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Review: Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom

Posted Dec-09 2007 by ron, created under common review policies
For Playstation 3

Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is almost a myth amongst hack&slash action RPGs: it has three different character classes, and it allows, nay, requires the player fend off swarms of undead soldiers, crazed animals and demons.
But more importantly it's also one of those Playstation 3 launch titles. One of those games that, barely a year ago, were rated on the 0-6.5 scale of temporarily heightened discern, and were measured against the all-important yard-stick of single-handed 600€-system vindication. And while it has been quite extensively mocked, we can today take seldom pride in presenting you with what must be its third or fourth actual review.

A mage frying some skeletons

The red dots on the mini-map represent crazed, angry game reviewers that hopped on the wrong bus, and now, unable to find their way home, act all sleep-deprived, confused and aggressive. A good ole smackin' should help them get to sleep finally, and see things clearer tomorrow.

Dark Kingdom is an action RPG following most of the traditions laid down by the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions Of Norrath franchises that gained some popularity in the previous console generation.
The player controls one of three preset characters, to be selected at the beginning of the adventure, in a third-person perspective with a free camera. You will be following a completely linear journey through various areas of a kingdom that has been befallen by something not so pleasant, and, as these things go, that means you'll have to fight a whole lot of enemies along the way. Combat is clearly the focus of the game, but as this is also an RPG of sorts, defeating enemies nets you experience points. Gain enough points and your character grows stronger, and you also get a chance to extend their range of special abilities by selecting from a class-specific list.

A huge barbarian getting knocked off his feet by a specific combo

The basic attack moves can be chained into combos. The combos that you get by just mashing one button certainly have their place, but just about any other combination has something special about it to make it worthwhile in the right situations. This one here can send even larger enemies flying, completely removing them from combat for a few seconds.

Combat moves and special abilities, or spells, are all specific to the class you're playing. While the two basic attacks and the many combos they can form are all free to do, using an ability costs some of your limited mana points. Neither health nor these mana points regenerate in Dark Kingdom, but refills must rather be earned in combat: enemies regularly drop colored orbs that replenish what you have lost. Those are red and blue for health and mana, and there are also yellow orbs that give you "essence", the game's money. As has become customary in full-on action games, you don't have to directly touch these orbs to collect them, but they automatically home in on your character if you're nearby, which is quite convenient.
Embracing the way of the orb, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom completely got rid of potions, otherwise an action RPG staple.

A mana-absorbing attack

As an alternative way to quickly replenish lost health and mana, some combos, such as the one performed by our scout here, have absorption side-effects.

After having freed up the two shoulder buttons that you'd expect to be mapped to potion usage, Dark Kingdom reuses them for a bit more combat complexity: your character can jump, perform dodge-rolls (both of which can also lead into distinct attacks) or block. While blocking shields you from any harm while it lasts, the game takes measures to limit block duration. This limit is represented by a yellow bar under your character portrait (or above the heads of blocking enemies, because they can do it, too), and the bar shrinks a bit for each hit you are blocking, in accordance to the power of the attack. Once the bar is fully depleted, your block is ineffective and you must wait for it to slowly recharge.
This way blocks are not a cheap way out of harm's way, but a strategic resource that needs to be managed and saved for the right moments. One such right moment would be when facing off against certain larger enemies that have attacks that can knock your character off his or her feet.

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