Review – Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

The new Prince of Persia game treads very familiar ground. As a fan of the original trilogy, I went into this new instalment with certain expectations, and have generally come away pretty satisfied. 2008’s Prince of Persia game was disappointingly easy (it was literally impossible to die) whereas The Forgotten Sands goes back to its roots: brilliant environmental puzzles with the occasional simple, repetitive, yet fun combat.

If you’ve played any of the recent PoP games, you’ll know what to expect. You play as the titular Prince, a highly acrobatic dude who can climb walls, swing from poles and leap across huge chasms – he’s incredibly easy and satisfying to control. I was playing the PC version of the game with an Xbox 360 control pad – I imagine using a keyboard and mouse would not be quite so intuitive, as some of the puzzles require some complicated combination of button presses, which are well suited to a gamepad.

The Forgotten Sands has nothing to do with the recent Prince of Persia movie, however it was clearly made to be released at the same time, likely to take advantage of the hype to increase sales. As a result, the game is vastly superior to the majority of game-movie tie-ins but it is mostly irrelevant to compare it to any. In most aspects its a very polished game – the platforming is refined to near perfection (the designers have had plenty of time to nail it, with this being the fifth modern PoP game); the combat is simple button mashing with a few special powers thrown in. It’s incredibly satisfying to cut your way through hordes of sand skeletons, most of them go down within one or two hits, but theres plenty of variety in them. The mini-bosses are a bit harder and require you to hack away at their ankles before they keel over allowing you to end them with a stylishly acrobatic move.

As with most Ubisoft games, the animations are excellent. Free running along walls and swinging from pole to pole is as realistic as it could be, forgiving the fact that most humans alive probably couldn’t dream of doing this stuff. The setting is fairly varied, albeit with a consistently ‘ruined’ feel. Everything is crumbling apart in this giant palace, and even though the Prince vocally wishes for stairs at one amusing point, you’ll be grateful there aren’t any since climbing up walls is where most of the fun comes from. Graphically, its nothing special – there’s some nice lighting effects and the sand monsters do look decent enough, but overall its a brown-textured, muddy-looking game which does the job well enough. The best visual moments come from the awesome climactic finale which takes place inside a huge sand storm, Bayonetta style. The frozen water effects looks kinda nice too.

You're sometimes swarmed by 50 of these guys.

The original Prince’s voice actor is back, and he does a good job of narrating his way through certain bits of the game. He’s always been a likeable character throughout the original trilogy, but the supporting characters in The Forgotten Sands are rather forgettable, like the plot. Throughout the game, you’re essentially chasing your brother who’s slowly being taken over by a giant demon in an effort to save him and the rest of the kingdom from the sand army he foolishly released. I found myself enjoying it at the time, but since having finished it, I can safely say it predictable and uninspiring, but does enough to justify the Prince’s journey. It’s easy to ignore when the gameplay is so much fun though, and that counts for a lot.

As I said, I played the PC version of the game. This means I had to have an Ubisoft account, and be online constantly, thanks to Ubisoft’s ridiculous new DRM system. I feel strongly against the principle of their system, however it hasn’t been enough to stop me buying some of their new games. Ultimately, I didn’t have any issues with it – I was never booted back to the menu due to my connection dropping out, and the cloud-save system seemed to sync up easy enough. My home internet is very reliable though, and Ubisoft would do well to take note of the various horror stories people have reported. Not everyone has fast broadband yet.

Its easy for me to recommend The Forgotten Sands, particularly if you’ve enjoyed any of the previous games. Its very similar to the original trilogy however, so if you didn’t like those, you won’t be convinced by this one. Play it if you love quality level design, have an urge to slash your way through an army of sand skeletons and don’t mind a lacklustre story told within a 10-or-so hour play through. I don’t know how many more of these they intend to churn out, but this one’s a worthy addition to the series.

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