Now we’ve come to Part 17 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” where I will begin discussing yet another series of games that I wish had received a bit more attention. That series is Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia. Now, I never played the original trilogy of Prince of Persia games that started on the PC back in 1989, with the first two games, Prince of Persia and Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame, being 2D side-scrollers. The third game, Prince of Persia 3D, was also released on PC and the short-lived Dreamcast, and as the game’s title states, it’s the first fully 3D Prince of Persia game. My first foray into the Prince of Persia series was with the newer Sands of Time trilogy that began in 2003, one of my favorite series of games. I should also mention I never played the later games Battles of Prince of Persia nor Prince of Persia: The Fallen King since they were exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS, but I heard those games sucked anyways, so no big loss. Strap yourselves in ladies and gentlemen, and let the discussion of the games I did play begin.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PS2)
In many ways, this game is a PS2 classic. Despite the fact it’s linear and not too long (about six or seven hours on average), it has decent combat, fun and challenging puzzles, and a wonderful story. The titular Prince is fooled by a treacherous Vizier into releasing the ancient (also titular) Sands of Time upon the unwitting kingdom of Azad. The Sands turn everyone in the city into sand monsters, with the exception of the Prince, the Vizier, and a captured Indian princess named Farah. The Prince and Farah form an alliance to stop the Vizier and lock the Sands back up, and it’s this alliance-turned-romance between the two characters that really helps drive the story forward, and I normally don’t care much about the romantic elements in stories. The fact that Farah accompanies the Prince throughout the majority of the game as an NPC ally who assists in combat and is instrumental in advancing through puzzles reinforces the connection the player forms with her. Farah must also be protected from large groups of sand monsters since allowing her to die leads to a game over.
The puzzles in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time not only consist of pulling levers, stepping on pressure plates, and aligning light beams, but there are plenty of environmental puzzles where the Prince must figure out where to climb and jump in order to reach his destination. Whether he’s in the palace, a garden, underground caverns, etc., the Prince will be climbing around like a human monkey by using any and all available handholds around him like flagpoles, wall cracks, and pillars. And let’s not forget that classic wall running. On top of all that, many traps like saw blades and spiked poles will be blocking his advancement. Fortunately, the Prince’s Dagger of Time allows him to rewind time for about five seconds and undo any mistakes like, oh say, falling to his death in a bottomless abyss. This ability also works if he or Farah should suffer a fatal blow from an enemy. The Dagger has other abilities like slowing down time to allow the player to more easily react to enemy attacks and even freeze enemies so that they can be slain more easily.
However, these time bending abilities only work as long as the Dagger of Time has absorbed enough Sands from either scattered Sand clouds or from defeating enemies. Not counting the smaller and weaker animals that have been corrupted by the Sands, the human-like sand monsters can only be slain by first weakening them with the Prince’s sword strikes or shots from Farah’s bow, then they must be absorbed into the Dagger of Time. If fallen enemies aren’t absorbed into the Dagger within a few seconds, they will regenerate and continue to assault you. This feature adds an extra layer of challenge to an otherwise straightforward and simple combat system, which really helps since most sand monsters are rather slow (although they can teleport if you get too far away from them), not to mention the fact that there are only two boss fights in this game, so the combat needed that extra little boost in challenge. Despite the lack of boss fights and the story’s somewhat short length, they don’t detract much from the fantastical and fairytale-like narrative, simple yet fun combat, clever puzzles, and also the cartoony graphics and strangely catchy Arabian themed music that manage to raise this game up to its classic status. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time gets a score of 90%.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PS2)
This sequel had a drastically different and much darker vibe going for it than its predecessor. Scantily clad females, bloody decapitations, and rock music were the most noticeable changes introduced in this game. Even the Prince himself was no longer the sarcastic and charming individual from the first game, now he was somber, quiet, and more willing to slice up anyone who stands in his way, though he still was willing to help those he considers to be allies. Given the Prince’s situation in this game, you can’t blame him for being in a foul mood. It turns out that sealing away the Sands of Time after being duped into releasing them in the first game did not end the Prince’s troubles. Those who release the Sands of Time are destined to die, but since the Prince managed to survive the events of the first game, he has become a target of the Dahaka, the physical manifestation of fate whose duty is to remove any anomalies from the timeline. In desperation and with no way to kill his invincible pursuer, the Prince journeys to the Island of Time in order to prevent the Sands of Time from being created in the first place, therefore effectively erasing his “time-based crime” from history and no longer making him a target of the Dahaka’s wrath.
Despite that intriguing set-up, the story for Prince of Persia: Warrior Within isn’t as memorable as the first game’s and actually has a very limited narrative. The combat on the other hand is far superior. While spending the last seven years avoiding the Dahaka, the Prince had also learned the deadlier arts of the blade and became a master of weapons. When fighting enemies, the Prince can take their weapons from them, whether they’re swords, maces, axes, or daggers, and dual wield them with his main sword for some wild slicing and dicing action. The Prince can also grab and throw enemies off cliffs or into bottomless pits and instantly execute weakened enemies with their own weapons. Furthermore, the new time bending abilities he’s gained with the Medallion of Time are more useful in combat, like an improved “slow time” ability that slows the Prince down a lot less than enemies and a sand shockwave that can knock down or destroy many surrounding enemies simultaneously. Enemy variety was also far superior with all manner of sand warriors, assassins, and giant brutes standing in the Prince’s way to stop him from accomplishing his mission. There was also a larger number of more challenging boss fights, with the last one proving to be especially tough.
The portion of the game where the Prince becomes the Sand Wraith gives the gameplay some more variety. As the Sand Wraith, the Prince’s health slowly drains down to a quarter of its maximum, but his Sand powers regenerate on their own, a very useful feature in some of the later puzzles and enemy encounters. The same environmental puzzles with deadly traps that were so well done in the first game are still in this one, only they’re even more punishingly difficult this time around, but luckily you can still rewind time. I especially enjoyed the “Dahaka Chases” where the Prince would have to quickly run, jump, and climb his way through the environment while making sure to stay ahead of the pursuing Dahaka, or else it’s bye-bye Prince. The game is also considerably longer than the first one and less linear as you will have a couple of opportunities to choose which areas to explore first. Backtracking will also be necessary at times, especially if you choose to collect all life upgrades in the game, which lets you experience the game’s true final boss battle and ending.
Unfortunately, backtracking could be a huge pain in the ass given that the Island of Time is huge and has areas that can only be accessed by entering time portals that will send you to the past and back to the present, changing the layout of the island considerably each time you switch time periods. The constantly changing environment along with the completely useless in-game map made finding all the life upgrades damn near impossible for me, to the point where I had to check online guides in order to find my way around, and I freakin’ hate having to use guides. This game basically is more challenging and fun than the first one (and has kickass music), but given its weaker story and the game world’s confusing layout, I’d have to give the slight edge to the first game. This one still rocks though. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within gets a score of 87%.
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (PS2)
The third game in the Sands of Time trilogy did its best to combine the elements of the first two games, namely the fantastical Arabian Knights theme of The Sands of Time with the improved combat of Warrior Within. It does succeed in combining these elements into a rather fun game, but strangely Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones falls somewhat short of the greatness of both its predecessors, at least to me. Returning home to Babylon from his last adventure on the Island of Time, the Prince finds his kingdom under attack from an invading army led by his old nemesis, the Vizier, who is somehow still alive. The Vizier then releases the Sands of Time (again) and absorbs them into himself, changing him and then his army into sand monsters, granting all of them with some degree of immortality. Fortunately, the Prince manages to get his hands on the Dagger of Time once more so he could use it to put an end to the madness caused by the Sands of Time once and for all.
Much like the first game, this one is very linear and enemy variety is somewhat lacking, though at the very least they’re still more challenging like the ones in the second game. The boss battles also cover the middle ground, there are more of them than in the first game, but they’re not quite as challenging as those in the second game. The same types of puzzles so popular with the previous games return in this one as well, with very few new additions, as well as the usual swordplay and time bending shenanigans. Even the return of the Prince’s old flame Farah wasn’t as momentous as I hoped it would be. Their interactions with one another were still meaningful and occasionally humorous, but Farah was no longer a character who would journey or fight alongside you during moments of gameplay, instead she would only interact with the Prince during cutscenes. I personally preferred the more direct interactions with Farah in The Sands of Time where you actually had to defend her from enemies since it made me feel more protective of her and reinforced the Prince’s connection with her.
One new feature in The Two Thrones, which also happens to be the best one, are the moments where the Prince transforms into his alter ego, the Dark Prince. Having been partially affected by the Sands of Time upon their release, he goes through set-pieces where he changes into his own brand of sand monster, running through environmental obstacle courses full of traps and fighting enemies, all while on the clock since his health steadily drains away. Unlike with the Prince’s previous stint as the Sand Wraith, while in the form of the Dark Prince his health will go all the way down to empty unless he absorbs Sand essence from enemies and destroyed environmental objects. The Dark Prince also has access to a bladed whip weapon known as the Daggertail which allows him to damage multiple enemies from mid-range distance.
The other new feature for the game was being able to perform quick-time event based stealth attacks on enemies which took some getting used to, but were pretty cool. Finally, the inclusion of a couple of chariot chases added some fun variety, but they were nothing game changing. This was a fun game with a good story, it’s just definitely not my favorite of the series given its very familiar gameplay with limited new features. However, I will say that I loved the ending and the way it appropriately closed out the Prince’s journey by bringing everything full-circle was very well executed. Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones gets a score of 83%.
That’s the end of my discussion of the Sands of Time trilogy, a series of games I highly recommend to those who may have overlooked it in favor of Ubisoft’s overdone Assassin’s Creed series. Join me next week for Part 18 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” where I will discuss the last two (proper) games of the Prince of Persia series. While you wait in great anticipation with clenched toes and posteriors, check out these articles to pass the time:
Some of us here at Gaming Respawn have joined forces again to share our most disappointing games. Not the worst games we’ve played, but the games we had high hopes for that ended up falling short of our expectations. See if any of the games we discuss disappointed you as well by clicking right over here.
Kane has kindly prepared a list of games we should be on the lookout for during the month of February, which you can check out here.
Ian, our up and coming “Reviewaholic” (pretty sure that’s not trademarked), has written yet another review of Lego Marvel’s Avengers, so take a look at it right here.