Review: Prince of Persia
I love to PRANCE!
Persians, eh? Aside from rugs, cats and being evil bastards in 300, what have they really ever done? Fantastic contributions to gaming, that’s what. The original Prince of Persia (PoP) absorbed a significant portion of my childhood (either on the Amiga or Master System) and since then it has been re-envisioned and sold successfully to a new generation. Will this new version help Ubisoft gain some cred with gamers or be another stagnant old and rusty nail in their coffin?
Touted as another re-envisioning of the series, Ubisoft are breathing new life in order to keep things interesting (attracting more people to play their games will just be a bonus). While at heart it’s still the same style of game there has always been â€“ platforming, puzzles and combat, there is no mistake it is different. Fans perhaps didn’t want the series to change, but you have to applaud a developer for willing to change their winning formula in order to keep things interesting.
PoP has you as always playing as the Princeâ€¦ who may not actually be a prince, but is certainly a bit of a rogue, a thief, a smart arse and all round treasure hunter and tomb raider. After encountering a mysterious woman, Elika (who is actually a princess), he is caught in a battle of Good vs. Evil (‘mon the Good) when Evil God Ahriman (shadows, corruption, nastyness) is released by Elika’s father and she has to try to save the land and enlists the Prince’s help. Ahriman isn’t fully released but enough of him is in order to start corrupting the lands along with the help of his lieutenants, so it is up to the Prince and Elika to restore the lands and re-enforce Ahriman’s eternal prison.
Unlike previous games in the series this is an open world game. Ahrimans prison acts as the most central area with each of the four lieutenants controlling five â€œlevelsâ€, and a boss arena for said lieutenant. You run from area to area in order to â€œrestore the landâ€ and do this by travelling through each area, running, jumping, avoiding obstacles and perhaps battling a couple (literally that much) of generic evil minions. At the end you must fight the lieutenant that controls the area, which does mean you have to fight each boss four or five times before you face off against them in their arena for a (multi-tiered) final showdown. Once an area has been restored it changes from the gloomy, dark, land covered in evil black ooze to brightly coloured happy-happy land.
From here you can move on to the next area or travel around the now non-corrupt area collecting light seeds. Light seeds appear in a cleared area and are key to accessing later levels as they allow Elika to purchase four special abilities allowing you to reach all the parts of an area, for example one ability allowing you to run up walls (between special magic pads) another allowing you to leap great distances (between special pads). It’s not as satisfying as getting a new active ability like telekinesis, or swimming, or phasing through walls, but it does make revisiting past areas worthwhile when you get a new ability â€“ especially for collecting all the seeds.
You might think it a bit lame having to hunt a level for the seeds but frankly that’s one of the main focuses of the gameâ€¦ and it is great fun. Manoeuvring around levels is very easy with the Prince running, jumping, double jumping, sliding down slopes, scaling walls, grabbing onto handholds and clambering up poles all pretty much only involving tapping a couple of buttons now and then. Timing is key here as opposed to knowing fifty different superfluous types of jump and as such you do need to pay attention but it is easy and a joy to watch. Levels are more about the heights to which you reach vertically rather than running about on the ground and as such you will inevitably fall, at which point Elika saves you and pulls you to the last platform you were standing on. Useful yes but some later on sections do have a fair bit of leap of faith jumping and it can get a bit frustrating.
With this new game Ubisoft have decided to completely reboot the Prince of Persia series. New generation of consoles, new prince.
Of course the first thing you will notice is how radically different it looks compared to the previous iterations. The impressive cel-shaded visuals are more prominent on the characters themselves, rather than the environments. Bringing life back to the environment once you defeat a boss is a visual delight. The unique visuals help the game stand out and it is definitely among the best looking titles released this year.
With the loss of the whole time-control mechanic to save your ass comes the addition of your partner, Elika. Her ability to basically rescue you from deadly situations results in you becoming more ambitious with your leaps of faith. These games have always been about the platforming and things are no different here. It happens on a much grander scale thanks to the larger environments, but does feel somewhat simplified compared to previous games. As you wall run and jump from ledge to ledge it can sometimes feel like one large quick-time event due to the fact that one button basically does everything. However, despite the simplicity it still feels very satisfying.
While previous games had a large emphasis on combat, it has been toned down substantially for the reboot. Other than the five boss fights in each area, you only have to fight a handful of enemies throughout the whole game. A good thing since the combat was probably my least enjoyable part of the previous games.
While a lot from the previous trilogy has changed, this is a successful reboot of the series and comes highly recommended if you are a fan. Here’s to another trilogy.
Secondary Score: 8/10
Combat in this game is quite different from the games of the last generation being that you only ever fight one person at a time. You might think that makes it easier but it really doesn’t. There is quite a steep difficulty curve and while at the beginning of the game it was very interesting to watch it does end up frustrating and it won’t get any easier. The Prince has four options for attacks (mapped to each of the face buttons), Acrobatic attack, Throw attack, Sword attack and Magic attack (performed by Elika). By pressing the right number of buttons in an acceptable order (check your combo list) the Prince (and Elika too) will perform a rather good looking attack that you can add to by hitting a few extra buttons, for example using the sword, then leaping into the air and grabbing then Elika attacking then tossing higher and slamming to the ground. It does look very good but unfortunately I was a big bit crap at it. Like with platforming you cannot die, if you are knocked down and fail one of the many QTE’s Elika uses magic to protect you, which has the consequence of healing part of the enemy. As such battles can draw on to tedium but thank God they are few and far between.
Praise must go to the dialogue in this game. As mentioned earlier the Prince is a bit of a smart arse which is very evident in the game’s cut scenes but at any point during gameplay you can press LT to spark up a conversation with Elika. Pointless, eh? But it actually very useful for getting some of the back story between the characters and also for getting info on the areas you visit and their boss. Dialogue is very enjoyable to listen to but you have no obligation to press LT, but when you miss the Prince teaching Elika how to play â€œI spyâ€ you will regret it.
Prince of Persia is a visually stunning game with an emphasis on platforming rather than combat or puzzles (they are present, just infrequent). It is really a game you have to try first because many will turn their noses up at it (a demo may be nice idea). Very well put together and very pick up and play it misses out on a higher score due to dodgy combat and over-abundance of combat QTE’s. These faults are in no way game breaking so I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone.