Several years ago, the Prince of Persia franchise exploded back onto the popular gaming scene in a big way. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time managed to incorporate the innovative jumping, swinging, trap avoiding gameplay of it’s namesake, while simultaneous reinvigorating the Action Adventure genre. Sands was followed up by Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within which, while not as innovative as it’s phenomenal predecessor, took the series down a darker, grittier turn and expanded the combat. While Warrior Within was an outstanding action title, many fans expressed dissatisfaction at the shortage of the platflorming, puzzles, and story that had made the first so much fun to play.
Into this lineage, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is born. I am pleased to report that rather than playing like either of the first two titles, it plays like a near perfect combination of both. Two Thrones takes the best parts of Sands of Time (innovative plat forming, mind-bending puzzles) and it’s sequel (expanded fighting controls) and makes the best Action-Platformer (not starring a certain Greek God) this year.
Returning home from the Island of Time, The Prince is looking forward to some R & R with his love Kaileena. What he finds instead, is his precious Babylon in flames. They are being attacked by an unknown enemy, and after Kaileena is captured the Prince takes matters into his own hands. Of course, it wouldn’t be Prince of Persia without the Sands of Time being involved, and the Prince is once again hurled into their mystery. I don’t want to give away too much of the exceptional story, but I will say that fans of the series will find themselves in a familiar predicament, and even have a familiar ally to assist them along the way.
Perhaps the nicest thing about the story is the character development. In the first modern PoP, the Prince was brave, but unsure. He was courageous, but noble. In the second, the Prince was blood-thirsty and nearly conscienceless due the weather of his circumstances. As the name suggest, The Two Thrones finds the Prince struggling between the two halves of his personality. This dichotomous struggle between light and dark really adds a depth to his story that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.
They say that the “Devil is in the Details” and Ubisoft seems to have taken that advice to heart as it relates to the graphics in PoP: The Two Thrones. Little effects like light filtering in behind a swaying curtain help to immerse the player in the already rich backgrounds. The platforming elements contained within them are (with a few exceptions) cleverly disguised. They are varied enough to avoid becoming stale, but consistent enough to not seem disjointed. The smooth animations make the already impressive fighting and platflorming look even more lifelike. The character models are well detailed and, like the environments, varied enough to avoid getting stale. There are some minor clipping issues, and an occasional problem with the camera. Often these problems aren’t game breaking, but occasionally the camera can interfere with the platforming elements to a frustrating degree.
In traditional PoP style, the gameplay in Two Thrones is top notch. It’s a good thing too, because the series has been returned to it’s roots, and the result is an innovation and intensity that many platformers are missing. You will control both the Prince, and his dark alter ego. The Prince’s sections are often heavier on the platforming side, with occasional combat. The Dark Prince’s sections are more heavily combat based, with occasional platforming. I must say that I preferred the Prince’s sections due to the amazing platforming action, but The Dark Princes sections were definitely enjoyable while they last.
Combat is styled in a similar fashion to The Warrior Within. It is free form, which allows the player to string together impressive looking combo’s on several different enemies at once. Once again, I can’t stress enough how the superb animation adds to the ferocity of the attacks. The Dark Prince adds a new dimension to the combat by using a bladed chain weapon. This weapon controls similarly to the combat in God of War, only not quite so fluid. His weapon also gives him the ability to swing from certain items, however you’ll find that it’s only useful in a few specific instances.
Not just content to mine gameplay from the previous games in the series, several new gameplay elements have been added to the series this years. Elements like Splinter Cell-like splits between two walls and burying your dagger deep into a wall to advance add to the already deep platforming gameplay. New combat additions include a new quick kill (which is activated by sneaking up behind an enemy and then timing your button presses to match the on screen prompts) and several others.
Occasionally there are some control issues (Jump-Roll being on the same button, collision detection seems off for some platforms) that I would like to see ironed out if there is a fourth title in the series, but overall the control is tight for most of the fighting and platforming.
Thankfully, the series has dropped the heavy metal soundtrack of the last game and returned to a more cinematic score. The voice acting is decent overall, but sometimes slips into the realm of the overdramatic. Sound effects are what you would expect from an action title, lots of clashing swords and grunts, but they fit into the context of the gameplay very well.
For fans of the PoP series, The Two Thrones will feel like a return to glory. I would definitely recommend this title for everyone from fans of the first title who were let down by the second, to fans of the second who were overwhelmed by the first, and even fans who have yet to experience the series. While some people will invariably compare this title to its predecessors, it also stands on it own as an extremely crisp, accessible, and impressive platformer that is well worth taking for a spin.