Prince of Persia has been available since last Holiday season, and I only just got around to finally finishing it. The PoP series was my favorite series of last generation; so why didn’t I beat this one in 1 week instead of 1 year?
Every couple of weeks I’d play for 30 minutes and complete a single section; then turn it off. Very casual play. Every time a boss is defeated, the game then tasks the player with collecting dozens of little light orbs to unlock the next hostile area and boss fight. Since this is about as boring as it sounds, I’d save and quit. Next time I’d boot up, I’d be forced to collect a bunch of light seeds. I’d collect a few in an area and eventually quit. After a few sessions I would finally have enough to continue on and fight the next boss. Once done, the process would repeat itself.
It’s not that the collection itself was poorly done; despite the occasional glitch throwing you to your death, the platforming was solid.
It was simply repetative enough that it was not fun. Many people had this complaint for Assassin’s Creed. But while Assassin’s Creeds repetativeness could be negated by hopping around and assassinating guards and playing around in a sandbox environment, in Prince of Persia you are left to leap around and collect more Light Seeds.
The environment you have to collect the orbs in, however, is extraordinarily pretty. Level design is both well thought-out artistically on a small and large scale. Each individual area is a joy to watch as you transverse through it. You can see previously visited and restored sections, as well as future shadowy unconquered dungeons, from dozens of high points throughout the journey. These beautiful vistas help give a gauge of how far you’ve come in the game.
The platforming itself is well controlled, but strict. Previous games in the PoP series were linear, but felt larger as you looked for the sporadic sand clouds or simply could choose to avoid a blade either on the left or the right. You could wall-run or leap where you wanted. In this newest entry, however, you press certain buttons to perform certain actions. If you see a ring, you press the grab/hand button to swing from it. Wall-running paths are pre-designated well-worn marks on the wall. Leaping from place to place is less about a perfect path, and more about pressing a button when certain environment prompts are placed directly in your way.
Lastly, punishment is not viceral. Back in the days of the original Prince of Persia, death came quickly and often. Because this could cause frustration, the game made it graphically interesting. In the latest entry, death never actually occurs when you miss the button press. The player is attacked by black goo (corruption) or falls to his death without ever hitting the ground. The Prince is saved at the last minute before anything can actually occur. You never have a sense of defeat when you take a misstep or an enemy knocks you down; just a sense of annoyance that you have to try again.
I haven’t mentioned combat, but it generally isn’t important in a PoP game. It was the main complaint against the Sands of Time, where Warrior Within’s focus was improved combat. Two Thrones had the best approach: stealth kills that simply removed combat entirely if the player performed extra platforming. This Prince of Persia institutes a classic one-on-one style. This is an interesting approach, harkening back to the original Prince of Persia, but there is no defeat in combat. You are always saved in at the last second much like any other danger in the game.
Overall, Prince of Persia is not a bad game but does not stand up to the high bar set by the previous trilogy. Much like each game Ubisoft Montreal has worked on in the past, I have faith they will take many of these criticisms to heart and improve the sequel.