insanejedi's Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PC) review

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.


The darker tone clashes with the previous game's fairytale-like quality.

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. 


There is a legitimately deeper combat system, but it's so unoptimized that it makes the combat feel unsatisfying.
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.

The two timeline thing sounds cool, but ultimately will create a bunch of issues with direction.
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.

Bad camera angles will probably lead you to a frustrating death.
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.


Warrior Within doesn't look that bad though, especially in areas in the past like this one, but it doesn't look that much better than Sands of Time.
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.

It's probably best to pretend Warrior Within doesn't exist and keep playing this game instead.
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.

10 Comments
Edited by Dudacles

While this review is well-written, I can't say I agree with your sentiments at all. I felt that gameplay-wise, WW was better in every way. Whether the tone of the the game is to one's liking is entirely personal opinion, although I do agree that it's not handled terrible well in this game. However, the fact that this review is so good technically annoys me a bit, because that will cause people to turn away from the second entry in the series. I personally really enjoyed the game. As such, I cannot recommend this review, despite its quality.

Posted by Nasar7

I agree with dudacles, your review is very well written but a bit misleading. Although the tone of the game almost made me stop playing it in disgust, the gameplay and combat system changes are definitely improvements for the better. The music is undeniably terrible. In all, I would recommend the game just for it's integral role in the storyline of the trilogy, but I know personally that it's a very tough pill to swallow after the majesty of Sands of Time. This game just felt like the antithesis of everything SoT was. So if you can get over the change in direction, you'll find a decent, albeit generic, action game.

Edited by phrosnite

Hell no! Warrior Within is the best game of the trilogy. Sand of Time had optimized difficulty? What? The game is extremely easy and short. WW has difficulty for every gamer and it's 15 hours long. AND PEOPLE SHOULD STOP BITCHING ABOUT THE TONE OF THE GAME! PUSSIES!  WW is the best! Don't get me wrong, I love the trilogy but 2/5? for WW. HELL NO!  </rant>

I know a lot of people who have played the trilogy and it seems the 3 games are equally good because it comes down to which you have played first.

Posted by insanejedi

I know I sound very authoritative in this review but that's mostly coloured by my actual experience with this game. I feel that Sands of Time is an objectively better game in design, but that might not be your case with it. It's probably a mistake to make me sound as objective as possible because Giant Bomb is all about being away from that authoritative stance, but you have to remember that my review and everyone elses review is not the end all be all. But for the score and my experience, as Greg Kasavin says...

"You can't argue with someone's exerience, all you can say as a designer is "I'm sorry for wasting your god damn time.""

As a note I have went back and played Sands of Time after this, and I know it's not nostalga goggles I'm wearing, I feel that Sands was a more enjoyable and better overall exerpeince.

That's a lot for the comments anyways.

Posted by Brendan
@insanejedi said:
"I know I sound very authoritative in this review but that's mostly coloured by my actual experience with this game. I feel that Sands of Time is an objectively better game in design "

That is the wrong use of objective, subjective is the right term.  Objectively means that it is a fact that Sands of Time has better design, when it is only your review's opinion and not necessarily the only truth, regardless of how strongly you feel.
Posted by insanejedi
@Brendan said:
" @insanejedi said:
"I know I sound very authoritative in this review but that's mostly coloured by my actual experience with this game. I feel that Sands of Time is an objectively better game in design "
That is the wrong use of objective, subjective is the right term.  Objectively means that it is a fact that Sands of Time has better design, when it is only your review's opinion and not necessarily the only truth, regardless of how strongly you feel. "
Well it is a fact that Sands of Time is more better designed. And it's a little flip floppy, but subjective in my book when your talking about a review is the element of the intrinsic value of a game that you can't put your finger on. With the design of the game I can thoroughly explain why Warrior Within is an inferior game design wise against Sands of Time. Then again, the only way we can see that is through what we universally feel is bad game design.  Like confusing levels and direction is most likely seen as bad game design than we see as it adds "Depth and mystery." At that point I believe that, that value then becomes something objective as it is seen universally as one thing.
Edited by phrosnite

Well, I play the whole trilogy every 6 months (PC) and I enjoy playing them all. I feel a little disappointed in Sand of Time due the the repetitive and boring fighting sequences, no bosses ( ok, one boss) and it's too easy, and short. What I like is the story and the chemistry between the prince and Farah. My score 9/10.

Warrior Within on the other hand is my favourite. I like everything about it. The darker tone of the is because the prince has been sailing the seas for 7 years( not quite sure about the year but it's something like that) while Dahaka is chasing him everywhere he goes. If I were in his shoes I would be in the same mood as him. As the prince said " This is the first time I am afraid." ( or something like that. I guess I should install them again because 6 months have passed :D ). The story is superb imo. The first time I played it I was guessing the whole time and every time I saw a new scene I was like "Oh, crap. That's awesome!" The combat system is awesome and there are several great bosses. The parcour stuff was superb as always( Ubisoft rules). My score 9.5/10

I didn't enjoy the two thrones quite as such maybe because I played it right after 20 hours of WW and everything was kind of the same. I didn't like that Kaileena died. Even on hard difficulty the game was easy. But this game has the best health upgrade level. Overall I like it. My score 8.5/10

Prince of Persia The Sand of Time Trilogy is my favourite series and I have put all three games in second place of  my favourite games of all time.
PoP rules! 13+mil copies worldwide.

Installing the games atm. Time to play them again while waiting for the DoW2 1.4 patch beta :P
 

Posted by Losloth

Hey
You are always taking chances when you are handing over the developement of the sequel to another team. In the worst case scenario the new creative director wants to make a name for himself, and totally turns around many of the features of it's predecessor. In a way I liked the twists and changes, because it reveals a new side to the same mechanics, and shows you something new, and sometimes visually interesting. However I agree to some parts of your review when it comes to textures and shadows easily just becoming one great grey mass.

For it's time, the animations were quite good, and always have been in the PoP series. The jumping puzzles were harder (which is positive as they were far to easy in the first game), and i appreciated the well written bosses, which managed to challenge you often on your own terms; meaning that; instead of the game throwing a massive statue, golem or giant at you, it would give you a swordsman as an opponent, which actually was interesting to fight.

When it comes to the story, the second game falls appart, but I would argue that a major theme is present which i didn't was not hinted to by it's prequel. The struggle of one man alone to overcome his fate; and also the inevetability of the corruption through time, which was really a sentral and well explored theme.

On the whole the game was an enjoyable experience for me; since the main focus of THIS game was handled so well. Combat. The enemies were generic and boring, but they always had you hold both your breath and concentration, trying to save that last centimeter of health left in your container; which was always quite enjoyable to me.

Thank you for a well written review.
Emil (aka. Losloth)

Posted by CaptainTightPants

Very well written review, even though i dont agree with it i rather enjoyed reading it :D, Cmon lets turn those two stars into at least 3 :P

Posted by Dudacles
@insanejedi said:
" I know I sound very authoritative in this review but that's mostly coloured by my actual experience with this game. I feel that Sands of Time is an objectively better game in design, but that might not be your case with it. It's probably a mistake to make me sound as objective as possible because Giant Bomb is all about being away from that authoritative stance, but you have to remember that my review and everyone elses review is not the end all be all. But for the score and my experience, as Greg Kasavin says... "You can't argue with someone's exerience, all you can say as a designer is "I'm sorry for wasting your god damn time."" As a note I have went back and played Sands of Time after this, and I know it's not nostalga goggles I'm wearing, I feel that Sands was a more enjoyable and better overall exerpeince. That's a lot for the comments anyways. "
I don't mind you being authoritative. It's a very, very good review. Thing is, I, and most of the others here feel that you are wrong. There's no need to defend yourself, because you didn't do anything wrong.

And while arguing over semantics is pretty useless, I'm going to say that putting "objectively" in your title is, in this case, wrong. As the people who've commented have proven, it's not an objectively better game. If it was, everybody would say so, don't you think? Which game is better is entirely dependent on one's personal opinion.

Other reviews for Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PC)

    Two Steps forward in gameplay, several steps back in Story- 0

    Prince of Persia: Warrior within is the sequel to The Sands of time and the dark middle chapter in the Sands of Time Trilogy.  The plot can be somewhat confusing if you have not played The Sands of Time. The story begins with the Prince being hunted by the Dahaka, a living embodiment of destiny. The Prince was supposed to die when he unleashed the Sands of Time and by changing the path of history has cheated his fate. The Dahaka hunts the Prince in order to correct history. This leads the Prince...

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