When I reviewed the first Untold Legends game a year ago, I commented that the hack-and-slash dungeon-crawl genre hadn't advanced very much since its inception. Therefore, I was surprised at how widely Sony Online missed the mark with their game, given that the basic "successful" formula has remained unchanged for years. Although the newest installment in this series, The Warrior's Code, improves upon the rampant boredom and series of errors the first title committed, the positive gains are only incremental.
Fans of Diablo, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath know what to expect. Players can select one of five new classes (I picked the busty Mercenary), tweak a few options like skin tone and hairstyle, and then sally forth into dungeons using a top-down view. Naturally, the goal is to kill everything that moves, pick up gold and items along the way, and repeat until credits roll.
The Warrior's Code starts as smoothly as its predecessor did, with ample prompts(and an improved series of menus keeping everything simple and clear. In terms of streamlining gameplay, the developers wisely implemented an option that let me return to any area that I had already been to without needing to physically walk from point A to point B. Doing so was one of the biggest gripes I had previously, and I'm glad that it was corrected.
Other new additions include the ability to transform my hero into a were-beast, as well as something called an "attack of opportunity." Although I do think the idea of being a shape shifter is interesting, it's of little consequence here. Changing into a monster does not provide any spectacular abilities or giant leaps in strength or toughness, and comes off as more of a novelty than anything.
The "attacks of opportunity" are special strikes that can be delivered when an enemy is incapacitated (when a rifleman is reloading his weapon, for example). Again, this is an interesting idea that initially appears to give depth to the combat, yet fails to do so. The openings where these attacks can be applied are very few and far-between, and are practically impossible to pull off when fighting off a horde of advancing enemies— it's much easier (and safer) to simply keep mashing the attack button and keep on wading through.
Besides these small additions, there isn't much to differentiate this title from the last one, and the last one wasn't very good.
I've played a number of dungeon-crawlers, and one of the highlights for me is always the excitement of finding a new and exotic weapon, or a really ridiculous-looking piece of armor. In this aspect, Sony Online again completely drops the ball by failing to include enough variety or differentiation in the equipment. After switching through several different pieces, there was so little graphical difference between them that the only way to tell them apart was by their stats. Palette swaps don't excite me, and the ability to tell weapons apart is one area that absolutely needs a complete and total overhaul if this game is ever going to be looked at as a serious contender in the genre.
Additionally, it's true that these types of games are known for being fairly repetitious, but The Warrior's Code is worse than most. The game's story is wafer-thin and doesn't provide any motivation keep moving forward. The level design is numbingly poor, with architecture that fails to capture the feeling of being in an eerie or fantastic world. Many areas might as well be open fields due to the lack of interesting things happening and the lack of incentive to explore. There are no real highs or lows during play, and after the first few levels, playing the rest of the game felt like I was putting in hours at some desk job.
After the first Untold Legends and now its sequel, it's obvious that Sony Online just doesn't get it when it comes to what makes this genre click. It makes no sense that a title coming years after games like Diablo or Dark Alliance can fail to build upon the milestones that are already established. The Warrior's Code is a long slog that's guaranteed to kill some free time—and may even entertain newcomers to the genre—but there isn't anything rewarding or enjoyable about it. It stands out due to the fact that there's so little competition on the PSP, but there isn't anything to recommend it for players with other options.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
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