Monday, 4 April 2011

Prince of Persia – Sands of Time Review

So the game I have chosen to review is Prince of Persia – Sands of time, a 3rd person platforming, action-adventure game. It was made by Ubisoft and released in November 2003. It released on all platforms during the previous generation of consoles such as GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC then once the 2 sequels were released, it was developed into a triple pack for PC and very recently for PlayStation 3 remastered in HD. So it’s a pretty classic game as you can make out because, to this day, it still appeals to the current gen.

To further back this up, of course more games were later made due to its success, those are Warrior Within and The Two Thrones but also a mobile version and a Game Boy Advance Version were made. Even last year, Forgotten Sands was released as a sort of in-between storyline  to also go with the recent movie actually titled, Sands of Time but I will not go any further into that and I have yet to watch the movie.

Ok so what is the story? I’m not good at explaining storylines so I’ll be brief. You play the son of King Sharaman of Persia who wishes to prove himself in battle. During a war he sets out alone to the city walls in search of a mysterious dagger in which he thinks he can use as his prize and to gain the reputation he desires. However upon releasing the dagger, he discovers it has the power to alter time. Successful in his escape of the collapsing castle and when the war is won, he presents the knife in Azad only to be betrayed by their vizier who tells him to unlock the hourglass. The sands of time unleash, corrupting all but the bearer of the dagger. You then find yourself fighting to undo this curse and stop the Vizier’s plan with the help of another survivor named Farah, a daughter of the Maharajah.

Ok so why do I love this game. At the time, I believe it embarked on original ideas in terms of combat, a platformer and storytelling. From the very start, you are instantly taken to a beautiful world with a mystifying atmosphere aided by the prince’s voice throughout, speaking not only as narrator but as if he has sat you down to tell you this story. This was a new experience for me and I felt more part of the story and settled into the well-designed environments.

You may already know that this Prince of Persia was not the first. It began in 1989 when the first PoP was made for apple 2 as a 2D side scrolling action platformer, then later on other gaming platforms all way up to the Wii as an unlock in its version of The Forgotten Sands. Looking back to this, it is easy to see the gameplay has been kept similar to its predecessor however, with a change to a 3D world we would all think, “Well that’s not going to work out is it”. Instead it turned out better than expected, keeping elements from the first game but evolving them into more detail and I am sure that is what the developers wanted when they sat down that important meeting.

You can see that in the old PoP you traverse across gaps by jumping from the very edge, grab onto ledges and climb up with larger gaps, you must avoid traps, hit switches and engage in duels with enemies in a repetitive mazy dungeon. All this is mimicked in Sands of Time except the mazes are replaced with one set path cut up by periodic save points for you to carry on another time. With a new 3D world, brand new actions could be taken to get from point A to B for example running across and up walls, swinging along poles, spinning around pillars, shimmying thin ledges, pushing blocks and so on.

Combat involved locking onto the enemy, using your main sword to hack at enemies and eventually take their sand which involved stabbing them with the dagger of time when they are down else they would revive. Combat is not easy however, as they can block or parry attacks, and gang up on you as you prevent them from revival. Tools such as guard, dodge roll and other various effective techniques were added to give different approaches when fighting a new enemy that says no to your usual method. That is the most challenging part of the game.

One final mechanic to mention is that, in an effort to eliminate annoying loading screens or pauses in gameplay and keep the constant flow of gameplay, the dagger of time allows you to turn back time at the press of a button to a previous state of your choice. So if you fall down into some spikes after a failed wall jump, as long as it is not too far back, you can rewind time back to the ledge before you took the jump so you can try again but usage is limited unless you of course retrieve more sand from cursed enemies.

It is this combination of fantastic smooth paced gameplay, well voice acted storytelling and cut scenes, and the overall mystical atmosphere in an attractive detailed world that made this game very popular.

I actually began to record a playthrough of it on PC and only produced like two 10 minute parts and to this day part 1 has reached 81,000 views (which is more than I expected) since March 2008 and remains my most viewed video, and still gets comments of how people loved it back in the day, then the odd hater here and there but you know. Anyway, that is my review of a game that is rather old yes but is so good, they can re-release it in HD on next gen consoles and people will still buy it over, say, Enslaved perhaps.

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