‘The Forgotten Sands’ must have forgotten about this long lost sequel, as Ubisoft’s latest entry reimagines the Prince in a timeline between ‘The Sands of Time’ and ‘The Warrior Within.’ Removing the flamboyant artistic brush strokes for a more “realistic” vibe, our favorite Iranian gets back to basics.
Ubisoft has abandoned its 2008 effort in rebooting the 'Prince of Persia' franchise with a return to the old Prince from the past. The ‘Forgotten Sands’ edition of the 'Prince of Persia' falls right into place looking more weathered then the original. I was surprised when I didn't see 'Jake Gyllenhaal' likeness put into the game, since he plays the Prince in the upcoming ‘Jerry Bruckheimer’ produced ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ film. ‘The Forgotten Sands’ might have some elements related to the film (I hear it incorporates a little of everything,) but for us gamers who have been loyal followers, this feels like another “rebirth” of the Prince and not a rushed movie-tie in... now that's good news for everyone.
Using all the tricks from the previous titles, this one should be very familiar to anyone who has played a previous 'Prince of Persia' game. The mechanics, aside from a few new tweaks, are the same old jump, run deal that you have been accustomed to over the years. Even with the mechanics being SO familiar, I was abnormally pleased as I jumped from pillar-to-pillar with ease, and without the confusion that can come from other platform titles.The ‘The Forgotten Sands’ seems a little easier then in the past, making in more accessible to a wider audience. However, this doesn't mean the Prince's journey is going to be a duck soup.
No Alarms, No Surprises
The introductory level sets up the narrative with the Prince meeting his brother during a massive attack on his kingdom. Following his brother through the labyrinth-like palace, you finally catch up with him to learn that he has drastic plans to save the kingdom. His idea is to unleash a mystical army with godlike powers to push out the immersing forces, and like all a billion games before it, the myth of the army is real, but instead of saving his kingdom, he puts it in more danger when the forces turn out to be evil! -- try and act surprised -- This puts the Prince in the familiar role of the hero, as he has to figure how to save his falling kingdom, one more time.
As the plot progresses you meet a new female lead who is a supernatural being called a 'Djinn.' Under her guidance and bestowing of magic powers, you set out to reseal Solomon’s Army. The secret to resealing this damned troop of the dead is to piece together the two seals that broke apart when the door was opened. Sounds easy and it should be, however, the Prince has the one-half and his brother has the other. Without spoiling what happens (although this one is easy guess,) the Prince jumps, runs, and fights his way into a predictable chain of events that come together in a nicely set crescendo. This tale of the damned army might be too predicable for some, nevertheless, I found it to be interesting enough to push me through each level.
The Mojo Is Back
The first power the 'Djinn' bestow on the Prince is the classic ‘Prince of Persia’ staple, the power to control time. This gimmick was amazing in its initial release back in 2003. However, it has lost its luster since its debut. Almost every game under the sun has used the feature, from car racing to other action games, and frankly, it's getting a little old. Luckily, Ubisoft has some new tricks up their sleeves, and like controlling time the first time around, they are equally impressive. The Prince definitely has his mojo back, and I believe the fans will give their thumbs up to Ubisoft's changes.
The new “main attraction” is the ability to freeze running water. This is done mainly to traverse otherwise impossible areas by turning spraying waterspouts into ice poles, that the Prince can swing and climb on, and waterfalls into solid walls to use as running platforms or springboards. It doesn't sound too impressive on paper, but it looks cool when running in full motion. The level design also welcomes this change by making the large amount of "water" situations believable. A few segments in the game really make you think about how you use your newfound powers, while under the stress of some crumbling odds. The new “water” powers are truly the start of something cool, and one feature that makes 'The Forgotten Sands' special.
Continuing to think outside the box is another power that works off the memories of your 'Djinn' companion. In these segments you can rebuild parts of the world that have been damaged from her memories. This unique spin adds another dimension to the development of the story while adding another layer of challenges to over come. The trick with using her memories to forge items in reality is that you can only use one item at a time. This makes hurtling around a little trickier when you have to transition between objects in mid-air. This power is incorporated similar to water, so by the time you get to this section you will have a good firm understanding on the mechanics and the controls. It just sounds more complex than it is.
The last power is "the Power of Flight.” This allows the Prince to blast across drops to attack an enemy like a bolt of lighting. The Power of Flight can only be used when an enemy is on the other end of a chasm or in close enough range, regrettably its overly predicable and sadly dull. Compared to other innovative powers, 'the Power of Flight' lacks originality and logic feels out of place. Thankfully, this power is not activated into the later stages of the game, so you won’t be spending too much time acting like a certain "God of War."
Prince of Persia: The God of War Edition
Speaking of a 'God of War,' Ubisoft has switched up the scale of the game, making 'The Forgotten Sands' feel more like 'Prince of Persia: The God of War Edition.' "Borrowing" from 'God of War' isn't a bad thing as the prince puts his skills up against a few 'God of War' sized enemies in a setting that even feels like a ‘God of War’ game. Now don't let you imagination go wild, Ubisoft didn't get carried away, but a 'Kratos' influence is clearly visible. For some this added element of fantasy might feel a little out of place. At first I questioned the Prince's new button-mashing attraction, but once you get into the world and its setting, it works. I don't know about all of the choices, but on a whole, I dig the refined approach.
Following the 'God of War' scale is more references to Sony's heavy hitter, and this comes in the form of combat. 'The Forgotten Sands' is much more involved when it comes to combo attacks and fighting off multiple enemies at once. At first, I wanted to get ‘Altair’ in the game and show the Prince how things are done (note: ‘Eizo’ is an unlockable skin), but that drifted away once the Prince took out a good 30 enemies at once with his precise attacks and acrobatic power-moves. This isn't a major accomplishment since the controls are easy to learn and the enemies are basically zombies, but it certainly makes you feel like a badass killing machine.
The Prince will make you "Jump, Jump"
Platforming is still the focus in 'The Forgotten Sands,’ and it has never been better. Helping to keep this overused mechanic fresh is the new ability to quick jump while on poles. Quick jumping exponentially speeds up the platforming sections, and is simply done by pressing the jump button in the direction you want to move. In the past, you would have to reposition yourself in the direction you wanted to go before you made the jump. This zapped a lot of the energy out of the experience, which is clearer when you see the Prince perform in 'The Forgotten Sands.' You can move around and position yourself, if you wish, but the quick jump feature makes rotating around poles obsolete. The Prince can't go back to his old tricks now, and really, why would he.
The level design really deserves the spotlight when talking about platforming sections in 'The Forgotten Sands.' Like previous editions level design is crucial to entertaining the player, and this time around the design and flow is solid. You will simply love the new speed that the Prince moves about the landscape and how Ubisoft pushes you to use not only your speed, but your brains as well. Some objects are still overused like poles and such, but until a better idea comes around, it will do. As the game progresses all the aspects of the platforming will come together to include a sideshow of hoops for the Prince to jump through-- and this includes using his specialised powers at the same time. ‘The Forgotten Sands’ has some of the best platforming levels I have seen in an action game-- and notably it is a highlight for the ‘Prince of Persia’ franchise.
Break Out the Puzzles
Puzzles also play a role in 'The Forgotten Sands,' although they are in the minority. The puzzle segments are spaced apart, coming in to slow down the pace. None of these sections are too difficult, so don't worry about the Prince leaving you high and dry. Following the trend, the further you progress, the trickier the game will seem, they start out on the easy side and start to incorporte the powers as the game moves forward. The puzzles that always inolve pivoting levels get the job done, but never seem to make an impact. ‘The Forgotten Sands’ isn’t ‘Tomb Raider,’ but at times it feels like it wants to be.
Upgrade Your Prince
An upgrade system has also been added into the mix allowing you to tweak your Prince with points earned throughout the game. The upgrades are broken down into four and three levels of increased ability and powers and performance enhancing. The new powers used in combat include the 'Trail of Flame,' a trail of fire that follows you harming enemies. 'Whirlwind' that creates a gust of wind that knocks your enemies back. 'Ice Blast' a wave of damage causing ice, and 'Stone Armour,' a temporary encasement of stone that stops damage. These powers are not necessity, and I only activated them for review purposes. In the game, I hardly used the powers because the prince is more than adequate during a fight. On the defensive side, you can upgrading your health bar, the amount of time you can use a power, extra energy slots for other powers including rewinding time. Improving the core seemed more logical in my game, and although it doesn't have the visual flair of the attacks, it is the route I would explore first.
Washing the Greens with Browns
The graphics in 'The Forgotten Sands' are a mixed bag of good, average, and poor. The acrobatic animations and architecture have to be the stand out features in the game, however this is balanced with a brown colour palette that feels washed out and some poor facial animations. In comparison with the last ‘Prince of Persia’ outing, ‘The Forgotten Sands’ is a more realistic stylization of Persia without the all the bright colours that refreshed the series. Now we have returned to the drab artisanship of bricks, clanking gears, and dark corridors. It doesn't help that most of the game is held indoors with brief moments of outdoor climbing. This makes transitioning from room to room (level-to-level) uninspiring when you never see change. Thankfully, 'The Forgotten Sands' never looses its sense of scale, living up to the 'Prince of Persia' name with its delightful monkeybar-like paths that makes up for some of the "lack of."
The Prince himself is well crafted with an “edgier” demeanor. Although not as impressive as the opening cinematic, the Prince has a nice level of detail that is exemplified through his detailed suit of armour. The Prince also dazzles the player with his smooth transitioning acrobatics showcased in every platforming section of the game. The animations are realistic and astounding, keeping with the tradition of the character. The only minor issue is that some animations seem delayed when triggered. This is mainly during conflict when it is more forgivable, then having a slight pause when swinging across a pit of deadly spikes. During combat, you can also experience brief moments of lag when the enemy count gets too high. The enemies aren’t overly complex carbon copies of one another, so it’s too bad we have to see these problems come up. All in all the production gets the job done (espcially the audio), although it is not up to the standards from which the game was built.
Once again Ubisoft has tweaked their long running franchise into another reboot of sorts. This time around the Prince rewinds his own time back to sometime after 2002 with another cataclysmic tale of heroic fandom. Long time fans might snicker at another version of the Prince, after having to adjust to the new ‘Prince of Persia’ in 2008. However, ‘The Forgotten Sands’ isn’t that bad, it is actually really good, and even better yet, it’s not a movie-tie in placeholder, it’s a real game! This is how the Prince got his groove back, and despite my appreciation for the colourful edition, it feels good to have the old Prince back in the thick of things. ‘The Forgotten Sands’
might not have the same “wow-factor” as ‘The Sands in Time,’ but it is a memorable adventure with the Prince who started it all.
Gameplay:8.4, Graphics:8.0, Sound:8.5, Innovation:8.5, Mojo:8.5 Final: 8.4 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 05.19.10