Prince of Persia
Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Platforming, Adventure, Open World
Length: 10 hours
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 12/2/08
– Basic platforming is still fun
– Cel shaded graphics and long draw distances
– Being saved from every mistake removes the satisfaction of challenging sections
– All your powers are based on flying, which removes platforming fun
– Extremely redundant combat
The Prince of Persia series has created excellent platforming adventures that include thrilling series of traps while including fun powers, such as the ability to control time. The latest entry in the series takes a markedly different approach by using cel-shaded graphics, a semi-open world environment, and a sidekick, Elika, to accompany you on your adventure. While the series’ prior changes have been great additions, these new drastic changes only serve to detract from the game’s solid foundation.
The game’s story follows the Prince as he helps the princess of an empire, Elika, to stop an evil being from getting released from captivity. You help her tour the land one area at a time and she uses her powers to return life to areas that threaten to die from an evil corruptive force. The story and the effect of nature returning to bleak lands are reminiscent to Okami’s story.
The most significant change to the game is your new companion, Elika. She tags along and helps you save the world one area at a time by reviving life to areas. She also can help you in combat by performing basic magical attacks. The largest effect she has on the game is her ability to reach down and pull you back up from every conceivable miscue you could make. If you mistime a jump and won’t make it to the next pole, she’ll reach down and pick you up. If you don’t crawl far enough on a wall, then she’ll save you again. She’s basically an unlimited time rewind feature that pulls you back to the last platform you safely stood on.
The time rewind feature was a fun way to replay mistakes you made in complicated areas in the series’ previous games. It helped you to avoid constantly repeating areas that you could easily complete, and focus on the more difficult sections that gave you the most trouble. The part that made the system work was that the rewinds were limited. When Elika saves you from every single mistake you make, it does two things. You don’t have to repeat the same sections any longer, which helps to reduce frustration. The problem that the system introduces is that a lack of failure also removes the sense of accomplishment.
There also isn’t any tension as you review a series of complicated maneuvers that await you in an area ahead because you know that Elika will save you. In previous games, you may have had to repeat some sections 10 times, but when you actually made it through with your head still attached to your body, you felt like a champ. Now Elika lets any chump get through the game without ever accomplishing anything. The worst you have to worry about is repeating short sections from the last platform you stood on.
A large reason that the gameplay is easier is the developers decided to remove the series’ trademark deadly saw blades and falling spikes and replaced them with corruption blobs. It may appear that avoiding a series of these critters may be difficult to avoid, but they are actually quite easy to avoid. The timing of all the critters is identical, so once you’ve properly avoided the first critter you simply need to keep moving at a constant pace to ensure you will miss all others in a section.
The game’s core platforming abilities haven’t changed. You still run, jump, and shimmy across ledges. The Prince climbs up and jumps between poles, swings between horizontal poles and crawls on walls using vines. Once you reach higher areas, you can safely lower yourself back down by sliding down cliff faces using a metal claw the Prince wears.
The only problem is that many of the interactions required to use these moves is gone. The prince doesn’t ever lose his balance on a beam. Instead he almost runs through these sections. If you ever jump from the wrong height, you can always use Elika’s help to properly adjust your jump’s trajectory to ensure you reach the other side. The tense timed sections from previous games have also been removed to further dumb down the experience. It almost feels like the developers felt they were making a game for a crowd that got their feelings hurt if they ever faced a challenge or made a mistake.
The Prince has a couple of new tricks up his sleeve in this latest adventure. In addition to crawling on walls, he can now temporarily defy gravity and crawl on ceilings. The Prince simply exudes Spider-Man envy. For longer sections, he can also grab metal rings and propel himself even further along a wall or ceiling. Elika can also help him extend jumps by flying over, grabbing him and pulling him into a longer jump.
It feels like the open world approach of Assassin’s Creed has encroached on the Prince’s game. Rather than having a linear level structure, you choose a set of regions you would like to explore. Then you are locked in and must help Elika reach these key locations to resuscitate the land. To move between these regions, you need to traverse areas that link the regions. Once you’ve revived some areas, you can thankfully quickly teleport between the revived areas to avoid repeating the same sections over and over.
The goal is to climb through a corrupted area, defeat its guardian and have Elika revive life to the area. The powerful act of reviving the area tires her greatly, so you need to help her regain her energy. After an area has been revived it will spit up a number of light orbs, which you need to gather. In order to access new areas, you will need to gather a set number of orbs from all accessible areas.
Unfortunately, the orbs appear in the areas you’ve already explored, and you are forced to retrace most of the areas that you’ve already jumped and climbed through. This backtracking requirement is quite annoying and only serves to falsely lengthen the game (one of our Game Overs). The game would have been much better had they simply let you move onto a new area without gathering orbs or given you a new area to gather the orbs from.
As you progress through the game you will gain powers that actually detract from the game’s enjoyment rather than add to the experience. All of the powers are based on jumping up to a portal and holding down a button and most of them remove almost all interactions from the player. One of the flying powers simply has you steering to avoid obstacles that get in your preset path. Two other powers let Elika drag you along as she flies from portal to portal and don’t require you to do anything but watch the game play itself and time button presses as you reach each new portal. The only partially fun power gives the prince the ability to run on walls and requires you to guide him around obstacles.
Normally powers change the pace of games and make them more fun as you progress through them, but Prince of Persia’s powers are extremely boring as the game puts itself on autopilot. The game is an excellent example of why the ability to fly rarely belongs in a platforming game. Flying lets you far too easily avoid the perils involved in timing jumps and properly crawling through sections and makes the game a cakewalk.
Combat continues to be one of the weakest parts of the game. Most enemies are very similar and can be defeated by repeatedly using the same moves. The Prince can swipe enemies with his sword in a series of combos. He can grab enemies with his metal glove and throw them into the air for a secondary attack. His trademark jump and spin attack to hit an enemy from behind is also still at your disposal. You can also block and counter attacks.
All of the moves are very bland with the only variety stemming from attacks created by combining t
hese basic attacks. After your first 1-2 fights, you will quickly realize that the game suffers from button mashing syndrome seen in many other action games (another Game Over), such as Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Very few of the enemies have any real weaknesses or attack patterns to learn that make them stand out from the other villains.
There are 4 regional guardians but they only differ in appearance. Only one enemy requires you to use the environment to kill him, but even that fight isn’t very engaging because it only requires you to simply keep attacking him until he reaches the edge of the platform you are fighting on. The only attack variety that the guardians use is depicted through quick-time events, which don’t involve meaningful interactions from you (repeatedly press X or tap the right button to avoid a deadly attack). You’ll also fight these same guardians numerous times further following the game’s repetition theme.
None of the fights are very difficult, thanks to Elika’s handicapping help. If you are ever knocked down, you are shown a quick-time event where you need to press the right button to avoid a killing blow. Don’t worry if you make a mistake: Elika is always there to save the day. The only drawback from getting saved is that the enemy can regain some health.
Some area guardians will use a power to become immune to all attacks but one of the Prince’s attack types. For instance, you may be only able to hit the guardian with a grab move. All other attacks will be easily brushed aside and not cause any damage. It’s different, but not necessarily fun. It’s not like you are shooting a key part of the creature or exploiting a weakness by learning an attack pattern. You are just limited to attacking with only one button. It is novel for the first couple of times you see it, but gets old quickly considering you will see the “power” employed far too many times over the entire adventure.
Previous games in the series had quite a few puzzles that interjected variety into the games. The prince’s latest adventure has very few puzzles and none of them are very challenging. They all revolve around rotating a platform or lever to find the right combination to move reach the next section. You won’t find any mind-bending sections that will make you think for very long.
Along with the gameplay changes, the game’s graphics have also dramatically changed from a realistic to a great cel-shaded approach. The world is large and you can often see to a distant horizon or down into very deep valleys. The world’s size is very well depicted to give you an excellent sense of its scope. Despite the world’s detail and depth, no material framerate issues crop up regardless of the beautiful graphics.
The first three Prince of Persia games introduced interesting time reversal powers and pulse-pounding traps to avoid. Unfortunately, it seems the developers have decided to make the series more approachable to casual gamers by making it virtually impossible to die and introducing flying powers that require little to no player interaction. The linear levels of older games provided better and more varied challenges than this game. The required backtracking to gather light orbs also detracts from the game. The game’s core platforming elements and stages are still top notch, but these new features drag down what was an otherwise excellent series. If you enjoy platforming games, you will still enjoy parts of what Prince of Persia offers, but be warned of these new features that drag down the game’s core values.
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Roger Riley (aka Rabid Rabbit)
I’m an avid gamer that’s gotten tired of extremely predictable inflated review scores by the large video game sites. I started my own site, PoweredUpGamers.com, with a friend of mine to provide truly objective game reviews and opinions so gamers can read the truth about a game before buying it. If you are like many gamers and agree with these often differing and more critical opinions, we welcome you to visit our site. In addition to written reviews, we also have video reviews, opinion articles, a blog, and game images. Our growing community enjoys posting comments in articles and the forums and playing games in our arcade while earning points for their accounts.