Prince of Persia was a highly successful trilogy on the PS2. Although the story did wrap up in the last installment, Ubisoft has done an overhaul to this successful franchise. No longer will you have the ability to pause or rewind time, and there isn’t even a mention of the Sands of Time. And to top it off, even the girl is entirely new. So was this new direction a good thing for Ubisoft? Or should they have left this beloved franchise alone?
The story is all new this time around, with the Prince acting more the part of a thief than royalty. He is walking through the desert after getting lost in a sandstorm, calling for Farah. And no, Farah is not the girl from the previous games. This time around, she’s your donkey, and she is loaded with stolen gold.
As it turns out, this was actually a magical sandstorm that transports you to a whole new world. Once in this new land, you run into Elika, who is a beautiful barefoot descendant of a clan who has sworn to guard the prison of the evil god Ahriman. She’s in trouble and running from the guards when you meet her. And, with your character inadvertently ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time, the guards think you kidnapped Elika and are determined to kill you for doing so.
Now you must chase after the girl and fight off the troops. Upon escaping the guards you end up back at the temple, just in time to witness Elika’s father freeing Ahriman from the Tree of Life. Although not fully released yet, he has caused corruption across the four areas of the world, and will spread further if not stopped. It is up to the Prince’s combat and platforming skills and Elika’s magic to stop Ahriman and clear the world of corruption.
The gameplay is very similar to past Prince of Persia titles, as there are plenty of platforming sections and enemies to fight against. Platforming has been majorly simplified; the prince is controlled with the left stick and the camera with the right. He is in a constant state of sprinting, so simply run to the edge of a surface/platform and press X to leap to the next area. You will be climbing pillars, swinging from flag polls, and traversing with little effort since these actions are accomplished by pushing the right analog stick towards the object you want to jump to, and pressing X.
Besides solely using X to jump, you will encounter the occasional ring that will swing you around corners by pressing circle. On the occasions you encounter a large gap, Elika will be there to assist you. When you jump tap triangle in mid-air, and she will swoop in and help swing you across the gap. This may sound a little easy, but the developers wanted to make platforming as kinetic as possible in this game. They definitely succeeded.
In addition to the basic platforming, you will also need the help of magic plates. These can only be activated when you get the required number of light seeds (more on those in a bit). There are four different plates you will need to activate to reach all of the sacred grounds. These really add a new depth to the platforming that otherwise may have eventually become stale.
When it comes to the battle system, don’t expect to be fighting off hordes of enemies every single moment. Instead of taking the traditional route and upping the enemy counts, the developers decided to make battles more intimate by going one-on-one with a single enemy. Despite the downsized enemy encounters this time around, you will be facing a couple of different bosses. Each of the four regions has a boss protecting it, and you’ll need to face off against each boss a total of six times each. You will need a different strategy with each boss as well, since every encounter becomes increasingly more difficult.
The combat this time around is pretty easy. In fact, a well timed combo can take out an enemy without them ever throwing a single punch. When you encounter an enemy, you will have four different attacks at your disposal. Each face button does something different, with the triangle button using Elika’s magic. The combat, when timed correctly, is a sight to behold. The incredible smoothness of each attack showcases the graceful movements between Elika and the Prince.
This time around you will not be able to control time, so when you fall you will be relying on Elika to swoop in and place you back at the beginning of the platforming section. She will also do the same if you take on too much damage during enemy encounters. Though she does have the ability to pull you to safety, the downside is that your enemy will regain most of their life. It’s a good fail safe system, but don’t rely on it too often.
As mentioned above, one of your goals is to collect light seeds. Once you have reached the sacred ground and have purified the land, there will be 45 light seeds scattered throughout each area. Most are easy to find, but some are hidden extremely well. Now you do not need to collect them all, so don’t worry. Only 500~600 out of 1000 is the requirement to unlock every power-up. This was a nice way to extend the game play and really appreciate the level of detail within each area. If you end up collecting all 1000 light seeds, you will have explored every nook and cranny of this gorgeous game.
Which reminds me, the visuals for this game are absolutely mind-blowing. The developers did not go for the ultra realistic look, but the cell-shaded painterly look is very effective and taken full advantage of. Despite a lack of acknowledgment from other media outlets, this really was one of the best looking games of 2008. From the characters to the landscape, everything was done so well that it’s fun to just pan the camera and ogle the gorgeous landscape.
The sound also was very well done, from the scraping as you slide down a cliff to environmental cues from corrupted and purified states, everything stands out. Despite being an epic journey, the developers made the wise decision of including a lot of little entertaining conversations between the Prince and Elika. I enjoyed the voice acting, as it really brought the characters to life.
There really is not a whole lot to complain about with this game. Some people may say it’s too easy since it’s impossible to die within the game. But the fact that there is a penalty system in place means that the developers simply avoided the annoying “Game Over” screen and put in a dynamic checkpoint system instead. If you fall and Elika saves you, you have to restart the entire area, and if you’re saved from an enemy they will regain most of their life. It can be an easy game to play, but requires caution.
Although there has been a ton of changes from the previous games in the series, this is still an excellent game. Though it doesn’t do anything too impressive from a narrative point of view, the high quality visuals, top-notch animations, and intimate battle system makes this a must-own title, whether you’re a fan of the series or not.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
The narrative works, but could’ve been better.
Incredibly fluid animation enhances the combat and exploration.