Review - Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

I wrote this review for the SwapGame website after reading one that someone else had written that was very negative.

This is a game that, by all rights, shouldn't exist.

It's a sign that big developers are actually listening to gamers, which is an incredibly bizarre thing in this day and age, though it's a very welcome development, if you'll pardon the pun.

Given how much of a split reception the 2008 reboot of the series received, it's no surprise that Ubisoft has taken the Prince of Persia series back to what gamers feel most comfortable with. A new entry in the Sands of Time series (or rather, FOUR new entries, since the Wii and the two handheld versions are completely different games) that doesn't require players to have actually played any of the other games, allowing both old and new players to enjoy their new title. And slotting it into the 7 year gap between Sands of Time and it's previous sequel Warrior Within means that there's much more flexibility with what Ubisoft can do with the series and the characters within.

Unfortunately, while they've made a technically solid game, there's a lot of missed opportunities that prevent it from being the complete return to form that it could have been.

Starting at the beginning, the story is rather one-note and is rather basic compared to the rest of the series. The Prince is visiting his previously unmentioned and never referred to again brother Malik (well, this is a midquel) to learn how to become a leader. But his kingdom is attacked and he's forced to unleash a mystical army that ends up being an evil force that wants to crush everything in its path, and it's up to the eternally un-named Prince to fix things. It's a tired concept and the game doesn't seem to try to make it any more interesting. The whole thing is full of clich├ęs and it's very hard to shake the feeling that we've been here a dozen times before, with the Prince even saying as such in a nice touch of self referential-ism.

The gameplay, on the other hand, is where the game shines. It's a wonderful return to the style of the original Sands of Time, and there are few things as satisfying as successfully making your way across an entire courtyard by climbing along the walls and sliding down a banner. There's even a few new tricks, such as the ability to freeze water and use that as platforms to swing across, or causing lost parts of buildings to temporarily return for you to clamber all over. A few small niggles bring the experience down though. Unlike in any other game, when running along a wall the Prince does so in a sort of rainbow-like arc, which is incredibly annoying when trying to time your way across a series of traps. The Prince also seems to have gained several abilities that he'll forget before his next game, which feels somewhat anachronistic-al. But once you get used to the changes, the game becomes much easier to enjoy.

Until you reach the combat, however, which is the games biggest failing. While before the Prince had free flowing and smooth combat sequences, here the fights are little more than button mashing sequences. There's no finesse to the fights, and no satisfaction to be gained from enemies who only have one attack and constantly try to use it on you. There's also so many of them in each fight, up to 50 at a time, that you'll quickly learn to dread these sections. The now obligatory XP system allows you to learn several abilities, and you'll quickly find the two that are most effective at getting through these fights quickly and will constantly use them, rendering the whole system rather broken.

There's not really much else to say about the game. The music is good as always, the graphics are impressive (except for the Prince himself, who now looks like a football hooligan), the level design is pretty good (if a little illogical when thought about in real-world terms) and the voicework is generally acceptable. But it's hard to shake the feeling that this isn't a game made by the original developers. Rather, it's been made by their biggest fans who desperately want their tribute to be held up and thought of as being as good as the games that inspired them. And while this tribute might be good - and don't get me wrong, it IS a good game - it's not up to the exceedingly high standards of the original trilogy.

But if they want to make more such tributes, well... I wouldn't say no.

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