Ubisoft doesn’t do stereotypes, but if they did, they would be the best stereotypes in the world! What’s that? They do! Well blow me down; I thought Assassins Creed was stereotype free…
Sarcasm excluded, Prince of Persia returns for his second next generation outing, but this time back in the Sands of Time story arc. Based loosely in-between the first and second installment, the Prince travels to his brothers kingdom to learn to be a leader of the people. Unfortunately for possibly the only member of royalty to travel alone, his brother’s city is under attack by an unnamed but obviously evil army. Why are they evil? Well unlike the Prince and family, they speak Arabic, so they must be evil.
It all goes to pot when the Prince’s brother releases Solomon’s army, which is born of infected sand. The Prince soon gain’s powers over time itself and yet never references the fact that this power is something he mastered or played about with before. So off the Prince goes, collecting the power of the ‘DJinn’ along the way to gain control of the elements and reverse what his brother has wrought.
Ubisoft stated at the beginning of this project that they were going back to the ground roots of the series, in an attempt to bring back the magic of ‘The Sands of Time’ original release. With a film soon out, combined with this earlier statement, history would teach to steer clear of the new title. Thankfully, history (and I) has been proved wrong. Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands is not only a great tribute to the original PS2 game, but an improvement upon its core structure.
Forgotten Sands is far more forgiving than its counterparts in the sands of time trilogy (now quadology?). Jumps that are just millimeters away from connecting with your destination are now forgiven, with the Prince auto adjusting your jump. Jumping over a pole will no longer require the turning back of time, with the prince grasping out underneath him in a wonderfully painful animation. While the puzzles remain as acrobatic as ever, with some new ideas included due to the element control, the game won’t let you die easily. Veterans of the series are likely to use the time reversal ability around once an hour! It almost makes you wonder why it’s there, with the time reversal now taking you back to the last safe point in your actions, rather than a destination decided by you.
Combat in ‘The Sands of Time’ is easily the game’s biggest flaw and the developers did happen to notice that. The prince is far slower than his 2003 counterpart, swinging his sword with style and meaning, instead of flashy non-committal strikes. A 5 hit combo is your longest, all mapped to one button, but this combo can be modified. Each swing can be powered up by holding the button, whilst a kick from another button sends enemies flying to the floor. Of course the acrobatic flip is back in the game, but now with even more style. Instead of producing the same old ‘over the top, slash’ routine, the Prince now jumps onto his enemies shoulders and has a number of combos from there. The game even dares you to make a mockery of your opponents with an achievement for jumping onto 30 enemy’s shoulders without touching the ground and without using any special powers.
You make think the combo list looks a bit lacking, but in actuality it is the enemies encountered that decide your combo. With a number of different members of Solomon’s army assaulting you, picking out enemy weakness and prioritizing becomes essential. While you don’t have to stab the enemy through the heart with the dagger of time (it’s not in the game for a start) to kill them, they do take quite a thrashing before crumbling. Prioritizing would be a little easier if it wasn’t for the number of enemies, within the first hour I was engaged with 20 opponents, by the end 50! Due to this exponential increase in enemy numbers on screen, this slower Prince actually appears more acrobatic and skillful than the previous fast moving Prince. It’s strange saying that considering that the block button is absent and only the dodge can be used to avoid attacks.
For each combatant that has fallen the Prince gains 1xp, collecting a set amount levels the Prince up. These level ups allow players to choose an upgrade to the Prince, which can be anything from health to more damage. On the other hand, you could forgo standard abilities to gain one of 4 elemental powers for use in combat. Each is used in a different way, fire leaves a trail being you that damages anyone who crosses it, ice blasts out a line in front of every strike hitting every opponent caught in the wave, Wind creates a whirlwind that knocks all opponents away and Stone allows you to create a rocky armor to increase your defense. Each activation takes a point of energy, but is extremely effective and can be leveled up as you progress making each power more….powerful.
One would think that this power-up mechanic would work into the new elemental control ability, but that would be too obvious. Instead these world changing abilities are given out at set points in the game by the ‘DJinn’. Each power can be used to alter the world making it traversable in ways that shouldn’t be. With one of these new powers water becomes solid as long as your power bar holds out, allowing you to use it in all manner of acrobatic stunts. The most enjoyable moments when using these powers, is when you have to turn them on and off during one movement, it just looks awesome. Of course the other 3 elements have powers that affect the world too, but I won’t spoil the fun.
The art team has to be commended for creating, 1) something beautiful, 2) striking a perfect balance in character design for the Prince, capturing both Warrior Within and Sands of Time in one model. If like me, you were walking into Forgotten Sands with a chip on your shoulder, expecting a below par attempt at a new age classic, the opening cut scene will change your mind instantly. Yes that is a rather shallow reaction to pretty graphics, but instantly you can see that the developers have tried to make this game their own while staying faithful to the series. Forgotten sands is built upon the same engine that Assassins Creed was founded on, however the look and style is different enough for you not to know (although an Ezio costume is available through UPLAY).
Prince of Persia Forgotten sands, doesn’t outstay its welcome, but doesn’t do enough to feel like a whole package. Even an extra hour probably would have been just right, instead you are left feeling that the game is just a tad too short. The plot progresses in an obvious way, but the developers were obviously trying to avoid the mistakes of ‘Two Thrones’, as according to that ending ‘The Sands of Time’ never happened and so neither did this. In my opinion, not enough in terms of dialogue refers to the Prince’s previous adventure, with only Farah’s name appearing in the first 3 hours of the game, yet no mention of the Sands. Don’t get me wrong, I actually think Forgotten Sands slots perfectly into the series, it just doesn’t do a lot to let you know that.
Forgotten Sands is a perfect recreation of the 2003 wonder, everything feels as enjoyable as it was back then. Having recently played ‘The Sands of Time’ again recently, the game has aged badly and while the new title feels like it follows the exact same formula, it has improved on it exponentially. The return of the Prince’s voice from the first game in the series is a welcome touch, his banter with his brother quite entertaining, although his attempts at ‘Drake’ style witty complaints doesn’t engage the audience in the same way as Mr. North does (who voiced the new prince).
Overall the game is an excellent effort to bring back the nostalgia gamers felt for the original Sands of Time, it would take a diehard fan not to enjoy this game for what it is. Although the difficulty is far reduced (not to the last Prince of Persia’s level) it does encourage you to be a bit more risky with your maneuvers. I don’t think I stopped moving for my first hour of game play, constantly wanting to carry on and take risks for the thrilling reward of looking cool (oh god I am shallow). People forget that gaming is a form of entertainment at its heart, Ubisoft did not. Prince of Persia Forgotten sands is entertaining from start to finish and I would call any POP fan a fool for not picking it up.
Now Ubisoft, about finishing the plot from the new Prince…..