The initial reveal of Prince of Persia was not a good one, while the gameplay itself looked fairly decent, even though no one was expecting a side scrolling exploration game with gated progress (or also known as the terribly named “Metroid-vania” genre). The real issue was the tone the trailer set. Showcasing a character that was not the prince, and a very confusing dubstep/rap backing musical track, the tone the game set was all wrong. It even got me to question the legitimacy of creators Jordan Mechner’s newest entry in the franchise.
I even debated getting the game at all, thanks to the other reveal that the game was going to be a full retail $60 release, which is a steep asking price for that style of game. Luckily Ubisoft, who publishes the game has a subscription service, as everyone does now-a-days. While the subscription service isn’t needed or even useful the majority of a given year, it does allow me to basically rent the newest and latest Ubisoft game for a full month (and even featuring a early access release 3 days earlier than retail, and the deluxe edition). All for only $18. I think of it like a modern BlockBuster rental, $18 to rent the game for 30 days and get early access and get the deluxe edition. You can’t lose.
So with the barrier of purchase out of the way, I ended up streaming my entire gameplay experience with the game online. It was a hot new game, one that lots of others were either playing or curious to see and allowed me to explain to others about a genre I don’t have a lot of experience with. Plus it’s a Prince of Persia game, which I love. It was a great experience but with a few minor issues, but a greater and more major stumble for the franchise.
This new game is totally separate from the beloved Sands of Time Trilogy. Which is fine as there have been many games in the franchise, and the Sands of Time trilogy did end back in 2005, plus the few other Prince of Persia games that have been released after. But the series has been dormant for quite a while. I initially was expecting a return to form of the 3D Action Adventure combat style, and with the Sands of Time remake being completely scrapped and given to a new developer, we needed something from the series, so this game was a welcomed entry.
Everything about the game’s mechanics and flow oozes style. Boss fights are well crafted with an emphasis on memorizing patterns and executing precision timing of the Parry mechanic. I’m not one to block much in games, I instead usually just brute force and spam attacks until my enemy succumbs to my barrage. But this game got me to spend much more time backing off and engaging with the enemies in a new way, which I really enjoyed. The traversal of the insanely massive world was also a joy to move around in. The air dash (which looks like a wall run) and even the dodge that allows sliding under the enemy’s legs felt really well crafted. With the exception of a couple enemies, the game felt very balanced in its difficulty and never felt like the game was unfair (something I do find some games actually take joy in, like the Dark Souls genre).
Instead the entire game feels like it’s been combed through hundreds of times to really nail the “tough but fair” style. Each powerup feels earned after a particularly challenging encounter, and I found myself smiling ear to ear a lot throughout the game. However, the game isn’t perfect, and not only did I encounter many more bugs that I wish I did, the presentation did hinder my enjoyment of the game a bit.
So, the big issue to me is that while this is titled as a “Prince of Persia” game, it is not. Not even the slightest, and that becomes apparent much later in the game, but right off the bat with it’s opening cutscene, the game gives a much more subdued and visual novel style presentation that made me question the budget. The art style is unique and has some interesting shadowing technique that gives the characters a made out of clay look. I really dig the art direction of the game, but it does also give off a budget feel to it.
Also, the main character’s name is Sargon, who is NOT THE PRINCE, which is a minor complaint in the long run, but if the game is called Prince of Persia, I expect to play as him. Not only do I not play as the titular character, the prince is barely in it, being relegated to a catalyst that has a handful of lines at the beginning and ending cutscenes and that’s about it. It’s a bummer and it’s because the Prince was always very charming, which Sargon is not
Sargon does feel like a very whiny angsty teenager character that I’m kinda sick to death of. I want a heroic persona to play as, one that isn’t just angry at the world and everyone around him. One that doesn’t just jump to the fastest conclusion immediately and really strategizes. The entire game is Sargon fighting his friends over a miscommunication/lie. Instead of banning together and fighting the greater evil, Sargon ends up killing all of his allies and even fighting alternate versions of himself. Fighting one’s self is the ultimate self-destructive technique in achieving a goal.
I said it many times in the stream during my playthrough, but the game just doesn’t feel very “Prince of Persia-y”. By that I mean there is something off with the overall story and tone. It barely feels like it exists in Persia, the prince is basically non-existent, and the game has an over-the-top presentation that lands itself firmly in the Anime camp. Powerups, action combat moves are all presented in a super saiyan ultimate power move of greatness. Powerful glowing aura, speedlines and teleportation dashes all look really cool, but do not belong in a Prince of Persia game. Just like Indiana Jones, supernatural things exist in the Prince of Persia franchise, but never was it so over-the-top in a non-possible way. It just doesn’t belong.
The final issues, ones that really matter are the fact that the game over the course of 40+ hours did have a smattering of bugs. A quest giver that soft-locked or crashed the game, some cutscenes where background objects either disappeared or blocked the view resulting in a disconnected experience, or even the final boss that glitched out and was not beatable (that one really frustrated me). Most of those I’m sure will or have been patched out. The game has only been out for a week and most haven’t gotten close to finishing it yet, so it’s not a big deal, but did hinder some progress.
On the whole, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a good game, it’s a solid 8 out of 10 type of game. The new 2D side scrolling style is a welcome change, and capitalizes on the popularity of the genre. If the game was called something else, perhaps even made into a God of War game (since so much of the mythos, characters, scale and presentation seems like it’d perfectly fit in) it would have been better for it. But while it might not be my favorite Prince of Persia game, it is a solid and really fun game.