A couple years ago, Ubisoft did a brief reboot to the Prince of Persia franchise–one which, from what’s been released about the next game, will probably be a one off thing. The game was criticized by some Hardcore Gamers (I feel like I put a “z” at the end of that for some reason) for being too easy, for not having enough combat. Some time has past since the game came out and now I’ve gotten my hands on it, and I’ve beaten it – the Epilogue DLC too. So, it’s time for me to give my thoughts on the definitive Prince of Persia experience. After hearing all the negative buzz, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Note: This review includes notes on the Epilogue DLC
Title: Prince of Persia
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
System: PS3, XBox 360 (Also published for the PC – but the PC didn’t get the epilogue DLC)
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2008
The Prince, while traveling through the desert while returning home from his last adventure, is separated from the donkey carrying his spoils, and encounters a mysterious girl fleeing from some armed guards. Upon rescuing the girl, Elika from her pursuers, he learns her father is planning to release the demon Ahriman. The Prince decides to help Elika return the demon to his prison.
The game is rated Teen by the ESRB. The game itself has no blood, no nudity, and essentially no profanity. There is some suggestive dialog between the Prince and Elika, but nothing worse than a PG movie.
I’ve heard 1 major complaint about the game which I would consider to be a strength of the game instead of weaknesses.
The game is easy, you don’t die, and when you fall or fail a jump, you’re restored to the last piece of solid ground you stood on: Frankly, it’s not so much that the game is “easy” as much as there is extremely frequent checkpoints during the platforming segments of the game – which take up the lion’s share of the game. Most jumping sequences are generally rather quick, but there are enough long strings of jumps and wall runs between pieces of solid ground in some places that I still felt some challenge. With how this system is set up, though, you can’t die during combat, and if you are put in situation where you’d suffer a fatal wound, generally the enemy you’re fighting stays at the level of damage he’d suffered previously. That said, combat still retains some difficulty, as you and the boss are re-positioned, so if you’d positioned the boss to do environmental damage, you’ll have to set him up again. Occasionally the boss will regain some health, but not a lot.
Besides, from a difficulty standpoint, the Epilogue DLC actually kicks the difficulty up a notch, by mainly spreading the solid ground out further between each of the acrobatic puzzles, and making the sequences of jumps, runs, climbs and so forth more complicated.
Also, the game handles its open-world setup very well. I encountered no loading screens when traveling along the map, except when I was using fast travel. Everything was absolutely seamless. Even when I “died”, I didn’t encounter any loading screens.
While the game’s open world setup is generally solid, it has one major weakness. To access certain areas of the game, you have to unlock special powers. You unlock these powers by purifying areas with Elika. These then make the once grey and Corrupted areas all green, fertile, and covered with Jewel Seeds. Collect enough Seeds, you can unlock a power. The problem is that on several occasions, I’d found that I’d beaten all the accessible areas, and I found myself backtracking through all the areas I’d already cleared to collect enough Seeds to let me beat the game. This ultimately felt like busy work, to pad out an already short (I beat it in less than 12 hours) game.
The death mechanic also makes combat more frustrating, most of the time. It still can be fun at times, but I found myself frustrated more often. This is even more of a problem with the boss called “The Warrior”. He’s basically a “puzzle” boss, in that you have to set him up at a particular point in the environment, and then knock him into it. So, if he knocks you down, he’ll go out of position and you’ll have to set him back up again. This wouldn’t be too bad, except it’s as hard as hell to get him set up in the first place. Additionally, every single boss fight in the Epilogue DLC is a similar puzzle boss, except for the rare occasion where you run into a generic Soldier enemy, who you fight like you did in the main part of the game.
Originality: The Prince of Persia games generally have their own little formula – very little combat, combined with a lot of running, jumping, and various other acrobatic stunts. This doesn’t stray from that formula much at all, which is fine, because it works. The only major thing it particularly ads are various plates you can activate with Elika that give you magical powers, a double jump that you can do with Elika, and various magical attacks you can do with Elika in combat. 3 out of 6.
Story: The story is rather impressively well written. The story serves you up the essentials for the plot, but if you want to know more, you can get more information from Elika with a push of the L2 button (Left Trigger on the 360). This is a good way in my opinion of serving out the background of the story, without doing location specific content like Bioshock. 4 out of 6.
Graphics: The game’s graphics are solid, with no observable pop-up or tearing. The Corrupted versions of the various areas of the game look drab and forbidding, without being a monochrome brown. Instead they look more of a unnatural grey, which plays in well with the whole tainted look of the levels. When they’re cleansed, the areas not only take on a natural look, but a lush, bright, and colorful natural look, with green grass and bright colorful flowers. With the Epilogue DLC though, we’re outside of the main area of the game, and there are no areas to clense, so the area ends up leading to a more monotonous gray palette. It fits, but it makes the area more boring looking, and takes some of the wonder out of the area. 5 out of 6.
Sound: The game’s sound design is also very good, and ties in well with the graphical looks. When in Corrupted areas, there’s little to no music, with music only coming up when the Prince is in combat. When an area is cleansed, the soundtrack kicks in in full, with a pleasant colorful theme playing on the soundtrack. Otherwise, the sound design in general is well done. The Prince’s metal climbing gauntlet scratches along the stone of cliff-sides and walls. There’s a satisfying clang when sword strikes are parried. Most notable are the dark and sinister whispers filling the air in Corrupted areas, particularly when the Prince is near some of the hazards in the area, like pools of Corrupted water. In the Epilogue DLC, we get music throughout most of the levels, so if there are the sinister whispers, we don’t get them. 5 out of 6.
Playability: Yes, the game is short, However, because of the frequent checkpoints, the fact you can save anywhere, and the open world nature of the game, the game works really well for playing in fits and chunks. While it took me less than 12 hours of actual game play to beat the game, that was spread out over about a couple weeks. Even then, I didn’t collect every single Jewel Seed in the game. That said, there aren’t particularly selectable difficulties in the game or anything like that, so once you’ve beaten the game, and the Epilogue DLC, you’ve basically done it all, unless you want to go back through the game again to get all the Achievements or Trophies. 4 out of 6.
Immersion: The HUD is basically nonexistent, but that’s okay. I was able to navigate the world very easily. You only need the four buttons to do the wall running, jumping, climbing, and other acrobatic feats. After about 10-15 minutes of practice, I had the hang of things and was able to handle most of the navigation without any problems. The fact that if you’re stationary, the Elika Button works as an “I’m lost and need to know where to go next button” helps a lot too. 5 out of 6.
Overall: I played Sands of Time, but not the rest of the Sands of Time trilogy, and to be honest, I liked this considerably more than Sands of Time. 5 out of 6.
In Total, Prince of Persia gets 31 out of 42.