What Ever Happened to That Other Prince of Persia?

Illustration for article titled What Ever Happened to That Other Prince of Persia?

The aptly named Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands picks up the tale of the Prince, filling in that gap between Sands of Time and Warrior Within. But what happened to that reboot of Prince of Persia from two years ago?

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Was the decision to go back to this main timeline and the more conventional Prince of Persia gameplay a sign that Prince of Persia 2008 was a flop?

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Not exactly.

Michael McIntyre, level design director for Forgotten Sands and the 2008 title, describes Prince of Persia as a polarizing game, one that people loved or hated because of its take on death (You can't die in the game) and the simplified acrobatics and combat.

But, he's quick to point out, work on Forgotten Sands was started before Prince of Persia shipped, so its successes or failures didn't drive the decision to return to the main timeline of the series.

"We firmly believe that Prince of Persia is a brand that can have multiple environments," McIntyre says. "It makes a lot of sense for us."

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The decisions driving the changes in the 2008 title were in many ways spurred by a desire to experiment with the franchise, he says. While Forgotten Sands returns to the traditional take on death and the more complex acrobatics and combat, that doesn't mean Ubisoft views the 2008 game as a failure.

"We are happy with what we achieved with that title," McIntyre says, "and I think games like that can still exist.

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"For me the difference in the 2008 game is that it had less player participation. The player didn't decide when they wanted to be saved and when they wanted to wall run. In 2008 the experience was far more Zen. You keep playing, keep moving forward no matter what. You got in a rhythm and kept moving forward."

McIntyre likens the game to a platforming, combat-heavy version of Playstation Network's Flower. Another dive into that sort of Prince of Persia would likely be philosophically the same, he says, but maybe with a less heavy helping-hand.

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"Maybe it would be a mix of both, as things got harder maybe it would require more skill from the player."

As much as McIntyre says he liked working on 2008's Prince, he says that working on Forgotten Sands resonates with him more.

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"I grew up with the original Prince of Persia and with Sands of Time," he says. "I like tough games."

McIntyre says how pleased Ubisoft is that they became the "bearers of the torch" for Prince of Persia Games.

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We spend a few minutes reminiscing about Broderbund's 1989 side-scrolling title. The game, originally developed by Jordan Mechner, used rotoscoping to deliver a surprisingly realistic prince with amazingly fluid movements.

That first death on a bed of spikes, I tell McIntyre, blew me away. It's one of my most memorable gaming moments, I say.

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"Something from that original game is coming back to Forgotten Sands," McIntyre says with a smile, "the spike death."

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DISCUSSION

Well (sadly), almost everything is wrong with PoP 2008:

1. you practically can't die in the game. So there's absolute no motivation left to keep playing the game. More later;

2. Tiresome gameplay, collecting so many items is annoying, especially they are far far far away from each other;

3. The gameplay isn't that different from the earlier PoP trilogy; okay, the graphics/art direction is different, some may find it more beautiful than others, but gameplay wise it's the same game (climbing, wall walking, doing somersaults, and other acrobatic tricks to reach items/areas) with several downgrades (read dumbing down):

a. amount of enemies at a time is reduced to 1 or 2 most of the time and with mid boss character there's almost just one at the same time;

b. sword fighting is far worse than the original PoP trilogy, it's almost turn-based at times and adding quick time events the game feels very "on-rails", i.e. trial and error. So swordfighting in the older PoP trilogy is more intuitive, more challenging and definitely more fun;

c. on some of the section in the game you have to fly with Elika (female protagonist of the game) to reach other levels of the game; also here you can't really die, the game just reset to the beginning of the game and you (re-)try again till you reach the end of the "on-rail" level so you can go to the other level/location.

d. The rewinding feature "bullet time" of the trilogy is replaced by "Elika's helping hand", so practically "the bullet time" has become infinite/unlimited, in other words you can't die. The game becomes boring very soon. Why play a game where you can't die at all?

So in the end this PoP 2008 is an oversimplification of the PoP trilogy with downgrades in gameplay and difficulty departments while it does look good if it comes to the graphics. But a game has to be fun, why bother to buy it if it only looks good. This actually was quite a shame since I thought the PoP series was on the right track. Just hope developers have learned from their mistakes and make the upcoming PoP a better game.