Prince of Persia (2008) is a very interesting title. On one end you get an alienation of the fanbase that made Sands of Time such a hit (though not a massive one considering sales). On the other end you have an extremely approachable and often times serene game that should make any intrigued gamer pleased.
I recently have tread through both the main game and the epilogue DLC, so I would like to review the main game to give my fellow g1s some thoughts. I in no way expect people to take my word as final and I will try my best to point out any bias that I may have with game design.
To get bias section out of the way, I enjoy dying…Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Still, I enjoy the fact that games challenge you by making you die. Another bias I have is against overly complicated combat systems for platformers.
On to the review. I am going to break down the main game into 4 sections: Gameplay, Graphics (more like artistry instead of actual game engine), Storyline and Replay. Obviously the main game has DLC, but I am not factoring that into the replay factor.
Prince of Persia (2008):
Storyline – The plot within Prince of Persia is rather weak. While The Sands of Time did not have the strongest storyline ever conceived, you grew to fall in love with the characters. This enhanced their struggle and had you crying (was I the only one?) when the entire thing was reversed and the Prince got ripped off.
2008 doesn’t really capture that same magic. The plot starts off decent, but just falls flat towards the end (I will not use spoilers). The first scene has our hero (called the Prince but really just a vagabond) walking through a sandstorm looking for his donkey (named after the heroine of Sand of Time, Farah…too bad I enjoyed her enough to think this joke is funny). After a certain amount of time (maybe hours?), he stumbles upon a fleeing Princess.
We soon learn that this Princess is named Elika. She is fleeing from her father who is trying to force her to stay in his Kingdom for one reason or another. With the aide of the Prince, Elika is able to escape the clutches of her father for awhile. While fleeing, the Prince learns that Elika has magical properties.
Once Elika and the Prince get time to talk, we learn that the Kingdom is under the threat of a powerful god named Ahriman. Ahriman wants to conquer the Kingdom and destroy the world (maybe). Elika clings on the the idea that her father is only trying to get her to help save the place, but that is obviously garbage.
The rest of the game revolves around the interactions between the Prince and Elika while they are going around and removing spots of “corruption” that Ahriman has plagued the land with.
Now, this all seems really generic (how many games have save the world plots anyway?), but what really drives the fact home is A) The plot never gets into any deep talk about why Elika’s father is helping Ahriman and B) the lackluster conclusion. I will not mention anything, but there is a ridiculously stupid (and possibly game breaking) closer in the end of this game.
The other aspect of the plot that gets glossed over is any real reason why this is happening. Ahriman must be pissed, because destroying a people makes no sense without context. It’s really fantastic that I can learn about his minions that conquer certain areas, but why am I not given the information about why he himself wants to kill everyone?
Gameplay – At least the game is good, right? Well…yes and no. What do I mean? Well, let’s just dive right in.
The game is built around an open-world style map with many different areas to explore (I believe 24 in total). What you are tasked with doing is choosing an area to start with and platform running your way through it. You hop, flip, jump, skip and even fly your way to the end goal of a boss fight and healing the area.
Once reaching this boss, you go into combat mode and are given a pretty beefy combat system. Your enemies range in style and design and give a reasonable amount of challenge in their final offerings. You are able to link attack combos together by mixing up your button combinations. Hitting XXXX (or Sqaure, Square, Square, Square for PS3 users) is the most basic of attacks, but you can mix things up with a throw (mapped to B or Circle), an acrobatic move (A or X) or your partner Elika (Y or Triangle) can be called in to do some magic damage.
While this seems deep, the problem is the A.I. design. Your enemies have one main attack pattern and one QTE (quick time event) sequence that is used to defeat them. Once you get them towards the edge of your combat arena, the QTE will trigger and you will knock them down for an instant kill.
If you fail the event, you often just get knocked aside. Some bosses don’t have any instant kill QTEs, so you are stuck trying to figure out which combo deals the most damage to them. The main problem with such a free-flowing combat system is that your patterns make no sense. I’ve managed to input an attack that was XYYBAXYB and it does the same amount of damage as XYYBAB. Notice the lack of 2 attacks on the end there?
Another thing is the boss patterns and A.I. design. All the bosses do is stick to their one routine and never change up. There happens to be 4 different bosses, but the smallest change doesn’t bring about anymore enjoyment. You also run into smaller drones during your journeys between areas, but they are essentially smaller versions of their boss brethren.
You also have no way of incorporating the platform aspects of the game into the combat. Once you reach a boss, you are locked into a 1 on 1 (or 2 on 1 considering Elika). This also brings to mind the fact that you never get to face more than 1 opponent at a time. Why not, is that too challenging?
The final nail in the coffin for the combat is the repetitive nature. The 24 areas of exploration are divided into 4 sections. Each section has one boss who rules over the areas. Once you run through the areas, you fight the boss. There are 6 sections to each area, meaning you fight all 4 of the bosses 6 times. I’ve heard of padding out the length of a game, but this is just stupid.
The platforming aspects of the game are real winners, though. The downside to this part is that you cannot die…ever. You miss a jump and Elika brings you back with her magic (her magic also applies in combat with dying). Still, the controls are so smooth that simply jumping at a wall starts a wallrun.
Once running, you simply wait for your platform of interest to come into view and jump for it (with A or X). You also get to climb and jump from poles, swings off of flagpoles and even run on ceilings to reach door knockers (I think). The best part of this platforming is your claw.
The Prince has some gauntlet on his left hand that acts like a claw. You are able to grind down almost anything with this claw. If you mistime a jump, you may have redemption if you are able to slide down the wall and jump back to the beginning (though this usually doesn’t work). Your claw also lets the developers have some fun with level design.
After platforming and fighting, you get to heal the land you just crossed. Healing the land is like taking that small step towards re-imprisoning the evil god chasing you. All the healing does is make the “corruption” go away and bring about a beautiful panoramic vista to look at. The game also tasks you (after the healing) with collecting power-ups for Elika known as light seeds.
The game requires about half of the total amount of light seeds in the game to be collected. There are 1001 in total. All that is really needed to get to these seeds is repeating the platforming you did in the first place.
The collecting of these seeds is possibly the worst aspect of the game. Why should one have to repeat something they did? While there is probably no other way to creatively give gamers a reason to revist their creations, couldn’t the developers have not included the seeds? Was simply accomplishing a level too simple of a task?
Graphics – The art style for this game is rather bland. I can’t say that I enjoyed anything in particular about the way this game looked, artistically speaking. I was impressed with how well the water-color style was pulled off, but the Prince and Elika have a far too Western and modern look to be believable as Persians.
The Prince is dressed believably as a Vagabond, but at the same time he has some semblance of modern living. No person back in Persian times would have the technology to build a metal claw (just not happening). His build is also very bulky and muscular, which is something that the modern man is made out to be (though not Chris Redfield muscular).
Elika, at first, looks very appropriate, but you soon learn about her background and wonder what the hell? Elika is a Princess, so why does she look like my sister? Her clothes are extremely generic and her torn shirt seems, to me, to be a way to cash in on hormone enraged males. Her tattered hair never changes when running around, so her looks come off as synthetic. She gets points for staying fully clothed throughout the game, though.
The rest of the cast is awkward, to say the least. The King (Elika’s father) is just like any other King you’ve probably ever seen. Purple Robe, beard, long set of hair. He doesn’t really look Persian, though, so that fails with the name of the game.
The enemies have very bright and eye-catching colors, but their styles are just weird. The “corruption” that Ahriman spreads is just black blobs mixed with human bodies, so the main bosses of the game just come off as lazy. Anyone can create a concubine that is all slime.
Replay – There isn’t much to say about replay value for this game. Beating the platforming sections is fun, but the only reason that you’d do them again (other than collecting the necessary light seeds) is to collect the remaining light seeds after your grand total. Collecting those extra seeds gives you achievements/trophies for your gamer profile, but if you don’t care about that, then there is no point.
The combat is extremely weak, so replaying that (which you have to do), just sucks. I cannot really think of any reason to return to this game other than plot (which is of lackluster quality).
For a final score, I am going to give this a 7.5/10. If you want that broken down more, here would be my scores:
Gameplay – 7
Graphics – 8
Storyline – 6
Replay – 5
The combat and lack of difficulty with the platforming really destroy a lot of fun you may have with the title. Nothing else falls into place either, so you are left with a game experience that just does not work. The game is immediately approachable to casual gamers, though, so that is a win in one respect. The graphics are nice, too, despite lacking in style.
This game has me torn, but not really as much as the failure of DLC that is provided for it. I will review that tomorrow (and I promise that it will not be an epic dissection like I did with this game). If you managed to get this far with the text, I applaud you.