REVIEWS -- Prince of Persia -- PC
Aims for casual fans and will most likely satisfy them
by Sebastian Stefanov
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Rent
Ubisoft seems very confident of what interested players in the first series, because they put all their chips on a handful of elements in an attempt to attract a core fan base
One had to wonder what logic Ubisoft used to justify a remake of Prince of Persia so early into the last trilogy’s run. I personally didn’t understand the need to revamp a working formula. After having played the 2008 version it all became clear: it’s not the franchise they revamped, it’s the fan base. In the last few years I noticed Ubisoft’s flagship title had a strong casual gamer following -- women in particular. Many of my female friends included at least one of the last three Princes in their library (usually the first one), along with games like Myst and The Sims. The latter are hugely successful franchises so it was only natural that Ubisoft decided to further tap into the female market, probably one of the most loyal in the industry.
Prince of Persia always had a certain appeal to the fair gender with its ease of play and love theme. The last two titles attempted to give the concept a more action-oriented feel but that strategy generated rather disappointing results. It appears Ubisoft realized where the game’s strength lies and decided to virtually scrap action and puzzle elements in favor of what made the first Prince of Persia a hit: wall-running and bonding. Veteran players will find enough action here to keep them interested but extra steps were taken to incorporate much-neglected female gamer preferences.
And those preferences are?
Prince of Persia 2008 isn’t much of an achievement in terms of gameplay but it lets casual players enjoy the game without too many headaches. The game is very easy to get into and does a wonderful job developing the relationship between both protagonists. It features a healthy does of dialog about dreams, goals, parents, duty, love and sex -- the last one usually approached subtly enough to pass under most male radar screens. The entire game flows freely with the player simply tagging along on a ride designed around Elika, the heroine.
Dialog can be ignored, which in a sense also makes the plot optional considering the story is told through the various conversations between Elika and the “prince”. A bubble appears when one of them has something to say. It’s a great feature considering some will not care about the profuse “bonding” taking place. I personally would advise against ignoring the plot. The ending might seem a little strange (correction: stranger) if you skip all the chitchat.
Why I am letting this thief tag along with me?
Because he is the only playable character. And because he’s got awesome abs, a great sense of humor, is charming, witty, adventurous, independent, confident, caring, cheers me up when I’m down, has a nice butt, cool scars, deep azure eyes, accepts me for who I am, treats me like a lady, has “experience”, is a bad boy… and I can probably change him. That’s the one-dimensional MySpace “who I’d like to meet” ideal male for ya. The only thing missing is information on whether he’s a good dancer.
The female protagonist, Elika, on the other hand, is far more fleshed out. On the surface she is a goodie-two-shoes princess whose dad unleashed the god of corruption, Ahriman, from his prison. She is also endowed with special powers that include teleportation and various “light” abilities. On the inside, though, she is the personification of most girls wanting to make an imprint in today’s crazy world of constraints. Together with her companion they attempt to lock Ahriman back into his prison by purging the land of corruption. The land itself is the prison but it has weakened. Now his minions are running amok, infecting the rustic countryside with black goo while the threat of their boss escaping looms over our heroes (literally). The threat is only implied because action is laidback and open-ended.
Why Elika lets the thief tag along with her (and do all the action) is a valid question since she doesn’t need to climb walls and jump from pole to pole to get the job done. She can teleport, fly and is the only one who can purge the land of corruption. Her love interest is merely there to let us experience the game through human eyes. Players control the male character while Elika supports him in various ways. The “prince” can’t die. As soon as our man slips Elika teleports to the rescue -- it’s her answer to the old time rewind feature. The hero (when will this guy get a name?) can’t even die during the scant one-on-one boss battles. In short, anybody can finish this game.
Is there anything to climb besides walls and pillars?
No. But there are vertical and horizontal poles, and surfaces our male hero can slide on. Four different types of “plates” are also spread out in the levels giving players access to specific locations. The concept is good but creativity seems to have run dry at Ubisoft because three of the four plates simply make you fly. The fourth one lets players run on vertical surfaces, which is cool, but changing one of the “fly” plates to something else would have reduced repetition, which the game has plenty of.
The ability to use each plate is unlocked when enough “light seeds” are found. The corrupted land is divided into zones, each one containing “fertile ground” (shiny target) that purifies the surroundings when stepped on. Players must first traverse the perilous, corrupted levels to reach the fertile “targets” then redo each level to find light seeds. Levels can be completed in no particular order, which might explain why the entire game is uniformly easy. A few obstacles are added further into the plot but in general gameplay is rather simplistic until the very end.
Players will be asked to do a fair deal of wall-running, climbing and pillar-jumping. The mechanics around the aforementioned actions are decent but gameplay might be a bit too straightforward for veterans. The “prince” automatically attaches to the nearest surface despite miscuing a jump. Wall surfaces even have scratch marks, hinting where you should run or glide. This “assistance” can get on your nerves at times when our stud does what he’s not supposed to, like jump up instead of wall-run. Unlike previous Prince of Persia games, levels don’t have any spikes or traps. Furthermore, there are but two or three puzzles in the entire story. It’s all wall-running and bouncing off plates. Things are so easy much of the game can be played with a single hand. The only challenge will be finding carefully hidden light seeds.
Thank Ormazd you’re there to watch my backside, Elika
Prince of Persia doesn’t suffer from trial-and-error, which plagues many games of the genre. We have straightforwardness “embellishing” gameplay instead. I say that with a hint of sarcasm because gameplay is absurdly easy while “parcouring” through levels. One doesn’t even need to see what’s ahead; the game practically plays itself. Still, seeing your character prancing around like a ninja is a gratifying feeling. Too bad it’s artificial…
Combat, enjoys the same scripted formula. Combos are great to perform and watch unfold but fighting is stiff. On-screen reflex button presses make up most of the fighting though after a while I actually stopped playing along with this stupid feature, opting for getting beat up instead. Why? Because taking damage is irrelevant: you can’t die. Getting knocked around simply refills your opponent’s life meter a bit -- a strange gameplay feature if you ask me. I’ve actually left the game running in the middle of a boss fight while taking a bathroom break.
Block, dodge, deflect and attack animations lock your character up, leaving you open for attacks between moves. The entire spectacle turns fighting into a beautiful ballet of rigid action. One can’t, for instance, perform an attack midway into a roll. You have to watch your character dodge, get up and get ready before performing a move.
Combat has spectacular animation but it can be repetitive, especially when fighting bosses. Seeing Elika get punched fifty times in the face the exact same way by the end-boss got a malevolent laugh out of me because… well, she should have learned her lesson not to approach the action after the first forty-nine times! Unfortunately for her, she was the victim of constrained animation and surroundings. Speaking of which, battles usually take place on clear ground, and though decorations during fights are rare (you can push opponents through them), I still had occasions where a single, unique, lowly pillar blocked my view…
No, that’s not the torture room, that’s the garden…
This brings us to the camera. It’s decent! There were times where action zoomed out so far up I got a glimpse of the floor above me, but it happened rarely. Not that you will care; the levels are exquisite, so seeing more of them is always a plus. I used to think previous Prince of Persia games had great level designs, but this version tops them, at least from an esthetic point of view. From afar the local architecture gives the impression the kingdom was inhabited by real people. From up close, though, Elika literally has to explain what the rooms were used for. The next Prince of Persia might need to model its ground-level realism after Assassin’s Creed.
Speaking of realism, the thief’s voice doesn’t seem to match his look. Granted, the guy sounds great -- some of the best voice acting of the series -- but the gentle, boyish voice doesn’t match the “I’ll stab you in a dark alley” look. Other than that, dialog is perfect. I personally could listen to both characters all day long. The game features some of the best lines I’ve heard to date and music is on par with what you might expect from a Ubisoft product. It’s good enough to make me want to “find” some of the tunes. One small blemish has to be the overly-repetitive main theme song.
Prince of Persia took a definite step backwards in terms of gameplay but considering Ubisoft is looking to attract casual gamers, the change can be deemed a success. Repetition, on the other hand, is no excuse. A few more innovations would have definitely done the game good. Combat could have also used more fluidity. It’s stiff and pointless, considering you can’t die. This new Prince is a great game for people who like watching polar opposites bonding; it’s not-so-great for players looking for a challenge. The game is absurdly easy.
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: December 9, 2008
Review Date: 25-01-2009
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
Notes: Dolby Digital 5.1
Clean and beautiful graphics. The landscape is worth gazing at but interior levels feel artificial. The new murderer-look doesn’t become the “prince”.
Repetitive action and stiff combat. The plates feel like a wasted gimmick. The game practically plays itself, though it’s fun “parcouring” through levels.
Great lines and a nice plot, though I’m not convinced the game should have ended the way it did. I was expecting a better intro and buildup.
Very nice tunes. Captures the Persian feel. Dialog is clearly the game’s strong point. Best sounding “prince” of the series.
Repetition sets in very early and doesn’t get better with time. The only extras worth finding are alternate costumes. A solid 15 hours.