Prince of Persia: Sands of Time stood out as one of 2003′s best games, yet things went downhill rather sequel. 2004′s The Warrior Within not only gave the series a questionable goth makeover, but implemented several gameplay ideas that didn’t quite work. Now, for the third installment in as many years, The Two Thrones, Ubisoft is going back to what worked in the original – no confusing time travel or backtracking, just a linear adventure through the city of Babylon. No rock music or metallic thongs, just sweeping orchestrations and return of Farah, the Indian princess from the original. The original voice actor from the Prince, Yuri Lowenthal, has returned to reprise his role. This should definitely please fans of the series, even though it feels more than a little familiar.
The game begins with the Prince and Kaileena returning to Persia, only to find out that the Vizier is wreaking havoc through the city. Due to the Prince’s constant futzing with the fabric of time, the events in the first game technically never happened, and it’s up to you, once again, to set things straight. Not long into the game, however, the Prince is infected by the Sands of Time, which unleashes his inner persona – the Dark Prince. The two personalities banter with each other a la Golem from Lords of the Rings, but at certain points, the Dark Prince takes over your body and lets you play as him.
When playing as the Dark Prince, the biggest alteration to the gameplay is a new chain whip weapon, which can be used as a grappling hook or a weapon to swing around. While playing as the Dark Prince is pretty fun, his health constantly drains over time, forcing you to fight enemies or smash bits of scenery to find rejuvenating sand power-ups. This tends to put too much pressure on the puzzle solving elements of the game, and it ends up causing quite a bit of frustration in the later segments. Still, they’re less annoying than the Dahaka chase segments from The Warrior Within. Despite the rather lame design, the Dark Prince is still a pretty cool idea. While having an evil version of the protagonist seems a bit cliché nowadays (see: Jak & Daxter), it reconciles the difference between the cold, angsty prince of The Warrior Within and the arrogant youth of The Sands of Time. From a storytelling standpoint, it’s interesting to see how the character develops after different events.
Otherwise, the basic gameplay in The Two Thrones is pretty much the same as its predecessors. The series practically defined tight platforming, with precise controls that let you run across walls, scale great heights, and leap over chasms with spectacular ease. If you screw up and send the Prince to his death, all you need to do is rewind time a few seconds and redo your actions, hopefully correcting your mistake. New to The Two Thrones are stealth kills, which allows the Prince to sneak up on baddies and dispose them of quickly. Once you trigger an attack, you need to be quick in executing button presses, or else you’ll be tossed aside and forced into combat. For the most part, it’s a brilliant idea – there are several areas that can be beaten either by using your brain and finding the correct spot to execute a stealth kill, or simply by running in sword first. It seems that Ubisoft has finally realized that the combat from the previous games was laborious, and offers an alternative for those with quick wits and reflexes. Still, there are plenty of occasions where you have no choice but to confront several enemies at one time, and it makes you wonder why they just don’t overhaul the combat system entirely. Sure, the fighting plays just as in The Warrior Within, which added plenty of movies and the ability to use two weapons simultaneously. Every so often the game reminds you that combo moves do exist, but there’s rarely any practical reason to use them – just flip, attack, flip, attack, flip.
There are also a few other interesting segments – most notably, a couple of Chariot race segments that play like a Persian rendition of Burnout. While brief, they can be rather difficult, mostly because your ride shatters with extraordinary ease. You’ll also find a few interesting boss fights, most of which tends to play out similar to Resident Evil 4 and borrow elements from the stealth kill system.
However, in spite of these additions, a vast bulk of The Two Thrones will feel very familiar. Since the game returns to the Middle Eastern motif of the original game, The Two Thrones feels a bit less distinctive, even though the level design is just as brilliant. The Warrior Within offered a completely different art style and setting, but the The Two Thrones exudes little that hasn’t already been seen. The graphics engine hasn’t been upgraded at all, either, so it looks and feels exactly the same as it did two years ago. Not only that, but there really aren’t any challenges that differ from the previous games, so fans will probably find the game a bit too easy.
Some elements aren’t even executed as skillfully as it was in the past. This time, the tale is narrated by Kaileena, and her monotone voiceovers hardly had the appeal of the original Prince. Even the dialogue between the protagonist and Farah seems rather lame (at one point, Farah chides an enemy for their rudeness after interrupting their conversation), and it still lacks some of the charm that made the first game so appealing.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is currently only available in America and Europe, so the game is already in English.
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones was released in the USA on 05.12.01.
+ Pros: Ditches the lame alterations from The Warrior Within and returns to the themes that made the original so great
- Cons: Scenery and level designs aren’t quite as interesting, annoying timed segments, and game still feels a bit rehashed at points
Overall: Despite some minor issues and the been there, done that feeling that tends to permeate the game, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is just as solid as ever. It’s a fitting end of the series, assuming Ubisoft decides to give it a rest. Which it should, really, at least until we’re comfortable with the next-gen systems, and then they can do something truly different.
Written by Kurt Kalata
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