Sands of Time universe
In 2008 Ubisoft rebooted the long running franchise Prince of Persia, abandoning the Sands of Time universe the three previous games had been based off in the process. The game, simply called Prince of Persia, delivered a critically acclaimed title that ultimately did not sell to the expectations established by its previous brethren. With the big screen film adaptation of the series rapidly approaching Ubisoft found themselves in a bind. Would they continue along with their new prince or would they return to the familiar fan favorite prince?
Gamers looking for a continuation of the new storyline would have to wait a bit longer as Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is set firmly in the Sands of Time universe, although it is not directly related to the film in any way. The Forgotten Sands takes place shortly after the events of The Sands of Time and shortly before the events of Warrior Within so the prince is slightly more mature but not yet the brooding personality gamers would grow to be divided on. What the prince, and ultimately the game, is though is decidedly familiar.
The Forgotten Sands starts out with our hero arriving to his brother's palace being invaded. The Prince sets out to unite with his brother, running, jumping and fighting any obstacle that sets itself between his destination and himself. Mere moments into the game the prince is running on walls, taking part in swashbuckling sword play and jumping to what appears to be certain doom. Once the prince reunites with his brother everything breaks down, as an ancient evil is unleashed upon the palace. The story while being quite simplistic in its nature is thoroughly engaging and does enough to drive the game forward between battles against massive amounts of enemies and dangerous feats of platforming. It is all quite fun, even if it is in no way revolutionary for the series.
The core mechanic of the Sands of Time series has been the ability to rewind time. That mechanic returns in The Forgotten Sands but this time there is no special dagger to activate the power. Instead the prince is imbued with the power from a Djin who is trying to prevent the world's end. The power works the same as before, with the prince being able to turn back time to redo a section of tricky platforming or avoid a killing blow from an enemy. The power is not unlimited though and can run out, meaning that the prince actually can die. Fortunately the checkpoints are nicely placed and if one does die they never have to redo too much of something over again.
Powers and magic
In addition to the prince's ability to turn back time he will also receive two other powers from the Djin that will help him on his way. The first power is the ability to stop flowing water. Waterfalls can become walls to run on, fountains can become bars to swing from and faucets can become columns to climb and jump from. The power forces players to take a different approach to the familiar platforming sections. Ultimately the platforming mechanics do not change much but with the ability having a distinct time limit (with a generous refresh rate) much more timing will be required of players than in any previous Prince of Persia game to date.
The second power is the ability to jump and magically close the distance to another creature. While the power can be used as an offensive tool (and it often is) its primary use is to provide players with a whole new style of platforming, asking players to jump from creature to creature in quick succession while traversing high above the ground. Late in the game the new powers are integrated with the classic platforming in amazing ways that will leave players breathlessly impressed with the feats that make the prince do.
While the powers mentioned already are core to the gameplay, the prince can also access four magical abilities that will help him combat his enemies. These powers, which are attributed to the four primary elements of earth, fire, water and air, can be gained by “purchasing” them from an upgrade grid. To purchase abilities, as well as extra health and magic power, players must defeat enemies to gain experience. It is an interesting idea but ultimately the abilities are secondary in nature and are certainly not needed to complete the game.
From a technical standpoint The Forgotten Sands is a mixed bag. The stylized look of the 2008 reboot is gone, in its place a more realistic looking world. The palace is nicely detailed and character models are equally nice looking. Sadly there are only a handful of enemy types and when the prince is tasked with fighting massive hordes of enemies, a little variety could have gone quite a long way. The game never looks bad, in fact it often times looks fantastic, but later levels seem like they lack some of the polish that other areas got and it can be quite noticeable. Sound-wise the game is fantastic. All the voice acting is superb, particularly the prince and his self-banter and he game has a sweeping music score that perfectly fits the game.
In the end The Forgotten Sands is a pleasing addition to the Prince of Persia series and a nicely done return to a familiar universe. It never really steps out of its comfort zone with only slight variations on classic concepts but series fans, especially those of the Sands of Time storyline, will find a lot to like and should enjoy themselves on the prince's latest grand adventure.
The fantastic platforming and sword fighting from The Sands of Time universe returns.
Not a fully polished product.