Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Prince of Persia (2008)

I was initially very excited about this game after seeing the stunning launch trailer that was accompanied by some Sigur Ros music. It looked stunning and had a feel to in very much like Ico. I bought and played the game at launch and was quite disappointed in it and it eventually got neglected when I moved on to something else. I decided to go back to it to get it off my backlog and was pleasantly surprised. The disappointment that it didn’t live up the previous excellent Prince of Persia trilogy was a thing of the past and the game could now stand on its own merits and I ended up rather enjoying it.

This version of Prince of Persia is in ways a brave move by Ubisoft. It plays completely differently to the previous Prince of Persia games. The linear progress of previous games is gone and replaced with a more open world consisting of many interconnected areas. The game isn’t totally open world, there’s set paths between each area and many are locked until you beat a boss or acquire an ability, but you are free to tackle each area in any order. Each area is guarded by a boss that must be defeated making the game similar in ways to Mega Man. Defeating the boss purifies the area, opening up new paths, filling the area with light seeds needed to unlock new abilities and changing the visuals to a more pleasing natural look, which leads to the next point. This game is simply gorgeous and still holds up. It’s got some really beautiful painterly visuals and some of the vistas are spectacular. It’s very satisfying to watch the flora and fauna return to an area after it has been purified.
Did I mention how beautiful this game is?

The free running platforming has also been changed from the older games. A complaint levelled at this game is that the platforming is one big QTE sequence but I really didn’t mind it. The platforming flows together and I like how each button corresponds to either jump, the prince’s claw or getting a helping hand from Elika. The protagonist can no longer die now, instead you are saved at the last minute by Elika and returned to the last piece of solid ground you stood on. Although the challenge of the old trilogy is gone a lot of the frustrations are alleviated. I don’t see it as a compromise, more as Ubisoft trying something new. At the time it was quite jarring but now most games are use similar mechanics and have become just as easy. The extra abilities you gain are a bit less interesting, two of them being simple teleports and can only be activated at certain spots.

Combat looks great but is ultimately shallow. Luckily it makes up a tiny portion of the game
I have to admire how Ubisoft handled the combat or lack thereof. There’s very little combat in the game and other than the boss battles you can avoid confrontation completely by reaching the enemy spawn area quick enough and stopping them before they appear. Combat with the bosses is flashy with some very impressive combos but ultimately a bit shallow and without tension because again you can’t die. Elika will rescue you at the last minute and the only penalty is the boss gaining a small portion of life back. I also admire how, like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, despite having quite visceral combat it’s an entirely bloodless game which really adds to the charm.

The Prince of Persia games are well known for their excellent storytelling and voice acting and this iteration doesn’t disappoint. Although the story of a sealed god that needs to be purified and sealed away again has been told ad nauseam, it’s the delivery of the story here that impresses. Each area tells its own story and you can stop and talk to Elika about each area, the boss and about herself. These exchanges between herself and the protagonist are well written and delivered excellently by Kari Wahlgren and the ever reliable and omnipresent Nolan North. At the time of release I heard a lot of complaints about the ending but I loved it, I thought it was a brave move. I thought they kind of ruined it in the DLC expansion; it worked much better left as is.

Four years on it's still a stunning game. The protagonist and Elika's relationship is handle well with some excellent writing.
Prince of Persia is well worth revisiting. Ignoring how disappointing it was compared to the previous trilogy and taken on its own merits it’s a very enjoyable game that looks gorgeous, has some great platforming that flows well and a well told story. Sometimes it’s worth going back to older games with a more open mind, I know I was pleasantly surprised when I did in this case.


  1. It's interesting - I really have very little background with the Prince of Persia games. Like a lot of people, I played the original on computer when it came out, and enjoyed it, but then for whatever reason missed all of the other games in the series until getting to this game when I picked it up on a discounted whim one day. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, and even purchased the DLC for it afterward.

    1. You should check out the Prince of Persia Trilogy, they're much better games than the 2008 games. Sands of Time is a bit of a masterpiece only let down by some dull combat.

    2. I have heard that in the past - just one of those series that always looks good, but I never *quite* make my way over to. I need to win the lotto so a) I have all of the spare time I could want and b) the money to buy all the games I'd be playing in said spare time. :)

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