is at all times, so it's always easy to catch up if you're left behind. You can see everyone's life and mana bars onscreen at all times, and a player's bar will show an indicator when they're accessing their inventory screen so you'll know they aren't actively controlling their character.
The host of a co-op game determines which section of the game's sprawling storyline the joining players will take part in, but all involved players will reap the benefits of questing together in terms of accumulated experience and gear. Joining a game was as simple as creating a new character and then having the PSP search for available Wi-Fi games in the area. Of course, you'll be able to bring your existing characters into multiplayer games as well, and, in fact, that will be the best way to level up to prepare for the challenges in the single-player storyline. The game adjusts difficulty based on level, though, tweaking monster powers and dropped gear according to the strength of your character. So it should always remain challenging no matter how much you progress.
We also got to check out some previously unseen single-player portions of Untold Legends, which is looking quite impressive on the upcoming handheld. The randomly generated dungeons that we saw had uniquely exotic looks to them, with nice use of color and special effects that helped bring them to life. The game's monsters are also striking. One creepy giant spider boss was literally almost the size of the screen, for instance; it would dart up over the edge of a cliff and strike at the player before retreating into the darkness. If you've seen previous media of the game that led you to believe the camera might be locked in a close-up position, worry no more: We confirmed that a zoom feature is available to let you pull the viewpoint out to roughly the height used in similar games.
Untold Legends looks like it will pack a serious amount of content into its lengthy quest, with well more than 100 levels on offer, along with randomized dungeons and randomly assigned enemy artificial intelligence. The four playable classes are also quite distinct, with some focusing on melee attacks while others use ranged ones. The druid and alchemist can even summon pets to help them during battle. Untold Legends is just about complete at this point, and SOE says it will be available alongside the PSP on March 24. Stay tuned for a full review soon.
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