52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 1
Prince of Persia
Release Date: December 02, 2008
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
ESRB Rating: Teen
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
This was my first game in the Prince of Persia series. Sure I played the old classic side scroller that caused so many fits of frustration but I had not played any of the Sands of Time series. I really did not know what to expect from the title, and I could not reference the other titles as a method of comparison. I think this lack of knowledge worked to my advantage for it allowed me to enjoy what Prince of Persia was and not be concerned about what it was not
The story in Prince of Persia follows a simple recipe, you must defeat the evil god and save the world. So why would anyone embark on such a foolish quest, for a pretty girl of course. To defeat the evil god, you must activate healing grounds located in 4 distinct areas of the game. Healing a land will release light seeds. These seeds must be collected for Elika allowing her to gain access to magical powers that will open new areas to heal (not to mention sweet achievements). Each area contains 5 healing grounds protected by a single guardian. Once you activate all healing grounds in one zone, you must then defeat the guardian one final time.
In it's essense, Prince of Persia is still an old school platformer. Your primary goal is to figure out how to go from point A to point B using nothing more than ledges, cracks, poles and an array of impressive acrobatics skills. And when all of those fail you, there is always magic to your rescue. When I first started the game, I cringed at the thought of having to perform a series of precise jumps knowing well that a single mistake would result in my early demise and then having to perform the whole dance over again. I figured that I would be saving often. As it turned out I needed not worry. The game features very responsive and precise controls and the AI will assist you as much as possible in doing your jumps or other acrobatic tricks. For example when you perform a wall run, I figured out quickly enough that I need not keep pressing the Left analog stick in the direction that I wanted to travel, as once the prince was in wall run mode, he would run till you needed to perform another action such as jumping to the next wall or pole. Using this technique I was able to learn how to travel very complicated sections without even touching the left analog stick.
(Click for larger image)
Another aspect of the game that drew a great amount of controversy was the fact that you cannot die in this game. If you miss-timed a jump, Elika (the cute princess) will use her magical powers to save you and teleport you to the last solid platform you occupied, which at times can be quite far from where you intend to go. Also if Elika needs to save you during one of the few combat sequences in the game, your opponent will also benefit from her healing powers setting you back greatly. To me not dying just means not saving every 10 steps.
The only aspect of Prince of Persia I did not care for was the combat system. Combat was a one-on-one dual (well two-on-one as you had Elika at your side), in which you need to learn how to perform combo attacks and parries. I am fine with learning combo attacks and the parries come easy enough, but combat also included an series of Quick Time Events (QTE). I will go on record as saying that I hate QTEs. You are in mid combat in Prince of Persia, performing parries and combo attacks with great precision, then you get trapped in a QTE animation wanting you to press the X button over and over again. By the time you start pressing the X button, you missed the QTE and your opponent beats you down, causing Elika to come and heal up the Prince and the bad guy as well. I found that the whole QTE part killed the elegant flow of the game. Good thing that combat is only a very small part of Prince of Persia, so I can live with it.
(Click for larger image)
Prince of Persia is a beautiful game. The visuals are among the best available for any title on any console. The gigantic panoramas that are presented before you are jaw dropping at times. It is not just the graphics that have been polished to a nice clean shine, so had the music perfectly setting the correct mood in all circumstances.
My favourite aspect of the game was the dialog between the Prince and Elika. The game featured plenty of rich dialog (at time a bit corny), but this dialog was not forced upon you. You had to want to hear the dialog by pressing the left trigger. If you just wanted to play the game, you could do so, but you would miss out on one of the best parts of Prince of Persia, it's subtle humour. On more than once occasion I found myself laughing out loud at the comments made by the Prince. Some of it coming close to breaking the 4th wall between the gamer and the game character.
I did managed to complete the game without much trouble in my week of playing. To be honest, I could redo it in about 7-10 hours and I may have to do so. I forgot to save the game before I re-visited the palace after healing all the lands and defeating the 4 game bosses and now I cannot return to retrieve the few light seeds I missed.
Prince of Persia was a pleasure to play and I am glad I choose it as my first Canadian game of the year.