Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (2004)

Warrior Within, the second in the newly founded “Modern” Prince of Persia series, is a direct sequel to the fantastic reboot The Sands of Time. The Prince, now troubled by releasing the Sands of Time in the first game has become war torn, grizzled and all around more unpleasant as time has not been kind to him. A strange and large monster is pursuing The Prince as he tries to find a way to stop the creation of the Sands of Time. The Dahaka is a massive oozing monster with one job, to destroy the one who unleashed the Sands of Time upon the world.

Warrior Within starts off with an extremely big tonal shift from the first game. Gone is the sweet charming Prince character, replaced with a focus group time tested marketer’s dream come true. The Prince now sporting long black hair, 5 O’clock shadow, scar riddled face and what seems to be black eyeliner, shows this prince has seen some things, and those things have changed him. Even the first tutorial level is much darker and the soundtrack is filled with power chord metal guitar riffs, replacing the much more appropriate middle eastern strum of sitars. This was a huge change and one that was mostly met with a lot of disgruntled fans who felt the Prince’s demeanor was unearned and honestly just lame. It was trying to appeal to a demographic that wasn’t there, or maybe one that was, but who wouldn’t have minded the Prince being more true to the first game. This one feels so far off, that it feels like an entirely different character.

Besides the change in the attitude of The Prince, and his costume change, the game remains fairly similar to the first in the series. There is still plenty of fighting and platforming and exploring segments, but it’s been expanded upon. There are more nooks and crannies, crates to crack open to unlock additional artwork, and even hidden areas that will upgrade your life meter. All of these are welcome changes that make the game feel much more fleshed out and interesting to explore. The island you are one for the entire game is a gigantic sprawling land mass that takes quite a while to traverse. All the more so, when you factor in time traveling. The island is where the Sands of Time were created, by the empress. She created them long ago, but you find your way to the past via a time portal and are trying to convince her to stop the creation of the sands as they are forever linked to tragedy.

Kileena, a woman you save from an encounter by a mysterious foe who is working for the empress offers to help you in your quest to unlock the empress’ chamber doors, offers you upgrades to your blade, and some general advice along the way. The island is more or less a huge clockwork machine that needs to have two opposing sides moved to unlock a part of the door to the chamber. So most of the game revolves around you going to one side of the island, unlocking the mechanism, and then going to the other side and doing the same. It is all complicated by the pursuing Dahaka, which you have to outrun within chase sequences, and a mysterious Sand Wraith that is watching you throughout your trials. Add on top of that, that the island in the past has paths that don’t exist yet, so you must time travel back and forth between the past and present times. Sand monsters are still here, as are lots of traps and rolling logs with blades preventing trespassers from traveling around the island. Its all fairly standard now, but back when this game was made, it was really novel and interesting. Each trap requires some finesse on how to get past it without taking damage. As you unlock life upgrades, and sand tanks that can either slow down time or reverse it, it isn’t as bad, but still can be quite difficult in some areas.

The game also has a ton of new enemies, some of the worst are the nimble woman acrobatics, that will hop over you every single time, which caused me a lot of frustration when I couldn’t hit them for a solid minute of trying. The combat is a huge improvement and a welcomed change from the basic hack and slash from the original. There are now many different combos that can be done, upgraded super combos that will deplete part of your sand tanks, and the addition of dual wielding another sword. These secondary weapons have degradation, so they don’t last forever, but each enemy will also be carrying one, so you’ll never be without one for long. Being able to be in a fight with around five bad guys, leaping over them again and again, and then tossing your secondary mace at an opponent who doesn’t see it coming, and watching it all happen in a slow motion cinematic camera is really just a treat that always felt satisfying.

I was extremely excited to play this game in the series again, because I never finished it back when it came out. There are two reasons for this, one, is because the game requires a ton of backtracking throughout the island, essentially making it so that if you see half of the game, you have seen everything in the game. The second is near the end of the game, you become cursed with a mask and your life starts to drain. You have to traverse throughout the entire game again, but now with a ticking clock always above your head. What I didn’t realize back then was that your life never fully drains, so you always have a single sliver left, along with regenerating sand tanks, which allow you plenty of time to find save points and fountains that will refill your life meter when you drink from them. Now having finished the game, I was probably around 85ish percent of the way done with the game on the original Xbox back in 2004, and it took me 16 years to finally finish it on a new platform.

This isn’t the best game in the Prince of Persia series, as most of the changes were for the best. The combat system is leaps and bounds better than anything in the first game, and having things to unlock and more places to explore is always welcome. The main issues with the game come down to the change in tone and the character. This isn’t The Prince that we grew to love in the first game, and comes off as more childish and unlikeable with his new brash attitude. The ending really does set up as a game that only exists as a middle ground for the real story that will be told in the third game. And as much as I don’t like when games or movies do that,