Review by ayame95
"A very good game that suffers from some problems."
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
A review by Ayame95
Overall Score: 7/10
So, Ubisoft has released the (allegedly) third and final game in its trilogy of Prince of Persia games. It had quite a lot to live up to, since the first two offered some of the best platforming available from this generation of console games. The good news is that this game delivers the same great PoP platforming and action as established by its predecessors, while offering a few new tidbits to change things up. The bad news is that the story is poorly fleshed out, the game is short, and there are a few minor, frustrating elements. Overall, the result is quite positive, though. I've created this review to let people know as much as possible about the game so they can make the decision about whether it's the right choice for them or not.
Basically, the Two Thrones carries over the same fundamental gameplay as offered in the previous games...and that's a good thing. The prince's main "power" is his ability to control time. The prince can do things like reverse time (to go back and fix mistakes), slow it down (to get past fast-moving traps or open up a high-speed can of whoop-ass all over his enemies), and a couple other minor powers. If you played the previous two games, you will find these elements quite familiar, and little changed (though some of the time-based attack moves from Warrior Within are gone).
The platforming is the same as was established by the initial game of the series (Sands of Time) with some new elements (see below). The price navigates a variety of platforms, edges, rails, beams, traps, ropes, etc. through a myriad of environments. Without a doubt, the platforming represents the "meat" of the game, and it is extremely satisfying. The Two Thrones offers several new platforming elements, such as "dagger panels" (sections of a wall which the Prince can stab his weapon into to gain a purchase), diagonal jump panels (angled panels which propel the prince at a forty-five degree angle), crevices (small, vertical spaces that the prince can shimmy up and slide down), and a few more. Overall, these are welcome additions that contribute well to the platforming experience, and the few that are less impressive do not detract from it in any way. Anyone who played and enjoyed either or both of the first two will be happy to hear that this element remains extremely strong. Anybody who has not played those games, first of all should go and get them, but furthermore should know that this game offers some stupendous platforming.
The action element of the game also works relatively well. The prince utilizes the free-form fighting system that was established in the previous game (Warrior Within), which allows the prince to pick up and utilize a second weapon (often taken from fallen enemies), and to perform a variety of moves and combos that are fairly satisfying. It's not the strongest fighting you'll see in a game these days, but it gets the job done and contributes to the overall entertainment level of the game. In this game, the Prince's primary weapon never changes (unlike the Warrior Within), it remains a dagger (which is used in some platforming elements of the game) throughout the entire thing.
One element new to this game are the so-called "speed kills," which are basically the Two Thrones' version of stealth kills. In certain situations, the Prince can sneak up on his enemies from either behind or above, and initiate one of these speed kills. Executing them requires pushing the attack button at certain key times in the attack animation (failure results the enemy getting the upper-hand and tossing you off of him). Different enemies have different speed kill animations, and it is possible in several sections to pull off double and even triple speed kills (stealth killing two or three baddies at once). The timing is a bit difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's quite satisfying. Note that stealth kills are never necessary, but in several sections they save you quite a hassle, with the enemies calling reinforcements if your presence is detected. The stealth kills represent a welcome addition to the game.
Another relatively strong element of The Two Thrones is it's boss fights. Although some parts of them can be "cheap," overall they are probably the best of the series, and offer an interesting mix of platforming and combat. Several of them utilize an animation with visual cues similar to the aforementioned speed kills that gives you some cool ways to finish the bosses...similar to "God of War," if you've played that game. The bosses all feel unique and interesting, and present an interesting combat-based puzzle. One thing that should be noted, though, is that there is a ten to fifteen second unskippable cutscene before what is probably the most difficult boss in the game, and you will have to watch that scene over and over again as you retry. This may not bother some people, but to me it was extremely frustrating to not be able to jump right back into the action, and have to watch that little movie a dozen times.
Yet another new element to the series is the chariot racing. At certain times in the game, the prince rides a horse-drawn chariot through a little obstacle course, fending off enemies and maneuvering through the streets of Babylon. While not stupendous, these chariot sequences serve well to change-up the gameplay, and offer something new and different. There are only a couple of them, spaced pretty far apart in the game, so even if you don't enjoy them, they really aren't much of a bother.
The final point I want to mention about the gameplay is the much-advertised Dark Prince. At certain points in the game, the Prince metamorphoses into a dark, evil version of himself. This prince wields an extra weapon called the "Daggertail," which is basically a barbed whip that he swings around and smacks people with. The Dark Prince has a different set of attacks and combos than the regular Prince, and is a relatively powerful fighter (speed kills are also much easier to perform). The Dark Prince also platforms a bit differently, since he can use the Daggertail to swing off of things. Note that the Prince's darker half has a constantly depleting health meter that has to be replenished by sand (dropped by some enemies and found in some containers). This adds a sense of urgency to the Dark Prince sequences that works relatively well. The Dark Prince, gameplay-wise (see below for his role in the story), is an interesting addition, but not really all that great. After completing the game, I found myself feeling that the game would not have suffered much from the deletion of this character. However, I didn't feel that it decreased the game's value in any way.
In the Prince of Persia: Two Thrones, the Prince returns to his home city of Babylon to find it ransacked and under attack. All his messing about with time has wrought dire consequences on his home and his people. Upon arriving, his ship is sunk and his female companion is captured. So the Prince sets out on yet another mission to set things right. Along the way, he finds that an evil element has been growing inside him...the Dark Prince. This causes him to literally transform into a darker version of himself. So the Prince must battle his inner demons while trying to reclaim his city and fix what he has screwed up. It should be noted that this game presumes that the "secret" ending of the Warrior Within is the real ending, and continues the story from there.
One thing that people are probably concerned about is the "feel" of the game. Sands of Time presented a light-hearted atmosphere that was extremely reminiscent of a fairy tale. Warrior Within did away with this and rewrought the Prince as a darker, angrier, "angstier" man. Many people (myself included) felt like this change (and some extremely crappy rock music) was for the worse and severely detracted from the game. The good news is that the folks over at Ubisoft has realized their mistake and toned down the Prince's "BADitude" significantly. The Prince no longer acts and talks like the cranky lead singer of some Goth band, and you won't hear any Godsmack playing as you battle your enemies. What Ubisoft has done is to try and spark a balance between the first two games (so as not to make it seem as though Warrior Within never happened), but unfortunately the Prince ends of feeling kind of flat. While the Prince no longer seems like an extra from a Marilyn Manson video, we do not get that light-hearted, charming Prince from the first game. While I was happy to see the Prince's "extreme" attitude gone, I felt like he was lacking in character.
Overall, the story is the worst of the three games. It is far simpler and straightforward than the Warrior Within, and not nearly as charming and fairy-tale-like and the Sands of Time. Given that this game was supposed to wrap-up the trilogy, it's disappointing that it couldn't have had a stronger showing. There are a few minor twists here and there, but overall it's pretty straightforward and predictable. After completing the game, and contemplating the whole story, I found myself saying "That's it?" The story is unquestionably one of the weakest elements of this game.
Graphics and Sound: 8/10
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones looks gorgeous. It uses the same engine as the previous installments in the series, but it has been refined. Considering that it's only been a year since the last game, the difference isn't mind-blowing, but you will notice overall improvement. As with the first two, this game looks very good. Most of the character models and textures seem pretty good, although some of the cutscenes looked a little "thrown-together," and I noticed that some of the hair and clothing textures seemed a little funny. Nonetheless, the environments are beautiful (the game relies heavily on light bloom) and easy to see. As the Prince navigates through the city, there is often quite a bit going on in the background, and looking around at your setting is often a rewarding experience.
The sound is, overall, good. But not the most memorable element of this game. The music is (thank God) nothing like Warrior Within, and overall does a decent job of supporting the environment. Nothing memorable, but nothing dislikable. The voice acting is mostly good (note that the Prince's voice actor has been changed again....I believe back to the same actor as the first game). All of the sound effects do their job well, and nothing seems funny or out of place.
One thing I personally found a little annoying was the narration (you may not). The whole game is narrated, which is fine I guess. But when you do things like pause or save the game, the narrator comments on that, too. For some reason I found it real annoying to hear the narrator asking "Do you need a break?" every time I had to pause the game for some little thing. This isn't a big problem at all, and I'm sure a lot of people won't care, but I think it's worth mentioning because it kind of grated on me.
Play Time and Replayability: 4/10
OK, this is where Ubisoft dropped the ball, bigtime. The Two Thrones is great while it lasts, but the game is very short. Length was one of the few complaints about the first game in the series, so the developers made the second installment quite long. Some people (although not me) disliked the backtracking that was present in the Warrior Within, but even discounting that, the Two Thrones is probably about half the length of Warrior Within. I consider myself to be a gamer of pretty "average" skill (although I had played the first two games), and I blew through this game in just over seven hours. Reading the message board for this game at gamefaqs, it seems that the general consensus is that this game is about six to eight hours in length. It's unfortunate because the game is quite good while it lasts (there is no backtracking), but upon reaching the end, I found myself saying "Already!?"
In addition, the game doesn't offer a lot in terms of replay value. The game itself is good, but the experience isn't going to change if you replay it. Everything unlockable (some artwork and movies) is unlocked after the first time through, and unlike Warrior Within, there is no alternative ending. It would have been nice to see the developers give a bit more incentive to go through the game again.
One piece of good news is that the game does not seem to have any major glitches. Although I didn't personally experience any, many people were plagued by a variety of gameplay and sequence glitches in Warrior Within. Those people can rejoice, because this game is technically sound, and no major glitches are being reported at this point.
Unfortunately, I cannot just flat-out tell you to get this game. Like the first two games, Two Thrones is a great experience that I really think just about any gamer is going to enjoy. It offers that same great Prince of Persia experience, while adding several new elements that are mostly quite interesting. But the lackluster story and, more than anything, the short length of the game detracts from the overall value of the game. Just a few more hours of gameplay would have easily motivated me to bump up the overall score one or even two points. If you played and loved the first two games, and would just be happy with some more Prince of Persia, than you shouldn't hesitate to go out and get this game...because you will be satisfied. But if you are sitting the fence on this one, or strapped for cash, I would tell you to go out and rent it first (if that's legal in your country....it's not in mine) and see what you think before you buy the game.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/12/05
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