Review by DraconicDak
A wonderful new chapter in the legacy of Prince of Persia
The main plot of the game is fairly basic. The dark god Ahriman, imprisoned for a thousand years, is trying to escape his prison and has spread his darkness and corruption across the land. As the selfless hero, you must stop this spread and push back evil, saving the world as heroes are wont to do.
But the heart of this story is not in the play, but the players. The main character, the Prince, is not a selfless hero; he would love nothing more than to find his donkey, turn right around, and ignore Ahriman completely. Elika, your magic-using companion, is the one on a mission, having a very personal investment in re-imprisoning Ahriman. She is the only one who can revive the numerous Fertile Grounds, halting Ahriman's growth and restoring his prison. The Prince and Elika must work together and revive the land before Ahriman escapes completely.
The two characters start with only the barest of motivation, but almost any time during the game, you can press the L trigger to start a short cutscene. The Prince and Elika will talk, often about the task at hand or the enemies ahead, but increasingly they will just chat, revealing bits of their character, flaws, and oddities in thinking. As the game goes on and they begin to care for each other, these conversations become delightful, natural bonding sessions, pushing their relationship forward fluidly and naturally. By the end they are very deep, human characters that you will genuinely care for.
Graphics/Art Direction: 10/10
This game is, in a word, gorgeous. From the opening menu to the closing credits, it is like playing in a vast, moving watercolor painting. A game has not been this artistically incredible since Okami. The first time you move through an area, all the land is eclipsed in a dull grey-blue, corruption standing out as a deep black. The atmosphere seethes with foreboding.
After you heal an area, however, it is transformed into a thing of beauty. It is vibrant, with bright greens and reds, and just seeing the land transformed is payoff for working to heal it. As you free each of the four main areas from corruption, you are treated to truly breathtaking sweeping vistas below you.
I cannot wait to see where this design is taken in future games.
The controls in this game are an interesting turn from previous PoP titles, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The best description for the new controls is "streamlined." Each broad type of action is assigned to a button; A for jumping and acrobatics, B for actions involving your gauntlet, X for swordplay, and Y for Elika's magic. This remains the same for both exploration and combat.
In practice, it works very well, and you'll be controlling the Prince like a pro within minutes. The only fault that the controls can be accused of is hand-holding; the response windows for each action are usually very large and forgiving. One the one hand, there is little difficulty in moving around the world, but on the other that is largely because the game is using your button presses as more of a guideline than actual rule.
There are two main sections to the gameplay: Exploration, and combat.
When you first enter an area, you will run, jump, and crawl across the landscape to the local Fertile Ground. These sections are mostly linear, which should come as no surprise to PoP veterans; the joy of the game is in fluidly traversing these areas in one flawless string of acrobatics.
Combat is sparse, and always with only a single enemy at a time. It is not at all frantic, every battle feels like a boss battle. The enemy AI is very good, blocking your attacks intelligently and cutting into openings when you make a mistake. Attacking is thoughtful and slow, but not in a bad way: you will feel like every hit counts, stringing together combos to do as much damage as possible. It is also very cinematic, with the camera often moving to a close, dramatic angle as you grapple at the edge of a platform.
There are four Guardians - one to each area - that you will fight each time you make it to a new Fertile Ground. While on the face this seems repetitive, each Guardian fights with a unique style, which they will alter with every encounter. This actually works for the game, as once you make it to the final part of an area and vanquish a Guardian for good, there is a true sense of accomplishment.
With each Fertile Ground healed, the area is scattered with Light Seeds, glowing magical orbs literally numbering in the hundreds. You are required to collect a little more than half of them throughout the game, though many will want to gather them all, even if only as an excuse to see all of the fantastic world. As you collect a certain number, you will be able to trade them for a new magic ability for Elika; these will open new areas of the world for exploration. Each area of the world requires two of the four abilities to heal completely.
All in all, the gameplay is good, though it is helped in large part by how simply beautiful the game is.
Prince of Persia is an exceptional must-buy game. It is absolutely amazing to look at, with deep and personal characters and fun, engaging gameplay. Not quite perfect, but a more than worthy addition to the venerated series.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Prince of Persia (Limited Edition) (US, 12/02/08)
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