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Tuesday | September 25, 2018
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Prince of Persia (X360 & PS3)

Prince of Persia (X360 & PS3)

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The new Prince of Persia is a departure from the previous games in the series, the design philosophy has changed and he shares the story with a rather attractive female companion. Is this enough to freshen up this platform hopping franchise however?

When the game starts the Prince is merely a charming thief who gets lost in a sandstorm and goes on a hunt for his missing donkey, Farah. This sandstorm, we find out is actually magical and has transported the Prince to another land, a distant place deeply rooted in mythical lore. He meets up with a woman called Elika, a semi clad warrior whose task is to guard a prison (called the Tree of Life), containing the evil god Ahriman. As always, the two meet just as Ahriman escapes, unleashing a foul corruption across the world. The corruption will continue to spread and blight everything, unless of course The Prince and Elika can intervene.

Interestingly, Elika has been coded to offer much more than a nice looking diversion, she is your guide, able to cast spells throughout the game to offer assistance if you get stuck. Not only that, but she can offer help in combat and sometimes swing the balance. She is also your teacher and informs you as the game progresses about the conflict between Ahriman and Ormazd as well as the tragic tales of the four bosses you meet in battle.

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Elika is actually one of the focal points in the game as she is so important to the development of the story and is very easy to control… her AI is so sophisticated that a single button press will tell her to execute double jumps, combat attacks and magic depending on the situation or position. Surprisingly she also never gets the way of the Prince or causes game play issues, which is refreshing.

Equally so, the Prince is just as easy to control, all of his actions are assigned to a button. One controls his sword, one for his gauntlet and another for acrobatic moves. All these buttons are dependent on the creature you are fighting or your position in the environment, so for example if you are trying to slide athletically between a creatures legs, the acrobatic button will perform the task when you are in the right position.

This is a main strength of the game – the control methodology. While it is very simple, in practise is it hard to make errors due to camera angles. You simply press a button to perform the action you desire and it works. This design ethic means that the game can look extremely fluid in action when you are jumping and bounding between poles, walls and platforms.

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The combat aspects are well handled and the game is thankfully not a button masher, you need to time your attacks to be successful. Like most aspects of the game, a relaxed and rhythmic approach works best. This combat is furthermore enhanced by the combo system, which is very effective and looks great. If you can judge the string of combos, you can sometimes land over a dozen hits into the targets before coming to a halt. The AI is tough and blocks quite often, so the use of combos is a very good way to even the odds at times. It also seems adaptive, so if you are struggling it will lower the difficulty on the fly.

While the combat appealed to me, a colleague in the offices didn’t take to the system at all, he was a hardcore Prince of Persia fan having beaten all the games in the series. It would be fair to say that this new system of movement and combat will not be for everyone.

It certainly isn’t all perfect, sometimes you will fall when you think you can make it down to a position, in these cases approaching the location from a different angle will work because the developers (Ubisoft Montreal) clearly wanted you to take another route, which at first glance might not be totally obvious.

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You may notice I didn’t say "you will fall to your death" in the last paragraph and I will explain. You cannot die in this game. Ever. Your side kick Elika will always save you from death. If you fall she will pull you back to safety and if you are getting maimed by an enemy she will intervene and pull you out of the action to heal. To counter this somewhat bizarre ideology, the enemies also heal while you are out of the action so you really just have to start again. To be honest, it doesn’t ruin the game, but there are times I wondered why the Prince simply cannot die, no matter if you intentionally try and leap to your death.

This is a failing of the game in certain aspects, the challenging nature of the environment is lowered. Additionally the developers have decided to give you prompts for certain requirements. When you need to block, a flashing block icon appears on screen. If you need to perform a double jump, the colour bleeds out of the screen. It is very apparent to me that this game is targeted towards a larger audience, including younger kids at Christmas. I am not saying this is a bad thing, but objectively I am confident that a specific portion of the older audience who love a challenge may find this system very limiting and perhaps even annoying at times.

Your companion Elika has specific powers. There are four magic abilities tied to specific plates found throughout the world. Two of these powers are virtually identical. The red plate forces you forward, often to another red plate and the blue plates signify that Elika will hurl the Prince forward, these are basically the same but just look different. The dash power sends the Prince running up walls and although this sounds great, it really just means you have to move left, right, up and down to avoid certain obstacles. The flight power is the same mechanic, except you are flying with Elika through the air. If you fail either of these you are forced right back to the start and as they can be up to five minutes long it can get rather annoying.

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Most fans of the series love the puzzle elements and this time I feel they are sadly lacking, there are really only a few of any challenge, while the rest remain simple, even for young kids. It would have been a much better experience if the developer had included more challenging puzzles later in the game, even if they had given Elika the ability to prompt the player if he/she got stuck.

In some areas POP is very open ended, with a very short time frame you will be able to move from one area of the world to another, examining the four different locations. You can’t at this stage cure the areas of the corruption but it does give you the ability to alter the order in which you unlock Elika’s powers. There are also four traps released by the bosses in each of the four territories which remain even after beating them. These traps vary in nature and affect how the game plays, but I would like to leave some element of surprise for our readers as I feel that detailing these specifically could somewhat ruin the impact.

When you travel through corrupted areas you are gently forced into a certain direction and you will have to repeat specific sequences, but the enjoyment comes from the flowing nature of the game and the great environments. It is also visually impressive as Elika rids the areas of the corruption and replaces it with luscious vegetation.

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Graphically the game is very impressive on both consoles with the superior experience delivered by the Xbox 360, there is a slightly higher level of anti aliasing applied and it helps smooth out some of the jaggies and enhance the overall appearance. That said, owners of the Playstation 3 will not be disappointed either, even though they will experience some minor frame rate issues from time to time.

Prince of Persia is a fun and entertaining title which breaks with tradition and earns some kudos in doing so. At heart it is a very simple game which looks wonderful and plays just as well. It won’t be for everyone and the simple game play mechanic might be off-putting but at the end of the day I feel the changes the developers made have paid off. Equally so however, if you demand realistic action and don’t like to be guided too much on your journey then the current title might end up annoying on a variety of levels. I loved it mainly for the simple charm, effective graphics and flowing animations, make sure you check it out.

Ubisoft have delivered a fun game which has many old school elements which seem refreshing in today’s environment
The art direction and graphic style is very panoramic and appealing. Top notch.
Believable voice acting and dramatic music set the scene.
Around 12-14 hours of gameplay depending on your pace. Worth replaying.
(Not an Average)
A nice outing from the Prince.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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