Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
Best of the series
The previous two games in the Sands of Time trilogy had their problems. Sands of Time itself had rather lackluster combat sections which mainly served to slow the game down and one of the easiest final boss battles in video games history. Warrior Within created a much better deeper and more interesting combat system and managed to improve the platforming segments as well somehow, but was bogged down by numerous bugs and rather poor characterization. Two Thrones gives us the best of both worlds.
The voice actor from the first game is back, giving us the nuanced performance of a man who has made many makes and made even more, increasing costly mistakes trying to fix them just looking for a way to finally set things right and slowly coming to terms with his responsibility for the situation and struggling against his darker impulses that dominated the previous game.
The acting is top notch, Besides the Prince himself, there's a very somber narration from The Empress of Time, who herself is far more sympathetic than she was in Warrior Within, trying to find the best possible outcome rather than just save her own hide.
I found that like Sands of Time, Two Thrones makes you care about its characters, meaning the game packs a lot of emotional punch. When you beat the final boss, the Prince hasn't just destroyed his enemy, but grown as a man. There are very few other games, especially in the action genre, that compare in this area.
Warrior Within's already greatly expanded repertoire of moves gets expanded even further here, The Prince can now do chimney climbs and has numerous places where he can stab a dagger into the wall to hang. While the vast majority of the game is spent on some variation of jumping to ledge, swinging on poles, walking balance beams and running along walls, there's so much variety in the room designs it never gets old.
Combat plays something like Warrior Within where you can hold two weapons at once and use them for numerous combos. The upgrade system has been dropped, however. You'll use the dagger of time for the entire game. This is as cool as ever, moreso, in fact thanks to the new speed kill system. Warrior Within had stealth kills, but there were hardly any opportunities to use them in the game. Here, you can sneak up on characters, then activated a sequence of timed presses to dispatch enemies in style without being attacked yourself. If you get two near each other, you can even do double speed kills.
The Dark Prince takes things even further. He adds even more new moves, notably the ability to snare things with a long chain, making for huge swinging jumps and a portable wall rope.
The chain is useful for combat as well and can be used for a variety of flashy moves. In fact, the games has a nice library of visual effects. This includes the glowing sands contained within creatures, the stylized look of the quick-kill sequences and as always for the series, impressive time effects and animation.
The previous two games had boss fights, but nothing nearly as good as what's seen here. There are only four or five, depending how you count, but each one is beautifully constructed. Prince of Persia is a platform/spatial puzzle game at heart, but the previous entries had bosses that you just hit unit they died. Here, they are far better integrated with the core mechanics of the game. The finale deserves special mention. I won't give anything away, but it's a multi-stage, multi-tiered affair with an incredible final blow.
While they don't end your game ala Warrior Within, I did find a few glitches. Occasionally, the Prince will remain standing when he dies. If you break the bottom crate in a stack, others will hover above it. If you start blocking while standing up, often the block won't register. There's a cutscene before a double boss fight which you can't skip no matter how many times you see it. Most annoyingly, in that same fight, I kept attacking the wrong boss even though I had my left stick pushed toward the one I wanted to hit.
While the Prince himself looks great, others do not. Most notably, Farrah still has no fingers, just flesh-tone mittens. There's a cutscene where she points at something. It looks awful. I can understand this somewhat in the first game, but with years more experience and her barely even appearing outside cutscenes, you would think they could spare a few dozen polygons.
The game's main flaw is that its far less ambitious in many ways than Warrior Within. It's fairly linear, so no more open world. There's only a single ending, relatively few secrets, only four sand powers, no weapon upgrades and really nothing to do on a second playthrough. Considering how many glitches the open world caused, I'm willing to live with it, though.
In the same vein, it's far easier. Combat uses the same basic system, but you'll have to do a lot less parrying and finding openings and the speed kill system means a somewhat attentive player can avoid more than half of the Prince's fights. The Dark Prince has many fewer opportunities, but is so powerful that just whirling the chain over your head is all you'll really ever need to do. The other portions of the game are simpler as well. There were hardly any traps for the first three quarters, none of the hardest navigational bits from previous entries such as spinning rooms and point A and B were always immediately obvious and how to get between them never took much to figure out. The traps and puzzles improve greatly at the end, with the one involving moving a statue of the king across a room being a real standout.
The Bottom Line
In terms of sheer beauty of presentation and story (if not so much technical prowess, being a multiplatform game), The Two Thrones is the best entry in the Sands of Time Trilogy by far. Its only real flaw is a general lack of challenge. It will be a lot more meaningful if you've played the previous games, though. If you are a fan of the action-adventure genre at all and are looking for a more mature, reflective story than one typically finds in a platformer, you owe it to yourself to play the entire series.
by Ace of Sevens (4399) on February 7th, 2007