Review by blackgryphon21
"Incredible potential, but poor execution"
In the past Ubisoft has released some amazing games, Beyond Good and Evil and the Sands of Time being among them, but somewhere on the way to The Two Thrones they lost their edge.
An odd aspect of this game, assuming that you are new to the Prince of Persia games, is that it feels like you are playing two different games as the control scheme and even how the prince moves varies depending on whether or not you're in combat. Because of this I've split this section into two parts: Platforming and Combat.
As one would expect after playing the other Prince of Persia games, the Prince spends much of the games running, jumping and climbing over the rooftops of the city in which the game takes place. In fact most of this game is essentially getting from point A to point B and solving the puzzles and traps that lie between. By and large, this aspect of the game gives a feeling of nostalgia for the older platformers of systems gone by while still having a modern and sophisticated look and feel. In my opinion, this is the strongest part of this game, but even here there is one major flaw: Difficulty.
While the ability to rewind time is very interesting and unique, and may be used as an excuse to increase difficulty slightly, Ubisoft has fallen, once again, into the trap of making the game unplayable without the Dagger. Far, far too often will players find themselves rewinding over and over to catch a window of opportunity so tight as to be inexcusable in any other game.
On the subject of time, another aspect of the game as been added to this incarnation of PoP: The Dark Prince. At certain areas of the game the prince will transform into a quasi-sand monster. This character has the advantage of being better suited to combat than the Prince, but he continually loses health. While not an unusual setback for a powerful character, there are times when you must use the Dark Prince in platforming areas of the game. I assume that this was added to put a sense of urgency into the player, but they went too far. To put it bluntly, the tightness of the timing in these areas all but requires that you know the layout of the area before you enter it, or you will simply die. Needless to say, having to explore the first section of an area, die, cross it, explore the second section, die, etc. is incredibly frustrating and, frankly, unnecessary.
Here is, in my opinion, the biggest letdown of the game, and, unfortunately, many of the problems have been here since Sands of Time, only now they're more pronounced.
The first major problem is that while the game promises 'a freeform fighting system that allows a player to make his own style' or something like that, it doesn't really exist, and there's a simple reason why not: They take moves away from the player. Several enemies are immune to certain attacks, by which I don't mean that the timings too tight to make them viable, I mean that the Prince doesn't even try. For example: The most effective attack in this game is to throw an enemy off a ledge, however, while this works constantly against two hundred and fifty to three hundred pound guards, this is useless against a ninety pound harem girl. Apparently, they're greased or something as the Prince will reach out and appear to just slip off.
The second major issue with the combat in this game is that, unless you're the Dark Prince, you're not supposed to be in what I would consider 'combat'. A new system has been introduced into this game called 'Speed Kills.' Essentially, this means that if you can get close enough to an enemy without him knowing or get the drop on him somehow, you can enter a mode in which you tap the attack button at precise times to do large amounts of damage. Done successfully, this will kill any normal enemy. The downside? Nearly every enemy in the game is set up to be attacked in this way and the game, in turn, is turned into a puzzle about how to get into the proper position. As an added bonus, enemies are much more dangerous than they should be making sustained combat impossible. On normal difficulty four hits from certain enemies will kill you from full strength, which, to me, seems like a low blow way of enforcing use of the speed kill system.
In addition to taking away from normal combat the speed kill rears its head in another, more annoying, way: Bosses. When fighting bosses finding speed kills is not only suggested, but is, in fact, required. You cannot defeat them without finding them, which, again, feels like a cheap way of enforcing the new system.
Graphics and Sound: (9/10)
After that long stream of negatives, we come to something positive. In terms of pure aesthetics this game is pure gold. The environments look very nearly real, the characters are very well made and everything looks and sounds exactly as you would expect.
I've heard a lot of bad things about the story in this game, but I for one was pleased with it. It doesn't have the power of the first game's or any remarkable twists, aside from one at the very beginning, but it does round out the series very nicely. It leaves the player with the feeling that the series is done, all the loose ends are wrapped up and that everyone involved can finally move on. Not the feel good story of the year, but I wouldn't mind seeing a movie made from it.
Another shortcoming of the PoP series is that everything is a straight line. Once completed this game holds no new secrets, no new puzzles and, with the more or less removal of combat, not even a decent beat 'em up after a long day.
When all is said and done this is another Prince of Persia game. If you liked the other two, then you will probably like this one. If you have yet to play any, then I would highly recommend finding a copy of Sands of Time and playing that first as I believe it was the best of the series.
This game, to me, is a rental. I rented it once, finished it in two days, and know that I will never play it again.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 01/11/06
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