Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Preview
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was one of my favorite games of the last generation and the new Prince of Persia for the PS3, released back in 2008, was also great fun. I’m a big fan of the franchise and although I appreciated the difference in style and gameplay offered by the most recent installment, I’m happy to see the series returning to its roots. No more one-on-one confrontations (they got a little boring), and no more cel-shading; I liked the presentation and artistry of it but I still prefer the slick, more advanced visuals we’re going to see in The Forgotten Sands. Besides, I think the cel-shaded fad has run its course. Ubisoft’s latest Prince effort is technically a sequel to The Sands of Time and you will start at your brother Malik’s palace, which is under attack. This should remind you of the opening of Sands of Time and if so, you won’t be surprised when Malik makes a big mistake by unleashing an ancient sand army to aid in repelling the assault on his home.
As you may have heard, the developers are reverting to large-scale battles for this latest entry, so you will always battle multiple enemies at once. They won’t, however, turn to any QTEs to handle the climax of boss fights – a common technique for designers these days – and the entire combat mechanic will rely on your speed, reflexes and cunning. Combos can be unleashed in various directions and of course, the Prince will have his trusty and deadly sword on him at all times. At the start, you may only have to take down small handfuls of nasty foes (perhaps 5-10) but towards the end of the adventure, you will have to somehow handle close on to 50 enemies at once, which certainly sounds like a daunting task. Lucky for you the Prince still has his supernatural control of time: if you die and you’d rather not reload, simply rewind time and give it another go. You’ll need one of those Blue Orbs to make this happen, though, and if you run out…well, then death really is death.
Various sources have already managed to go hands-on with The Forgotten Sands, which is why we now have a few more specific details. Firstly, you will only be able to dodge; blocking is out of the question, so if you don’t keep moving, you’ll likely take a ton of damage with all those enemies surrounding you. Similar to other action-oriented quests, vanquishing your foes nets you valuable experience points, granted by the defeated sand on your blade. You can then purchase upgrades for the versatile Prince; everything from health upgrades to offensive and defensive battle abilities will be available. According to IGN’s time with the game, there’s a skill called Shield that knocks enemies back and this can then be upgraded to Tornado, which tosses the attacking hordes around in a damaging whirlwind. And if you need help, you can always turn to Razia, a Djinn (that’s a genie, folks), who will handle the magic attacks in battle and combine with the Prince to perform some seriously sick acrobatic maneuvers. It wouldn’t be Prince of Persia without those!
Razia’s magic powers are quite practical. They’re based around the elements (Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind), so if you need running water to become ice, turn to your Djinn friend. You can bet that it will go well beyond this, though; casting multiple spells in real-time in order to get past certain obstacles is a given. You’ll even be able to combine these practical purposes with attacks on the enemy, provided you’re quick enough and you have the requisite ingenuity. Even with only four major elements, you can imagine how many puzzling combinations can be derived from that setup. There’s little doubt that fans of the franchise will enjoy this one, especially if you want a return to the more frenetic confrontations of earlier titles. Finally, you can certainly expect the platforming to once again take center stage at various times in your adventure; the Prince’s distinct acrobatic abilities will definitely come into play, here. We’re just not sure if Razia will help us the way Elika did during such scenarios…the partnership of Prince and Elika worked exceedingly well before.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands arrives on May 11, before the blockbuster movie hits theaters. Unless the film is really something special (and we do have high hopes for it), I’m going to make the prediction right now that the game will be a far better option. I’m not stopping you from going to the movie, though…I’m just saying.
2/23/2010 Ben Dutka