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SummaryThe gameplay fades away parallel to the need of another Prince of Persia
The GoodI think I see a pattern on my reviews. I usually review games when I see them as a good example of some trend in the industry. The new Prince of Persia is a 2 for 1 bargain in this context, game franchising and casual level difficulty. But first things first, not everything is a bad move on the series.
There are at least two features of Prince of Persia 2008 (that's a funny name for a non-sport game, don't you think?) from which other developers could learn. The storytelling is one of them. The most interesting thing of it is that the player can make the protagonist talk whenever he/she wants. By pushing "t" while the characters stand still and there is no danger around, they will start talking. The concept is that the player, through the prince, asks Elika about what is going on, and Elika explains a bit of the background and current events on the place they are. Obviously, if the player asks forever, the situation will look stupid, but this will be the player's fault not the feature's.
In addition, the characters will realistically dialogue about the situation while playing without using cutscenes at all. If somebody has played Kane & Lynch he/she will know that this gives a whole lot of life to the game and makes the player more involve with the characters and their goals.
Prince of Persia is also very beautiful, the artistic direction is something they can be proud of, although, as I will explain, level design ruins the credibility of the world portrayed in the game. More on this later.
Also, a round of applause for Ubisoft for not putting any sort of DRM on this game (not even "DVD on drive" nonsense, 0_0). I would nearly ask you to blindly buy this game just because of this, considering the state of the art in the matter, but the game is actually a very bad one.
The Bad(Note: I didn't finish the game out of boredom.)
Let's begin with a review of the history of this game series.
Prince of Persia, the first one, I mean, is a classic. And it is a classic basically because it was a great game. It was original, very enjoyable to play, and artistically admirable. After being released for all the systems possible and their dog, Prince of Persia 2 was released in order to capitalize on the first one's success. I haven't played it, but apparently it wasn't that good. Many years later, when 3D graphics were about to take us to paradise on Earth, some guys decided that Prince of Persia should also look nice just by giving it a new dimension and doing everything else wrong. And surprisingly, it failed.
Many years later, Ubisoft realized that a new Prince of Persia could be a good idea now that 3D graphics were mastered. I still consider despicable to keep on putting same names to games that have nothing to do with each other or separated in time by plenty of years, but Sands of Time was too good to criticize it for this. Still, it wouldn't have hurt to call it other way around and start a fresh new series.
So, where are we? After a trilogy on this new prince (you know, every new project starts as a trilogy nowadays, it's a word with high marketing appeal) Ubisoft has decided to do another Prince of Persia game. It has nothing to do with the Sands trilogy nor with the previous games, but, well, you know, it's about money. Ubisoft is not evil, everybody does it, isn't it? Let's put this straight: videogame industry is full of games based on or continuing a previous game that have been developed solely because that previous game was successful, "profitably" successful, that is. Not that series-starting games are developed for more artistic reasons most of the times, but there is a real plague of games with a number or a subtitle at the end of the name that clearly shout us "hey, you!, yes, the stupid one, you liked "Average Uninteresting Game 1"?, we have done a totally unmotivated second part, come and buy it before I get angry and break your legs you piece of..."
Ok, I calm down now, but never forget that it is the industry who tells you what you like and not vice versa.
And the new Prince of Persia is a rather insulting example of this. It has nothing to do with the previous games, but it is an obvious recycling of the last trilogy with some improved graphics thrown at it. Everything looks lacking motivation if compared with Sands of Time. But let's look at the facts.
The new Prince of Persia begins with the prince (who is not a prince apparently) crossing the desert and befriending an escaping girl. Soon it's discovered that she is a princess trying to prevent her father to free an evil god, which he eventually does. Now the prince and the princess have to fight this evil god, nobody knew about before, because, you know, ancient Persia was full of this kind of exotic crap, and everybody had their hairs and clothes waving in the wind.
The Sands of Time trilogy fan (tm) will soon start to feel uneasy as the prince and the following princess parkour around the "beautifully artistic everybody is talking about" scenarios. I said parkour? Well, it should be called something like "magic parkour" as the spectacularly realistic moves of the prince we all have enjoyed in the previous games are gone. Apart from the ability of Elika to just fly around at will, the prince shows some totally absurd movements this time around. For example, now you can walkrun without any momentum at all, just jumping at a wall. And the funniest part of it is that the prince will scratch the wall while doing it, which in real life would prevent you from running more than one step before falling down. Walking through the ceiling is also something that defies classical mechanics (those you learn at high school) and that the prince does without any effort. But the best part is the "Elika button" that serves as a double jump. Every time a normal jump turns out short, the screen goes white and you have to push this button in order for Elika to give you a push with her magical abilities.
The concept behind Elika is actually what differentiates the game from the rest of the series and is the one that ruins it. She accompanies you through the whole game. The temple has chosen her to save the world from Mr. Evil God n. 786 from Persian mythology and has, therefore, given her powers. Basically, she can fly and glows in white. If you remember Sands of Time series, it was a really difficult game, but the designers created the time manipulation dagger in order to give you the ability to rewind your false steps. But this had some limitations, it could only be done various times with the dagger full charged and only around 5 seconds back in time. The game was still challenging, and the feature very original and praised by everybody. In this new game, Elika replaces the dagger but, this time, there is no penalty at all. Every time you fall, Elika rescues you, every time you fall in the darkness (some black stuff that is everywhere) she saves you, every time an enemy is about to stab you, she saves you, etc. Oh!, and enemies cannot kill you at all, the prince feign hurt after the first hit, but that's about it.
This is absurd to the point that, later on, Elika suggests that using her powers tires her, but you can throw your prince into the void as many times as you want with Elika doing her thing all the time without any trace of tiredness. It would be a nice idea to have Elika get exhausted with time, giving a limit to her ability to save you.
Having different difficulty levels would have been a very good idea actually, because the game really feels like playing itself some times. Let's look at the gameplay. Playing the game is like this. Push 'w' (forward button), when you see a gap, press jump button, when you face a wall, press jump button, when you see a wall worn away, push jump button, when you see a ring, push the claw button, when screen fades to white, push Elika button, when you see an Elika special power circle, push Elika button. What if you are in a combat? I never mastered the combos, so maybe I'm missing something, but combats are pretty much like this. Face an enemy, push attack, Elika and claw buttons in a random sequence and the prince will perform a combo, if the block button appears, push the block button, if any of the other buttons appear, push that button. By the way, there is only one weapon in the whole game and combats are only one-on-one. Somebody would call this a downgrade in the series, but not Ubisoft (or maybe they do and don't care). And remember, you are immortal, the prince can only die in a combat if you just close the game because you are saturated of boring, repetitive combat.
Summarizing, the game is a fucking quick time event theme park!! When I had to move these two guys through far distances it was exasperating, my brain didn't even have to think one bit, I felt like a bloody robot pushing buttons while watching the prince walkrunning for the 162th time in the last minute. And when Elika's special powers were unlocked (you know, Persian bullshit super exotic powers, everybody knows about), watching them jumping from one end of the scenario to the other was like hearing the game calling all of my physics teachers a bunch of losers.
I guess not all of you reading this are so concern with realistic parkour but, considering the level reached by the Sands of Time trilogy and that the parkour masterpiece called Assassin's Creed is also an Ubisoft production, this game looks like big joke on all of the work made in this feature until today.
Lastly, I would like to talk a little bit about the famous "beautiful" and "artistic" scenarios in PoO, I mean, PoP (2008). As I said before, it is quite a visual pleasure to play this game, at least at the beginning, but soon the player will also feel uneasy with this. The first thing you notice is that this "Ringland" the princess lives in, has a highly structured shape. The game starts by the temple in front of which lies a desert in a semicircular extension. Limiting this extension there is a small mountain chain at which 4 buildings stand out at equidistant points at the horizon. Each of them are the first sight we have of the four parts of the kingdom (guarded by 4 corrupted characters, OBVIOUSLY). Each of this parts are composed of a circle with four circular scenarios each at equidistant points. At the center of each scenario, a boss fight awaits. And then, a boss scenario (probably circular, never played that far) in each of this 4 parts of the kingdom. Maybe the Persians did like rings and the number 4 to build their Evil God prisons (ask an archaeologist) or maybe level designers of PoP08 are just a bunch of circle-obsessed freaks with only 4 fingers in each hand.
In addition, the player will also have the sensation, sooner or later, that the people living there would use this magical parkour as their everyday mean of moving, as everything is designed to this end. Why are the walls full of rings?, why all the poles?, etc. The silliest detail many players will eventually suffer are the scratches in the walls that are used to visually tell the player to run through them (push jump button quick time event, that is). Every time, and with every time I mean every fucking time, the prince has to run through a wall, this wall will look like dozens of people run through it every day. This really is a good example on how soon did level designers drop realism in this game.
It is also very curious how all of the scenarios in Prince of Persia are embedded high above in circular cliffs. If I get it right, people were supposed to be living here, why would they ever build their houses over 100 meters above the ground? Every scenario is hanging absurdly high on these cliffs. Sands of Time trilogy never needed these tricks in level design, they could at least learn from the series the game supposedly comes from.
The Bottom LineThe only positive thing about this game is its beauty. Both sound and graphics looks like a peaceful painting (a sonorous painting, I guess) to relax into. But the gameplay has suffered a dead wound with respect to Sands of Time trilogy, with the obvious and despicable goal to please the most casual gamers. The saddest thing is that an option to level difficulty is a very easy to implement tool, to please both hardcore and casual gamers, but developers keep doing it wrong most of the times, if they even implement it.
In addition, realism has been totally discarded in this new PoP game. Many people may not care, but those of us who care, and, specially considering this was always an important feature of the series, do have a real hard time playing this. It defies logic even at most basic mechanical level. And the story also doesn't save the game at all. In fact, it looks like a really poor attempt to have a reason to do a new Prince of Persia game.