Untold Legends: The Warrior's Code First Look
Sony Online is enhancing the graphics and mechanics of its original PSP dungeon crawl in a big way.
Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade was one of the deeper games available at the PSP's launch last spring. The game offered a solid action/role-playing dungeon crawl similar to what we've seen on big consoles with franchises like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath. Of course, it included some nice PSP-specific features as well. Now Sony Online Entertainment is crafting the sequel, The Warrior's Code, and it looks as though the developer has put serious thought into improving just about every conceivable aspect of the original game.
You'll notice the enhancements to the Untold Legends formula as soon as you go to create a new character. Five classes are available this time around (compared to the original game's four), all of which are new to this installment. The guardian is the heavy bruiser who specializes in melee attacks and area-of-effect spells; the mercenary balances light melee abilities with healing and debuffing spells; the disciple is the token magic user who's weak in physical combat but has numerous attack spells at his disposal; the scout is a fast-moving ranged attacker; and the prowler is a martial-arts-style character who darts in to perform fast melee attacks and then retreats from danger.
The customization options have been enhanced since the first game, too. You've now got 48 skin tones, a number of hairstyles, and a massive range of hair colors to choose from. While the general look of the Untold Legends world has remained consistent, the artists have gone for a more exaggerated, stylized design for the characters, giving the game a more unique appearance than you might expect from a game of the swords-and-sorcery ilk. Even the user interface has been dressed up and will change themes depending on which character you're using.
All the available characters hail from a changeling race that's persecuted in the Untold Legends world, and you'll be able to use your shape-shifting ability to briefly turn into a powerful monster that has enhanced hit points, armor, and damage-dealing capabilities. You won't be able to abuse this beast form, however, since you can only change forms after collecting enough "essence," which is dropped by some monsters.
Even when you're not rampaging as a beast, you'll have a number of new attack options in The Warrior's Code. For one, each class will have charge attacks that can be accessed when you get a quick opening in battle. More interesting are what SOE refers to as "attacks of opportunity." As you fight an enemy, it will occasionally make an error of some kind and then drop its defenses. For instance, a foe with a large hammer may lose control of its weapon for a moment. During its recovery time you'll be able to build up your attack of opportunity through three charge levels, with the level you attain before you release your attack determining its effect. Possible outcomes include an evade maneuver that will get you out of danger or a jumping attack that delivers more damage than your regular attacks.
You'll find a revised item screen this time around, which is more console-oriented and dispels the pseudo-mouse cursor seen in the original Untold Legends. The designers have also consolidated the magic spell hierarchy, such that there are now 12 spell categories for each character class, and none of them are dependent on one another. In other words, you can access any type of magic without having to sink upgrade points into other categories first, though multiple advancement levels will still be available within each category.
The gameplay isn't the only thing that's been revised in The Warrior's Code. SOE has made technical improvements across the board as well, resulting in what looks to be a noticeably improved experience. The graphics engine has been considerably enhanced, with features like more-lavish particle systems and dynamic lighting across all characters. The developers have even managed to add a third level of zoom, giving you a bird's-eye view of the action with no hit to the frame rate. The synthesized music from the first game has given way to a real digital soundtrack that's streamed from the game disc. Even the levels themselves are now streamed, letting the designers craft larger and more-detailed worlds. What's more, whereas the levels were randomly generated in the first game (and arguably lacked focus because of this), the maps in the sequel will all be created by human designers. As a result, they should offer a more intelligent and compelling path for you to follow.
Of course, no dungeon crawl is complete without a multiplayer mode, and The Warrior's Code will offer a bunch of ways to connect with your friends. You can play cooperatively with a friend in the story mode, similar to the way you did in the first game, and this sequel will also offer a new player-versus-player mode for up to four people. Game types for the PvP mode may even include such complex affairs as capture the flag, though specific details haven't been finalized. Whatever game type you choose, there will be plenty of ways to hook up with your friends. The game will support ad hoc (that is, local) wireless with other PSPs in the same room.
SOE says The Warrior's Code's story-driven single-player campaign will contain five acts, each of which has six main quests (and those will themselves have varying subquests). All told, there should be well more than 40 quests for you to undertake, and you'll be able to replay the game again--with your enhanced character--at a harder difficulty for extra challenge and replay value. It looks like The Warrior's Code will have plenty of substance, not to mention a raft of substantive improvements, for fans of Untold Legends. We'll bring you more details as the game's February 2006 release date approaches.
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