Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom Preview
One of the many PlayStation 3 titles on display here at the Electronic Entertainment Expo is Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a hack-and-slash game from Sony Online Entertainment (makers of Everquest). Although the game is still early in development, it's looking much better than those ugly screenshots that were leaked a few months ago.
Niraj Desai, animator and artist for the game, walked me through a brief demo, which featured a pair of villages connected by a twisty dirt road. An opening scene shows a warrior in one village being attacked by a giant ogre from the other village. The ogre takes off with the warrior in pursuit. In this demo, the player is supposed to follow the ogre back to his village and retaliate. That dirt road snakes through a good length of forest, though, and many smaller battles ensue.
Gameplay doesn't appear to break any new ground for the genre. In the 15 minutes or so that it took to complete the demo, I battled numerous generic enemies of the ilk of skeletons, magicians, and trolls. Pressing the square and X buttons let me produce various attacks, which can be chained together to form combinations. Mana attacks can be produced by holding L1 while pressing an attack button. The only new concept I noticed was the ability to pick up objects in the environment and use them as weapons or footholds. I tossed boulders at skeletons, shattering their bones every which way. I kicked a large boulder down a hill, after which it smashed through the wooden door to the ogre's village. There's also one spot where I was able to push a box next to a wall in order to climb over it. Desai says that they're putting numerous context-sensitive puzzles like that into the final game.
Three character classes will be available--warrior, scout, and magician. Like most hack-and-slash games, players will be able to outfit their characters with weapons and clothing picked up in the environment. In addition to a lengthy single-player campaign, there will be extensive multiplayer options, including offline co-op and online group play. They haven't decided on a maximum of how many players will be able to participate in online modes, but I was told to expect at least 4 and perhaps as many as 16.
Of course, the six-million dollar question is, "how does it look."
Not as bad as those screens from February would suggest.
When those early screenshots were leaked, everyone shuddered at how simple and "ugly" the game looked. Seeing it in motion, I can tell that, indeed, those were very early images. The graphics in the E3 build are high-resolution and glossy, like a PlayStation 3 game should look. I stopped near a cluster of trees and noticed the sun was shining through them, and I could actually watch the dust floating in the sunbeams. In spots, blades of tall grass are rendered individually, such that they parted and swayed when my warrior walked through them. One thing I enjoyed was how killing a skeleton caused its bones to shatter and fall to the ground. That's quite fun to watch when you waste three or four of them at once.
Fans of ragdoll physics will perk up to learn that the game employs the Havoc Physics Engine. Enemies fly through the air when attacked, and they bounce a bit when tossed to the ground. When something explodes, the tiny bits erupt everywhere.
Some visual aspects did look a bit rough. Anti-aliasing hasn't been implemented yet, certain textures are low-resolution, and enemies need to be re-rendered with more polygons (so their muscles look rounded instead of triangular). Also, the E3 demo is being displayed at 720p resolution, whereas the final game will be able to push 1080i and 1080p (roughly twice the pixels). On the whole, the graphics are about as far along as is to be expected.
Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is scheduled to ship when the PlayStation 3 launches in November. We'll bring you more coverage of the game when the game is further along in the development cycle.
5/10/2006 Frank Provo