Prince of Persia is basically a story reset, and it is the second time the series has done so. It makes no mention of the events of the past games. Instead you set off on an all new adventure accompanying a chick named Elika. While it does have a fair bit in common with the past games, it introduces a stunning new art style, streamlined mechanics (read easa-fied), and a new system to keep you from dying. It is a fairly easy game, but it also makes for a satisfying 12 or so hours.
The prince is not very princely however, but more of a Han Solo-esque rogue in search of some gold. But alas, at the start of the game you meet Elika who the do-gooding type, and get caught up in her problems. She is a princess with magic, determined to restore the beauty to her corrupted kingdom. You are also tasked with putting the dark god Ahriman back in his prison.
The story is not exactly ground breaking but there are a few unexpected twists. The ending is of course wide open for a sequel. You get the gist of the story through a few cinematics, but the vast majority of the narrative is entirely optional. Between the action parts you can hit the “talk” button to have a chat with Elika. The dialogue varies from comments on her religion and other back story related tid bits to witty remarks and a bit of flirting. If these things were forced on me, I would have probably hated it, but because its optional it works. You can get a tonne more back story if you care to know.
The bulk of the game still consists of super human acrobatics. You will still be wall running, jumping between poles, and swinging from bars like in the past games. There is also a bunch of new things to do like roof running, sliding down platforms, swinging from rings, and some magical flying. Most of these moves involve but a single press of a button. That is to say, most of the platforming feels like an extended quick time event. But the different elements are mixed up enough that you need to concentrate to not mess things up. The animations look super slick which adds a lot to the experience.
It is pretty easy though, and I don’t believe its really a bad thing. The platforming is fun for the most part and never becomes frustrating. You can move around platforms with a sense of grace. If you can run along or up a wall, there are clearly visible scrapes along that section of wall. You always know where you have to go next. If these aren’t obvious enough for you, you can hit a button and Elika will fire an orb that shows you exactly the way to go. As easy as it is, the Prince looks so cool as he moves around the world that it never became tedious or boring.
Even in the fairly challenging parts of the game, it removes frustration by introducing a very forgiving death mechanic. When you fall to your death, you see a brief animation of Elika grabbing your hand and lifting you back to the last safe platform. If you are about to die in combat, Elika pulls you back to safety (it also gives health back to the enemy). In reality, the game isn’t all that easy, it just has an insane amount of checkpoints with almost no reload times. You never see a game over screen, it just rapidly loads the last checkpoint. I really like that as it removes a large amount of frustration. In a way its similar to the time reverse mechanic from previous titles but you don’t have to keep an eye on a meter.
Ahriman has four lieutenants and from a central hub, you can fan out in four directions. While some locations require you to unlock closer areas, the game is set up is a remarkably open world. This is refreshing design decision in a genre that is generally very linear. In each direction you make your way through five different areas. You heal each area by fighting one of the four bosses with a final showdown at the end. Once you have “healed” an area, a bunch of light seeds (orbs) appear around the level. By collecting these you open up new areas and level up Elika. Once an area is healed you can also fast travel to other healed areas.
Apart from the bosses, you also need to fight a few other baddies. Unlike previous games, in this case you only fight one guy at a time. Like the platforming, the fighting system is also fairly streamlined. It also can feel like extended quick time events (including the occasional button prompt). However, the combo system is robust enough let you mix things up to your tastes. You can do sword attacks, grapples, acrobatic moves, and magical Elika attacks and string them together in interesting ways, and can be combined with reversals. Of course the fighting animations look amazing too.
The whole game looks incredible. The art style is jaw dropping and has a cel-shaded, painting look to it. The animations are exceptionally well done and make some of the impossible moves look like they may just be possible. The is a stark contrast between corrupted and healed areas. Its awesome when you first see a corrupted are be transformed. There are also some pretty remarkable draw distances in the more open areas. The voice acting, while pretty cheesy/corny, is pretty well done. The prince’s voice is done by the same guy that did Nathan Drake’s, and while not as good as in that game, is still a fairly entertaining smart ass.
This Prince of Persia might be a tad on a the easy side, but it is a fun and beautiful game. It offers an interesting story set in a new world, and sets up a new series in the Prince of Persia franchise. If you enjoy adventure games, I highly recommend this one.