Back in 2003, the team that brought us Rainbow Six and Splinter Cell, Sam Fischer decided to change directions. It was in that year that they took a break from Tom Clancy games and brought out what most (this reviewer included) felt to be one of the best adventure games of the time. I am talking about Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. With the success of the game, the team decided on a trilogy and gave us PoP: Warrior Within, and PoP: The Two Thrones which weaved a wonderfully intriguing story that tied itself up very nicely. The latest game Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands tells the story of what happened to the Prince between Sands of Time and Warrior Within. If you played the original trilogy you know that the prince went from being mild mannered man who had to overcome impossible odds, to a badass brooding warrior. Well this game should explain how he came about his badass-ness.
Forgotten Sands starts off simple enough, our unnamed hero, the Prince is traveling to his brother’s kingdom at the behest of his father. His father wants the Prince to learn to be a stronger ruler from his brother, upon entering the city the Prince witnesses an epic battle taking place. His brother’s kingdom is being overrun by his enemies. Once the Prince finally is able to catch up with his brother, he tells him of his plan to release Solomon’s Army to defeat the invaders. Of course nothing is ever that easy for our hero. Upon releasing the great army we are soon shown that it is in fact a trap. Sands pour from the mouth of an evil skull and soon monsters roam the land trying to take over the earth. Just another day at the sand filled office for the Prince.
Since this takes place after the events of the Sands of Time, the Prince does not wield the dagger of time; instead he is assisted by a Dijnn who of course is female. Which the prince later comments on how in these situations there are always women who are bossing him around. (Looking at you Farah) The Dijnn bestows upon the Prince the power to rewind time before sending him on his quest to stop the army. The story in the game is quite good, it will keep you entertained. It is not as interesting as the original PoP but it does give you some insight on what happened to the Prince in those missing seven years. There are some twists involved but nothing earth shattering. Also those who are looking for a lot of references to his past exploit can look away. Aside from the above mention of Farah, and a few other things this game doesn’t really touch upon what has happened before it. Surprising to me since the situation is almost exactly the same.
The combat system has also been completely reworked, losing the more tactical one-on-one fights in favor of the more epic God of War type battles. Where wave after wave of sand warriors attack you, up to 50 at one time in some fights. This wouldn’t bother me so much if they hadn’t dumbed down the Prince’s combat skills. Granted he is not a badass yet, so he is not duel-welding like he does in Warrior Within, but he doesn’t even fight like he did in the Sands of Time. Whereas he was graceful, and very agile in fights in the original, in this he fights much like Kratos which is to say he swings madly and kills all in his path. For some this might be fine, but I think the fluid combat is what set the prince apart, to have him reduced to button mashing is an insult to whoever taught him to sword fight.
The controls are simple, with one button controlling your blade, so combinations are limited to quick swipes and charged swings, but you gain experience from almost every enemy you kill. As you earn skill points, you’ll unlock elemental attacks that give you the power of fire and ice, cover your skin in stone for protection and more. The other combat button you have is a kick, which is useful for enemies with shields, or to knock a skeleton warrior to the ground so you can finish him off quickly.
While I feel that the combat has slacked off, what hasn’t is the excellent free-running acrobatics that the Prince of Persia franchise helped in making so popular. Running along walls, clinging to columns, and swinging from conveniently placed poles are just as much fun as it was in The Sands of Time. But this game kicks it up a notch by giving you power over water. Hold down the left trigger and jets of water freeze into poles, spouts become solid columns, and flowing waterfalls crystallize into walls you can run up and jump between. Slowly but surely, the liquid puzzles become more difficult, and require ever more meticulous timing. You might dive through a sheet of water, hold down the left trigger in time to freeze its neighbor so you might run up and jump off it, and time your release so you can soar back through the first without falling to your death.
Puzzles like this creep up a lot, and each one is as fun and as satisfying as the last. Late in the game you will even be able to rewind and put bridges and buildings together for a short time. All of these new elements add a nice touch and mix well with the cog puzzles and platforming. There are some slight issues with the controls while platforming, some of the jumps require pin point accuracy while others you can jump to the left and still end up making a forward jump. Also sometimes the poles you need to jump to are invisible, which will require the leap of faith. None of this is game breaking, just annoying late in the game.
All in all I don’t hate The Forgotten Sands, I just feel like this game was put out to capitalize on the release of the movie. I know that Ubisoft said the game was in the making before they launched the 2008 PoP, but I don’t buy it. There are missed opportunities in the game to really make it fit in with the original story, and while this does shed light on some things, I really feel that if they had taken their time it would be just as good if not better than the original. If you are like me and loved the original trilogy and really didn’t care for the last PoP game, then you owe it to yourself to give this a play through, combat and some slight control issues aside it’s an average game.
Review copy provided by publisher.