(3/5) – action – adventure Reviews: Metacritic 81%| Game Rankings 80.68% | zero punctuation
Reference: | Achievements
Walkthrus: Mahalo | WikiCheats | GameFAQs
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Engine: Scimitar / Anvil
In Prince of Persia (“PoP”), an unnamed prince, who isn’t really a prince, travels with Princess Elika to each of the 24 regions, jumping, climbing dodging, fighting enemies to get to the region’s ‘fertile ground". He defeats a bad guy, Elika ‘heals’ the fertile ground, then they retrace their steps on either side to collect light ‘seeds’ (Crackdown-style) to level up. THEN HE DOES IT ALL AGAIN – TWENTY-FOUR TIMES. That’s the game.
It’s gorgeous and somewhat fun, but left me wanting. I preferred the the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time on the original Xbox – especially the fighting elements and the ability to rewind time.
Tomb Raider Meets God of War : The game style can best be described as a cell-shaded combination of God of War, Crackdown, Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider without GoW’s terrific combo-leveling up system. I note that PoP uses the same game engine as Assassin’s Creed (Scimitar) which explains a lot.
Grander in Scale: This Prince of Persia is much grander in scale than the original Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and similar in scope to Assassin’s Creed.
Level Intricacies: The intricacies of the 24 regions are quite amazing – especially given their three dimensional nature. You explore every nook and cranny, but, unfortunately, you must explore each nook at least three times to fully complete the game. This is the poster-child for games that extend play by forcing you to retrace your steps, over and over.
Frame Rates: The frame rates are so much better than the most recent Laura Croft/Tomb Raider games on the 360. I could play this game all day without any queasiness.
Terrific Hybrid Camera Control: At some points you have complete control of the camera. At other times the camera is controlled for you. Few games pull off this hybrid trick well. This one does.
Uncollected Seed Counts: Integral to ‘leveling up’ in this game is finding all the seeds of light. Happily the map indicates how many seeds are remaining unfound in any of the many regions. This is in stark contrast to otherwise good games like Crackdown and Assassin’s Creed where you could find 599 of 600 orbs (in the case of Crackdown) and have no hint as to where the missing orb is in the vast world. Kudos to Ubisoft for that!
Achievements: There is a recent trend in 360 games to make achievements increasingly difficult to achieve. Call of Duty 4 and Guitar Hero 3, for example, each make achievements ridiculously hard to achieve. As you can see from my gamer card, I got 930 of the available 1,000 (though with the help of an achievement ‘glitch’? I might add – see below). Thanks Ubisoft.
Save Points: Anyone who reads my reviews knows that user-selectable save points are important to me. Happily you can save the game any time, any where (except in the final boss battle – even after cut scenes – but that’s a trivial gripe). The save system was otherwise perfect.
Character Interactions: While nothing like the best of breed story in Uncharted – Drake’s Fortune, the story/dialogue between Elika and the ‘prince’ was generally enjoyable. My only issue is that you can’t talk while moving around. You always have to stop to have a conversation.
Elika Sexy: What can I say, Elika is amongst the sexiest gaming characters I’ve had the pleasure to interact with.
Basic Explanations Lacking: For the first hour, the game does a poor job of explaining what is going on and what to do. It presents an open world but doesn’t give you any way of determining the relative merits of which path or power to choose. Reading the manual ultimately helped (see tip below) but, come on Ubisoft! Developers should give the gamer some basic info, back story or help screens to get them going. Any game that requires the user to read the manual is making a mistake.
Extremely Repetitive: Despite the interesting differences between the regions, as per my synopsis above, the game is extremely repetitive. I gather that goes with the territory for games of this scope. I had the same fundamental criticism of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed.
Dismal Leveling Up Rewards: Unlike most collection and fighting games, the leveling up achievements were meager and increasingly far between. The prince didn’t become more powerful or gain battle skills. Rather, leveling up gave him access to: (i) four regions; and (ii) four different jumping/grappling/flying techniques that propel him around the world. After finding 560 light seeds, there was no advantage to finding the remaining 341 (except for a final 360 Achievement). Most disappointing his fighting skills, techniques, weapons or combos were unaffected by ‘this leveling up’.
Lack of Proper Difficulty Ramp: Because the game is open-ended, you can approach the game’s regions in any order. As a result there is little in the way of a difficulty ramp from beginning to end. The mini boss fights are largely identical throughout. This, combined with the lack of fighting skill leveling up, makes the God of War player in me disappointed with the battle sequences. I want fights to get more difficult but I also want my skill and weapons set to improve as the game progresses. Neither of these occur in PoP. Zero Punctuation made the same point in his sardonic review.
Button Mashing & Carpel Tunnel: In God of War, Combos are earned as you play. You get a clear sense of how they work. Four hours into PoP I was still largely button mashing. Yes, I understood the combos but found them difficult to use and to time properly for much of the game. You get screens full of them from the start. It’s hard do discern which combo to use, at what point. As the game progressed I did get better with the combos. The timing is quite different from other fighters. The game gave me mild carpel tunnel syndrome on my right thumb from repeated mashing. I’ve never experienced that with other games.
Reliance on Quick Time Events: The game relies on quick time events – something that annoys me. The implementation was pretty mild. Games like God of War and Fahrenheit implement QTE’s in a much more annoying fashion so I can’t complain too much. But, this is a tired mechanic whose time is over.
No Hour Glass Mechanic: The ability to roll-back time with the hour glass doesn’t exist in this version of PoP. Instead you are instantly (and frequently) saved by Elika who can fly (but ironically needs you to carry her on your back while crossing vines). This makes the game easier. But, I much prefer the hour-glass, rewinding time mechanic from the original Prince of Persia.
Yellow (Wings of Ormazd), Y-Axis Inversion Issue: I play with the Y axis inverted. Elika and ‘the prince’ fly through the air while using the Wings of Ormazd (yellow plate) power. But, the Y-Axis is not inverted during these flights – making it very difficult to fly. Unfortunately, Ubisoft is not the only developer guilty of this defect. It happens too frequently when a game employs a secondary movement mechanic such as swimming or using a fixed place turret. You’d think that by 2008, this kind of oversight would be behind us.
Read the Manual: RTFM’ing is rarely a requisite for modern video games. But the manual describes the four powers that you are collecting light seeds for. It also explains what do in the early stages of the game. I’m amazed that the game does such a poor job of this. The manual also provides info on basic attacks, blocks etc. that the game does not. It’s the first game in years where I felt that reading the manual was necessary.
Elika’s Powers (Leveling Up): For the first half of the game you’ll be collecting seeds to unlock Elika’s four powers. Each power allows her to access certain parts of the realm. More importantly each power allows her to use power plates placed within the realms to move about in fantastical ways. You can choose the powers (and access the realms) in any order you choose. I recommend choosing the powers in the following order:
- Blue – Hand of Ormazd (let’s you jump from plate to plate)
- Red – Step of Ormazd (let’s you grapple from plate to plate)
- Yellow – Wings of Ormazd (let’s you fly through the air to collect seeds)
- Green – Breath of Ormazd (let’s you wall run in any direction for extended periods)
Note that these are roughly in the order that they are presented on the bottom of the map. My power selection suggestions are made purely on the basis of ease of use. Blue and red are the easiest to use. Yellow (flying) is harder and green (wall running) is the hardest to pull off because you have to run around obstacles placed in your way at the last second. Obviously, if you are keen to explore an area associated with the green power, you’ll have to choose the green power before the others (as I did, and regretted). If I were to play the game again, the order above is how I’d choose them, though red and blue are virtually identical in actual game play so you could interchange their order. Whatever order you choose, you’ll still play each realm essentially the same way. You’ll always have to re-visit realms later to collect seeds that you couldn’t get to the first time through because you didn’t have the necessary power needed to access the needed power plate.
Pay attention on Wall Planks and Vines: If you land on your feet on a wall post/plank (instead of hanging from a poll), there is a good chance that it is a launching point for a light seed, grappling hook or a plate. Look around before moving on. The same is often true when sliding left to right on a vine. Keep an eye out above the vines.
Light Seed Gathering: I collected all the light seeds. Surprisingly, they are all pretty easy to get. Every time I thought I couldn’t get one, it turned out I was missing something pretty obvious. I had several Homer Simpson-style D’oh! moments. While some are challenging, there are no dirty tricks played here. Keep trying different ways or approach from another angle. While there is a way to safely retrieve them, it’s easier sometimes to just jump out, grab the seed and let Elika save you. Remember to use ‘magic jumping’ (ie: double jumping with Elika’s assistance). Sometimes you have to do several of these in a row, back and forth (eg: in Martyrs Tower), to get to the seed. If all else fails, use the walkthrus linked to the top of this post. And, there’s always YouTube.
Stay in Center of Ring while Fighting: During the boss (and even minor) battles, if you get close to the edge, a wall or the black gue (aka ‘corruption’), chances are your foe will push you over, against or into the gue – requiring Elika to save you (and the enemy regaining health). Constantly moving to, and staying in, the center of the arena is key to quick and effective boss fights.
Lead with Elika in Fights: I ultimately learned to use every combo available in the game. For me, the combos that lead with Elika (or at least those that included her) seemed to consistently be the most effective. So much so that every boss battle became a breeze once the Elika combos were generally understood.
Combo Button Pacing: The pace of combo button pushing (mashing) in Prince of Persia is much slower than in games like God of War – almost a second a part. Quick button mashing in a fight will be useless. Paced, deliberate and somewhat slow button pushing for combos is the winning strategy here.
Two Free Achievements: I have never seen this in a game before. I let the credits role through to the end. I enjoy reading who and what is involved in developing a video game. And sometimes games include treats or teasers (Halo 3) after the credits have finished. When the P0P credits finished rolling, the game gave me both the "Be Gentle With Her" (100 pts) and the "Speed Demon" (10 pts) achievement for free. Both of these would have been enormously difficult, if not impossible, to achieve normally. I’m wondering if I hit a glitch in the game or if this was intentional?
May 27, 2009 Update:
I’m reading this NeoGAF forum post on the best looking person in the gaming industry. The picture below, of Kari Wahlgren, the voice of Elika, came up. Wowzers! No wonder I found Elika so hot. The voice behind the character is attached to a similarly beautiful woman!
But my vote goes to Veronica Belmont – she’s the quintessential Dale-type!