Our favorite royal acrobat is back in the latest installment in the Prince of Persia series. The relatively unsuccessful reboot of 2008 is all but forgotten by Ubisoft and this new game has been developed to fit in the critically acclaimed original trilogy, probably because of the release of the Sands of Time movie.Story
The narrative of the game is something called an “interquel,” as it comes right between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within from the original Prince of Persia trilogy. After the events of the first installment in the franchise, our Prince is sent by his father to his older brother, Malik, who rules his own kingdom. The idea is that Malik should teach the youngster how to become a good leader.
When the Prince arrives, he finds Malik's palace under attack by an invading army. Overwhelmed by the attackers, his brother makes a wrong choice and frees a magical army to help defend his kingdom. Of course, the Army of King Solomon, as it is called, was imprisoned for a good reason and now the Prince and Malik are forced to deal with another bigger problem, re-imprisoning it.
Honestly, I do not have too much good news from the story department, as it doesn't actually fit between the two titles, the characters aren't well developed and there is some amount of inconsistency as the events unfold. The dialogue is well written as always, but without a good narrative and three-dimensional characters, it just serves to deliver the thoughts of the Prince regarding his adventures and also as a hint system.
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|“Pull my finger!!” ||No more hallway for you, Prince |
There was potential for something greater, though. The writers could have developed the dynamic between Malik and the Prince better, as they are both faces of the same coin. Malik is rash, quick to anger, but deep, while the Princes is, thankfully, the same individual we know and love, that is uncertain of himself, a bit immature, but good-natured and always willing to do the right thing.
Despite the short length of the story, there is enough time to get to like the two brothers. It would have been quite nice to see more back-and-forth between them and some back story. I can't say the same thing about Razia, the magical being that gives the Prince the powers to face the Army. She is hands down the worst female lead in the Prince of Persia series, a boring and mediocre character altogether that does not compare with the relatively complex personalities of Kaileena or Farah.
A special mention is needed for the narrative introduction of the time slow mechanic, because it is poorly done. In all of the three titles in the original series, the Prince dealt with problems regarding various time traveling mishaps and it made sense in that context that he would have a certain amount of control over the flow of time. Here, on the other hand, it doesn't. The power to rewind the time before making a mistake is granted by Razia. The race she belongs to is the Djinn, having no connection whatsoever with the storyline from the first three iterations. It makes no sense then for the Prince to receive a power that was uniquely connected to the Dagger of Time, other than from a gameplay standpoint and this is a sing of lazy writing.
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|“This... is... PERSIA!!” ||A normal day in the life of the prince |
There are two main gameplay mechanics in the game: platforming and combat. Because of the short time they had to develop The Forgotten Sands, the developers concentrated on the hallmark of the franchise - the acrobatic sections. The combat is a pretty mediocre clone of what goes on in God of War, but functional enough not to annoy, even if it gets a bit boring in the end.
Wall running, jumping from pole to pole at a huge distance from the ground or avoiding obstacles like saw wheels and floor spikes is where the game really shines. The platforming sections are great, achieving a near perfect balance between streamlining and accessibility on the one side, and difficulty on the other. It is really easy to string acrobatic moves together and never stop for a second to take a breath. Not only that, but you never feel the game takes the control away from you to artificially maintain your series of jumps and wall runs, like the 2008 version of the game.
There are some elements that have been removed. You don't have to position the Prince in the direction he needs to jump while on a pole. There is no need to maintain the balance while on a beam anymore and no button press is necessary to glide down on a curtain with the sword. Despite the way this sounds, it did not feel like a simplification of the gameplay, but rather as a removal of unnecessary complications to the control of the Prince's movement.
A host of new powers has also been added to the mix with the aim of expanding the well-known acrobatic options. Besides the usual time-rewind mechanic, the Prince has access to three new abilities: he can freeze water, dash through the air in the direction of the enemy and bring back parts of buildings destroyed in the past.
The water freezing power is the clear star of the new addition, serving for some interesting twists to the familiar acrobatics of the first three games. Streams of water can be transformed into poles and columns that can help the Prince traverse the game's levels. This can be maintained for a limited amount of time, however, forcing the player to move quickly.
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|Malik ||A puzzle is upon us |
While the dash power would seem to mainly serve during combat, Ubisoft Montreal's designers decided to use it more for the jumps. One or two enemies are spawned right were you need to get, but can't jump directly to because of the distance so you use the dash to get to them. It feels very artificial and it is the only downside I can think of in the acrobatic gameplay of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.
The actions are decently mapped on the controller and you rarely feel overwhelmed by the number of buttons or triggers you need to press. There is one moment before the end when this can become a problem, but it's not too big of a deal. I played around with the PC version for a bit and would definitely recommend an Xbox 360 pad.
The combat is nothing extraordinary and comprised mainly of button mashing. The shielded enemies need to be kicked first, but that is it. The developers knew they wouldn't have enough time and decided to build something workable, if not revolutionary.Graphics and Audio
I think the best word that describes the graphics is adequate. While they don't really shine, I can't say there was a moment when I saw something really ugly. What stands out is some of the character work, with Malik's armor and Ratash deserving a special mention for the finer details.
The level design is for the main part nice and the architecture in some areas of the palace looks really beautiful. The old Djinn city, however, suffers from the disease that infects many games for the current generation of consoles: the universal use of the color brown. Those environments look really bland and boring and if it weren't for the great platforming in those sections, the score at the end of the review would have been lower.
The music is one of the elements that fit in nicely with the other games in the series and the sound effects are as they should be. Nothing is out of the ordinary, but nothing is great either, like in the case of many other elements comprising this title.
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|Hope his hands won't slip on the ice ||Frozen water walls won't stop the Prince |
I was happy to hear that Yuri Lowenthal would reprise his role as the Prince and I must say I am not disappointed. He has done a great job once again, giving the nameless character depth and feeling as he goes through a weak story. Malik's voice actor also does a good job, but Razia's uses an absolutely horrid accent, contributing a lot to my disliking of the character.
The status of this game is a bit ambiguous, as it’s not really a cheap movie cash-in and has no ties with the story or the characters present in the film. However, there are clear signs of rushed development, though cleverly hidden by the game designers and the Quality Assurance team. The developers did all they could to provide a quality title in a limited period of time and, as a matter of fact, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is not bad at all.
The gameplay is fun and varied for the most part, the level design is good and the graphics are adequate. It won't revolutionize what you think about gaming and won't be remembered as the best entry in the Prince of Persia franchise, but it isn't the worst either. All in all, it is a pretty short and fun game that will bring a few smiles on the faces of Prince of Persia fans out there.