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Providing gaming proof of the if-it-ain't-broke maxim, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is a return to the groove that served Ubisoft so well in its previous Sands of Time trilogy, a highly-acclaimed series of games that ran from 2003-2005. The franchise wasn't broken, but its makers decided to fix it nonetheless, but in doing so broke it, meaning this is an attempt to fix something that wasn't broken, but then was. Right?
There's better and worse in this decision to go back to familiar territory - on the up-side, this is an infinitely more satisfying game than the beautiful but vacuous reboot to the franchise (confusingly just called Prince of Persia, no subtitle) released in 2008. On the debit side, there's nothing that's really new or innovative about the game; it almost feels more of an expansion pack than a full title in its own right.
The game slots in between the first of the trilogy (Sands of Time) and the second (Warrior Within) - so it's an interquel, I guess. Actually, story-wise, it serves a useful purpose in theory, as there was always a weird gap in tone and atmosphere between games one and two - we left the Prince at the end of Sands of Time as a clean-cut, reasonably polite young man who'd just saved and lost the love of his life, then rejoined him at the outset of the next chapter as a brooding, soliloquying Emo-Prince with a badass attitude and a rock soundtrack. So perhaps The Forgotten Sands goes some way to explaining this transformation? Unfortunately, it doesn't much - but at least you find out what our wandering protagonist was up to during those seven intervening years.
And that was? Well, usual fare really. Collapsing kingdoms, long-dormant evils carelessly-released, carving up crowds of objectionable monsters and saving the girl - or, in this case, the beefy, bearded brother, a man of muscle and awesome facial hair who surely can't share the Prince's parentage. Said brother, Malik is busy defending his kingdom from an invading horde when the Prince drops by for a visit, and upon realising he is fighting a losing battle, proposes releasing Solomon's Army, an undead horde who are apparently bound to protect the city as a last-gasp means of defence. The Prince, who has some experience of this kind of thing, suggests that this would be a bit stupid, but Malik isn't interested, and in a manner not dissimilar from The Sands of Time, the rest of the game is spent mopping up after this blunder.
Afficionadoes of PoP (to use its handily-shortened moniker) will feel immediately at home - it's like the Sands of Time trilogy never went away, with the gameplay, combat and level design infinitely more closely-aligned to the original trilogy than the gorgeous, dull-as-anything shambles that was the ill-advised reboot. More than this, the intervening years have enabled Ubisoft to polish off some of the irritating edges from the series - the awful quick time events from The Two Thrones (game 3) are just about gone, the stealth angle is almost entirely removed and the tone and feel of the story is well-gauged. The graphics show off the benefit of five years' progress, and what was always a strong point of the game is again a key factor here; the backdrops are fantastic, the sprites are crisp and well-animated - and the number of enemies that fit on the screen at once without lag is noticeably increased. The Prince takes on some enormous crowds of enemies in this outing - and the camera does a good job of taking it all in; the greatest compliment about this being that you rarely notice it's there, so well does it do its job.
As much as the combat aspects of the game are fun, though, they're also a fraction tedious. Subtlety has gone out the window somewhat in this instalment, and all of the tactics employed in The Two Thrones have made way for crowd-control and button-smashing here. There's a limited extent to which you can really control the Prince's attacks, and with the additions of the new elemental powers, you spend a lot of time just hacking your way through massed ranks of enemies. It gets old pretty quickly.
Those new powers, then - this is the only real area of innovation in the game, alongside a limited levelling-up system. The Prince collects orbs when he defeats an enemy or uncovers secret areas, and these can be used to buy powers based around the elements - the combat powers are nothing special, but other skills picked up along the way have more of an impact. By the end of the game you'll be able to freeze water and regenerate destroyed scenery (repairing crumbled bridges and the like). These changes take effect for a limited time, and are used to construct some clever puzzles - fountains of water can be frozen into climbable pillars, jets into swingable poles and sheets into walls, all of which make up the kinds of acrobatic assault courses that characterise the series. At times, I find the game overplays this hand and seems a bit too pleased with its cleverness, and some puzzles become tedious, but on the whole the idea's a good one.
All in all, this is a welcome addition to the franchise. It's not enormously different to its predecessors, but this is perhaps more a strength than a fault. The Sands of Time trilogy was exceptional, and anything that hits those kinds of peaks has to be deserving of praise. It's not reinventing the wheel, but it's a solid-to-strong game regardless.
When looking at a Prince of Persia game, the glory of the Sands of time trilogy is bound to pop into the heads of most people. In that series we watch a young prince grow from an arrogant, immature, angry man into a much wiser man. In this game, we don't know if its the same prince or a different one although he looks similar and has the sands of time. The graphics are alright but hardly a benchmark in graphical performance like the Assassin's Creed series is. The whole dynamic of the gameplay has been changed. This game is almost attempting to balance the Sands of Time with Warrior Within in it's mechanics. I can't totally hate the mechanics but I also can't love them. Fighting no long feels smooth or rewarding, it feels too mechanical. The fighting hordes of enemies thing is an interesting dynamic but it loses appeal over time. the Djin abilities the prince learns add a fun dynamic to the game and makes some free running puzzles into a real challenge. I relished the return of awesome free run puzzles that actually test me and being able to die again was nice after Ubisoft's last effort at resurrecting the franchise. Overall, the game is pretty average and goes nowhere near to touching the sands trilogy but now its cheap its worth a go for people.
Some Prince of Persia fans were looking forward to The Forgotten Sands, for one main reason: it returned the series to the Sands of Time storyline, rather than continuing the 2008 'reboot' of the series. However, others weren't quite as anticipated - the development seemed quite rushed. At release, there were mixed feelings; the beautiful environments are a strong point, but combat is a huge letdown.
While the plot of The Sands of Time was intriguing, The Forgotten Sands doesn't tell a great story. The Prince visits his brother Malik's kingdom, but doesn't expect a massive war to be going on outside the castle. Indeed, that is what's happening, blowing his chances of a warm mug of tea and biscuits.
And as if avoiding the thousands of flying arrows wasn't enough, The Prince is struggling to even catch up with Malik. Luckily, perfectly placed ledges on the crumbling walls allow you to pass the locked gates and armoured warriors, who are attempting to invade the large castle. The siblings finally meet up, in a not-so-good meeting, where in an attempt to destroy the castle invaders Malik unleashes Solomon's Army.
What was thought to be help turns out to be more of a hindrance - the Army ends up attacking The Prince, Malik and his fighters. The Prince and his brother obtain a half of the seal used to unleash the Army each. The Prince is separated from Malik, and comes across a woman called Razia, who says that the two halves of the seal must be combined in order to imprison the Army again. It ends up going on and on like this constantly; The Prince searches for his brother but something goes wrong, he finds Razia, he goes looking for the Prince again...
So, don't expect a Half-Life 2 standard story.
Gameplay has one or two good points, but one major weakness. Platforming is good, if a bit annoying at times; jumps are easy to misplace making it feel like you can only leap in a forwards direction. Movement isn't as fluent as it should be - it doesn't even feel as fluid as the eight-year old Sands of Time. But the power to freeze water for a limited amount of time makes for excellent platforming sections.
Combat is, sadly, the worst feature in the game. It's far too simple and involves no tactics. It's a case of constantly tapping square to attack, adding in circle every now and then to roll away from the enemy. There's not even a block button, which is often essential in melee-based combat like this. This isn't a complete failure, thankfully. You unlock powers as you progress through the game, spicing up combat a little bit. For example, there's the Fire ability which leaves a trail of bright fire behind you as you walk. It's a nice new addition to the series, which could be included in future Prince of Persia games.
The Upgrading system adds RPG elements to the series, another nice addition. You can purchase upgrades for your powers in four steps, each one making the power stronger than before. It's a very good idea and quite an interesting one too.
The graphics are sometimes stunning - the environments are fantastic-looking and detailed. But the characters' faces close-up look like they could be from a PS2 game, there aren't many enemy models and dead bodies disappear nearly as soon as they hit the ground after being killed. But try to ignore these and enjoy the beautiful Persian views.
Yuri Lowenthal returns to voice The Prince and does a good job of it and the music is strong, even epic sometimes!
The BBFC rating for The Forgotten Sands is 12+, but there's nothing too violent here. There's no blood, unlike in the darkest series entry Warrior Within, and I don't recall hearing any bad language in my playthrough. I would say that anyone over the age of seven would be able to play this.
I think The Forgotten Sands has loads of potential, but has poor execution. Combat is weak - over-simplified and easy but it isn't a complete downer with the Upgrade system and powers. Platforming is good, especially with the water freezing sections and the visuals are strong. It's not essential at all, but worth your while if you feel like some Prince of Persia gaming.
This is a review by CheesySpam.