Review by Packing Heat
"The Fresh Prince is back"
If we're gonna do this, then we're gonna do it properly. To give you a quick taste of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, you should don a black wig that is dangerously close to becoming a mullet, grow a little goatee to promote your rebelishness (the teenage angst thing, not the sandwich dressing), boot up some whiny techno-rock music, then stand at a 20 degree angle to the screen and quickly run around to other inappropriate viewing angles to simulate the wacky game camera. Now we are ready to begin.
Warrior Within begins the next chapter in the perplexing Prince of Persia plot. The excellent first next-gen outing for the Prince - The Sands of Time - saw you tampering with time and fate itself. Now all that meddling has finally caught up to you in the shape of the Dahaka - the guardian of time. Hunted for your time changing antics, your only choice is to travel back to the past and prevent the sands of time from ever being created, thus you won't have tampered with the timeline in the future and the Dahaka wouldn't be on your case. Luckily, the sands of time just so happened to be created in a huge castle, which provides the setting for the game.
The first level is aboard a ship. Take your time to soak up the bright, colourful graphics here. The ship is quickly attacked by some sort of ninja pirates, led by the sub-nemesis of the game, Shahdee, a woman who appears to moonlight as a stripper. She also serves up as the first boss battle of the game. Cue major annoyance number 1 - to get to the boss battle, you have to run through the entire ship level (it's about a minute or so long if you just run past the ninja pirate things). Then if you die, you have to start at the beginning again. Would a checkpoint at the boss have been so much to ask for?
After you're shipwrecked, you land at the castle, the predominant setting of the game. The castle appears in two forms - present form, the castle has surrendered to the overgrown gardens and damaged masonry work; and past form, where the castle appears in it's former glory. You can switch between these at any time by visiting the time portal. This forms the basis of a lot of the progression through the game. By reverting back to the past, different routes become accessible that aren't available in the derelict present timezone.
Still intact are the Prince's acrobatic moves. You can run up walls, run along walls and grab ropes to swing to distant ledges, bounce off walls, climb pillars, leap huge gaps, shimmy ledges, slide down curtains, swing on poles, do I need to go on? In The Sands of Time, you entered a huge room, were shown a door at the other corner of the room, then had to get there. It was linear, but you couldn't get lost. In Warrior Within, you'll be retracing your steps across the same areas time and time again. Often, you'll run around trying to get to a switch, pull the switch, then you're shown a cutscene of a door opening somewhere... then you run around trying to find where the door opened. The in-game map is totally useless, it's just a picture of the outside of the castle with "you are here, you need to get here", you can't use it to navigate at all. And because a lot of the castle looks similar, most of the time you run around thinking "haven't I just been down this part?" You probably have.
The combat system has been touted as a major improvement from the first game. A whole new combo system has been implemented, as well as duel-wielding swords/axes/knives/choppy weapons. This all boils down to pressing 'square square square square triangle triangle square'. That's largely the combat system explained. Although there are a lot of combos on offer, you can button mash your way through the majority of the game... or simply just run past the enemies, most of the time there's no need to fight them. Another annoyance is the Sand of Time collecting. In The Sands of Time (the first game), you pressed triangle to stab a downed enemy with the dagger and gain a time reversing power. In Warrior Within, there's no need to finish off the enemy with the dagger, instead, you seem to randomly be awarded with a time power for killing enemies. This sometimes leaves you on a section where you _must_ have a time-slowing power to progress, yet you don't have any, and there aren't any enemies around to provide you with some... so your only option is to throw yourself off a cliff and backtrack to a save point.
One big improvement is the enemy occurence. Whereas in The Sands of Time, you were locked in an area and forced to fight 30 or so spawning demons before the forcefields evaporate and you're allowed to continue, in Warrior Within, this has been addressed. They'll appear through doors, or run up walls, surrounding you several at a time. Enemies are tougher, and don't just stand there while you slice and dice. Each variety of nasty has a unique attack pattern, and you must adopt similar tactics to defeat them. Some are fiendishly tough, particularly the barely visible vampire women who flip all over the screen. The enemies are generally well detailed, and have nice effects attributed to their weapons.
You once again can save the game at water fountains. The water can also be consumed to regain your health, a nice touch. The fountains are strangely situated - sometimes there's a small section to overcome between them, other times a huge area must be navigated before you can reach that checkpoint, but it's generally not that big a hassle. The sand of time powers enable you to tamper time. If you fall off a huge crevice to your doom, hit the rewind button to rewind time (up to about 8 seconds), and get another shot at leaping that gap. There's also a slow motion effect, which slows time, but crucially allows the Prince to run at normal speed - essential for traversing those quick moving platforms, or neutralizing a tough enemy.
Another complaint from The Sands of Time were the boss characters - or lack of. Warrior Within has huge seemingly taken a leaf from the book of Devil May Cry and given you some huge characters to fight. As I mentioned above, Shahdee is a blade wielding femme fatale. Avoiding her attacks and diving behind her are the key to success here. She'll even come back for more on several occasions. Another foe is a huge rock monster. It's no good just hacking at him, you need to find a week spot, an Achilles heel as it were, to take down this lumbering giant. Another boss is a huge demon bird, much like the Gryphon from Devil May Cry.
The main boss of the game, the big cheese, the don, is the Dahaka. As guardian of time, he's a little pissed at you for your constant time reversing and slowing down antics, and he wants vengeance (and probably some compensation). The Dahaka is a huge minitaur type creature with eerie glowing eyes. It's not a case of _fighting_ him, it's more of a run-for-your-life affair. The frequent Dahaka encounters inject a much needed shot of adrenaline into the game at the right moments, before the adventuring begins to stagnate. You must use all your acrobatics and speed to run along walls, up walls, past blades, spikes, whatever is in your path, to escape the Dahaka.
Warrior Within is not without it's faults. Most notably, the camera seems intent on aggravating you. Generally, it's fine, but because of it's fixed position, the path you need to take is often obscured. I spent about 20 minutes on one section trying to find a way out, just because the camera didn't show me a pole I could leap to; I only found it by a stroke of luck, having jumped the wrong way. There is a first-person view offered, but it doesn't help too much. The control system is thankfully simple and intuitive. Controlling the Prince is a breeze, even if it looks overly complicated, it's all triggered by the same few buttons.
As in the previous game, there are huge puzzles to complete. These include an elaborate water power system that you must activate atop the castle. This involves navigating narrow beams along cliff edges, twisting water turrets to direct the flow of water. Another includes moving parts of a huge clock to activate the inner workings.
The entire presentation of Warrior Within is excellent. The castle is superbly realised, and is absolutely huge. The outdoor sections are by far the most impressive - you could be standing on a ledge, hundreds of feet in the air, with a nice panoramic view of the scenery. During moments like this, there is no or little music. If there is music, it's subtle, mood setting orchestral music. It works well to enhance the atmosphere of the game. Other sections of the game see you inside an enormous clocktower, complete with turning cogs and wires and pendulums and all sorts of clock type things. Areas like this are great, and should be focused on more. Subtle details in graphics greatly enhance the game - as you shimmy along a wooden ledge, dust will cascade down from the beam; water fountains; flocks of birds; etc.
The sound of the game ranges wildly from the superb ambiance music, to the annoying, grating techno-rock music that kicks in whenever you encounter an enemy. This ruins the mood of the game for brief periods. Most of the time, there is no music - you're left to listen to the surrounding world, the wind blowing, the flowing water... and it works nicely, leaving you to concentrate on what you're doing.
As for replaying the game... you probably won't. If you keep the game, you will likely come back to it when there are no new games in the shops. Warrior Within has a good length, with some annoying parts that you can battle through with some persistence. Other parts will have you pulling your hair out though. It's a mixed bag, with the good outweighing the bad by a considerable margin. You probably won't see enough of the game to fully appreciate it if you rent it... if you do rent, you'll have to play it constantly to get anywhere.
+ overall presentation is fantastic, with brilliant small touches that enhance the visuals
- a lot of the castle is grey/brown and dull
+ ambiance and mood music enhance the gameplay
- awful techno-rock tunes during combat
+ good combat, great acrobatics and adventuring capers
- repetitive, often without direction, you get lost a few times
- artwork to unlock, tougher difficulty levels
- unlikely you'll play through again any time soon
(7/10 for GameFAQs rating system)
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/18/05
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