The Sands of Time, the Warrior Within and the Two Thrones were some of favorite games on my PS2, especially the Sands of Time. The fantastic controls, the platforming, the sweaty palms as I guided the Prince past buzzsaw traps and rolling logs with spikes…all of it made for a fantastic gaming experience.
So with great excitement, I started on this latest adventure. First thing to note is that this is not a sequel or a prequel or anything like that. It is a reboot, no characters return except the Prince (who isn’t even a prince now) and Farah (who is now a donkey). This kind of thing never really bothers me, so I can’t blame the developers for wanting to start fresh on a new console.
When you start playing, the first thing you will notice are the amazing graphics. And they are stunning, looking like a watercolor painting come to life. These are the types of next-gen graphics that I want to see. I don’t care how realistic you can make someone look, I want to see the fantastic come to life and Prince of Persia does not fail in that regard.
The story of the game is not very complex: the Prince is looking for his donkey when he stumbles upon Elika, a princess being chased by some guards. One thing leads to another and soon Ahriman, a dark god is unleashed on the land and it’s up to the Prince and Elika to save it. Other than a few optional conversations and a cut scene after you cleanse each land, there is nothing else going on here.
Elika is the biggest change to the game series. She is an AI sidekick who never falls behind, but doesn’t do any fighting unless you press a button for her to attack, which you can chain as a combo with your own attacks. Elika’s main function, though, is to replace the Sands of Time feature from the previous games.
Before, when you failed a jump, you hit the Rewind button and tried again. Here, there is no need, as Elika simply grabs you and puts you back on solid ground. When you die in combat, she simply revives you and the battle starts up again. This means it is literally impossible to die in this game
I have mixed feelings about this. It is nice to save time and not have to reload your game when you die, but it also takes away any sense of trepidation. In the old games, I would carefully plan out my jumps so as not to die. In this game, there is no punishment for failure, not even a loading screen, so I am kind of careless when I play now. If I fall, who cares? It’s like playing on God Mode from the start and when you play a game using God Mode, you get careless and lackluster when you play.
The other thing that really grinds my gears is that the platforming element, long the strongest part of the series, has been reduced to Quick Time Events, a la God of War. In the old game, you had to hold the R1 button to wall run and release it and hit X to jump at the right time. Hold it too long or not long enough and you die. In this game, you just hit X to run and X again.
For example, in one scene the Prince was on top of a pillar: I hit X, O, O and X and he crawled from the top of the pillar to a ring at the top of the ceiling, grabbed it and went to the next ring jumped off onto the ground. All that and I felt like I was barely doing anything. For whatever reason, the controls have been dumbed down severely and I don’t really care for it. Also, the platforming just doesn’t make my heart race like the old games. Is that because of poor design or because I know Elika is there to save my indifferent ass? Impossible to say.
The flow of the game is simple and too repetitive. You travel to a new area, beat ONE enemy, restore the land, collect Light Seeds in that area, rinse and repeat. Once you have enough Light Seeds, you use them to get a new power plate, which allows you to reach new areas so you can do it all again. No new weapons, combos or anything, just a different colored plate that allows you to get somewhere new. It doesn’t do much for me, as I have to force myself along.
One word about the voice acting: it’s fantastic, but they use the same actor for the Prince as was used for Nathan Drake in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. The guy is terrific, but since Drake was a new character and I really associate his voice with Drake, having the Prince’s voice acted by the same guy is a little off putting. Makes me want to play Uncharted more than anything else.
It’s funny that when I started writing this review, I planned on giving the game a B-, but after writing it and looking back over my experiences playing it, I can’t justify that kind of score.
Is the Prince of Persia a fun game? Yes, for a while until the blemishes are all you can think about. I liked it, but I really feel like it is a step backwards for the series. Other than the graphics, there is nothing here that is done better than was done on the previous generation, which is a shame because the Prince deserves so much better. And so do we.
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