Prince of Persia Review

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I’m a huge Prince of Persia fan. Well, at least the titles released last generation, as I admit I never played the originals on the PC way back in the day (that’s since been rectified, however).

The Sands of Time Trilogy stand as one of my favorite gaming trilogies of all time, so I was a bit skeptical when I heard that Ubisoft Montreal was going back to the Prince of Persia well, not only with a new Prince, but with a re-worked combat system, art style, and, most concerning of all, no Sands of Time as a gameplay mechanic.

While my fears were understandable, they ultimately turned out to be unfounded, as this new Prince of Persia is altogether beautiful, engaging, and most importantly, fun. It is not perfect, of course, but it’s flaws are so minimal, and the overall experience so tightly polished that they can be brushed off your shoulders like, well, sand.

A New Prince –

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Of the few major changes to the Prince of Persia series, the most noticeable, is the new Prince. In truth, he’s not a Prince at all, and is more of an Aladdin-esque street rat, roaming the land, looking for wealth and women. He has no kingdom or throne. After losing his donkey (a good donkey by the way, although being loaded with a “king’s ransom” in gold certainly ups it’s value, to be sure), the Prince finds himself swept up in a quest to purify a corrupt world with the beautiful Princess Elika, after the evil god Ariman is released from his prison. I won’t spoil what story there is, but I will say that it’s meaty enough to propel you through the adventure. It may not be as layered as the original trilogy, but it’s certainly compelling enough, and stands on it’s own in a storybook kind of way.

The Prince is charming, roguish, witty, and ultimately entertaining. If he sounds familiar to Playstation 3 owners, it’s because he’s voiced by Nolan North, the star of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and the Prince is, for most intents and purposes, Nathan Drake in Prince of Persia. The developers don’t shy away from this comparision, and openly admit that they loved what North did with Drake in Uncharted, and wanted that “Indiana Jones, Han Solo” like every man in their new Prince. They succeeded greatly. Normally, a guy like the Prince should be scum, despised, and an overall dispicable character, but Nolan North tempers this in the same way Harrison Ford tempered it with Han Solo, and we have a character that is endearing, not loathesome.

In short, the Prince is a wonderful character, and while you don’t necessarily empathize with this plight, you certainly don’t mind following him on his quest.

A Helping Hand –


One of the other major changes to the series is the removal of the Sands of Time as a gameplay mechanic. Those that have played the original trilogy know that the Sands gave the Prince the ability to rewind, fast-forward, and manipulate time to save his skin. This mechanic was expertly woven into the narrative of the story, and the latest gameplay mechanic, the mysterious and magical Elika, is treated the same way.

Elika isn’t just your companion, but she is your lifeline, your savior, and your guide throughout your journey. The Prince would be unable to do what must be done without her, and vice versa. In a sense, Elika is like a useful Yorda from the game Ico. She is your constant companion, and is never not by your side. She aids in battle, using her magic to dispel the enemies shields and barriers, and she learns new abilities as the game progresses, which opens up more of the world for exploration.

As a character, she is equally intriguing, with a mysterious and dark past, exotic beauty, inner strength, and a snappy wit that matches the Prince and resists what I’m sure he believes to be his “charms”. By the end of the game, you will absolutely love her, and not just because she saves your ass when you fall to your doom (although that’s certainly a part of it).

I believe that Elika is hands down the best AI controlled character in the history of video games. You never have to worry about her. If anything, she is your babysitter while you wildly fling yourself over chasms and across walls. She never has trouble keeping pace with you, and you are free to take in the sights and sounds of the game without fear of, well, the game getting in your way. And there are plenty of sights and sounds to behold.

A Magical World –


In short, the world of this new Prince of Persia is beautiful. Especially when viewed on an HDTV. The game supports 720p and 1080p resolutions, and you will not be disappointed. The third major change, and probably the first thing you notice, is the radical change in art direction. The game employs a cel-shaded art style, that is very much like a story book drawing come to life.

The world is open, like a sandbox, but it is segmented by four hubs that stem from the main plains where Ariman’s prison is located. The four hubs, however, have 4 areas within that need to be cleansed, for a total of 16 areas. Each of the four areas also has a boss area that must be traversed, and a boss to be defeated in order to fully cleanse the area.

The four areas themselves are very distinct, from a sunken entertainment hall, to a ruined palace, to a wide open cliff face housing tons of air balloons. Each area will leave you breathless by it’s beauty and scale. The art direction in this title is superb, and more than any Prince of Persia before it, really invokes it’s Persian art influence. The backgrounds are often ornately detailed, from walls to carpet, and each world also has two forms, a “corrupt form,” and a “cleansed form,” which are very distinct from one another. There is no mistaking a corrupt world from a clean world, and the music, lighting, and tone changes as you move from clean to corrupt, and vice versa.

The environments in this game are not just there to give you a challenge, they feel like a real place, with history and life to them, and more than once while playing did I just sit and stare, and wish I was a part of it. Talking to Elika in each of these areas fills you in even more on the history of the land, and that cements its reality even further. Ubisoft did a fantastic job realizing this place.

Swordmaster –

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Probably the last big change to the series is the combat. Gone are waves after waves of repetitive enemies, all charging at you, trying to get a piece, and instead, are one on one (more like one on two) battles that randomly take place as the Prince traverses the grounds seeking pillars of light for Elika to purify the lands. This change to one on one battles is both good and bad.

The good, is that it allows the combat to be more focused and intense. Instead of wildly button mashing, you approach combat like more of a swordfight; parrying, dodging, and attacking when an opportunity presents itself.

There are plenty of combos to unlock during the course of the game, so you have plenty of options at your disposal. Add into the fray the fact that, with the press of a button, Elika will spring into the battle to aid you, and you have a suprisingly deep combat system that is a joy to watch as much as it is to actually play.

The bad, is simply that there aren’t enough battles in the game! The majority of the game is locomotion; getting from point A to point B as gracefully as possible. Battles are very few and far between, with the bulk of them being mini-boss battles with the main boss of the stage, who appears at random to stmy your progress until you battle him/her back.

Another thing that could be percieved as negative is the fact that the Prince cannot die, no matter what. Elika will always save him. Personally, I didn’t mind this at all, as it allowed me to focus on making the battle like a dance. A cinematic experience for myself, and anyone watching me play the game. Besides, it’s not like you aren’t punished for messing up. If the Prince takes too much damage, and Elika is forced to save him, this gives the enemy time to regenerate some health, meaning a prolonged battle. That seems like ample enough punishment for making a mistake in battle.

Battle is most certainly a pleasure, I just wish there was more of it. Not as much as the original trilogy, but not as sparse as it is here. A happy medium would be appreciated for future installments.

A New Way to Travel –

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The locomotion aspect of Prince of Persia is the majority of the experience, and thankfully, Ubisoft Montreal didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken.

I already spoke of Elika’s usefulness in these matters, as she will save you when you stumble, fill you in on the history of an environment, and point you in the right direction by releasing a glowing blue orb that will travel in the direction of a location you have specified in the map.

This Prince is a bit slower than in the Sands trilogy, and for those familiar with that game’s mechanics, some relearning is in order.

For one, the controls have been simplified in this outting. The X button (on the PS3), and A button (on the 360) is the single most important button in the game, with the Circle button (PS3), B button (360) being the next.

X and A controls jumping and running along walls, while Circle and B control things like grabbing loops.

The trick to locomotion is finding your rhythm. When you do, traveling through the world of Prince of Persia is a joy to behold. Running along walls and ceilings, sliding down ramps, leaping across gaps, vaulting from sygil to sygil, and of course, dodging deadly obstacles is at it’s best when it’s a continuous string of unbroken movement. And since you are immune to death in this game, you’re mind is free to take those leaps of faith that you most otherwise wouldn’t do. Some don’t like this, viewing it as challenge robbing, and yet they complain that in some areas, a mistake will send you back to the start of the gauntlet. Isn’t that a punishment in itself? Why should death be a factor, when in games, death is simply a restarting to the latest checkpoint? The new Prince of Persia simply eliminates the “Game Over/Reload latest Checkpoint” screen of every other game.

There are very few flaws in the game, and in the locomotion system. Sometimes, you will miss a jump, or the controls may not respond as quickly as you’d like, but overall, the game is a beautiful, engaging experience. I absolutely love this game, and my final verdict is:

BUY – This is a game that PS3 and 360 owners need to have in their collection. The visuals, story, gameplay, all gel to make a wholly unique, memorable experience. If you are any sort of fan of the Action/Adventure genre, run out and buy this game.

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One Response to “Prince of Persia Review”

  1. […] The Prince’s latest adventure is artistic, beautiful, and death-defying. Very few games truly make you feel like a part of their world, or at least make you wish that you were a part of their world than Prince of Persia. Excellent voice-acting and characterization, a compelling narrative, beautiful art design and music, new twists on the tried and true Prince of Persia gameplay, and the best support character in the history of gaming, Elika, is why this title stands above the rest of the Adventure titles released this year. Read the review. […]

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