Like many other franchises of late, the Prince of Persia brand has been given somewhat of a new direction.
What one tends to forget is that this isn’t nearly the first time. The latest generation of titles in the Prince of Persia (POP) franchise were greeted with open arms by many gamers and enjoyed very decent success, so much so that many gamers often forget that they too were a refresher of the original 2 colour legend ( we do not speak of that other “3D” one that was released a couple years back).
Ubisoft have set out to once again breathe new life into the franchise in the same way that Sands of Time did a couple of years back.
Is it a giant leap in the right direction or are the guys at Ubisoft going to wish they had the ability to reverse time and do it all over again?
The new Prince of Persia starts from scratch and has nothing to do with the Sands of Time series, the story is new, the characters are new and with the obvious exception of Persia, the setting is new as well.
The game kicks off with our unlikely hero (not actually a prince this time around) getting himself lost in the desert whilst looking for Farah. Sands of Time enthusiasts will assume that Farah is the same Farah from the previous titles, although in a humorous twist, turns out to be the name of his donkey which happens to be packed full of treasures that he had happened to “find”.
The hero stumbles (literally) upon a whole lot more than he bargained for however when he meets a princess named Elika who is being chased and lands up getting himself into a right old mess that involves a god that is about to be loosed upon the world and bring about it’s destruction.
He joins forces with the princess (who happens to have magical abilities) as they make their way through a giant city and a temple designed to imprison the evil god Ahriman, healing the lands of his corruption and battling his henchmen so that they can imprison him once again.
Hop, skip and jump
Prince of Persia takes place in a large open world, which in this case is the aforementioned city. Due to the destruction caused over the years, the city has become rather difficult to navigate, meaning that some acrobatic skills (and indeed the bread and butter of the POP series) will be required.
The gameplay is split into two core elements, traveling and fighting. Your aim in the game is to get to the fertile grounds of each area of the city, defeat the horrible follower of Ahriman that is protecting it and the heal it using Elika’s magical abilities. When you first enter an area, it is completely taken over by Ahriman’s “corruption”. Once healed the area will return to it’s original beauty, also presenting you with light orbs that need to be collected in order to unlock magical abilities that give you access to new areas.
To navigate the city, you will need to learn to run along walls, swing on poles, make quick dashes between cracks on walls and even make use of a few magical plates that give you the ability to go places that are usually out of reach.
This is usually when the problems begin. Titles like Mirror’s Edge brought about complaints because the acrobatics required too much skill, games like Assassin’s Creed however got a lot of flak because the game did too much of the work for you.
Prince of Persia has found the sweet spot.
Maneuvers are easy to do but still require enough input from the player to keep things rolling. This really shows itself the best when there are moments in the game that require you to travel across hundreds of meters, without your feet ever really touching the ground. Once you start pulling off long distances by combining all of the moves, you really get a sense of the excitement that is to be had by stringing together so many different acts of agility.
As mentioned previously, the princess (Elika) has recently gained the ability to use magic. This magic comes in pretty handy and is used as a way to get around as well as a rather obvious excuse to tame the game’s difficulty.
If you make a mistake the princess will use her magic to grab you and bring you back to the starting point of the acrobatic combination, which is usually only a few meters behind, allowing you to try again. I wanted to complain about this when I first started playing the game because it felt like it was holding my hand way too much, but i will get back to this point in a bit.
Fighting is an entirely different element and always takes place in specific areas. The idea behind the fighting sections is that you and Elika need to work together to defeat the opponent. It seems that the developers wanted to push a co-operative fighting style that works in the same vein as the incredible combat sequences seen in Final Fantasy: Advent Children, with characters helping each other to achieve incredible feats in an awe-inspiring airborne dance.
The good news is that they got it right. The controls are also incredibly easy to learn, with each face button being assigned to different attacks such as the sword, magic, acrobatics or the princes gauntlet. The real magic happens when you learn how to combine the different attacks together, unleashing magnificent combo’s that not only feel great to do but are an absolute treat to the eyes as well.
Hold my hand
Now back to the point I made about the game holding your hand too much. You see, in the fighting sections, just as in the traveling sections, you cannot die, you only have to try again. Get knocked down in a fight and you will have a single button quicktime event pop up to save yourself and even if you get that wrong, Elika will save you with her magic, with the only penalty being that the enemy gains health back.
Now as I said earlier, when I realised that I couldn’t die, I wanted to complain. How could Ubisoft honestly create a game where you cannot die. The truth is that I only had to keep playing the game a little longer to realise that it wasn’t done just to appeal to a more casual market, it actually helps the game constantly flow, not only that but it works together with the gameplay mechanics that the developers intended. You will feel free to experiment with combat combos and have the chance to toy with the acrobatics as you traverse the great city with graceful and death defying moves.
At the end of the day, the flow of the game and the relaxed gameplay meant that I could pop it in and enjoy it whenever I wanted, sometimes for 15 minutes and sometimes for hours at a time. In a world of challenges and frustrations and as much as I love having games challenge me, it was really great to have a game that I could just sit back and enjoy.
It was also with this that I realised that Prince of Persia takes a very different approach to the way that games are designed. To be honest, I think that this is the first time I have ever said what I am about to say about the characters in a game, but the two lead characters actually have chemistry on screen, much like you would expect from a Hollywood film. They work well together and the relationship that grows between them throughout the game is genuinely intriguing.
The Prince’s Package
All of this comes wrapped in a most spectacular package. The developers opted to go for a cell-shaded, yet still very detailed graphics style that ends up not only looking gorgeous in all it’s HD glory but runs at a completely smooth framerate as well. The landscapes are massive, the architecture is beautiful and the visual effects are magical.
What’s more impressive is that the sound is as good if not better than the visuals. The musical score is worthy of a big budget Hollywood film, the sound effects are crisp and powerful and the voice acting felt genuine and unforced.
When all was said and done I realised that I pretty much had nothing but good memories about the experience. Sure there are a few little issues here and there but there is nothing that gets in the way of a game that oozes of style and quality. Add that to the fact that the campaign will take you between 10 and 14 hours and you have yourself a winner.
Believe it or not, reviewing games can sometimes feel like somewhat of a chore, with Prince of Persia I took every chance I could get to play it, not because I had a deadline to meet but because I was enjoying every second, and that should say more than enough.
Gameplay: 9.5/10 – Perfect controls and great gameplay mechanics
Presentation: 9.5/10 – Top notch all the way, from menus to visuals
Sound: 9/10 – Like a Hollywood movie
Value: 8/10 – No multiplayer but a lengthy campaign that you may even play twice
Overall: 9.5/10 – A perfect example of how to create a game that reeks of quality and is enjoyable for just about everyone.
Last Updated: December 17, 2008