Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

The Title Screen


Introduction
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is a single player only, 3D platformer by Ubisoft; containing some puzzles but not enough to be considered a 'puzzle platformer'. Released in 2010 as four different games with different story lines, this review is concerned with the version released for the PC, PlayStation and Xbox 360. As well as the main campaign there are two challenge-mode arenas which only feature combat and no platforming.

The latest in the Prince of Persia franchise, Forgotten Sands's plot is a sequel to the highly rated Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time but takes place before the 2004 game Prince of Persia: Warrior Within so is considered an inter-quel. The voice actor for the Prince from Sands of Time returns for this game.

As an Ubisoft game, the Ubisoft launcher will be used, however I believe persistent internet is no longer required. The game is also available on, but not exclusive to, Steam

The First Thing
What struck me first was the music and visual atmosphere provided from the main menu. For those that want a taste here is the menu theme : YouTube Link. The high quality orchestral piece inspires action, nobility and the exotic; setting the tone for the entire game right from the start.

Plot & Devices
The Prince (you) is visiting his brother Malik, but upon arrival finds the city under siege from enemies. The Prince pursues his brother through the war-torn city towards the vault hidden underground. Despite the Prince's misgivings, Malik releases an ancient and magical army he has little knowledge of, as a last resort. The evil army can not be controlled and lets loose upon the earth turning anyone they meet to sand; Malik and the Prince are protected by each having a half of a magical device. An encounter with an immortal creature informs the Prince that if the two halves are reunited, the army will be destroyed. Separated from his brother, the Prince then races to reunite the two pieces before it is too late - made harder by Malik's increasing reluctance to give up his half.

The Prince calls to Malik in a cutscene

The plot is simple but effective. Revolving around the two brothers, it is a slightly clich├ęd story of good versus evil and the perils of using powers 'beyond your comprehension'. Any plot progression takes place in a seamless, in-engine cutscene. Despite the simplicity in delivering the plot, I found it enjoyable with an eagerness for more. The Prince's voice acting and script (mainly his sense of humour and duty) deserves special mention as it plays a great part in immersing the player in the emotion of the situation.

The Game
The game is a straight platformer with very light RPG elements and a simple combat system. You receive XP from kills and each level will unlock an upgrade point for a new power or improve an existing power. The game controls the speed of upgrades with the number of enemies but the player has freedom to chooses where to upgrade. The upgrades mainly help with combat and are not required to complete the platforming (although a couple of talents can provide help there if the player wants). It is not possible to obtain all upgrades in a single play-through and Forgotten Sands will allow you to keep your upgrades for a new game, adding some replay value if the player so desires.

Swinging from water frozen in time

Throughout the game you will unlock standalone 'powers' such as the ability to freeze running water in time, or the ability to restore a singular object from the past. These are limited in duration and become part of the platforming feats, culminating in some very complex combinations towards the end of the game. The ability to turn back the clock returns from The Sands of Time so a mistake can be corrected - however the number of retries is now limited and repeated failure will return the player to a checkpoint.

The standard platforming abilities the player will perform throughout the game are: balancing on beams, swinging from poles, running along or up walls, climbing rocks or pillars, as well as jumping off all of these at one time or another. Expect to encounter many traps typical to the Prince of Persia franchise such as swinging axes and floors with hidden spikes. The game also features the occasional simple puzzle  - usually involving buttons or levers.

Most fights in the game are large groups of enemies

Combat features prominently in the game. Similar in style to Batman - Arkham Asylum, most engagements are with large groups of enemies. It is a simple combat system and does not detract from the platforming. The enemies are numerous but attack slow with obvious animations; the key is to avoid them rather than execute highly complicated attacks.

The visuals are good and smooth. Most of the game takes place indoors and features the same objects so the player knows what platforming is required of them but the locations themselves are quite varied; from hanging Persian gardens to golden treasure rooms. The art style succeeds in achieving in setting an exotic, gently mixed with the magical, scene.

The controls are tight and the animations themselves feel powerful yet graceful. I played on my 360 pad because from experience I enjoy platformers more on a pad, but mouse and keyboard support is offered as well.

The soundtrack to the game is excellent throughout with some great orchestral pieces. The voice acting is clear and distinct. The other characters can sometimes sound a bit unemotional, but the Prince is of high quality.

Not all sand and brown


Wrap Up & Negatives
I did not find many negatives with this game. It is true that about two thirds of the way through you have performed most of the platforming combinations required and it might feel quite repetitive but the Prince is so well crafted that I never felt that way. It did not seem to matter if this was the 300th time you are "wall running" because Prince was fun to play.

Occasionally, the camera can get annoying. Most of the time the camera is in control of the player but sometimes it is locked and this can lead to a certain feeling of hand holding because vision is directed at what requires attention.

I would not generally classify this as a hard platformer either and those looking for an extreme platforming challenge akin to a secret level on Super Mario Galaxy may not find it here. Towards the end there are some complex sequences but I rarely had to retry. In fact one puzzle I found that if you just waited around the Prince eventually suggested the solution to himself which just demonstrates the key experience was never to challenge.

I did not encounter any production bugs or problems with the port.

Platforming and humour

Personally
I am not the biggest platform gamer but I absolutely loved this game. I would recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in platforming and even those that do not but like magic and an exotic theme may find a game worth their time. The plot is Shakespearian enough to broadly appeal and will be enjoyable to many. The Prince is so well animated, identifiable and fun to play it confirms his rightful place as one of the bigger franchise characters

1 comment:

  1. Great review, thanks. Sounds like my sort game, I'm off to try it out.

    ReplyDelete

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