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Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Review

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  • X360

This is no more and no less than a pretty good reprisal of last generation's Prince of Persia games.


 Wall-running, check.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands has nothing to do with the fanciful, painterly new direction Ubisoft took for its great 2008 Prince of Persia game. This is a meat-and-potatoes entry in the original Sands of Time franchise--the one consisting of The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones--that doesn't directly tie into the upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer theatrical extravaganza Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time but is clearly positioned alongside it to establish some good old-fashioned brand synergy. The Forgotten Sands itself is a breezy, by-the-numbers Prince of Persia game that makes some minor improvements to the series' formula. Its rough, middling production values won't blow you away, but if you've been longing for more of the complex gymnastic puzzles and precision timing the series has been known for since 2003, this is a fun enough action game to spend a few evenings with.

Everything about The Forgotten Sands sort of screams "side story" at you. It takes place sometime between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within, when the still-nameless prince embarks on his travels as a young man and finds his brother Malik's castle under siege by a warring kingdom. After his troops fail to repel the assault, Malik rashly opens a magical seal imprisoning the legendary army of King Solomon that just happened to be hanging out in his palace basement, falsely believing the army once fought for Solomon in a time long past and would return to Malik's aid in the present day. Yeah, good luck with that.

To the great misfortune of Malik and his kingdom (but the surprise of no one), it turns out that army was created to destroy Solomon. Once free, the horde is clearly none too happy about its millennium of captivity and sweeps across the castle turning everyone (save Malik and the prince, conveniently) into sand. It is, of course, up to the two brothers to fight back this ancient curse and find some way to stuff it back into its prison before the credits roll. This premise acceptably justifies the game's sparse cast--it's just the prince, Malik, an otherworldly magical lady who shows up to grant you new powers occasionally, and a fire demon running around wreaking havoc--but there's only a thin wisp of a storyline here, and unfortunately this game misses a ripe chance to set up the events of the game that follows it chronologically. Instead, it just sort of... ends, without much fanfare.

 Group combat, check.
What follows from this brief intro is around 10 hours of the series' trademark acrobatic obstacles punctuated by staccato moments of large-scale melee combat. If you played any of those POP games on last-generation consoles, you're already well acquainted with this formula; Forgotten Sands adheres to it so strictly that you still get that broad camera pan across each new environment showing you exactly what combination of pillars, poles, ledges and sheer walls you're expected to nimbly navigate to get to the next section of the castle. Unlike the blithely forgiving '08 Prince of Persia, you can actually die in this game if you miss a jump or land on a spinning razor blade, and some of the combinations of jumps, swings, and magical powers you have to combine with split-second precision. To those who complained that the last game was too easy, this is the more demanding POP game you were looking for.

Nothing about the basics of the jumping, climbing, and wall-running feels new in Forgotten Sands, but the developers did layer in some interesting new mechanics to enliven all the familiar platforming. You can solidify flowing water, which usually comes in the form of spouts that become makeshift poles you can swing on, and waterfalls that turn into walls you can run up or across. Another power lets you temporarily restore broken ledges and walls, long enough to use them to springboard up to greater heights. And an air dash lets you essentially teleport straight to a nearby enemy to simultaneously kill them and cover a big distance instantly. 

 New platforming powers, check.
These powers are really responsive--you can turn them on and off instantly at the touch of a button, and the level designers do a great job of making you use them all rapidly midair to really test your platforming skills as the game goes on. Later on, it's not uncommon to use the water power, then the restoration one, then the dash all in the course of one jump. Other times you'll have to flip the water power on and off repeatedly to cross a series of waterfalls or alternating fountains. I found these more demanding moments satisfying and exciting enough to keep the rote platforming pretty fresh throughout the game. And of course, since this is a Prince of Persia game, you can always rewind time to to try each obstacle again if you miss.

 In between the acrobatic stuff, you fight. The game likes to attack you with anywhere between five and 50 sand monsters at a time, and the combat is a little more precise and satisfying than its slightly button-mashy feel first suggests. In fact, there are a lot of ways to manage the sizable groups of enemies you run into. You can roll away from enemies, kick them to knock them down or disarm their shields, crowd-surf from the head of one enemy to the next, and charge up stronger slashes to mix in with your basic sword combo. You can also unlock some elemental combat powers from a skill tree as you gain experience, though aside from a whirlwind power that knocks down everyone around you, I didn't find these very useful and preferred to just dodge and slash my way through the hordes. And the swordplay is the sort that lets you broadly hit several enemies at once, so this isn't the kind of bone-crunching precision of Batman: Arkham Asylum's incredible melee combat. I'm still waiting for someone to do third-person hand-to-hand action half as well as that game did.

 THIS... IS... PERSIA.
Despite the finely tuned level design and decent variety in the action, Forgotten Sands just feels a little rough around the edges. It's not a very good-looking game by current standards; most of it looks flat, with a very low level of detail in the castle environments. Even the different sections of the palace all look more or less the same, just with different color palettes.  And I disliked the weird design of the prince himself so much that I played most of the game with him wearing an Ezio costume, as soon as I unlocked it. In addition, there are too many little nagging issues to list out here, issues with the way the prince will sometimes fail to grasp a ledge or make a proper jump, problems with unwieldy camera angles in tight spaces, and cutscenes that end abruptly or feature rough animations that feel like they weren't entirely finished in some cases. None of these issues are game-breaking on their own, but cumulatively they add up to make the game feel less polished and impressive than it should be.

The Forgotten Sands is the very definition of a pretty good Prince of Persia game that doesn't feel like it entirely lives up to the series' vaunted pedigree. Times are changing, of course, and you could argue that Assassin's Creed has justifiably superseded Prince of Persia in Ubisoft's stable of action games. It's clear which franchise is receiving the lion's share of development efforts these days, anyway. But the prince has still got plenty of fight left in him, and next time out, whatever timeline or set of characters they end up going with, I hope Ubisoft gives him the attention he deserves.     Brad Shoemaker on Google+
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Edited by Vandersveldt

cool story bro
 
Edit. Oh c'mon, the quest doesn't count for reviews? Alright, well I guess I have to honestly comment. I'm not that excited for this game, or the movie. I loved the Xbox trilogy, but it just doesn't feel right anymore. I'll give it a rental though.

Posted by OroJackson

aww 3 stars

Posted by SalukiJeff

Sounds fun to me...gonna check it out!

Posted by fwylo

Nice, "This is Persia"

Posted by Creamypies

Bring back PoP '08!

Posted by Mrskidders

I got the chance to play it for a while today.  Its not very good really.  It doesnt feel like an exciting game anymore, I just felt like I was going through the motions playing it and didn't come away overly impressed.  3 stars is about right for this.  Good review.

Posted by RandomInternetUser

I'll probably rent this or get it when it's 20 bucks.

Posted by Milkman

Yep...

Posted by MadeinFinland

Well, it does sound better than I anticipated. Good review.

Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN

Yep, that sounds just about right.

Posted by Jimbo

Officially not as good as PoP '08.  Confirmed and called it.  A step backwards.  You can never go home again.  etc.

Posted by CrossTheAtlantic

I really wish they had just continued PoP '08. While this wasn't a direct movie tie-in, I've felt that--since its first announcement--it might as well have been. It looked like a product that was rushed to be released along side it despite my hopes that it would find some of that old magic.  
 
Sigh. 
 
Hopefully they go back and actually address the problems that exist in the 2008 version. A really, really amazing sequel is waiting somewhere in that game.

Posted by zombie2011

I totally forgot this game existed until i saw the quick look today.

Posted by CaptNCoke

Sad news.  I had some hopes for this one.

Posted by Apathylad

Personally, I prefer last gen's Prince of Persia games over '08's open world collect-a-thon.

Posted by CrossTheAtlantic
@Apathylad:  
 
I agree. But I think that there's a way they could have had the two inform one another in a way that produced a unique sequel. Or at least bring part of the AC2 crew who worked on those temple levels into the equation. 
Edited by Cybexx

This is pretty much what I was expecting. I had a feeling that despite the lack of a direct tie-in to the movie they would still have issues with having to release along side the movie. It sounds like they ran out of time and had to quickly polish what they had done, the bland graphics, the cutscene issues and camera troubles all seem telltale signs of this. Makes me wonder what they could have done if this was a Fall release and they had an extra 5-6 months or so. 
 
However I did still pick this up alongside RDR and Alan Wake. I think it will be fun and better than Warrior Within which I could not bring myself to finish despite my unabashed love for The Sands of Time. My theory about Ubisoft never being able to top tSoT without Jordan Mechner continues to ring true.

Posted by EgoCheck616

Definitely feels like they just chugged this out for the movie release.

Posted by JJGIANT

Great review Brad.  
 
This game looks mediocre at best.  
 
I would love to return to POP 2008. I think it was perhaps slightly to easy but the visual style and banter between the Prince and Elika really gave it some personality. This outing however looks bland and boring. My interest could not be less.

Posted by JackSukeru

Oh well, I'll probably still play it and enjoy it, but I was hoping for a bit more out of this one. I wonder how the Wii version will turn out.

Posted by SPACETURTLE

Ever since I saw this princes face, I decided not to buy this. Even though the previous games have been a lot of fun. This game just looks like... yeah, crap. Well, not crap, but boring.
 
Good review thou, Brad!

Posted by InsanePotato

Sure is a mediocre uninspired game. Not the worst movie tie-in game of all time at least.

Posted by Vandersveldt
@JJGIANT:  Slightly too easy? You couldn't die. You literally could not lose. The only way to not finish the game was idiocy or apathy.
Posted by Brackynews
@3YearsToPlay said:
" Love the 300 reference. "
This. Is. Persia.
Best. Review. Ever.
Posted by SuperfluousMoniker

I really liked Sands of Time, and Two Thrones was pretty good, but I don't like these newer POP games. They feel really dumbed down. Look how floaty the jumping is...

Posted by GreggD

All I wanted was more of the SoT trilogy, so this seems to fit the bill for me. Nice review, Mr. Shoemaker.

Posted by c_rakestraw

Hm. Doesn't sound too bad. Maybe I'll rent it at some point.

Posted by InFamous91

i'll get this when it's cheap

Posted by infestedandy
@CrossTheAtlantic:  I do hope they revisit the 08 version as well. It's definitely a great game with many reasons to run through it again.
 
Also, the combat in this game looks tremendously uninspired. And did I just see the Prince hop to another wall and then run up it? You can seriously do that now?
 
*Sigh*
Posted by adoggz

I would like to submit this for consideraton by everyone who says pop 08 is too easy. Previous pop games "opps I fell off a ledge let me rewind time. look it's like I never fell off in the first place." pop 08 "opps I fell off of a ledge" (magical stuff happens) "Oh look, it's like I never fell off in the first place." SAME FUCKING DIFFERENCE.

Posted by Nasar7

As a big PoP fan...not interested. Where's my PoP '08 2?

Edited by wolf_blitzer85

Hey good review dude! Kinda figured this was going to be around 3 stars. 
 
I'll probably pick it up on the cheap, as the sands of time trilogy is one of my most favorite of trilogies! Now though it's cooler to be a cowboy.

Posted by Frostler

The one thing I don't like about this game is how unlikable the character is, the last prince of persia with nolan norths version was a likeable guy that made the game better but this guy seems dull and boring...

Posted by HaYHaYHaY
@adoggz said:
" I would like to submit this for consideraton by everyone who says pop 08 is too easy. Previous pop games "opps I fell off a ledge let me rewind time. look it's like I never fell off in the first place." pop 08 "opps I fell off of a ledge" (magical stuff happens) "Oh look, it's like I never fell off in the first place." SAME FUCKING DIFFERENCE. "
big difference...  at least iirc, rewinding sand runs out and forces u to go all the way back to a far away checkpoint...  every-2-steps-checkpoint-spawn doesn't...
Posted by Brad

Credit where it's due: I stole that 300 reference from one of this game's achievements. Now you know!

Staff
Posted by chilipeppersman

nice review. I really wasnt having high hopes for this game anyway

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles
@C_Rakestraw said:
" Hm. Doesn't sound too bad. Maybe I'll rent it at some point. "
Posted by FATH3AD

his accent isn't english or middle eastern. It's "foreign".

Posted by l4wd0g

Great review Brad!

Posted by Hyperfludd

Great review.
 
I yearn for a sequel to POP08 though.

Posted by simian

I'm glad to hear that some of the mechanics harken back to the previous trilogy but without a story (I mean *COME ON* how awesome would it have been to cover the ground between idealistic Prince in SofT to bitter/jaded killer in WW?) I'll probably skip this one or wait till it hits the discount section.

Edited by Rhaknar

from the quicklook (hell from all of the videos pre launch) this seemed like a totally competent, but bland PoP game. I like the PoP gameplay enough to play this, but only when its on the cheap side (which should be fast since I bet this will bomb bad). Great review Brad.

Posted by RichieJohn
@Nasar7 said:
" As a big PoP fan...not interested. Where's my PoP '08 2? "
Agreed! I'll rent the Wii version when it comes out. Not really had a game like it made for the Wii.
Posted by floodiastus

"this is PERSIA" nice one :D

Edited by Astiaks

Disappointing. I was hoping for something new...just like the Prince of Persia 2008 game.
 
This is more like "Prince Of Persia: Beating the Dead Horse"

Posted by phrosnite

I was a big fan of Ubisoft but they have been disappointing me since 2007 so... I won't be buying their games day one but for sure during christmas sales.

Posted by CyleMoore

Looks pretty good but I never played the Sands of Times trilogy so I doubt I will get it.  Though I really enjoyed playing PoP 2008 and wish they made a sequel instead.

Posted by Brendan

So what user is going to leave the site in a rage over this Brad review?  C'mon, there's gotta be some rabid fanboy out there ;)
Posted by DirtyEagles

I can see why you don't like the princes face, he doesn't seem to have any teeth.

Posted by FunExplosions

Hah. Sorry to see that my predictions were correct. Like I said before; Assassin's Creed II has better animations and flow, God of War III has better action and acting.

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