Staff Blog: Prince of Persia – The Review

Spinnaker

Courtesy of Ubisoft
Courtesy of Ubisoft

Forget what you know about the fabled Prince of Persia series. Let go of your opinion on the Sands of Time. Release your Warrior Within gripes. The team over at Ubisoft, in Montreal has created a new Prince, in a new world, with a new female companion and a very different design philosophy. They have done what very few developers succeed in doing when it comes to developing a series of games, and that is to start fresh. To start all over again, with a new engine, new story, and a totally new design.

The longer you remember the style of the last games in the Prince of Persia series, the harder it will be to fully master this new one. Embrace the game to fall in love with the new Prince character (or at least his lovely companion).

When I first saw the new Prince character, he hardly seemed prince-like at all. At first looks, he is little more than a smooth-talking thief, until the Prince gets lost in a sandstorm while searching for his donkey, Farah. Naturally, this is no run-of-the-mill sandstorm. This mystical phenomenon transports the Prince to another land, which appears to be made more of myth than reality. It’s here where he fatefully meets Elika, a beautiful descendant of a clan sworn to guard the prison of the evil god Ahriman, and ensure his detainment.

As bad luck would have it, the two meet just in time to witness Ahriman’s release from his prison inside the Tree of Life. His escape spreads evil and corruption across the four areas of the world. This corruption will spread further unless the Prince and Elika can heal the lands which have become infected. And so from there, your adventure begins.

In truth, Elika’s skills are really just a deformation of actions we’ve been performing in games for years. We’ve all seen a double jump before and heroes who mix in magic with their swordplay. All that the guys at Ubisoft Montreal did was take these very standard game play elements and give them a physical form. It’s because Elika is such a natural extension of the game play that it’s easy to care for her.
When you’re running about and exploring the world, performing tricky acrobatic sequences, it’s difficult at first to shake off years of practice playing action platforms.

But Prince is actually simpler (and in many ways better) than previous iterations of the series or other action games. You never need to hold down a button – there is no pre-loading your jumps. That’s because you can jump off a wall at any time. So, for example if you jump to a wall and then hold down jump as you are landing, you aren’t preloading the next jump, you’re actually going to jump again, unlike the games such as Assassins Creed, which failed to get this sort of sequence right.

Perhaps the most challenging moments in the game is when Elika uses her powers. There are four magic abilities to obtain, each tied to magic “altars” found throughout the world. Two of the powers are almost identical and offer no real challenge at all. The red altar rebounds you forward – often to another red altar) and the blue plates have Elika “slingshot” the Prince forward, different animation, same idea. The other two powers do require some skill to obtain and use, and are used for some of the longer sequences in the game.

Fans of the Prince of Persia series would know that there’s a third key element to compliment the adventuring and combat – puzzles. There are a handful of puzzle elements in Prince of Persia. The majority of these are very basic things – mostly moving plates to redirect where you can run. There are only two truly Prince-worthy puzzles. One has the player changing the flow of a river of corruption so you can reach a new area; the other has you positioning some gates to reveal a series of magic plates. It would have been nice to have more puzzles or more ways to alter pathways up walls, but it’s nice to at least have something. Certainly puzzles have been downgraded in the new Prince of Persia, but not completely forgotten.

As pretty as the environment might be when covered in corruption, it’s truly spectacular when healed. There are moments when I felt like I was running through a watercolor painting. The four areas of Prince are totally unique in look to each other, and each manages to find the perfect balance between fantasy and reality. If you don’t take some time out of your quest to stand on a plateau to admire the vista, you’re missing out on the greatest gift that the game has to offer.

Prince of Persia may not be the best game released in the last year, however, it might does manage to be one of the rare games that taps into its audience not only for its game play, but for its outstanding visuals. It has its shortcomings, like any game on the market today, but I already sense that Prince of Persia will be one of the few games from this generation have approached a new style of developing a quality game now and throughout this decade.

Overall Grade: 4 out of 5
Graphics: 5 out of 5
Audio: 4 out of 5
Presentation: 5 out of 5