Giant Bomb Review

65 Comments

Prince of Persia Review

4
  • X360

Stunning presentation and an engaging open-world reprisal of the series' trademark platforming action make this newly reimagined Prince of Persia easy to recommend.


New prince, new quest. Same gymnastics.
It's only been five years since Ubisoft successfully brought Jordan Mechner's old PC action series Prince of Persia into 3D, and now it's already gone and reinvented the franchise for a second time. The newest Prince of Persia--presumably lacking a subtitle to set it apart from the previous three games--imagines an even more fantastic Arabian-tinged setting than what you've seen in this franchise before, and it's filled with an entertaining story and plenty of high-flying excitement. The series' trademark gravity-defying platforming has gotten so mechanically complex that it comes off as a little, well, mechanical at times, but the level variety, fantastic presentation and atmospheric soundtrack make this an engaging adventure well worth embarking on.

There's no connection whatsoever to the last Prince of Persia trilogy; this one starts fresh with an entirely different prince. Actually, he doesn't appear to be much a prince at all, but more of a roguish, tomb-raiding vagabond, a Han Solo of the desert who's in it for wealth and glory but hardly for honor. Too bad for him, he gets caught up with Elika, a do-gooding princess with magical powers who's bent on restoring beauty to her corrupted kingdom and cramming the culprit, the dark god Ahriman, back into his eternal prison. The story takes some unexpected turns here and there, and gets surprisingly poignant as it goes, culminating in an ending I didn't quite see coming. Naturally, there's a good setup for a sequel.

Chances are, you're familiar with this particular action.
There aren't a lot of heavy-handed cutscenes foisted on you throughout the game. You get the important beats of the story in the few mandatory cinematics, but I liked that the majority of the dialog is optional. You can hit a talk button anywhere in between action sequences to have a quick chat with Elika. Sometimes the pair discusses the often rich history of the current level. Sometimes Elika talks about her devotion to the benevolent god Ormazd. Sometimes they flirt. Maybe it was because the dialog wasn't forced on me that I wanted to hear more of it from time to time; in any case, the brief exchanges were a clever and effective way to flesh out the game's back story and give the lead characters richer personalities. You get the sense that someone thought really hard about the game's world and its residents from these exchanges.

Of course, you get heaps and heaps of the wall-jumping, pole-climbing, superhuman gymnastics you'd expect from a Prince of Persia. This time around, you can add ring-swinging, roof-running, sliding, and even the occasional flight to your repertoire. These moves are all mixed up thoroughly enough that you have to stay on your toes to bust out the right move at the right time and avoid plummeting to your doom. There are enough different platforming mechanics here that the action stays varied, and certainly looks flashy enough.

But it's also easy as all heck. The game might as well present specific button prompts as you reach each handhold or wall-jump point; they're indicated right there in the level design anyway. If there's a horizontal scrape on the wall, you know you need to wall run there. If there's a ring, you hit one button to swing off of it. A pole jutting out of the ceiling, you hit a different button to dart across. It starts to feel a little like Platforming-By-Numbers after a few hours, but the prince looks so cool performing all these larger-than-life maneuvers that I never got totally bored with the traversal gameplay.

Even if the platforming was really tough in a demanding, skill-based way, you'd have no penalty and little frustration due to the game's wildly forgiving death mechanic. In short, you can't die. Every time you miss a jump, Elika teleports in with her fancy magical powers and delivers you back to the last solid ground you stood on. In combat, she pulls you back for a minute to rest while the enemy regains a little health. There's been all kinds of ballyhoo about this feature, and there's a psychological component at work for those people who say this makes the game too easy. There's still a failure mechanic here; it's just streamlined by really tight checkpoints and no load times in between failures. Otherwise the only difference is the lack of a specific "Game Over" screen.

The one-on-one fights are exciting and rewarding to play.
One thing about Prince of Persia that really impressed me is the non-linear, open-world format Ubisoft devised for this game as a departure from the linear, narrative-heavy A-to-B-to-C adventures of the past three installments. Here's how it works. Ahriman has four lieutenants, and each one lurks in a lair with five blighted action stages standing between you and a final showdown with that boss. Every time you finish one of the sickly levels, you "heal" it into a prettier, greener version, at which time it's populated by glowing collectibles called light seeds. Then you get to go back through the level and collect those seeds. All the levels are physically connected, and you get a decent amount of freedom to go through them in the order you want.

This openness also works against the game's flow, however. There are four powers you have to unlock for Elika by collecting multiple quotas of light seeds, and each of the action stages requires you to have one of those powers to enter it. You can't clear out any of the bosses' areas entirely without having at least two of the powers, so three times throughout the game I found myself having finished every available level but still needing dozens more light seeds to gain the next power and open up more levels. I spent more of the game backtracking to completed levels, hunting for more seeds to let me progress than I would have liked.

Like the platforming, the combat emphasizes style--but doesn't sacrifice substance for it. The battles sometimes look like glorified Quick Time Events, especially with button prompts popping up here and there, but there's also a pretty robust combo system under the hood that lets you chain together sword attacks, grapples, acrobatic moves, and magical Elika attacks into really long, rewarding combos. There are infrequent, easy fodder enemies here and there, but the vast majority of the combat takes place against the four bosses: the hunter, the alchemist, the concubine, and the warrior. Each one pops up for a fight--and a dramatic exchange of dialogue--at least once in each of the levels within its domain, and they all have different fighting styles and back stories that really flesh out the sort of tragedies that led to their service of a dark god in the first place. You see and fight with them so much, the four enemies end up becoming pretty iconic by the time you actually face off with each one for the final time.

This is a stunning game to see and hear.
The game looks and sounds incredible. It's got a colorful, painterly visual style that runs a wide gamut between the sickly, desaturated slate blues and pea greens of the corrupted action levels, and the much richer, warmer healed versions they turn into. Some of the bigger levels with their long draw distances and massive, fantastic castles and towers in the distance are really a sight to behold. The environments and character designs, especially those of the four bosses, are all distinctive and memorable. The game's soundtrack really stuck with me, too; I found parts of it running through my head frequently even when I wasn't playing the game. It's got a flair for the epic but can also be a little haunting at times. The voice work is always at least competent and sometimes really good (the warrior comes to mind). The voice actor who plays the prince also voices Nathan Drake in Uncharted, which is appropriate because they're both irreverent, live-in-the-moment kind of guys.

If Ubisoft really had to go and release a fourth Prince of Persia game in five years, I'm glad it turned out as good--and more importantly, as distinctive--as this one did. It offers the specific gameplay features that fans of the series will be looking for, while establishing a sequel-ripe new world and story arc that are every bit as engaging as those of the previous trilogy. The slightly uneven pacing and relative ease of the gameplay are minor nitpicks in the grand scheme of this engrossing, beautiful adventure.
65 Comments
  • 65 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by MackGyver

I heard this is easier than the sands of time which is a bummer, but I will be getting this one. Good job Brad!

Posted by JoelTGM

I didn't even know this was for the xbox 360.  Nice.

Edited by DrLove

great review Brad.  its nice to see u rewarding games like this and Nutts and Blots that are trying to re-invent themselves and not give us the same old thing.

Posted by punkxblaze

God, thank you for pointing out that the difference between Elika and a normal checkpoint system is primarily psychological, Brad. I've been trying to explain it to people I know in almost the exact same wording, but everyone thinks I'm insane.

Which I might be, but that's irrelevant.

Posted by TwoOneFive

lol really you didnt know it was on 360? livin in a cave are we?

good review man, i want to play it, i want a demo soon on PSN, check out these killer visuals. 
Posted by chililili

I'll get this later on when its not 60 dollars

Posted by Kraznor

I just couldn't shake the feeling the team that made this consciously incorporated many elements from ICO and Shadow of the Colossus in an attempt to make the game more artistic. Especially the ending, which I found very irritating and poorly set up. Also, the game is maybe ten hours and then you are done so I really don't consider it worthy of a purchase.

Posted by Phished0ne

I got this from gamefly, but i've been wrapped up in Call Of Duty:WAW multi. i gotta play this soon. ....man and i got a copy of Burnout:Paradise coming too....decisions decisions...

Posted by ahriman22

Awesome, totally getting it.

Posted by redgauss

Awesome review. I was waiting for GB's thumbs up before I got this one. You guys kept me waiting all week.

Posted by Gio5py

I've had it for almost a week and, to be honest, the game is decent but it's not amazing.

Posted by pedantics

annoyingly, when you finish the game (and don't have a savegame from just before the "ending"), you're stuck starting all over again. meaning you can't go back through the "healed" levels, collecting light seeds and completing the rest of the achievements.

G.A.Y

Posted by Nettacki

Is it me, or did Brad describe the four bosses here like he described MGS4's Beauty and the Beast unit?

Posted by elbow

Am I the only one who whilst reading a review written by Brad, hears his voice in my head at the same time? Damn that deep bass voice of his is hard to knock off!

In any case, well written review. I finished it on Friday, and thought it was superb.

Posted by MaddProdigy

Sweet review, guess i'll be picking this up, i was leaning in between but your review and what some of my friends are tellin me bout awsome combos has convinced me

Posted by Clockswork

This will be on my Xmas list :)

Posted by Red

Good review Brad. I heard other reviewers saying that Elika saves you every time you would die but I thought that she'd teleport you back to the last checkpoint: but no....to the last solid ground you stood on? Oh well, easy or not game looks awesome.

Posted by Rinkalicous

Wow, that is some retro looking box art.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

It's good that you point out that the death mechanic is still a death mechanic, people tend to almost WANT to die and reload, even as they're complaining about it, because it makes them feel like there are consequences to their actions.  Still, if the time investment is similar when you "die" in PoP then I'd say it was actually a cool idea, since it brings some sort of continuity to things. 

I wonder if there'll be any way to make the game harder, though.  I've heard a lot of people talk about the difficulty without getting too specific.

Posted by ManlyBeast

I got it and it's good.


good review too

Posted by Retrogimp

lol I hear his voice too when reading his reviews, it's hilarious.

Posted by Moeez

I really don't understand people's problems with the difficulty in this game. It's so much more streamlined, the "checkpoints" are excellent, and you NEVER feel frustration (unless if you're doing the power plate stuff). The platforming is extremely well-designed, and rewards momentum like Mirror's Edge. The combat is pretty challenging, so you can't spam attacks at all. You can't even do a normal sword combo, without getting countered by the enemy. You HAVE to chain different combos that all look insane. 

Overall, excellent review, and there really isn't much wrong with the game. I'm glad that this is the year for franchises revitalising themselves (MGS IV, Prince of Persia, B&K: Nuts and Bolts, GTA IV, Condemned 2, Far Cry 2), for better or worse.
Posted by Metamorphic

Nice review there, sexy voice, Brad.

These, not so long, type of reviews are becoming my preference when before getting/playing a game. I get the feel of the game through a short review without having to go through pages of what seems like a manual, egoism, and opinions not needed about something.

I will now read reviews from Brad and Vinny for sure!!

And some from Ryan and Jeff, of course.

Also, IS THERE A VIDEO REVIEW COMING SOON?

:)

Edited by marcusfriendly

Nice Review Brad. This game looks great!

Posted by Trnck

@marcusfriendly
What? It's not Jeff's review...

Posted by TekZero

I agree.. It's worth getting, but not at full price.

Posted by dtran1212

this is a good game to borrow from a friend after he's done playing with it, cause i ain't dishing out $60 for a game that has absolutely no re-play value

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

I got all the games I need right now. I'll be waiting for this one to hit the bargain bin because that is when I'll have time for a spare game to play.

Posted by Vash108

I disagree with the score. The game is way to easy, combat is meh, and you really just kinda play Simon says hitting the right button at the right moment to continue along walls and platforms.

Posted by BoG

ZOMG ONLY 4 STARS EW FLOP

Kidding.

I couldn't agree more about the soundtrack and visuals, both were simply amazing.
I do have to say though, I disagree with you a tad on the platforming elements. I totally see the "platforming-by-the-numbers" argument, but I feel it felt a little more like the platformers of old. The game does a good job of doing what you want it to do, and because of this, it eliminates the frustration of a jump just off angle that I absolutely HATED in Mirror's Edge. Rather, when you want the Prince to go somewhere, he does. I'd say this is more like platformers of old; you want Mario to jump to a platform, you don't need to worry about him being just off angle from it. Rather then goombas, we get ocrruption traps.
Just a thought.
Posted by kennybaese

I really need to get something besides a Wii. I'm missing way too many awesome games. I mean, I love Nintendo, but I need better games. I haven't gotten a real new game (Guitar Hero doesn't really count) since like Star Wars: TFU, and it blowed on Wii.

Posted by CrazyGamer

Why don't they let the game play itself for you? That's how easy this game is. Sands of time was forgiving to some degree, giving you 4 or 5 chances to set things right if you mistime a jump. Here, the chances are infinite. Even when I am fighting boss fights, I don't have to worry about ever dying since I know Elka is coming to save me.  Talk about anti-climatic. As far as the open world hub, I found it more frustrating than anything else, since most of the time you're just back tracking instead of the sense of going forward that the old prince of persia games had. Just like most open-world games, it makes you repeat the same thing 10 times. But hey, gamers LOVE repetition.
And what about the prince's personality? I did not want to listen to the dialogue between Elka and the prince, because everytime I clicked on the L2 button, it was painful to hear the prince crack wise ass jokes, and be completely obnoxious.

Sorry Brad, this is a MAJOR step down from the old games. The visuals are stunning but the design decisions made in this game are just plain bad. I hope they change them in the next iteration or count mthis long time fan (since prince of persia 2 on the PC) out of the prince of persia world.

Posted by Media_Master

Sounds great!

Posted by Hexpane

Looks good but not $59 good

Posted by Rio

Played through pop4 last week and it really is a fantastic game.  I didnt really have time to think about how easy it was because I was too busy enjoying myself.

Posted by daniel_beck_90

I,ve bought that game
I,ve finished that game
I,ve truly enjoyed that game
I recommend that game

Posted by Jayzilla

too easy = buy later when cheaper. ty for the review man. succinct and to the point.

Posted by HatKing

"There's still a failure mechanic here; it's just streamlined by really tight checkpoints and no load times in between failures. Otherwise the only difference is the lack of a specific "Game Over" screen."

YES!  Finally a reviewer who understands that you a still failing the task but it doesn't seem as bad with the lack of a death or load screen.  Am I the only one who thinks this sounds really appealing? 

Edited by TaintedSun

Remember, for anyone who cares about achievements, there is one for having being saved less than 100 times during the game. That might add an element of challenge for those angry at this revival system.

Note: For anyone who wants this game at $45 (like I bought it at) gogamer.com keeps putting it on their 48 hour sale. Currently, it's not there, but it may return.

Posted by RHCPfan24

Looks like a lot of fun. Great review Brad.

Posted by addictedtopinescent

Good review Brad, The game looks cool and I really like what they have done with the Prince, I'm glad to see that someone at Ubisoft said that they have to restart the franchise and get away from all that evile Prince bullshit they got into after the sands of time. 

Posted by pause422

yeah its easy as hell, but its a pretty decent game. Worth nothing more than a rent though imo, since it has no replay really at all, and is only like 9-12 ish hours.

Posted by Anthony_Galindo

Great, Great ending. I would put it right up there with Mass Effect's ending as the best in gaming.

Posted by robbob88
Posted by Kohe321

Good review brad, well written.

Posted by Dan_CiTi

To be honest, this game is kind of shitty. It gets worse every time I play it. I'm glad it's going back to Blockbuster tomorrow.

The death Elika thing is not what's wrong with this game at all.

Posted by Scooper

That was my favourite GB review to read so far, very nice.

Posted by Xero

I'll wait till the price drops first, need to clear some backlogs first

Posted by ImperiousRix

Excellent review, Brad.  I agree whole-heartedly.
I just finished this game yesterday, and although their isn't much reason for me to go back and play-through again, It's turned out to be one of my favorite games of the year.

Posted by TheIneffableBob

Prince of Persia for the PC is $30 at Toys R Us. The game is also DRM-free.

Pretty great price.

  • 65 results
  • 1
  • 2