Review: Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
The Sands of Time trilogy is golden, perhaps one of the best video game trilogies of all time. It's no surprise then that Ubisoft is trying to revive the series... or just make more money off it.
- Worth The Time?No
- Things LovedThe platforming is huge fun and the landscapes are breathtaking. The final sequence is pretty cool too.
- Things HatedThe plot is boring and little more than a semblance of a reason for the game to exist. Combat is repetitive and the game lacks all the charm of its predecessors. There is a general lack of overall effort.
- RecommendationFans will despise this and if you're looking for a unique action adventure, this isn't it. Move along and look elsewhere.
- Name: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: R350 (PC), R700 (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Prince of Persia’s Sands of Time trilogy will probably go down as one of the best series’ in games, along with God of War and MGS. Ubisoft have now brought out PoP: the Forgotten Sands, claiming that it is a revisit to the great Sands of Time trilogy rather than a reboot of the series, like 2008’s Prince of Persia (4). The game also boasts improvements such as epic 50-enemy battles and a new dimension of platforming, with the inclusion of elemental powers, in addition to the Prince’s usual control over time. This was set to be the return to the Prince of Persia series that everybody was waiting for, but did Ubisoft manage to make good on their promises or is this game best left buried beneath the sands of time?
When Ubisoft first revealed this game some months ago, they billed it as being a return to the highly acclaimed Sands of Time trilogy and bravely boasted that it was the return to the trilogy that everybody wanted – that it was going to be great. Famous last words if there were ever any.
The game takes place somewhere between the Sands of Time ( no.1) and Warrior Within (no.2) and sees the prince going to visit his previously unheard of brother, Malik. The prince is there to learn statecraft from his older brother, but arrives to find his kingdom under siege. You are immediately thrown into the action as the prince sets off trying to find his brother among all the chaos. To cut a long story short, you catch up with Malik and in an attempt to get rid of the attacking army, he unleashes the ancient sand Army that has been lying dormant underneath his kingdom since the time of King Solomon.
The Sand Army does get rid of the invaders, but soon start to lay waste to Malik’s kingdom, turning the inhabitants into sandstone and generally just claiming the place for themselves. Along with the sand Army, the evil djinn, Ratash is unleashed and the Prince’s main concern is then to seal the Sand Army back beneath the Kingdom and defeat Ratash. There are a few other twists in the tail but that is the general plot. This story contains none of the mystique or intrigue that the previous games had and is not even that great. It is decent enough though and serves its purpose of getting your through the game if nothing else. Every apparent twist in the plot can be forseen long before it happens. The only person really surprised by this is the prince who gotten something of a makeover.
He has traded in his Arab-emo looks for a more regal-Americanised visage. If you look real close, you’ll notice that his lower jaw has been lifted from a bull-dog and he also appears to wearing a pair of Levi’s. One good thing is that the voice-actor from the Sands of Time game has been brought back and does a great job despite the poor dialogue that he was given. Ubisoft has tried to recapture the cocky and humorous nature of the prince but fail miserably. His little quips come out of the blue and sound so stupid that he may as well have sung them in Farsi. There is one moment in the game when the prince – after having said something to the effect of: with his luck there will be traps beyond a certain doorway – is faced with a wall fitted with spinning blades and exclaims to nobody in particular: “You see, I told you so. Just my luck.”
Whatever narrative quality the prince’s dialogue had has been chopped out in favour of favour of smart-ass quips that cut the atmosphere like a meat-cleaver. Throughout the game you will be guided by the Queen Razia. Razia is a mystical being with complementary mystical powers and every now and again, the prince will venture through a portal into Razia’s realm to be told off and emasculated. Razia will constantly informs the prince that he is not strong enough or even able to do something and then imparts a new power upon him.
From these little encounters, the prince gains the ability to freeze water, dash-attack an enemy through the air and make objects and structures which no longer stand, appear. In addition to these, you can also equip the prince with a host of elemental powers. Like in God of War, you get orbs when you kill enemies or break certain pots and these can then be used to purchase powers and upgrades in the upgrade menu. The most basic power is Stone-Armour which, as the name implies, endows the prince with some swanky stone armour; each successive upgrade covers more and more of the prince’s body in this armour.
Next up is the Trail of Fire which does what the name says it does and sets enemies on fire in its wake. Similar to this is the Ice Blast which creates a path of ice in the direction that the prince swings his sword and temporarily freezes any enemies in its path.
The most useful of all these powers though is Whirlwind which at its most basic level, knocks enemies down with a gust of wind and when fully-upgraded, sends them swirling around the prince in a giant tornado. All the powers are upgradeable but you will only ever really need the Whirlwind. The others are mildly useful at best and little more eye-candy at worst. More useful upgrades include increasing damage dealt to enemies, increasing health as well as increasing your Flow Power which determines how long you can freeze water for.
The prince retains his ability to rewind time but there’s a catch this time. Instead of the ability to rewind time regenerating over a period of time, you only have a specific number of chances to rewind time. You can top this up by breaking pots and collecting blue orbs and even increases the number of times the prince can rewind. He has however, lost his ability to slow down.
The ability to slow down time was mainly reserved for platforming and puzzle-solving in the previous game but Forgotten Sands manages without it and the platforming is actually rather special. At first, it seems to just be more of the same that we saw in previous PoP games with familiar elements such as levers, spinning blades, swinging axes, switches and flag-poles. Things pick-up very fast however once the prince acquires the ability to freeze water. As an example, you will have to freeze a spout of water to use it as a flag-pole but once you swing off the pole, you will immediately have to unfreeze water to pass through a waterfall in front of you.
Later in the game, you will be able to reconstruct structures which no longer exist but you can only do one at a time so it quickly becomes one huge game of leap frog and timing with some obstacles thrown in. Couple this with the ability to dash between aerial enemies to get between places and you have a winning formula. The platforming is most alive in the final sequence and is truly epic but i will not divulge too much of that, just remember it.
The platforming keeps you on your toes and is highly entertaining. The challenge is not in figuring out where to go but rather how to do it. Your reflexes will be tested and the rewind ability will be used often. It gives you a conscious feeling of exhilaration when you’re nimbly moving the prince from flag-pole to frozen water-column to previously missing structures with a 100ft fall looming. You even breathe a physical sigh of relief when you hit terra-firma and see the little autosave icon in the corner of the screen after completing particularly challenging sections of platforming.
Great as the platforming is, the combat is where the game falls flat on its face. You start the game with 6 moves and that’s all you’ll have for the rest of the game. These six moves are decidedly boring: attack, kick, dodge, jump-attack, jump-kick and finally power-attack. Now consider the much hyped-up 50-enemy battles, recipe for disaster. The prince has none of the acrobatic attacks or fighting prowess that the previous games had.I did not mention the dash-attack that you get towards the end of the game because this can be used against flying enemies or when leaping over a chasm.
The prince’s feet are firmly planted on the ground for most fight sequences. This, from someone who can wall-run and freeze water. It’s pathetic. The prince is so plodding that every battle with more than 20 enemies becomes a chore; I would like to point out that after the half-way mark, any area big enough for it becomes one of these. Thankfully, these are quick since the enemies are not too strong or intelligent. With regard to this, there are 9 different types of enemies for you to get bored with:
- Sand-Soldiers with shields
- Slightly stronger Sand-Soldiers
- Scarabs (yes, they are annoying)
- Sand-Generals: these can summon more soldiers and have lightning –powers
- Sand-Bombers that launch spheres of energy at you and have to be taken out by means of a dash-attack through the air
- Sand-Harpees: these hover around and basically serve no grater purpose than that of stepping stones which help you cross vast open spaces.
- Sand-Giants: these are about 5-times the size of the prince but can easily be defeated by literally hacking at their ankles without the loss of a single bit of life.
- Sand-Titans: I have named them as such because they are exactly like the titans from Batman Arkham Asylum. They are brutish things that charge at you and can be attacked once they ram into a wall and concuss themselves. The only difference is that these ones are far dimmer than the ones in Batman.
All the enemies are easily defeated and generally the same in attacking style. You could furiously mash the ‘attack’ button and wouldn’t know the difference between the enemies. There is one particularly proud moment where I was in a large chamber with two of the titans and about fifty other enemies breathing down my neck and I managed to get rid of every single enemy besides the titans without lifting my blade once. I swear to God, I just dodged the things and let them take out their own allies, there was even one point where they were killing each other. Despite this fun little moment of superiority, the battles become so tedious that you want to just let a titan ram you into a wall. You are limited to those same 6 moves and the only additions to your combat are the elemental powers which are useless.
The only one you will ever use is Whirlwind because it actually works over a large area while the other 3 work in such a narrow space that you may as well not use them. These 50-enemy strong fight sequences would be fine if the prince had more area attacks available to him. God of War 3 realised that you don’t want to be bored by having to take out enemies one at a time and so endowed Kratos with a host of area-effect attacks. As such, most of you time will be taken up by these boring and tedious battles. The combat is repetitive, uninspired and though it does pick-up somewhat when you get a more powerful sword (the old one turns out to be too weak to defeat Ratash) but you are still limited to the same moves and attacks. Fans of the previous games will also be glad to know that the sound which enemies when struck in Warrior Within has been perfectly copy-pasted onto the enemies in this game.
The gameplay follows this poor form with each amazing platforming sequence being sealed with a tedious and boring battle. There’s a handful of boss battles but they really are nothing special and pose no more challenge than the weaker enemies, this is especially true of the final boss-fight. I got through it without losing a single inch of health. One good thing about the gameplay is that the control scheme is actually very intuitive and was specifically designed to be similar to the controls in the old games so that it would ‘feel right’ for fans.
There are however, numerous moments when the prince will not jump or strike in the direction that you want him to and plenty of bugs and even one game-breaking glitch. Some of the more common ones that I encountered were the prince being suspended 2m above the ground on occasion when hit by a swinging blade and he would not come down until you forced a death somehow. Other issues are active shading and detailing. There are cutscenes and establishing shots throughout where you can literally see the environment being textured and shaded. In addition to this, there was a part right at the end when I was a staring at an out-of-focus final boss that suddenly became perfectly detailed.
On the whole though, the game makes adequate use of Ubisoft’s in-house Anvil 2.0 Engine. The environments and vistas are beautiful and there is great amount of detail in some areas. The glaring flaw is a lack of consistency, at times the graphics are beautiful while there are times when they are somewhat below par. Like God of War 3, the use of this engine gave Ubisoft the ability to actually render everything that you see in the game with the engine rather than use backgrounds. The problem is that, this graphics engine is not suited to a game like Prince of Persia. It was perfect for Assassins Creed because it’s an open-world game and needs everything to be fully-rendered but a game as linear as Prince of Persia needs an engine that can render things in far greater detail inorder to be more consistent.
All in all, this game suffers from an overall lack of effort. The graphics are only (mostly) good because the engine already existed. The story probably took no more than 10 minutes to come up with and the combat was palmed off to some unknown external outfit that couldn’t come up with a single original enemy and made what is perhaps the most boring and depressing combat I have ever had the misfortune of encountering. The gameplay is rife bugs and glitches. The controls and platforming are perhaps the only redeeming qualities of this game. Most of the elements that make up this game were either already in existence or copied from somewhere else. Whatever wasn’t already done for the developers was poorly designed and executed.
In all honesty, the soundtrack and voice-acting is perhaps the best aspect of the game. The soundtrack is a big change from the mix of guitar and Middle-Eastern themes and angsty rock of Warrior Within. It, instead, has strains of Assassins Creed in it and generally has a very epic feel. The voice-acting is great as usual and the characters are believable. I apologise for the highly technical breakdown of the sound in the game but it is really the only fault-free aspect of the game.
Say what you will but this is a licence game. It may not say “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: The Game” but effectively is just that. It was made not to revive the series but to cash in on the Prince of Persia fever that’s bound to sweep the world in the wake of the new movie.
Overall Presentation 6/10
If you can sleep-play through the fight sequences and manage to bear with the numerous glitches then by all mean, get this game. Since most of you will be pissed off by the glitches and get bored with the combat, stay away from Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. It is not worth the money. If you are a Prince of Persia fan then stay away from anybody who even has the game, it is a mockery to the Sands of Time trilogy. Rent this game if you must, if for nothing other than the platforming. I would much rather suggest you try God of War or one of the previous prince of Persia games if you are looking for that kind of experience.
If the Prince of Persia series can be likened to a goose then the Sands of Time trilogy would be a golden egg, 2008’s Prince of Persia would be excrement and this would be a stillbirth, dead before it even got its first breath.