I've been a fan of the Prince of Persia series from Ubisoft since the beginning. I have always loved racing along walls, and making impossible jumps from ledge to ledge at breakneck speed. However I must admit that after Prince of Persia (2008) released, I thought the series had jumped the shark. Ubisoft tried to reinvent the series with their 2008 release, and in my opinion watered it down to the point where my 8 year old son could finish it without trying. There were no real puzzles, or difficult tasks that took time and skill to figure out. You could basically just walk through the game with no consequences for dying or missing a jump. Some people enjoy games like that, not me, I prefer a challenge in my games. While I don't want insanely hard gameplay, if I'm not challenged I have no feeling of accomplishment.
Doesn't everyone run along walls?
I largely wrote off the series after 2008, and swore I was done with the Prince, but damnit Ubisoft can make a cool looking trailer, and I have problems with staying away from games. So it was with much trepidation that I decided to give the Prince another shot.
In Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands you play the Prince of Persia (shocking I know) who is heading to his brother's temple, just as an army invades it. In an effort to fight back, his brother decides to unlock a devastating force that generates an army of sand demons and hundreds of skeletons. It's up to the Prince to reunite two pieces of a legendary medallion... blah blah blah. I could go on about the story but to be honest, it's totally forgettable, unimaginative, and just plain boring. You have played the story a hundred times before, and likely will play it a hundred times again. Nothing new, nothing imaginative, absolutely nothing compelling story wise. The only saving grace is the narrative. The prince narrates the events during the action, and his good-natured humorous one liners throughout the game are amusing at times, and help with the boredom that is the story line.
Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands is rated Teen for Violence, and Animated Blood
Gameplay - 80 / 100
While the story failed to inspire on so many levels, the acrobatic platforming the franchise is known for is back, and managed to get me hooked all over again. Like in previous games, the Prince starts out with the power to run along walls, leap between posts, and slide down banners.
The first few hours of gameplay was exceptionally easy. I felt like I was back in 2008 all over again. Thankfully the game gets quite a bit harder as you play, when you start picking up additional abilities like the ability to temporarily freeze water into climbable objects or make certain portions of the ruins appear as they were before they were destroyed. While only a novelty at first, you will find that you often need to freeze and unfreeze water in midair to get through certain sections.
Using these skills in concert with each other is no easy task. In order to help with this, Ubisoft has brought back the ability to rewind time, giving you multiple chances to make those impossible jumps. Thankfully, this isn't the infinite retries the last Prince of Persia game provided, this time around player's have a limited amount of retries. If you run out of retries you have to go back to your last checkpoint and start from there.
Swinging on ice is fun!
While the platforming in Prince of Persia is a perfect balance of challenging puzzles and reflexes, the combat leaves much to be desired. The earliest fights are a yawn fest, which amounts to little more than mashing buttons and watching hordes of undead dying at your feet. While you gain new combat powers throughout the game, much like the powers you gain for platforming, these are fairly useless. There are a few cool looking powers such as a fire trail following you around, or AOE knockdowns, the truth is, none of this is really needed. The combat in the game requires no real strategy and provides no real challenge. The frustration is heightened by the great platforming in the game. Ill have to spend a good amount of time figuring out how to get somewhere to fight an enemy, only to almost fall asleep while actually fighting them.
Graphics - 77 / 100
The graphics were the hardest part of this entire review to score. If you watch the trailers for the game, you will think I'm high for scoring it so low, and to be honest, there are some breathtaking parts in the game. Unfortunately The Forgotten Sands apparently has a case of schizophrenia. One minute you will be running along with awesome dynamic lighting and mapping, and the next you will swear you are playing a game from 5 years ago (perhaps they wanted to capitalize on the movie, and make you thing you went back in time). I would swear they had several different teams of artists working on this game. Some with a ton of experience that made all the parts you see in the trailers, all the way down to interns working summer jobs. Ubisoft usually makes a good looking product, I'm not sure what happened here, but there is no excuse for it.
Sound - 90 / 100
There is not much in the way of music in game, but when it is there, it's very well done, and helps draw you into the setting.
The environmental sounds are believable and well done. From the water falls to the sounds of combat, the environment comes to life around you.
What really stands out and should be applauded is the voice actor who plays the Prince. His lighthearted demeanor and sense of humor really stand out in the game. I found myself smiling almost every time he was speaking.
Value - 65 / 100
Believe it or not, this is boring!
While it was nice to see Ubisoft turn Prince of Persia back towards the game The Sands of Time, and away from the Prince of Persia (2008), the game is painfully short. I was able to finish the game in 2 evenings of play, and to be honest, if I had tried, I probably could have done it in a single night. The combat and early platforming are just far to easy, and results in you flying through the game. With very linear game play, you have no side missions or anything to slow you down from running straight to the end. An end by the way that is predictable and disappointing.
Lasting Appeal - 50 / 100
There is really no lasting appeal at all to the game. It works pretty good the first time through, but with such linear gameplay, unimaginative combat, and a boring story, there is little reason to play through the game more than once. Perhaps if you want to try a few of the harder puzzles or jumps without dying you might play it a second time, but I would be hard pressed to say anyone would play it past that. There is just reason to revisit the game more than once.
Pros and Cons
Great Platforming and acrobatics
Gameplay too short
Ubisoft has made a solid effort of returning Prince of Persia to its former glory of the Sands of Time with The Forgotten Sands. The game is much improved from the 2008 version, and fans of the series will find a lot to like about the game. Unfortunately with issues like the easy combat, and the uninspired story, the beauty that Prince of Persia brings with platforming is overshadowed.
While the game had some glaring issues that prevents me from scoring it higher, I must admit that I no longer think the Prince has jumped the shark. Hopefully Ubisoft learns from the mistakes of The Forgotten Sands, and will bring us the Prince of Persia we all hope for.