In many ways, its predecessor is an objectively better game.
Remember Prince of Persia : Sands of Time? And how that was a really good game with great puzzles, great characters, good story, great graphics, and well optimized difficulty? Well the sequel to Sands of Time named Warrior Within absolutely positively fails in all categories to live up to its predecessor. In many ways, its predecessor is an objectively better game.
Probably the biggest and most obvious change from Sands of Time to Warrior Within is the tone of the game. The Prince is now running for his life after the last game from the mystical Dahaka which is a powerful guardian set to protect time. Because The Prince has released the sands of time, the Dahaka chases after him to kill him. We then see a ruthless and sinister Prince who swears and taunts during combat which flies in the face of the likeable witty and snarky Prince we saw in Sands of Time. This change isn’t very well handled because the Prince feels like he’s trying too hard to be a badass and it makes the game feel hollow and detached because the character is just impossible to empathize with.
Gameplay wise, a lot of Warrior Within is inferior to its predecessor. The biggest change in the game is combat. Combat in Warrior Within no longer involves the dagger, instead it traditionally involves hacking your enemies to bits. Even with new moves and an additional new dual wield system, it falls flat because it doesn’t feel satisfying. There’s no impact to killing people like in games such as God of War, and the gore feels misplaced as you are fighting sand creatures that for some reason also spill out blood. Actually fighting these monsters feels unfair as they will attack without much window of opportunity resulting in frustrating deaths, and to addition the later enemies take a lot of hits to take down, which is one of the contributing factors that stop the Prince’s transition to becoming a badass. Its predecessor had a much more tactile combat system with the dagger, because absorbing the creatures through the dagger felt a lot more satisfying. And while the combat in the last game was relatively easy, it made playing the Prince feel empowering and a satisfying experience similar to using the lightsaber in the Jedi Knight games, while Warrior Within makes the Prince feel like a weakling as your mashing on the attack button several times to take them down. The finesse and the presentation of the combat in the last game fail to live up here.
As before there are platforming and exploration elements in the sequel, but they aren’t as well handled as their predecessor either. The biggest reason for this is the lack of good directional cues and lack of a good camera angle. The directional cues stem from the fact that the sequel has almost an open world element into it where you can discover a whole island, but not only that, you can explore two different versions of it. There is a portal which transports the Prince from the present and into the past, where there are different layouts and structures that may have existed in the past but are no longer in the present. While this may sound cool, it really creates more problems than it’s worth. A lot of the time I found myself confused as to where to go, and the map is completely useless in telling you how to get to your destination. For instance, I was given an objective to get to the palace in the past, however I did not know I had to go to the present to navigate into another portal to get to the past version of the palace. If you don’t use a guide, it can be easy to wonder around and get truly lost for hours IN THE WRONG TIMELINE. The predecessor did not have this issue because it was fairly linier and it also had time visions which allowed you to see what was ahead of you and where to go which is for some reason missing in this sequel.
The Camera angle creates gigantic frustrations in the platforming. They have viewing angle and depth perception issues. An example would be jumping off a ledge to another ledge or pole. Sometimes the Camera views it in a way that the pole looks like it’s at a 90 degree angle from you, but in fact it’s right in front of you at a 0 or 180 degree angle, causing you to fall into horrible death. The camera control is also too slow to keep up proper pace of the game, so a lot of the times you might be jumping off “blind” so to speak to a ledge or pole that you aren’t totally sure exists. You’ll occasionally get chased by the Dahaka which involves you making quick acrobatic wall runs and jumps to get away from it before it catches you. It sounds like a great way to add tension and excitement to the game, but the camera also gets in the way. Sometimes stupidly facing towards you so that you don’t know what’s ahead of you, and usually one screw up is all the Dahaka needs to catch you.
It should also be noted that the reviewer of this game played it on the PC. The mouse and keyboard controls were somewhat workable, but the mouse failed to keep pace with the camera even on the highest sensitivities. The “WASD” set up also fails to give you the delicate preciseness of an analog stick which may result you falling off ledges, this is most evident during the Dahaka chases, and trying to run up walls and run along walls. It’s recommended that you play with a gamepad; unfortunately it does not recognize the analog triggers of the 360 controller, and by most chance, that is the gamepad you have at home.
Graphically, Prince of Persia does not look bad at all. It still holds up very well today (on the PC version) with good looking textures and great animations, the models might look a bit clay like, but it’s nothing too serious. There are some great effects too, but the blood and gore looks pretty bad and fake, almost like it was something tacked on late in development. But compared to its predecessor, Warrior Within does not look that much better than Sands of Time, it in fact looks worse in many spots because of certain areas in the Past look much darker and much greyer. The present seems more like the settings in Sands of Time, but Sands of Time generally is more colorful in contrast to Warrior Within. While it still looks good, it just doesn’t look better than its predecessor, not that we expect much out of a game made 1 year later, but there is no graphical incentive to play Warrior Within over Sands of Time.
The Audio takes a big hit compared to Sands of Time in this sequel. Because of the darker tone, the audio is almost exclusively heavy metal guitar tracks. It’s really tragic because the last game had a great Persian rock and orchesteral track which escalated as you reach closer to the end, and by the end you had this great vocal Persian dramatic orchestral track that would get your blood boiling. In this game, it was almost as if they look at it and wanted to emulate the last track all the way from the beginning to the end of the game. What results is a very monotonic and very flat soundtrack which fails to emulate any emotion into the game and is not very memorable. The voice acting is also similarly flat, emotionless, and not very memorable. They changed the voice actor for the Prince for some reason, probably to get some one more badass, but this guy just comes off as generic action movie, not-really badass dude. All of this flies into the face of the memorable voice actors of the Sands of Time game which also had help of some great dialog which is absent in this game. Sound effects are recycled and overall the audio is flat, unmemorable, and uninspired.
Warrior Within is an inherently longer game than its predecessor rounding to about 15-20 hours, but this isn’t really a good thing because the quality of the gameplay and the experience is so mediocre. Because environments switch back and forth from levels of the past and the present, it makes the levels feel very long and bland as there are not very many environments. The length can also be attributed to the increase in difficulty, especially when it comes to combat. Health stations are few and far between, forcing you to enter into a fight with a sliver of health hoping not to get hit. This difficulty inspires more frustration than actual skill based combat that feels fair like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden. In all, value wise Prince of Persia: Warrior Within makes a strong case of quality vs. quantity in designing a game in a bad sense.There are also some really weird presentational quirks with this game too that breaks the flow and the feel of the game. For instance, when you die, instead of getting the clever “That’s not how it happened…” saying in the last game, you are presented with several bloody slashes and a game over screen. Or when you get a new weapon, it will change into this menu screen with big bold letters of what you got like “SPIDER SWORD!” And it just makes the game feel like a product of the early 90’s instead of the story book-like quality of the last game and it makes it hard to take the game seriously after that. Probably the most jarring thing is that in order to get the “true” ending of the game, you have to collect all water tanks to fill your health meter as full as possible. I’m willing to bet that 90% of the people playing this game will not get all of them on their first and perhaps only way through, possibly making the sequel hard to understand afterward, and bottom line, it’s just not good story design to have the true ending as something that most people are not going to put up with.
It’s been said that this game was taken over by a different designer. My guess is that it was taken over by a 40 year old marketing executive that only know games from the late to early ninety’s, and thought that an overly “metal”, dark, and unreasonably difficult game is what the “kids” these days find “is the shit!”. Sadly this game has already resulted into greater sales than the last. My dying hope is that it only sold more because after the critical hit of Sands of Time, it slowly gained sales throughout and everyone liked Sands of Time so they went to Warrior Within not knowing what to expect. If you liked the last game for its story, its characters, its accessibility, and production values, then simply ignore the fact that Warrior Within exist and cherish the memories of Sands of Time, as it is an objectively better game than Warrior Within in almost all categories.