Prince of Persia review
It's all in the rhythm
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Having gone through the Sands Of Time trilogy a few times in my short lifetime, to see a completely different prince starring in a game that's called Prince Of Persia was a little bit of a shock to my system, as he looked so different.... I suppose this is how the fans of the older games on DOS felt after seeing the redesigned Prince for the Sands Of Time trilogy. But in any case, with change, has to come lowered expectations - we can't expect the same sort of thing we got with the Sands Of Time trilogy, and in a way, we expected correctly. Prince Of Persia 08 isn't much like the Sands Of Time trilogy; rather, it focuses more on platforming and collect-a-thons, the latter of which, I thought was extinct long ago... I guess somebody at Ubisoft thought to bring them back. But does this change make the game worthy of the name "Prince Of Persia"? Yes, I think it does, but that doesn't excuse some of the problems found throughout.
The game starts with a different looking Prince - who isn't actually a prince, but nevertheless, we're never given a name for the guy, so... why not call him Prince - out in the desert, during a sandstorm looking for his donkey who has the King's ransom in stolen gold. He runs into Elika, who is fighting off two guards. After a bit, they enter the Temple Of Ahriman, which has an evil entity called Ahriman, and his legions of minions known as the Corrupted, sealed inside a room, though that doesn't last long, because Elika's father, the king, cuts down the Tree Of Life, setting Ahriman and his minions free, and corrupting the world around them.
The actual concept for the story is simple, yet effective. It manages to convince you to go on with your journey to restore the land, and, well, that's about it. What will rope you in is the witty banter between Prince and Elika. On one end, you have a cocky guy with a heart of gold, and on the other end, you have a sarcastic woman who descends from royalty. The chemistry between the two characters helps make the dialogue seem a lot more genuine, as if they could be secret lovers, or friends that just love to initiate some witty banter to keep each other on their toes, or just make a good joke for a good laugh - at any rate, the two characters are what will really have you going through the story without any major qualms.
Unfortunately, I thought this game had a VERY disappointing end. I won't spoil too much by saying that it basically felt more like a plot twist, rather than an ending. I know that there's DLC that was meant to give a more satisfying conclusion... For one thing, I hate DLC that should've been a part of the game in the first place, because I always feel cheated out of money by having to pay more for a part that should've been in the game in the first place! Even so, this new ending raises even more questions! I'm at the point where a rushed ending will being satisfying enough, because any sort of ending that at least answers the questions even in a half assed way will at least scratch that painstakingly annoying itch!
Flow is the name of the game here - both the combat and the platforming segments will involve you, the player, making sure the Prince is able to keep to a rhythm. If he misses a beat, he'll be falling to his death - or as logic should dictate, he would, except Elika will teleport him back to where you first leapt. This manages to keep the flow of the game going, should you screw up the timing, which shouldn't occur too often. Each part of the land that must purified is designed to be an obstacle course of sorts, though you wouldn't believe it at first - you'd believe that it's decaying architecture that's showing its age through crumbling and breaking down, and because he's an acrobatic genius, Prince is able to turn it into an obstacle course through leaping, wall running and anything else that can propel him from one broken structure to another. It's all in the name of fun, because while you aren't exactly doing much beyond pressing X at the right time, it's just fun seeing how he goes through this obstacle course.
Not to worry, because there is combat, and the way that it's designed is so that Prince can fight with a sense of rhythm. He can either use his trusty sword to hack at the enemy, or use his gauntlet to throw the enemy up in the air, and he can also order Elika to attack with her magic. As you start to get the hang of combat, you'll be able to deliver a lot of hits in a row - and if experimentation and practise doesn't give it away, then one of the trophies does, because to get one, you have to deliver 14 blows in one combo. The reason the combat feels so good, beyond the fact that you can build up a solid rhythm and still feel like a badass, is that each command is so easy to get the hang of, and you're also able to keep building off of it, and if your rhythm is wrecked, it's as simple as getting back on your feet. Yeah, combat is so good...
In order to progress, you must purify each of the fertile grounds around the land. In a sense, you can purify the lands at whatever order you want that you're able to get to with what you're able to do magic-wise. In order to purify a fertile ground, you must first conquer what I would call an obstacle course, and to conquer them, you can keep the rhythm going in the platforming, and when you reach the end, you must defeat one of the four Corrupted Generals. Defeating them is a matter of either using the environment against them, or hacking away at them, and this can really make the combat engine seem very well made, as you're able to build up a rhythm that, even when it goes off-tempo, can seem like an ever-flowing river. Although you're fighting each Corrupted General six times each throughout the game, it has that sense of progression, like they're getting harder and harder, and when you fight them that sixth time, it feels like an epic boss fight, with differing battlefields and... well, just overall tougher fights, and it feels very satisfying when you finally defeat that General the sixth and final time, because you've fully relinquished control of that quarter of the land from Ahriman.
After an area is purified, you'll be able to collect light seeds. You'll need these seeds in order to progress throughout the game. There's 1001 to collect, though you'll only need 540 in total to proceed, and the majority of them simply require you to either just run through what appears to be an obstacle course, or for ones that look hard to get, simply look at it backwards, and it'll click as to how you go about getting it. Some of them are tricky bastards, to say the least, but unless you're a trophy hound, you don't need to worry about getting more than 540 seeds. Also, as you collect the seeds, you'll be able to head back to the front of the temple, and activate certain colored pads that allow you to warp all over the obstacle courses that you activated the pad in. Because you'll need to activate pads in order to get to some of the areas, you'll need to stick to the areas you can get to in order to collect enough seeds in order to learn how to activate the pad needed to go to the next area. I find it to be a rather swell way to
But let's get down to business. The first gameplay related problem with the game is the extreme lack of combat. At the very least, you'll fight four bosses six times each, with each encounter being harder than the last, and at the very most, you'll occasionally fight some dark warriors. It feels like Shadow Of The Colossus, but where that game does it right, this game, well, doesn't. You see, the reason Shadow Of The Colossus gets away with it is because the battle system was crafted in a way that works best for taking down enemies a thousand times your size, whereas here, the battle system, with a couple more tweaks, could be made for taking down a few groups of enemies without too much trouble, much like - and I hate to compare - in Warrior Within and The Two Thrones.
The second and final issue I have with the gameplay is that the game feels too easy. In a sense, it practically plays itself. All you really need to do during the platforming segments is to press X at the right time as you run across a wall. Most of the traps that the Corrupted set up are extremely formulaic to the point where if you pay attention, you can overcome them each time, every time. On top of everything else, it's just impossible to die on most of these segments because it feels like a huge set of easy quick time events without the button flashing in your face, although having said that, this is probably the only game to actually get it right, so I'll give it props for that. The other parts, like the combat and getting all 1001 seeds, is at least backed up by some challenge, especially those damn seeds!
The game looks very good. It takes the cel-shaded aesthetic to a whole new level, as it looks like an oil painting has just come to life. Often with cel-shading, it just looks cartoony (and in some instances, it shields the audience from how dark it really is), but in this instance, it actually looks very artistic; inspiring, even. The oily visuals make for some delicious eye candy, and the fluid animations that suit the flowing style of the platforming make for an excellent side dish. These are some very excellent graphics, in other words.
As for the audio, the soundtrack manages to immerse you into each cutscene, each obstacle course, each fight, and on occasion, each collect-a-thon, and overall, it's a pretty darn good soundtrack! The voice acting is also very impressive, even if Prince's voice, matched with his personality, reminds me of Nathan Drake of Uncharted fame, though then again, he's voiced by the same guy, so... no wonder. The voice acting for everybody else, especially Ahriman, is very convincing, and it's like the actor or actress is the character, which is something I enjoy when it comes to this department, and for that, I have to say that Prince Of Persia 08 is a definite winner in the presentation department...
The lacking amount of combat and difficulty, as well as a less than satisfying ending, should not deter you away from this game, because it is a very well crafted one that just so happened to make a few lousy mistakes. But how can you say no to good intentions and very well designed (if not simple) levels and a very well written script, backed up by excellent voice acting? Only if you lack a soul...
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