The Prince is back! Remember the 2008 Prince of Persia reboot for next gen consoles that explored some sort of existential experience that transcended its gameplay? Well, you can forget about him because the PS2, original gangsta, sand-wielding Prince is back in an all new adventure, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.
POP:The Forgotten Sands takes place during the 7 year gap between the original Sands of Time and its sequel, Warrior Within. The Prince goes to visit his brother's kingdom only to find it under attack. The Prince catches up to his brother, Malik, as he is about to release the Sand Army in desperation to defeat the invaders. However, as the Prince's experiences have shown, releasing an army of sand demons never goes well. Same goes for when his brother releases an army of sand demons. The Sand Army defeats the invaders but also takes over the bodies of everyone else except for the Prince and his brother, thanks to their magical medallions; and so the adventure begins as the Prince and his brother try to find a way to stop the Sand Army and save the kingdom.
For those that don't keep up with the Prince's many adventures, in the Sands of Time game, the Prince is a naive wise-cracking hero; while in The Warrior Within the Prince is portrayed as a much darker, mysterious, serious and driven character. The Forgotten Sands promises to develop the Prince's character to explain what brought about this drastic change in the Prince's persona and to tell the story of the Prince's adventures that took place between the original games.
Now, for me, doing anything with the Prince of Persia franchise is pretty ambitious. Many gamers, including myself, really enjoyed the Prince of Persia trilogy that played on previous generation consoles (ps2, xbox). The Prince of Persia reboot that was released at the end of 2008 was a fresh new take on the Prince's origins and a pretty large shift in gameplay mechanics. It was fresh, but disappointing; gone were the fun platforming elements and mechanical traps of the original games replaced by traps formed by the ever growing Darkness that was consuming the world. Also there was no multi-enemy combat, replaced by the occasional spawn of an enemy creating a 1 on 1 battle(which could be quickly ended by attacking first *yawn*) and the handful of boss battles. A valiant effort, but it just did not meet my expectations as a Prince of Persia game.
The developers at Ubisoft Montreal promise to bring back the Prince that we all know and love, along with the gameplay mechanics that make the Prince of Persia games so fun and memorable. Since the game takes place in the universe of the original POP trilogy, the developers are bringing back the same type of level and character design from those games. The levels are smooth, and have a surreal, dream-like feel to them. Also, the Prince's character model is a mix of The Sands of Time Prince and The Warrior Within Prince. The voice actor for the Prince from the original trilogy is also reprising his role.
The gameplay mechanics are also similar to those of the original trilogy but with a twist. The pole swinging, column jumping, wall running, time rewinding awesomeness is all back but now the Prince also has power over the 4 elements (fire, earth, wind, water). He can use these elements in combat as well as for platforming challenges. For example, the Prince can surround himself in a rock shield, shoot ice out at foes, or summon a tornado-like wind to devastate all nearby foes. For the platforming, the Prince can freeze waterfalls and spouts of water from fountains to use them as walls for running or poles for swinging. This freeze effect only lasts for a limited amount of time, providing for a more challenging platforming system. It seems like you will have to be pretty quick on the controls to get through some of the platforming puzzles in the game (unless you use that slow time effect of the sand, of course).
For the game engine, Ubisoft Montreal used the Anvil engine, which was an in house engine created by Ubisoft and originally created for Assassin's Creed. The Anvil engine allows for smooth gameplay and for lots of NPC action on the screen all at once. During gameplay you will see huge battles between the invading army and Malik's forces going on in the background. Also, the Anvil engine allows for up to 50 enemies on the screen at once, which means a whole lot of sand demons for the Prince to turn into cat litter. There are also boss battles throughout the game, that boast epic-ness according to the developers. From the screens and videos that have been posted, the bosses do look pretty bad-ass.
We are pretty excited about this game but also a bit anxious. From looking at the screens and videos the game's graphics seem to be lacking, definitely not next-generation console quality. And with the whole idea of a mixed model for the Prince, he ended up looking rather ugly. Hopefully the graphics get a little bit more polish before it's release. However, with the game coming out in less than a month, we might have to settle for less than impressive graphics for this game. Another thing that's making me a bit nervous about the game is the fighting mechanics. The developers boast the fluid fighting through up to 50 enemies, but from the gameplay videos I have seen, the fighting seems a bit edgy and not as fluid as the developers are saying. Again, the game is not completely done yet so these things may have already been fixed since the release of the gameplay videos. I am staying positive for this game though, because overall the game's story and mechanics seem pretty solid. And adding the control over the elements sounds like an amazing addition to an already solid platforming mechanic.
With the release of The Forgotten Sands just a few weeks away, we won't have to wait long to see how the game plays. Overall it seems like Ubisoft has done a great job at reviving the old trilogy and keeping things fresh at the same time. The addition of the elemental controls and the return of the platforming that we've all grown to love and consider synonymous with Prince of Persia games, has me very excited for this game's release despite my apprehensions. Everybody knows that a game based on great movies will most likely be killed by its attempt to recreate the theatrical scenes. But it's an equally well known trend that great games usually have terrible movie spin-offs, and the Disney movie looks almost humorously disastrous. So look forward to cutting down some sand creatures when Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands wall-runs into stores this May 18th.