Prince of Persia Review: Cel-Shaded Glory
What Assassins Creed should have been
©2008 Arthur Kotsopoulos:
Much like the recent Batman or James Bond films, Ubisoft Montreal is seeking to follow this Hollywood trend of reinvention and re-boot the Prince of Persia series again. The original 3D reinvention, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, was hailed by the critics but oddly didn’t sell as well as it should have. Nevertheless, it is now viewed as a classic.
The inevitable sequel, Prince of Persia: Two Thrones, followed and much like many sequels seemed to fail to live up to the first game. Then, again as in many trilogies, The Prince Of Persia: Warrior Within also didn’t fully live up to expectations.
So what was to happen to the Prince of Persia franchise to get it going again? Well, to start, a new storyline, a new prince, a new girl, new art direction, new gameplay; basically new everything. One would think that all this change would be a bad thing for the franchise, but if you open yourself up and embrace the changes you will appreciate the game for what it is.
The game starts as we follow an unnamed prince searching for Farah, who turns out to be a donkey. As he treks through the desert he falls down what looks to be a cliff in a gorge and that is when he bumps into Elika, the obligatory hot female protagonist and future ally to the prince for the rest of the game.
For reasons unknown to the player at the time, she is running away from the palace guards. After a short yet well implemented tutorial in the form of an escape level, the player is introduced to the basic controls of the game.
From wall running to climbing, the player will familiarize themselves early on with the prince’s available abilities. It works well and get’s you ready for what will be a good 10-15 hours of fighting, running, and exploring.
Like the tutorial the story is quite simple and easy to take in. An evil god who goes by the name of Ahriman is freed by Elika’s father from the Tree of Life and starts to corrupt the land with evil. That’s never a good thing.
The prince and Elika must travel to different sections of the map and heroically venture forth to heal the land, all while battling enemies and the mini-bosses that inhabit the regions.
Much like Assassins Creed, the areas are huge and have plenty to explore but this time they are not filled with waves of human NPC’s to interact with. Even though NPC’s aren’t featured each mini-boss has been given a back-story explaining why they have fallen under the corruption.
Don’t think the story is as simple as that though. The more you progress the more you unlock of the past and discover why these events are happening. There are many questions that you only learn as you start to heal each land.
It’s not the deepest of storylines but it is refreshing enough for a video game and is fleshed out quite well. It boils down to a tale of evil, power, sacrifice and love and does hold it’s own against other heavy story focused games.
While some may argue it isn’t up there with Sands of Time, the new Prince of Persia features what I must say is a land that easily inspires me to spend hours traversing. Its gameplay is what Assassin’s Creed’s should have been: a bit easier, more enjoyable and less tedious. No task feels like a chore in the new PoP, as everything just flows.
Animations of the prince as he swings and wall runs and the landscapes are just breath taking. Elika’s presence, helping to swing you further and clambering around with you, does not interrupt nor make the game annoying. Each area features incredible art direction and the beautiful cel-shading and water colouring effects makes it stand out amongst the plethora of other good-looking games.
The transition from one area to another is smooth and there are no loading times other than the initial loading of a saved game. Importantly, there are no drops in the frame-rate which is great.
Moving from one area to another is smooth and you can travel where you want at any time. With the help of the map, which is simple, you select an area you wish to go to and that’s that. If you don’t know the way, then a simple press of the Y button triggers Elika to send forward a blue bright light that acts as a guide. It simply points you in the direction you should go. It’s good for those who are desperate and want direction but those who want to work it out themselves can ignore it.
Elika does much more than just guide you. In a way, she is like your guardian angel. If you feel you’ll miss a jump press Y which summons a second jump in the form of Elika. She appears, grabs you, and throws you higher to reach your destination.
Much like popular TV shows such as Heroes,
death never seems to be permanent.
This feature may be helpful but practically eliminates the possibility of death. No matter how many times you miss a jump Elika will be there to save you time and time again. No ‘Game Over’ screen, just Elika and her saving grace. At least you’ll never curse in frustration if you fail a jump, so the platforming isn’t that hard.
Though certain areas at the beginning are inaccessible due to ” plates ” that are yet to be activated, don’t think it will be an easy walk in the park. At the Temple there are 4 plates: once you have collected a certain amount of light seeds in healed areas you are able to activate only one other one. After the activation of the ‘plate 4’ areas, the world opens up to be explored, and so the plates are critical to progression in the game.
So the game seems faultless so far. Not entirely. The lip-syncing animation doesn’t look right as during cut-scenes characters’ lips move a tad slower than they are speaking.
The 1 vs 1 combat gets a bit dull after awhile as there is only so much you can do with these simple battles. The button-mashing fights which are my biggest problem with the game, are arguably the worst feature of the new PoP.
In almost every battle you will be faced with ‘button-mashing events’, where you are prompted to repeatedly press the same button, especially against bosses. Boy does it gets annoying and boy do your fingers start to get sore. I was sure I’d get repetitive strain injury. The first couple of times it is forgivable but once you’re almost half-way through the game and it happens 4-5 times a battle, you really get sick of it.
Then there are the ‘quick time events’ which are overly used in games these days, once again making me ask: “What were they thinking”?
Like button mashing, QTE’s are in every single battle and are almost as frequent as light seeds throughout each area. I can understand that during 1 vs 1 battles you need to mix it up but when these two things happen every few seconds it does distract from the awesome experience PoP normally provides.
Luckily, apart from these frustrations the game combat does feature combos which do spice things up. You can get up to 14 hit combos during battles at times and the cinematic camera during the combos is a neat trick as well.
Pressing A for acrobatics, B for gauntlet/grab attacks, X for you usual sword attacks and then Y for Elika to get in on the fighting as well makes for a much more satisfying experience.
The new PoP is refreshing and a much-needed change of pace from all the first person and third person shooters flooding the market. The game offers a well paced single player experience with a satisfying story that many Prince of Persia fans will enjoy and even come to love. Open your eyes, enjoy the game for what it is, take in the sights as you explore the land, and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of Prince of Persia.
©2008 Arthur Kotsopoulos:
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