Perhaps the strangest thing about fantasy games is how similar they are. Not that games in general have much to shout about in the imaginative backstory stakes, but fantasy games in particular seem to be stuck in the Tolkein-esque world of a hero rising to face the mysterious new threat. Considering both its full title, Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, and the history of developer Sony Online - the company behind sub-fantasy phenomenon EverQuest - maybe the surprise is this game isn't more archetypal.
At least in this tale of a hero rising to face the mysterious new threat of evil, you get some fun stuff to begin with. As is standard in role-playing games, the game starts with the player class choice. In this case there are four; warrior, druid, alchemist and berseker. Each have different attributes in terms of strength, magical power etc and as the game progresses and you level up you'll be able to allocate experience points to create a character that fits your fighting style; whether a mêlée-based knight or ranged weapon/magic alchemist. At the beginning you also get simple variations of hair and clothes before it's game on and you're button-bashing/slashing at some evil-looking spiders who are out to take over your home city of Aven.
But frankly it's very confusing. Later you'll work out that this city is your mission hub, with the handful of characters who are hanging around each able to offer you certain missions. These follow the typical split of major linear quests, which progress the storyline and open up new parts of the map, interspersed with sub-missions which are best thought of as experience-gaining events.
The main action itself occurs in randomly-generated dungeons. These repopulate every time you enter them, even to extent of sub-mission bosses, which can be useful in terms of quickly levelling up your character in the early parts of the game. And to be honest, as with all role-playing games, it's such gameplay which dominates, if not stifles Untold Legends. With the plot tettering on the edge of parody (or boredom) as you head out to kill the queen of spiders or save the city's beauty queen who's got captured (again), after a couple of hours there's very little enjoyment to be gained in hacking your way through another dungeon of nasties.
The main reason is the levelling up process itself just isn't fulfilling enough to sustain the whole game. For each new level, you get three attribute points to distribute among your strength, intelligence, dexterity and stamina ratings, which makes little noticeable difference. More interesting are the upgrades to the special ability tree, which enables treats such as summoning an attack golem or freezing your opponents. But by the time you're up to level 30, even the rewards in this aspect have become marginal. But perhaps the most disappointing element of the game is the inventory. There's the usual methods of picking up items from downed foes or buying from the city merchant but although there's a nice interface and plenty of choice - you can combine magical gems and items with armour and swords for different effects - there's just not enough variation or rare stuff to make any noticeable difference as you button-bash through another three level tower to take out another enemy general.
In contrast, the only area in which the game does provide plenty is sheer scale. With over 100 dungeons to be conquered, there's at least 40 hours to be played through - although it has to be said, even with teleports and mission hints, you can quickly get lost. And the load times, triggered as you travel between map areas and dungeon levels, are truly horrible.
But maybe we're being a little negative. Overall, this is a solid game, with excellent audio and visual particle effects. There's also a neat multiplayer mode, which lets three extra players join a hosted game, although the game is balanced to the highest player level and only the host can save their progress. But for most players, this is a game that's fun for about the first ten hours and then becomes progressively more painful until even masochists will be forced to stop short of completion.Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade is on sale now.