While Nintendo DS owners have been enjoying (free) online gaming for a fair few months with Mario Kart, the PSP has yet to obtain its killer wi-fi app. A funny thing really, seeing as Sony were the ones boasting about the major network opportunity of their handheld over Nintendo's Dual Screen wonder in the first place. Even the first Untold Legends (Brotherhood of the Blade) seemed to go largely unnoticed, so Sony Online Entertainment is having another go with The Warrior's Code. We managed to snap up a preview copy from Ubisoft, which is distributing the game under license, to see if it is indeed up to snuff.
And it's shaping up well - we played the first few areas and found the beginnings of a solid game here. For the uninitiated, Untold Legends is a handheld MMORPG, and in true MMORPG style, the story is just about of little interest. It all revolves around some land that was once peaceful, some ugly undead dude invading and conquering said land, and your job as part of un underground rebellion thing to overthrow this rather nasty chap. Yeah yeah yeah, heard it all before in about a million RPGs - let's get to the making of our characters already!
Always the most time-consuming of menu screens, The Warrior's Code doesn't have that many options to fine-tune your polygonal alter-ego. This being a PSP though, the customisation is adequate, with five different character classes to choose from. We had a hard time choosing between the fat bulky disciple or the big bulky spartan dude, but at the end of the day the decision was to go for the Wolverine-like assassin and call him Chaffer. Despite his drained demeanour and emo-esque appearance, Chaffer enjoys fine wine, romantic walks on the beach and cuisine tailored for freaks with huge claws on their hands. You can go so far as to change the skin and hair colour of your character (as well as your hairstyle) but unfortunately you can't change the physical appearance too much - a shame as we really wanted to pick the burly gladiator dude, broaden his shoulders, give him a tiny head and call him Derek.
But it's Chaffer we're stuck with, and just before we do great battle with monsters, we're given the choice to kit up a set of statistics. As with any RPG, once you kill enough beasts, you gain a level, with your stats increasing each time. Instead, when you level up in this game, you earn stat points to use on four ability areas. Depending on your character type, two attributes will be highlighted in green, meaning these are your strong points. There are a huge assortment of items you can find in the levels that can artificially boost your attribute points as well, as long as you have them equipped.
Speaking of which, the levels are quite varied - the preview code took us through an underground sewer system, into a snowy mountain and inside sanctuaries. Your ability to do anything depends entirely on your battling skills, so we're told. X is your main attack button, while Square will sometimes comes up if you hack an enemy enough times to daze them - then you can deal an 'Attack of Opportunity' - basically, a combo button. Square is also used for actions like opening chests and doors. If you hold down X you can pull off a charged attack, and pressing the button while holding L will make you guard attacks. It's all very good, but for the most part you'll just be bashing that X button to do standard normal attacks until your opponent is dead. The R trigger uses healing potions (of which you will always have some, unless you're terribly stupid) and your health regenerates as you run around a bit, so there seems to be no risk in charging in and just wasting your foes at the expense of life force. It would have been good if Square was a secondary attack option or something, rather than having a somewhat trivial combo mode to it.