Repetitive beauty filled with eloquent banter. After a brief phone call with my other half, where I became the middle man between herself and my housemate in a school-yard-esque war of the words including the ever so popular, “You smell”, countered with, “Well you’re small”, I decided to summarise Prince of Persia in just a single sentence and thus avoid a review all together. (Oh imagine if that were true).
For those of you unfamiliar with the Prince of Persia series, you’re in luck. Ubisoft’s first Prince of Persia on the apparent seventh generation of console has been given a substantial makeover. The acrobatic nature of the gameplay is still very much present, however the combat and time mechanic have been altered and removed respectively. The game is somewhat unsurprisingly set at some point in time in Persia and you assume the role of an incredibly athletic and witty Prince, of whose name is unknown. Roaming the mysterious land that a sandstorm has landed you in on your own would be very boring and have voice actors looking in the Friday-Ad for jobs; therefore you are accompanied by a magic-instilled ally named Elika. In search of your beloved gold-carrying donkey you, and blinded by the previously mentioned sandstorm, you cross paths with said Elika, and thus the story unfolds with progression achieved by healing the fertile lands.
Gameplay wise, Prince of Persia is very similar to that of the Sands of Time trilogy, as the acrobatic, puzzle solving nature of the game has been retained, with the objective requiring the player to fight and vault around to heal the fertile grounds located throughout the world. Several key things differ from the soon-to-be-movie Sands of Time, most notably the time manipulation from the Dagger of Time being emitted all together. All of the acrobatics are performed using a series of single button presses that whilst may simplify the controls schemes, to perhaps open to a larger market; they are still satisfying once performed. I am somewhat surprised at claims that the game as a whole is easy: it may not have been the most challenging adventure I’ve ever experienced but it definitely isn’t easy as I needed saving over one hundred times, hence failing to a collect a precious gold trophy.
A major change is the Prince’s companion; maybe supporting character is a better description. Whilst you never directly play as Elika she is the foundation of the gameplay as she is key in both free running and combat but she also saves the Prince from death. That’s right, a game where you cannot die. Any moment when in any standard game you would die, Elika swoops in with her magic to save you from a painful death. Now you would think this would remove all challenge from the game, if you can’t die, how can you lose? Well, it’s not about losing: the essence of Prince of Persia is the free running sections, trying to keep the flow, similar to Mirrors Edge. Having to die, go to a load screen and begin again, just disrupts the rhythm of play. Deciding to have no death was a very smart choice indeed.
Just like the American Pie series, after the original trilogy they decided to change something and it didn’t really work out. The combat is now one-on-one and is simply memorized Quick Time Events, with each face button acting as set attack type. Combinations of the face buttons provide for a vast variety of combos, with a trophy for using them all as an incentive to mix it up. The addition of actual QTE’s with scripted attacks from bosses does become frustrating but seems to have been used to reduce button bashing which it did do for me personally. In keeping with the acrobatics, you cannot die in combat either, but if Elika needs to step in to save your sorry ass this provides your foe an opportune moment to replenish some of their health. Now there’s nothing particularly wrong with the combat, the combinations of moves are well thought out and when executed look stunning in their pre-scripted nature, it just feels slightly slower and stilted than the fast moving free running.
Every single animation within the game looks stunning and with an illustrative art style very similar to that of the beautiful Okami, it provides some vistas that are just awe inspiring. The dialogue between the Prince, who you may recognise as the voice of Nathan Drake from Naughty Dog’s PS3 exclusive Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (acted by Nolan North), and Elika is humorous and charming as they grow on you as characters throughout the game.
In complete contrast to Sands of Time’s linearity, the current generations reboot gives the player the opportunity to roam the open world environment at ones leisure. The inclusion of collectable light seeds (small orbs of light required to unlock new abilities to access new areas) provides not only a collectable for those that sought out every single star on all of the Mario games, but also their locale often highlights a main path with a level. With a fraction over a thousand seeds to search for and only half of those needed for all of the levels, it never feels like a chore to explore and find them.
Whilst Prince of Persia perhaps fails to reach the heights of Sands of Time, it is a very good revamp for the franchise. It may not be as epic or mind-blowing as some titles currently on the market but it is a very solid game and one that provided me with a very enjoyable experience.