Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is the latest entry in the dungeon crawling series of action RPGs, and marks the first time the series has appeared on a home console. Being one of the PlayStation 3's first RPGs you might expect it to dazzle with next-gen shine and wow with some well tested combat-focussed gameplay, but it falls someway short of expectations. Dark Kingdom is a middling RPG with average visuals and a severe lack of originality.
Being an action RPG the storyline is less significant than you'd see in a Japanese-developed title, but the basic premise is that of a growing evil in the land, which you unsurprisingly must defeat. It's not going to win any awards, and most of the cutscenes feature badly animated in-game characters that move without any of the fluidity we've come to expect from this new generation of games.
You can take on this evil force as one of three characters, each filling the role of warrior, scout and mage respectively, although differences aren't as great as you might imagine. Each has a range of attacks, combos, magic attacks, dodge and block moves, and can level up their attacks by earning experience points. Gems can also be used to give your character special abilities, though you are limited to how many you can use at any one time.
It's all pretty bog standard stuff, with most of the game simply tasking you with beating wave after wave of generic fantasy RPG enemies. The opening is uninspiring and sadly the game does little to pull itself out of this gloomy beginning, with monotony soon setting in. A few puzzles will be encountered along the way, but they're not frequent enough, with endless hacking and slashing being all you'll do for lengthy sections of gameplay.
A second player can hop in at any point to assist, but this co-op play does little to improve the experience as there's nothing all that cooperative about the gameplay. Online play is also included, and this lets four players adventure together. This too seems more like a token gesture than a must-play game mode, especially as your online progress is totally separate to your offline game - you can't start offline and then move that game into the online space.
To make matters worse, this next-gen RPG is severely underwhelming on the visual front. While there's some nice bump mapping and some decently modelled character and enemy models, the whole game looks and feels sterile, with the levels so dull that they could have been auto generated. There's a distinctly PS2 feel to it all, especially when the game struggles to hold a steady frame rate. The 18-month-old Kameo on the Xbox 360 looks leagues ahead of this dismal effort.
Fans of rousing orchestral scores are in luck, but the repetitive and downright annoying groans of your character during battle are more than enough to have you heading to the sound options menu. Within five minutes I was fed up of the warrior's grunts, and the other characters aren't much better. Despite the inclusion of Xfire for online communication, there's no voice support, which makes online games feel rather lonely.
Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom could have got away with some of its shortcomings had it not been on a next-gen console that arrived over a year after its main rival. With so many more polished next-gen games on offer, this effort from Sony Online Entertainment will do little to ease the pains of a summer PS3 game drought, with even those desperate enough to buy anything recommended to at least wait for the inevitable bargain bin sale.