Prince of Persia Review

By Mike on 10:46 pm

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Prince of Persia is a long running game series involving the titular prince adventuring through the ancient Middle East. It originally started out as a combat platformer and indeed the series has remained true to its routes. Once again, this is my introduction to the series. I'm not really sure what to say about this game. The story begins when the Prince stumbles upon Elika, a princess who's father is trying to have her arrested. Her father eventually accidentally releases the evil god Ahriman who was imprisoned in a temple by the light god Ormazd. Upon his release from a tree that imprisoned his spirit, Ahriman unleashes his dark army and a curse upon Elika's unnamed city state. Your goal is to visit the fertile grounds to restore nature and push back the curse. The game uses cell shaded animation and is based on Zoroastrian mythology. This sounds familiar. In fact, the basic premise is almost a carbon copy of Clover Studio's epic Okami, except just moving it from ancient Japan to ancient Persia. The game also has similar elements to Mirror's Edge and Assassin's Creed. Unfortunately, Prince of Persia has more in common with the latter, which incidentally was also developed by UBIsoft's Montreal Studio.

Gameplay
The actual missions take place in the ruins of the city. Bottomless chasms are everywhere so you'll have to platform to get where you're going. Pressing X allows the Prince to do wall and roof run when moving towards either. X in place jumps of course. During a wall, roof run, or jump near a hanging ring, tapping O will extend the distance of your run. If you tap triangle while jumping over a chasm, Elika will use her magic to propel you double the distance of a normal jump. R2 uses your claw gauntlet to slide down walls. As simplistic as this sounds, I found the control system to be rather clumsy, offering little control over the prince. You'll often find yourself falling because the Prince did something you didn't want him to. Mirror's Edge had a similar premise but might tighter controls. While it was challenging, you never felt like you were loosing control of Faith. The same cannot be said for the Prince. The system takes a bit of getting used to despite it seemingly being watered down. Obstacles in the game include corrupted surfaces and corrupted air, which function in the same manner as cursed zones did in Okami. They slowly drain your health. The health system is similar to that in games like Uncharted, where there is no health bar but the screen fades as you loose it. You can never really die in the game. If you fall, Elika uses her magic to save you and you return back to a safe point. Saving also uses these waypoints rather than free saving. It always puts you back at the last safe point, which often requires considerable backtracking.
You'll get magic powers latter in the game when you reach special pads. Theses are obtained by collecting enough light seeds to move onto the next area. Magic can only be used on magic pads by holding down triangle. Green pads for example allow you to run up walls for long distances. The last thing worth noting is that you can talk to Elika at any time by hitting L2.

Combat is spread few and far between. There are a few dark soldiers but there aren't too many of them. They spawn in certain arena like areas. Killing them is as easy as just pushing them out using Elika's magic, once again tapping triangle if she's close enough. The Prince's combat is similar to Assassin's, which I panned in that review. Square is your sword and R2 blocks. X triggers aerobatic attacks and dodges while O is used for lifting attacks. You can trigger various combos by combining these buttons. More often than not, Elika's magic is more effective than your own sword. Each level ends with a bost fight, which are usually pretty strait forward and not that difficult. The goal is to drain the boss's health bar while not getting killed yourself, pretty standard. There are four bosses in the game but you have to fight the same four over and over again. There really isn't much to the combat and to me, it felt like it was added to the game as an after thought. There are hardly any enemies and the ones that are there were pertty easy to deal with.

I admit I did not complete the game as it was only a rental but it didn't take me long to get as far as I did. However, the whole games just has a dry and repetitive feel to it. Not as bad (tedious) as Assassin's Creed but the experience just leaves one feeling empty. The whole game is basically just jumping around with hardly any enemies to fight or puzzles to solve. There isn't really much of a good story either. Overall, the game play experience isn't horrible but it's not great either. I've come to expect this kind of stuff from Montreal Studio.

Technical
The game does look pretty good, running at 720p with nice, crisp cell shaded graphics. As far as I can tell, there were no technical issues with the game. The environments are colourful though some of the textures could be at a higher resolution. The cell shading isn't as good as what was done in Okami or the Simpsons Game but it's decent all around. Audio is also good, lacking the typical clich├ęd ancient music for a more Persian vibe. Voice acting is alright. The Prince is voiced by Nolan North, who voiced Nathan Drake in Uncharted and Desmond Miles in Assassin's Creed. It's funny because he uses exactly the same voice for the Prince as he did for Drake. From a technical aspect, Prince of Persia is an improvement on Montreal's past efforts.

Conclusion
Prince of Persia received a lot of mixed reviews from the mainstream press and for good reason. Everything about it is a hodge podge of things borrowed from other games. While that stuff worked well for those titles, it just falls flat in Prince. I'm not saying that Prince is necessarily a bad game, it's just unoriginal and lacks any real depth to it. The basic premise might have made more sense ten years ago than now. Montreal Studios does a fine job making games look good but when it comes to gameplay, they just fail to impress. You can make a game as artistic as you want but it needs the gameplay to back it up. It's an improvement on their last outing in the genre at least. Prince of Persia would have made a lot more sense as a smaller, Xbox Live or PSN game rather than a full $60 boxed title.

What Works
-Excellent cell shaded graphics
-Music good and fits in with the setting
-Strong voice acting
-No noticable technical issues

What Doesn't Work
-Controls aren't as tight as they should be
-Weak story that's a hodge podge of other games; not original
-Gameplay is dull and repetitive; lack of enemies and puzzles to mix things up
-Would have made more sense as a PSN title

Score: 6.5 out of 10

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