Consoles rarely launch with a role-playing game in tow. The massive amounts of time and money required to develop most RPGs make it difficult to schedule one for a console’s debut. Sony Computer Entertainment hoped to shatter expectations during the launch of PlayStation 3 with three, but with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion delayed until early 2007, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance available on other platforms, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom takes the mantle as the sole exclusive RPG on the new platform. Aside from being the only option for role-playing fans on PlayStation 3, there is little reason to play Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom. That is, unless you enjoy unpolished, unoriginal games.
Dark Kingdom follows the story of three warriors in their effort to restore peace in the Kingdom of Dureth. As members of the elite group the Dragon’s Shade, the trio is sent on a simple quest by the king to stop a barbarian invasion to the north. Upon succeeding in their quest, the warriors return home to discover the king possessed by dark magic. The king’s lust for power has led Dureth into ruins and its people into suffering. Upholding their pledge to protect the kingdom, the warriors begin a journey to destroy the king’s evil power and restore peace to Dureth. Like the PlayStation Portable titles, hack and slash action is the name of the game as you control one of the warriors through the adventure.
You’ll begin the game by selecting one of the three available characters: Golan Kor, a melee-oriented warrior; Malakesh, a mage; and Zala, a scout with both melee and magic aptitudes. Oddly enough, Dark Kingdom doesn’t allow you to create a custom character; even more, you can’t tweak the appearance or base attributes on the three preset characters. Considering that Champions of Norrath featured fully customizable characters on PlayStation 2, it is incredibly disappointing that Dark Kingdom at least doesn’t offer the same basic options. The game also fails to provide compelling upgrades for armor. You can purchase incremental upgrades at save points, but new armor isn’t always available. Even worse than the lack of worthwhile armor is a total lack of weaponry — you’re stuck with the weapon your character equips at the start of the game. One of the most enjoyable aspects of role-playing is playing with new armor and weapons, but Dark Kingdom skimps on even that element.
Beyond defeating enemies and collecting the resulting experience points, there is little in the way of role-playing to be found in Dark Kingdom. Minimal options are provided to develop your character within the game: two points are awarded when you level up for enhancing your attributes and one point is given for strengthening or unlocking abilities. All three characters have access to both melee attacks and magic, although each character specializes in one or the other. Unique abilities and spells are available to each character, which does vary things a bit. Ultimately though, the character development system is remarkably shallow; in fact, it is a step back from other games in the genre that offer significantly more depth. More robust role-playing elements are desperately needed here.
What Dark Kingdom has more than enough of is hack and slash action. The Untold Legends series was noted on PlayStation Portable for being a somewhat mindless role-playing romp and here on PlayStation 3 it bears the same quality. Tons of enemies will attempt to overrun your character and it’s somewhat satisfying to beat them back. Light attacks are triggered with the X button, whereas heavier blows can be done with square. The game actually rewards careful combinations of the two; more specifically, combination attacks are surprisingly varied and effective making it worthwhile to not just button mash.
Dark Kingdom doesn’t suffer from one fatal flaw; rather, it’s marred by many small problems that make playing more annoying than enjoyable. One example is the save system that requires waiting for the game to save the area checkpoint before allowing you to save to the hard drive. The result is about five to ten seconds of wasted time while you wait for the opportunity to save. Another quirk is the jumping mechanics. The game has trouble whenever you try jumping besides an object; instead of being directly in front of the platform you need to jump onto, you have to back away, jump, and then control the direction of your jump using the left analog stick. Other issues include considerable clipping throughout the game, as well as jarring animations that occasionally freeze. Perhaps the most annoying flaw is how frequently your character will get stuck on walls and other objects. You literally can get stuck by simply walking along a wall. Clearly, Dark Kingdom was rushed as it possesses so many flaws that should have easily been fixed.
Visually, Dark Kingdom is nice, but you’ll often have a difficult time getting a good view due to the erratic camera. The game affords full control of the camera via the right analog stick and yet, Dark Kingdom possesses one of the twitchiest cameras in recent memory. The slightest movement of your character can send the camera twirling. In open spaces, it’s tolerable; when in enclosed areas, it’s insufferable. Since objects do not become transparent when in the foreground, your view is often obstructed. This naturally causes problems when fighting off enemies and you can’t exactly see what’s going on. Add the occasional drop in framerate and Dark Kingdom serves up a bitter mix of unpolished programming characteristic of a rushed console launch title.
Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom suffers from myriad flaws that make it painfully clear that it was rushed for the launch of PlayStation 3. If you can put aside the game’s glaring faults, you’ll get a lot of pleasure out of the action. But only a genre fan will appreciate the hack-and-slash gameplay Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom offers, as it is nothing remarkable and plagued with too many simple mistakes.
- Overall: 6
- It does one thing right: it has a ton of hack-and-slash action. Beyond that, it doesn’t have many redeeming features. A long list of small bugs, weak role-playing elements and an atrocious camera prevent it from being a worthy purchase.
— Tracy Erickson