Review: Prince of Persia

The Prince of Persia series is ever-evolving. Since its original inception there have been many mantles for the Prince to take up, and from the classic Prince of Persia the franchise has come quite a long way. However, EA has taken the games in an entirely new direction with the release of the newest title. Giving the Prince and the world in which he resides a complete makeover, this game is completely unrecognizable against the backdrop of the original and the Sands of Time trilogy. But going in an all-new direction has both gained and driven fans away, and for good reason. Though the Prince and his surroundings are more gorgeous than we could have imagined, there are a few striking flaws that prevent Prince of Persia from being the masterpiece it could have been.

Having been introduced to this new Prince, he doesn’t seem to fit the description of what we’d call royalty in the least. While the Prince is on his way back from a battle, an unfortunate sandstorm causes him to lose track of his faithful donkey Farah. While on a search for the donkey, he is swept away by a mythical sandstorm that lands him in another world entirely. It is here he runs into the gorgeous Elika, descendant of a clan destined to protect that world from malevolent deity Ahriman. For the good reason that the game needs a plot to work, Ahriman just happens to be freed from his prison inside the Tree of Life, much to the Prince and Elika’s dismay. With his escape, the world dissolves into chaos and disarray. It’s the new dynamic duo’s job to heal the land and restore it to its former glory before Ahriman was thrown into the mix. With that, the new Prince of Persia has begun. The pair set off to right all of the wrongs that have occurred by visiting each area of the world and healing all infected areas. As you can imagine, this is a harrowing journey.

On this journey, you’ll be doing some platforming. Let me rephrase this: you will be doing a LOT of platforming. To make your way through the majority of each area, the Prince will have to pull off some quite fancy footwork. Wallruns, acrobatic flips, and seemingly impossible jumps are just part of his repertoire. While these may seem daunting tasks at first, you will soon discover that movement in Prince of Persia is a dream. There is never any real need for precise timing, button-holding, or any of the platform mechanics you may be used to. Simply pointing the analog stick in the correct direction and pressing the appropriate button is all it takes to get through the perilous world. It all feels so refreshingly smooth that you begin to forget, after a while, that you’re gaming and not just sitting through a prolonged quick-time event.

Elika is an invaluable asset to your journey. In fact, as long as she’s around, it’s impossible for the Prince to die. Not only does she laugh in the face of death, but she has the ability to propel the Prince over ravines that he can’t quite make himself, propel him upward, and aid in simple puzzle challenges. With Elika’s special abilities, You can fall off as many cliffs as you want, fall in battle, or gamble with your life as often as you wish. Elika can be counted on to bring you back to the realm of the living. While this lessens the number of occurrences you will get so angry that you simply cannot stand the game any longer, it also acts as a major deterrent for those who crave true challenge.

As for fighting? It can get extremely repetitive. Though the Prince is capable of pulling off some wicked stunts, all you’re relegated to is basically blocking or attacking with a limited amount of spells or physical assaults. In fact, half of the scripted fights can be completed simply by knocking the enemy off a pedestal into the abyss. You’d be surprised at how many times this actually occurs. If you play your cards right, bosses are an absolute cinch, and since you never die, what have you got to lose?

The magical world is split into four major areas. Within each area are locations known as Fertile Grounds. These grounds must be healed before any real renovation of the land can occur. However, in order to actually perform said healing, it’s mandatory that you must attain the corresponding level that will unlock moves needed to traverse the landscape. This means that in order to make any real progress, collecting powerups known as Light Seeds is mandatory. The only problem is, collecting Light Seeds is completely redundant. Once you’ve already traveled through an area, you’ll almost have to run through again in order to attain enough of the glowing orbs in order to unlock a new area. It’s backtracking like this that pulls the overall quality of the game down. Once you’ve completed an area and purified it completely, there really should be no reason to have to take another journey throughout save for actually wanting to. I can absolutely forgive the simple gameplay and the fact that you cannot die, but the fact that this absolutely gorgeous game requires you to run back through old areas for another look is simply unforgivable. It’s certain that there was a better way to implement the acquisition of Light Seeds, but hopefully that will be an issue to be improved upon in the next installment.

As for the story, if you’ve read the opening paragraph and following of this particular review, you’d have some blanks filled in already. However, Prince of Persia leaves the unraveling of the story up to the player. In this, you’ll find that you must converse with Elika throughout the game in order to take away as much logical bits of story as possible. This was a strange move in my eyes, as gamers who do not realize you can speak to Elika and hold a conversation beyond cut scenes will completely miss out. Not to mention an anti-climactic ending spoiled the entire experience for me. If you play through expecting a fitting and well-deserved end, you will be well-disappointed.

Prince of Persia is breathtakingly beautiful. Decadent cel-shaded graphics are unleashed in full force. The smoothness of character models contrast with the artistic beauty of different locations to combine a cartoony but absolutely fantastic landscape. It’s tough to want to peel yourself away from the screen. Even if you happen to find the game a waste of time, it would be a feat not to appreciate such luscious art design. As for the aural side of the fence, the Prince has a gruff, brattish voice reminiscent of one you would hear from a street rat on any given television show. Elika is calm and collected, and her voice actress demonstrates this superbly. As for the soundtrack, few moments stood out to me as memorable, though sweeping orchestral tracks will engross those who enjoy epic game soundtracks.

Though the game does triumph in various areas, it fails in nearly as many. The fact that you can never die, gameplay is as simple as a few presses of buttons, and the amount of backtracking make the game a bit hard to recommend. However, if you’re willing to forgive these shortcomings, there is fun to be had if only for viewing of the artwork. While this is a stunning new direction for the series, it still needs a few of its kinks worked out. I’m confident, though, that the next attempt can shine if it takes care of the many problems plaguing this entry. Here’s to having hope for the future, and many more sidekicks as useful and as gorgeous as Elika.

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