Review by sbn4

"Two Thrones, Two Souls, but One Question: Is it worth playing?"

Prince of Persia The Two Thrones is the final game in the trilogy of Ubisoft's platforming adventure game. The Prince of Persia made its debut in full 3D glory back in 2003 with the Sands of Time. The game was showered with praise and was said to be one of the best games of released that year. However, it's seems that the game didn't do as well as it should have at the box office. So Ubisoft decided to take a different approach for its sequel Warrior Within. With blood stained swords, rock music, a lot more gore, and a darker image, the Prince hoped to win over more fans that might have been turned off by the original game's light hearted nature. Unfortunately, Warrior Within was considered a disappointment by most. This was due to the fact that the darker nature of the prince, the gore and the hard rock music was not handled very well. Another factor was that the game was riddled with serious glitches. It seemed like Ubisoft tried a little too hard to be edgy and “cool.” Despite all this, Warrior Within was considered a worthy sequel to Sands of Time. Still, many fans wish that the series would return to its former glory for its final chapter. The big question is, does Ubisoft return the series to it's roots, or does it deviate from the norm once again?

Prince of Persia The Two Thrones (which will be referred to as TTT here after) is a direct continuation from Warrior Within. It seems as though the Prince was able to cheat his fate and defeat the relentless Dahaka who was constantly tormenting him. He escapes the Island of Time with the empress Kaileena. Together they set sail for Babylon in hopes of a peaceful existence. Unfortunately nothing goes the way it should for our hero. As he nears the shores of his kingdom he notices flames jutting from buildings and the sounds of war ravaging his home. At the same time, the prince's ship is attacked by the invading army. Kaileena and the prince become separated, and Kaileena ends up being kidnapped by a group of unknown men. The prince must not only rescue Kaileena and discover what has happened to his city, but he must also fight his darker self that resides within him. The prince is slowly becoming infected by the Sands of Time, and he must fight it along with the perils of the invasion if he wants to save his kingdom.

Gameplay 8/10

If there is anything that has remained constant in this series, it would be the terrific platforming elements. The prince still has the ability to wall run, run up walls, swings from poles, leap great distances, and all that other good stuff. The platforming elements pretty much pit the agile prince against his large environments. He must use his acrobatic skills to progress through the game. This time, the prince must make his way through the decimated city of Babylon itself. The new environment is an interesting change from the last two games which mostly had you confined inside a castle or a palace. Don't get me wrong, the other two games did allow you to venture outdoors, and TTT does have its share of indoor environments, but the new settings are an interesting approach. Besides, it's pretty fun to watch the prince jump from one roof top to the next or watch his scale some of the highest buildings in Babylon. Asides from the new settings a whole lot hasn't changed from the actual platforming itself. The prince does pretty much the same things he has done since the Sands of Time. A few new additions is that the prince can dig his dagger into little metal plates that can be found around the levels, jump diagonally off of spring boards, and jump into small narrow space. Remember how Sam Fisher (from Splinter Cell fame) could do a split jump in a narrow corridor? Well, it's sort of like that, only the Prince can use his arms to climb up or down. After you play about 20 minutes into the game, the prince will find the dagger of time and will have the ability to rewind time. So, if you make any mistakes during platforming, you can rewind yourself and give it another try. However, rewinding time is limited power at the outset, and can be replenished by defeating enemies. As you proceed into the game, the prince will also get other sand powers that make him more powerful. Other than these few additions, the platforming hasn't changed in the slightest bit. Anyone who has played a game in this series should know what this game is like.

If there was one thing that has been the center of criticism of the series, it would have to be the combat system. Many felt that the Sands of Time fighting was too simple or even shallow. Warrior Within hoped to change this by introducing a whole new combat system, which Ubisoft claimed as free form. While it was a big improvement over Sands of Time, it wasn't free form like Ubisoft claimed. TTT uses the exact same engine as Warrior Within. The prince slashes with the “X” button, and can perform a vault over an enemy by approaching them and pressing the “A” button. While the prince only has one sword he can perform a vaulting submission hold move by pressing “Y” near an enemy. From this position the Prince has various other violent options based on what button is pressed (either the X, Y, B, or A buttons). However, the prince has the option to wield the sword of his fallen adversaries. With two swords in hand, the prince loses the ability to do the submission hold, but gains the ability to do more devastating combos on enemies. Once again, Ubisoft claims that this is a free form system, but it really isn't. While you have more options in battle the system is nothing more than a “dial a combo” system. Each move is assigned to a certain button press sequence (for example: X,Y or X,X,Y,X) and it's a little hard to deviate from that.

One big gripe with the combat system is that it just lacks a sense of fluidity. It seems downright sluggish at times. Even though Sands of Time's combat system was simple, the animations and fights flowed well. TTT has some jerky and slow animations. Not only that, but the prince is vulnerable way too often during many of his animations. The enemy AI is not the greatest, but it isn't exactly fair some of the time either. The prince can get hit while he's attempting to stab an enemy while they are on the ground and other animations too. It gets a little annoying. Another issue that has plagued the series is some collision detection issues. There are some body on body and body on environment collision problems. While they don't affect gameplay too much, they can be very unsightly to see. However some glitches do affect gameplay. Often times when fighting some enemies (particularly the hound like enemies) some of you're attacks go straight through the enemy. I'm only wondering how Ubisoft could have missed some thing like this.

However, one of the new ideas implemented are speed kills. This is actually nothing more than stealth kills that sort of resemble how the Tenchu series utilizes stealth killing. To initiate a speed kill, you must first approach you're enemy while they are unaware of you're presences. At this point the screen will start to flash and you need to press the “Y” button. At this point the prince will perform a brutal stealth kill in which he will stab his enemies in many vital areas like the back, throat, chest and stomach. When you initiate a stealth kill, you're work is far from finished. When the prince begins his attack animation, you need to press the “X” button at designated points during the animation in order to successfully pull of a kill. There will be audio and visual clues to let you know when to press “X.” The most telling clue is that you're dagger will flash a bright blue color. Depending on the enemy type, you might need to press “X” once or five time in a row. However, if a stealth kill fails by the player pressing a button too early or missing a press entirely, the enemy will retaliate by throwing you off of them, and a regular face to face battle will ensue. Many times you can even use ledges to hide from enemy view and then strike when they're not looking. If you happen to speed kill one enemy and another enemy in the vicinity is unaware of you're presence, you can perform multiple speed kills. Overall, the stealth kills are a nice addition to the game. Not only is it fun to watch the prince perform these moves but it also saves you the trouble of having to contend with many enemies.

Another item exclusive to TTT is being able to play as a different character. Actually, it's not so much a new character, but another personality of the prince. About 20-30 minutes into the game the prince will become infected with the Sands of Time. You will notice that there is another “voice” inside the prince's head. This voice is his evil or darker side conflicting with the righteous prince. At this point, the prince's darker side will surface as well. The prince will go into a transformation that will make him look like a sand monster. He is typically named the dark prince and he wields a chain like weapon called the daggertail. While the prince may look cooler, it's not always all that fun to play as the dark prince. You'll almost immediately notice that the dark prince is noticeably more powerful than his normal self. However, as you maintain you're persona as the dark prince, you're life will go down at a steady pace. If the prince doesn't kill enemies and collect their sands he will end up dying. You can also smash objects in the background to find more sand too. This can be a little unfair at times, especially considering that Warrior Within had a similar idea called the sand wraith. In Warrior Within, the prince's life would constantly go down, but it would stop at a certain point. Also you had the ability to use sand powers infintely. The dark prince has neither of these features. You'll find yourself trying to rush through areas so you don't end up being consumed by the sands. This can be particularly annoying during platforming sequences because the checkpoint system in this game puts you at the beginning of an area that you've already been through. Speaking of the platforming sequences, playing as the dark prince allows you to reach areas with his daggertail that aren't normally accessible by the regular prince. The dark prince could have been a lot more fun to play as, but he wasn't handled as well as he could have. Fortunately his segments are small and don't get in the way too often.

One other new addition to the series is chariot races and interesting boss fights. During some sequences of the game, the prince will have to take the reigns of a chariot. At this point, you'll have to race through Babylon while enemies jump on you're chariot in an attempt to knock you off. Other chariots will join the fray in attempts to run you off the road. While the chariot races are an interesting change of pace, they can certainly be annoying. Sometimes one small mistake can cause you to crash. If you find yourself without enough sand, you'll have to replay the same sequence from the very beginning. This is another example of the poor checkpoint system. Luckily there are only two chariot sequences in the game. On the bright side, some of the boss encounters are pretty interesting. While Warrior Within had a few boss fights, a lot of them fell flat and were recycled a bit too much during the game. However, TTT makes good use of the prince's skills in boss fights. Some of the boss fights are not as straight forward as they seem. You'll have to combine the prince's acrobatic moves along with speed kills and some strategy to take down the bosses. However, if you find yourself stuck at a boss fight the dark voice in the princes head will tell you almost exactly what to do. This might spoil the experience for some, but you'll be glad to here his advice during the heat of a battle.

Graphics and Sound 8/10

While TTT does look decent, the game does seem to lack the level of polish the Sands of Time had. However, the game does a fine job on its own right. The wonderful level design is still present in the game. The destroyed city is very well represented with piles of debris, rubble, dead bodies, crumbling buildings, and the outbreak of fires all over the place. The level of interactivity with the environment is nice. The biggest problem with the graphics is that there are a lot of annoying clipping issues with the game. The most noticeable is that the prince's hair goes right through his face on numerous occasions during cutscenes. Once again, while it may not affect gameplay, it's definitely unsightly to see. The dark imagery is absent, but the prince still looks like a hardened warrior with cuts and scars all over his body. The rest of the game seems to have a more light hearted look from the Sands of Time.

Perhaps one of the biggest complaints about the Warrior Within was the music itself. The Godsmack music and other hard rock beats just weren't fitting for a game that take place in the Middle East. Luckily TTT resorts to upbeat Arabic music that was featured in Sands of Time. While it isn't as memorable as Sands of Time, it certainly more pleasant to the ears than having to listen to someone screaming “IIIIIII stand alooone!!!” No offense against Godsmack, it's fans or that song (it's not a bad song actually), but it just doesn't fit with the series. On the whole the voice acting isn't bad, and Kaileena does a decent job narrating the story even if the prince is preferred. The prince does a better job because he isn't trying to sound hardcore all the time. On top of this, the annoying catchphrases that the prince and enemies said during battles are now thankfully gone. Overall, it's an improvement over Warrior Within.

Replayability 8/10

For some strange reason, this game seems shorter than Warrior Within. It could quite possibly be due to the fact that there wasn't any tedious backtracking from the previous game. The game can take you anywhere from 8-12 hours. However, the PoP series has always been a series that is pretty enjoyable the first time through but a little harder to get back into after the second play through. You can get into the harder difficulty if you want, but that difficulty is available at the outset. However, some of the unlockables are nice. There are videos, illustrations, and pictures from all the three PoP games. There is even a short and hilarious outtake video available as well. While these little extras are nice there isn't a whole lot of incentive to play the main game more than once.

Overall, TTT is a good game to end the trilogy. It's got all the fun platforming elements, a decent fighting engine, entertaining speed kills and the PoP series returns to it's former glory. While Sands of Time is still the best PoP game, any fan of the series should check out TTT. It combines the best elements of Sands of Time and Warrior Within (the platform puzzle solving and the improved combat system) and adds a few extras too. While there are some downsides to the game, the good outweigh the bad in this case. Some of the glitches are annoying, but it's not nearly as bad as Warrior Within's game ending glitches. Still, it would have been nice if Ubisoft took the time to iron out the glitches. Overall, this game is an improvement over Warrior Within considering it went back to it's old style rather than using the dark image to be more edgy. Unfortunately the dark prince was not as well fleshed out as he could have been and he ends up making the game tedious and frustrating at times. If you're a diehard PoP fan this is worth the investment, all others should rent the game. Newcomers to the series should delve into Sands of Time since it's pretty cheap now. With a few more coats of polish this game could have easily topped Sands of Time, but falls just a bit short.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/16/05

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