March 20, 2009

Prince of Persia '08 Review

Prince of Persia (2008)
Ubisoft, Ubisoft Montreal

I discovered Sands of Time probably 3 or 4 years ago, and I immediately liked the platforming, the gameplay, the rewinding, the story- I became a huge fan. While Warrior Within wasn't as engrossing as its predecessor, it came with a dual-weapon combat system that was fun to implement, and Two Thrones tried to fuse both worlds of Sands and Warrior Within with limited success.

Last year's re-imagining changes almost all of that.

New Face
Now starring a new face for the Prince character (the man's name is never revealed), Prince of Persia's protagonist has a radically different flavor from the usual- the man's a decidedly unlikable wisecracking jackass with an American accent- and he looks like a really poor man. So it goes like this: the Prince is just minding his own business leading his donkey Farah (one of the several nods to older games) to who-knows-where, then he sees a girl named Elika running from a few imperial guards. The Prince decides to help Elika and he gets into a sticky situation involving the prevention of the release of an evil God and ridding the world of corruption.

While the game retains the core elements of the franchise- platforming, combat, puzzle solving- the game's implementation of it is very much different, and this change can pretty much be attributed to the fact that it also uses a modified version of the engine behind another famous Ubisoft Montreal game Assassin's Creed. This engine also enables the game to let the player pick whatever mission they want for less linear gameplay, oh and everything you see, you can touch and reach, seriously.

Instead of the dual-sword combat and multiple enemies, the game gives you intense one-on-one battles and a fascinatingly fun combo system, and instead of the ability to rewind time, your companion will be able to save you- always- as the game knows not the meaning of "Game Over". In short, you can't die- ever.

Platforming is widely the same though, with a few more moves here and there. For example, Elika is able to extend the length of your jump, and you can also climb on the roof as well as use your arm to slide down on virtually any flat wall.

The game's presentation is top-notch, and eye-pleasing as it looks like a storybook come to life. Nice little touches like the black goo called corruption that extends its reach to you as well as the glimmering plates of magic lend to its fantasy ambience- it just looks beautiful.

The soundtrack isn't always particularly memorable, save a few ditties, and it contains an appropriate Middle-Eastern flavor to it.

Annoying Dialogue and Personalities
Unfortunately, the Prince itself is annoying and downright unlikable due to his inappropriate sarcasm. Perhaps the storywriters intended the Prince to be constant comic relief- that all of this is just a dream-like game- but they obviously failed.

Despite the fact that the man doesn't divulge much of his personality, the gamer will want to learn more about the subdued Elika since she's a hell of a lot more mysterious than the Prince. Fortunately, the voice actors (while not spectacular, but not bad either) and the fluid animation help in giving the two characters a bit of chemistry that makes the whole experience a lot more tolerable. Still, they're wasted because of how atrociously-written most of the lines are. I mean, the story itself is a wonderful one, but the lines of the characters are just stupid. Maybe the developers knew this, so they made most of the dialogue optional- meaning that if the gamer want the two to talk, he'll have to press a button first before they actually talk. Yes, there are some tidbits that contribute to character development in these optional talks, but most of the time, you're not missing out on much.

Fortunately, the barebones mandatory dialogue is okay and it helps progress the story.

Platforming and Slippery Controls
Platforming- which forms the bulk of the game- is very fun, but I'll have to admit my having a beef with the controls. Sometimes, I want the Prince to go to a certain direction, but the game gets me to another. Or when the camera shifts perspective, the Prince's direction also changes and I usually fall down a simple gap. I would really sometimes find myself wrestling with the controls, and occasionally they even don't respond at all.

Despite the fact that fights are only done in a one-on-one style reminiscent to that of the original game of the same title, the combo system incorporated into the game gives combat a lot of variety. You can chain several exciting combos that deal a lot of damage, and here's a little taste: you can toss the enemy into the air, summon Elika to attack two times, let the Prince attack and let the enemy sustain its floatation mid-air and make the final blow.

You know what, I just love it.

But the game shows its "intended-for-console" colors due to the fact that quick-time events are a bit hard to do in a PC. Of course, it's all easier on the 360, but in the PC, you'll have to memorize all the symbols and stuff that the game throws at you. It's a shame, really, because quick-time events are important in keeping the exciting flow of the fights, and really, failing to be able to execute these will not only bring you down (but not make you die, because you don't die in this game at all), but also let the enemy regenerating life unnecessarily.

Fortunately, most elements in the game will have a text tutorial that tells you the appropriate keyboard button to press, though.

Short, sweet and painful?
The experience ends in a particularly mixed note- as in people will either love it, or hate it. Personally I'm okay with it since I'm actually asking for more in the form of a sequel, but some will note the context of the ending- it's like a waste of all the player's efforts- but hey, it is rather unexpected and opens possibilities of a sequel (but Ubisoft ended up creating downloadable content that screws PC gamers like me which is lame).

I'm still asking for more, because the game was rather short and actually kinda easy. The easy-ness will depend on some, but some hardcore gamers will be put off by the difficulty (or lack thereof).

Replay Value
There is a little bit of replay value in this game, and it exists within the form of collection of so-called light seeds. In the PC version, particularly, you can unlock several "skins". Aside from that, well, you can explore the huge worlds, I guess.

Prince of Persia is a great platformer with some minor kinks which are eclipsed by the beautiful, immersive environment and ambience. Some will be put off by its length and lack of difficulty though.

Rating: 8.4/10

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, I most likely wont be picking it up unfortunately. I will have to avoid the slippery controls


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