Wot I Think: Prince Of Persia

By John Walker on December 15th, 2008 at 10:49 am.

Pretty but dumb.

The latest reinvention of Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia was out on PC on Friday, a week after the console release, and with rumours of (the shop version) containing no DRM. Having played the PC version all the way through, here’s Wot I Think.

Lipstick on a pig, to borrow this year’s favourite insult, would be slightly too cruel a phrase to apply to the latest reinvention of the Prince of Persia series. It’s more of an oil painting on a donkey. An astonishingly beautiful game, which fluctuates between banal and frustrating, occasionally kicking you in the face.

Much appears traditional. You have a large world of walls and beams to bounce around, and baddies to fight. But not all is familiar. The previous trilogy of PoP introduced a stunning new way to play a platform game. The Dagger of Time allowed the Prince to undo his acrobatic mistakes by rewinding time. It was a revelation, reinventing the reliance on checkpoints and quicksaves. Now the big red reset button has been pressed once again, it’s all gone. It’s replaced by an NPC buddy, Elika.

Elika is a princess of a land ravaged by the Corruption – a malevolent, pulsating disease turning the formerly beautiful world into something morbid and dying. Her father has chopped down a tree and unleashed a terrible god. Together, for some reason, you need to leap and fight through the game’s twenty regions, repeatedly defeating four of its bosses, and finally attempt to restore the Tree of Life. This is mostly achieved by using Elika’s magics to reverse the Corruption and restore the pretties… No one mention Zelda: The Twilight Princess – it might get awkward.

The Prince is awkwardly forced to rely on Elika, whose apparent ability to fly means she can boost him slightly further than the limits of his jumps, and rescue him when he falls, putting him back on the last flat platform. The result is a peculiarly artificial interdependence between them, in a world designed to reach just beyond the Prince’s abilities. However, for reasons unfathomable, Elika needs to be given a piggyback when climbing ivy, and requires help being hauled up to some ledges, despite being able to fly. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come close to replacing the majestic time manipulation in a way that’s a fifth as satisfying. It’s simply an elaborate “loading” screen, as she swoops in and dumps you to the checkpoint. Which is fine – preferable over tortuous replaying of large sections – but they used to have something so much better.

After you’ve de-corrupted an area, you then run around it all over again collecting Light Seeds. Enough of these seeds will unlock a new power for Elika back at the Temple, which means you can use a new coloured “plate”. These are pods on the walls that when used will send the Prince charging through the air, or along Sonic-like pathways, dodging obstacles. These range between automatic, where the game flies you to the next area, to maddening, where you’re asked to psychically dodge objects or be reset to the very beginning of the arcade sequence.

But there are two other changes that are more significant. The first is the combat. The previous trilogy always struggled with this, spoiling the fantastic acrobatic sequences by making you slog your way through repetitive encounters. It’s demoralising to realise how little was learned. The combat is now utterly monstrous. The majority of your fights will be against the same four bosses, over and over and over, and each is more like Mortal Kombat than a third-person action game. Using combos and a variety of attacks (sword, claw hand, and Elika), the aim is more often to get the enemy to the edge of the arena than to kill them. A bit like Bloodsports. Early on it’s far easier just to ignore combos and hammer the sword attack. Once the fights get too tough for that, it becomes so infuriatingly fiddly that combos become almost impossible as you’re incessantly blocked, and you’re left to picking bits of health off here and there. Should you be about to die, Elika will rescue you, and your opponent will regain some of his health bar. Each encounter has your heart sink. And this is made far worse by almost never getting to kill the enemies, but instead watch them slink off for the next fight.

The second change is the nature of how you move around the world. Sands of Time’s fantastic puzzling exploration of the environment is almost entirely abandoned, replaced with a game that’s about a linear series of non-optional quick-time events. Except very intermittent. Slow-time events, if you will. You spend almost as much time wall-running as you do on the ground, and it’s about pressing the corresponding button as you auto-run past the right object. You don’t even need to hold ‘forward’ while running, so automated is the whole design. This is all extremely elementary, and because you can approach the twenty sections in any order you wish, there’s no increase in the acrobatic challenge as you progress, but for the introduction of some annoying blobs on the walls. You’re on level 1 for the entire game.

The Prince is equipped with a metal claw on one hand that lets him haul himself higher on walls, or grind down them (think fingernails and blackboards: the game!), and even – somehow – allows him to temporarily run upside down. But again, this isn’t a tool you can use to improvise routes through the adventure playgrounds. It’s the only option you have to make your way along the single prescribed corridor. The beautiful corridor, with the swift, detailed animations, that looks simply stunning. But the corridor.

Despite resetting you when you fall, Elika is too often a burden. She slows you down with her mad piggybacking, and maddeningly will shove you out the way halfway through a move. Swinging from pole to pole occasionally lets you enjoy the fluidity of the movement, until she tries to land exactly where you already were, and pushes you into a wall. She’ll also occasionally knock into you while you’re getting ready to jump, resetting the animation, and breaking your flow.

The result is something that’s clearly going to appeal to some, and infuriate others (hello!). If you want that illusion of choice that defined Sands of Time, using your abilities to discover the correct route to scale a room, you’ll be enormously disappointed. If you want a feeling of almost flying through levels, embracing the culture of QTE to an almost music-rhythm game level, then the standard movement will appeal.

Sadly the story fails to engage, which wouldn’t be a problem were it not for the enormous numbers of interrupting cutscenes. The heavy-handed suggestions that Elika has a dark secret are as beleaguering as the Prince’s unskippable dickish comments throughout. We get it, he’s a dick. And unfortunately, this builds up to an ending so aggravating that you’ll wonder if the game was an elaborate joke played on you. So while the graphics are never less than breathtaking, and the score is beautiful, it all feels rather despondent.

It’s undeniably one of the most visually stunning games ever. The art is spectacular. The game is by no means a disaster. But when your predecessor was so lovely (although certainly with its flaws), the comparison is going to make you look worse than perhaps you are. This is a game that has forgotten what made Sands of Time so entertaining and interesting, replacing the fun of solving a room with a corridor-like inevitability throughout. And somehow makes the combat worse. It’s big, and it’s functional, it’s too often annoying, and despite the care that’s gone into the presentation, the passion is gone.

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134 Comments »

  1. Kyr says:

    First thing that came onto my mind with the first scene of “purification of fertile ground” by Elika was Okami. I didn’t mention Zelda, see?

  2. Smee says:

    “But again, this isn’t a tool you can use to improvise routes through the adventure playgrounds.’

    One thing all this criticism of this new one does is draw to light the fact that the Prince of Persia games were always like this. There was never any improvisation in the platforming, just trying to find the route the developer had designed and completing it. There was only ever one way to finish any platforming segment in any of the games, and it has always involved, as you say, “pressing the corresponding button as you auto-run past the right object.”

    This isn’t to say I don’t like the games; they’re three of my favourite games of the last generation. Proof that quick-time events can be fun, perhaps?

    I might have to change my mind when I play this thing when it arrives in the next couple of days, but at the moment I find it a bit odd that everyone is criticising this game for doing exactly what the other three did.

    (The combat does sound dreadful, though)

  3. MeestaNob! says:

    I really need to play these games.

    Format of choice for all? PC? PS2/3?

  4. Bobsy says:

    Elika? Is it me or does this sound a bit… Engrish?

  5. Ian says:

    Well I was already dubious about this in spite of my <3 for the last three.

    This is the nail in the coffin. Well, not the coffin, it’s the nail in whatever-it-is-that-confirms-I’ll-not-buy-this-until-it’s-cheap.

    Which isn’t as catchy.

  6. parm says:

    On the other hand, it’s a close contender for Game Of The Year for me, so there you go.

  7. Captain TinFoil says:

    So, Ubisoft have a game that plays like a pale, frustrating shadow of the games that came before it, despite it being pretty as Morena Baccarin wearing only a thong and Chanel No 5. Having evaluated it pre-release they’re not sure it’s going to sell, so they make the decision to release the game without DRM, and state publicly they’re not optimistic about the game’s chances at retail. Thus, if the game fails to sell – and if reviews like this one represent the norm then this is likely – they blame piracy, or that old bugbear ‘the PC is dying’, strengthening the case for ever more DRM and more of the anti-PC, ‘release ‘em on consoles first’, tactics we’ve come to know and love.

    As a theoretical exercise I love playing Conspiracy Theory. Except when it seems this real. :(

  8. Al3xand3r says:

    My biggest gripe with the game, all of the 30 mins I managed to play of it, is the combat. Why did they completely abandon the Sands of Time (and sequels) format which was so fluid and right and fitting with all of the rest of the controls, and end up with something that feels like a shoddy dueling mini-game which completely changes the controls you have while out of combat? Sands of Time still has some of the best melee combat action in any game, this game totally doesn’t.

  9. dust says:

    Arrrh, now I hope I really don’t win that auction on eBay.
    Maybe a replay of Sands of Time would be order this holiday season.

  10. rob says:

    An Ubisoft game with stunning graphics offering an ultimately shallow experience with limited interactivity coupled with a host of annoying features – not least the terrible story you are forced to sit through? I think I am starting to see a pattern develop.

  11. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’m in two minds about this one, so I’ll probably pick it up if it gets really cheap in the January sales. On the one hand, I don’t mind QTEs half as much as most people do, so PoP sounds a lot like Mirror’s Edge without the stop-start gameplay – no bad thing, surely. Similarly, I hated the combat in the previous PoP games, so the fact that it’s relatively rare outweighs the purported crappiness of the latest incarnation. On the other hand, what I loved about Sands of Time was the “puzzling exploration” aspect – working out how to navigate a particular area, not the mechanics of actually doing it. So, in the end. I’m not sure I want Mirror’s Edge-lite.

  12. subedii says:

    Yikes. I’d heard murmurings about linearity, but if it doesn’t have the puzzle aspect to the acrobatics anymore then I guess it’s not really the game I was looking forward to.

    It’s also a shame in that outside of the Prince’s brief emo stint in Warrior Within, he was also a pretty well realised and sympathetic character. Hmmm.

    Any word on if there’s going to be a demo?

  13. Dan (WR) says:

    Aww. I was really looking forward to this too. I don’t mind linearity if there’s a bit of impetus, but this just sounds a bit pretty and vapid.

    Could they have just made another game with the time-rewind mechanic though?

  14. Wurzel says:

    Finished the game on 360 recently, and liked it. Still have to say it’s missed the point of the previous trilogy, though; platforming is no longer a puzzle, about deducing the correct way of “solving” an area, and more about following a linear corridor, pressing the right buttons at the right times. Even more galling is that it’s never unclear what button you need to press, and the timing is so forgiving that you don’t even need to worry about pressing the right thing at the right time.

    Even so, would have been a great, flowing experience if the story held up. Unfortunately, it chose to restrict you to 4 (maybe 5) bosses over about 27 or so boss fights, without giving them anything like character development, reason to like or dislike them, or even changes in how the battle takes place. To top it off, the final twist hinges on you developing an emotional attachment to Elika, and due to poor writing most people are instead just going to feel cheated.

    Ah well, at least it’s beautiful to look at…

  15. John Walker says:

    Smee – you’re absolutely right that the previous games didn’t allow you to choose your own path. I describe this as the “illusion of choice” above, because it at least asks you to figure it out. Which this new game doesn’t. The only decision you’ll ever have to make is which direction to go in, which Elika’s magic orbs will show you (fnarr). There’s one cylindrical building you need to scale up and down, which comes as close to SoT as anything in the game, but isn’t particularly satisfying.

    So while I agree you weren’t picking your own route, you certainly weren’t playing it like a Rhythm Action game. You were playing it like a platform game.

    Ginger – the combat is certainly not rare. It’s all too often. You can avoid some of the intermittent scraps with non-bosses if you’re quick enough, but often this won’t be possible.

    Meesta – the PC versions have all been great. However, I have had trouble getting SoT to recognise a controller properly – it won’t detect the D-pad of any I plug in, and it doesn’t quite know how to handle the analogue stick, making the Prince walk when you least need him to. PS2 might be the best way to play the earlier ones.

    TinFoil – this article in no way reflects the consensus of reviews for this game, as it happens. Despite a number of my colleagues having the same experience, its Metascore is in the stratosphere. Which is interesting.

  16. Meat Circus says:

    I found this game to be *easily* the best Prince since Sands of Time, though this game is really nothing like it. It does succeed in evoking the otherwordly feel of Sands, however. And in keeping with Assassin’s Creed, is astonishingly pretty.

    As many have pointed out, including John, the game is more of a rhythm game than a platformer in any sense that matters, including the runny-jumpy-climby, and the stabby-stabby.

    The game is at its best when you are able to settle into its rhythms, and string together impressive *looking* series of jumps and swooshes, or shiny combos stringing swords and gauntlet and Elika attacks.

    In as far as it goes, I thought the combat was particularly effective: way, way less annoying than anything the Sands of Time had, and slotted well into the rhythm mentality that Prince of Persia had, thus feeling part of the game rather than the more traditional ‘bolted on’.

    It’s a game about rhythm. If you enjoy settling into rhythm, you should enjoy Prince of Persia, and find yourself in a comfortable beta-wave response sort of place.

    If you have no rhythm, or are bored by the game’s lack of challenge at the way it plays itself much of the time, then leave well alone.

  17. unclelou says:

    This is all extremely elementary, and because you can approach the sixteen sections in any order you wish, there’s no increase in the acrobatic challenge as you progress, but for the introduction of some annoying blobs on the walls. You’re on level 1 for the entire game.

    Having played it for a couple of hours, I fully agree with this. It’s maddening. Each area is exactly the same.

    Developers need to stop trying to shove buzzwords like “non-linearity” into their games when they are clearly not suited for it. “Linearity” is not a four-letter word, and it allows for a balanced learning and difficulty curve.

    But by God, like you said, the game is stunningly beautiful.

  18. John Walker says:

    It frightens me when you agree with me, unclelou.

    Meat – I’m really surprised by your unhating of the combat. I replayed SoT this weekend, and while the combat is a pain in the arse, it is at least about you being the more powerful one. It’s never more maddening than when you lose a fight because Farah stood still next to the monster repeatedly hitting her, and the stupid thing wouldn’t let you hit the one attacking her. Nu PoP never hits that depth. But most of the time in SoT it’s a case of ploughing through until it’s over. Whereas here it’s about being the victim of a bully, who you can occasionally poke, over a painfully long time.

  19. James G says:

    Awww, SoT is one of my all time favourite games, and I was hoping to see this reproduce some of that magic. Unfortunately I couldn’t even enjoy Warrior Within, as the dark style, and annoying boss battles clashed with everything I loved about the first game.

    I’m tempted to go for one of the new Tomb Raiders instead. For someone who loves exploration, and the puzzle path-finding of SoT, which would be the best in the series to go for? (Boss battles which amount to little more than a grind are a big no-no)

  20. Meat Circus says:

    I know what you mean, John, about it feeling like you’re being bullied. Most irritating is the way that the gauntlet attacks never seem to work later in the game, even when the baddie is in PINK MODE, and you can’t hit them any other way.

    But ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because apart from the Warrior, a couple of well-timed Elika-sword-elika-sword combos and they go down like everything else.

  21. Wurzel says:

    Yeah, another thing annoying about the combat is that it seems the only things they could do to make it more challenging as the game went on is impose arbitrary restrictions: whoops, now the enemy can only be hit by your gauntlet (or only by elika, or only by your sword). Add on to that that they start unavoidably blocking every other move and forcing you through a barrage of QTEs to avoid dying, and all sense of flow in the combat is removed.

    Also, about the increasing difficulty; the areas are handily divided into at least three tiers, and yet if anything difficulty decreases as you go up the tiers, due to increased reliance on the power plates that essentially just put you on a guided tour of the level. This is especially true of the boss areas.

  22. Meat Circus says:

    @James G:

    All of the new Tomb Raiders are excellent. Legend is a little easy, with puzzling in bite-sized chunks interspersed with rudimentary action.

    Anniversary is big and scary and old-school, with forboding, lonely tombs and complex puzzles, and occasional platforming sections that border on the psychotic. It’s a remake of the original Tomb Raider with shiny modern graphics and controls.

    Underworld exists almost halfway between the two, and achieves an excellent, if formulaic sweet spot.

  23. John Walker says:

    James G – the latest, Underworld, is the one you want. It’s entirely about huge-scale exploration puzzles, and there’s not a single boss fight in the whole game.

  24. Ginger Yellow says:

    “Ginger – the combat is certainly not rare. It’s all too often. You can avoid some of the intermittent scraps with non-bosses if you’re quick enough, but often this won’t be possible.”

    Huh. All the reviews I’ve read up till now have said that combat is much less frequent than in the old trilogy.

  25. Jake says:

    I finished this game over the weekend. I’ve been a fan of the series ever since playing the original game on my EGA monitor. The graphics are absolutely stunning but it’s another case of style over substance. I think there is a lot of improvement over the previous games on the micro scale.

    I appreciate how when you jump onto a pole the Prince’s default orientation is to swing around to the other side automatically. There were a couple of other minor things like this that shows the developers are thinking about how to improve the player experience.

    However, the dialogue is maddening. I actually quite relished the ending. Can game designers please hire some professional writers? They don’t even have to be that good :/ I thought Fallout 3 was bad, but this is downright cringe worthy.

    One of the things I liked about SoT was that each enemy required a specific tactic to overcome. Here all the enemies are basically the same with slightly different animations.

    And the dialogue.. Did I mention the dialogue? The banter between the Prince and the Princess could have been written by a 12 year-old. And the things the concubine said didn’t even make any sense. Formulaic.. It would have been better if no one said anything at all.

  26. Meat Circus says:

    @Ginger:

    You have to battle one of the four bosses before you can purify each fertile ground (for a total of 20 battles).

    Then there are the BATTLE ROYALES with each boss when you unlock their lairs.

    *Occasionally*, when traveling between different levels you meet one of the soldiers. If you’re quick, you can stop them from spawning, but they’re ridiculously easy to kill anyway. When they’re at the edge of the arena or by a wall, you can one-hit them with your sword.

    There are also a couple of boss battles with [spoiler omit].

    So, frequent combat really.

  27. Meat Circus says:

    @Jake:

    I thought the banter between the Prince and Elika was quite well done.

    The Prince is a dick, Elika knows this, but because he has a nice arse, she’s wondering if he can be changed for the better.

    There’s certainly some interesting musing between the two about why the prince is doing what he’s doing.

  28. James G says:

    @Meat and Walker

    Excellent, thank you. I got that impression from the reviews I had been reading, but wasn’t sure. I shall treat myself after Christmas.

  29. toni says:

    I dare to argue peggle kids gives you more joy and fullfillment than DragonsLair, aehm, prince of persia the interactive movie. and combat is just as dull as the movement. if I wanna hit buttons in rhytmic sequence i play senso.

  30. John Walker says:

    Oh lawks, the banter between the Prince and Elika was the worst thing my ears have ever heard.

  31. AbyssUK says:

    Although I want to buy this to support the fact they have taken out the DRM.. am sorry but this is a console game. I bought my 360 for a reason…

  32. Jon says:

    Hm, I had high hopes for this POP. That and the recent piracy article is making me feel less than festive!

    On the other hand, someone seems to have the album cover of Somethin’ Else as their avatar on a gaming site, which is pretty awesome.

  33. Lu-Tze says:

    Where is the mark out of 10?

  34. subedii says:

    @ AbyssUK: People said the same thing about Devil May Cry 4. Didn’t stop it from being a just as easily played and great PC port (plus a few not insignificant enhancements). Well, assuming you like the style of game anyway.

    Although it looks like I also might be forgoing this one in favour of one of the Tomb Raider games now it seems.

  35. Ben Abraham says:

    This reads awfully like a review. Just sayin’ ;-)

  36. Tom says:

    There’s none of the magic of the first PoP – that magic has been missing in all the games since imo. For example, that scene when you’re running around a room adjusting the position mirrors so that the light bounced to the desired location? When i watched the new PoP trailors I had images of that but on a much larger scale with all those balloons and things hanging around. I had ideas of truely large scale scenery manipulation in order to get to where you needed, but you’re right John, it’s just about running around and pressing the right buttons on an entirely static enviroment.
    Shame really. With those gfx, it could have been stunning.
    I think this new PoP is a victim of this current trend of reducing a game to it’s core mechanics and reiterating from that.

  37. Mika says:

    How well does this control with mouse and keyboard?

  38. unclelou says:

    It frightens me when you agree with me, unclelou.

    Heh. Hm. I hadn’t noticed we have such different opinions all the time. Maybe it’s because I mostly only post when I disagree with something.

    Do you have anything specific in mind? :)

  39. rocketman71 says:

    Everybody should buy this. Ok, it’s not about the game, I just don’t want to listen to Ubi saying “see? the sales were low because it was pirated because it had no DRM”.

    Perhaps they knew the game was not up to par and they dropped DRM to try to make those sales, but I just don’t care. It’s about time to show that DRM doesn’t stop piracy one bit and is stupid (as stupid as Rockstar, BTW… had to say it).

  40. unclelou says:

    How well does this control with mouse and keyboard?

    Very well. I had the 360 pad plugged in, but then switched to mouse&kb although I’ve played all other PoPs with the pad. You don’t really need many buttons. Vertical mouse sensivity is too high, but once you realise you can turn it down because you never need to turn around quickly (so don’t need the horizontal sensivity), it all works perfectly fine.

  41. manintheshack says:

    It’s all a little disappointing, this feedback. First the PCG review, now this. Just remembering how incredible SoT was when it came out and how exciting and innovative it was. It’s a shame to hear the series go this way. Spect I’ll pick it up when it’s on budget.

    You know, the Prince was much better when he sounded like Derren Brown. Bring Prince Derren back!

  42. John Walker says:

    unclelou – the olden days on EG : )

  43. Simon says:

    So not as good as Sands of Time, I assume it’s definatly better then Warrior Within. How does it compare to The Two Thrones? The forgotten game of the last ‘trilogy’, a sequel I thought was actually damn good when I played these three games back to back a few weeks ago.

  44. SH4RKY says:

    18 quid for the 360/PS3 versions on play at the moment… (Monday deal 15-12-2008)

    I predicted it would take a week for prices to fall for this Ubi game, but 3 days is a bit extreme, haha.

  45. Matt Kemp says:

    It tries to be so cinematic that occasionally it falls flat on its face.

    With the combat, I’ve had it on many occasions with the lesser enemies that I’ve hit them mid air and they’ve gone off the edge of a platform, and so it’s immediately jumped back to a static view of me stabbing them in the chest, standing on the edge. It’s so set on showing everything in a stylish way that it actually breaks the flow in the process.

    I’m not a big fan of quick-time events anyway, but the implementation seems to be a little shoddy in PoP. I can’t really mash the X button on my controller fast enough to win some of the buttonmash contests, which when they’re the only way to defeat a boss (see: warrior) makes for some maddeningly thumb-ruining arthritis sessions. Not to mention that doing anything in the QTE periods results in failure. I can understand when I’m supposed to be pressing B and I press X i’m going to get a problem, but releasing (note releasing, not engaging) the block before pressing it button is an error? Maybe I’m an idiot with this one but I don’t like taping my finger to the block trigger because I have to hold it in for all the QTEs.

    Speaking of blocking, I don’t like that enemy combos seem to be so long they can knock you from one end of the platform to the other, give you a quick-time event on the edge of the stage and then precede to continue almost immediately afterwards. I reckon my block-to-combat ratio is roughly 70-30 in favour of blocking. Not to mention that the enemy design isn’t exactly pushing boundaries – each area seems to have one set ‘goon’ and then the boss, which means even the simplest of fight just becomes wishing they’d just fall off the fucking edge already and show me the cutscene.

    The platforming is fun to watch, but doesn’t feel like a challenge, except in the circumstances where you need to time wall runs to land on moving obstacles, at which point it becomes a trial of patience when I have to account for a moving blob about three jumps away.

  46. John Walker says:

    It’s interesting, and more complicated, to compare it to WW and TTT. The difference between those three and this game are the same, however: they are action platformers, while this is primarily rhythm response and MK combat.

  47. Meat Circus says:

    What people seemed to forget about Warrior Within, because of all the goth metal ‘tude and “you bitch!” and rubbish combat, is that it had some of the best platforming of the entire series.

  48. unclelou says:

    unclelou – the olden days on EG : )

    Almost suspected as much – even then, I only really remember one (stronger) disagreement, though I’ve forgotten about what. Like I said, it’s probably less obivous from my point of view because I often agree silently. ;-)

    As for PoP – I thought Warrior Within wasn’t bad at all – dubious angsty Prince and some related artistic decisions (music, for example) aside. I’d kill for a game with WW’s combat and platforming in the new PoP’s engine.

  49. Link says:

    I might be in the minority here, but I too thought that it was the best PoP since Sands of Time. The comment earlier about ‘rhythm’ was on the money; once you get used to it, the entire game flows very nicely. Granted, some might consider this all too much hand-holding when compared to the sands mechanic of the previous trilogy – but when you string together an entire series of elaborate acrobatics getting from one end of the world to another, that’s a pretty cool feeling.

    The combat was a welcome change from the Sands trilogy; all too often while playing the previous games I would either run past all the enemies or use up my sand powers to take them all out as quickly as possible to get back to my fancy platforming. Warrior Within aggravated me with its combat so much that it almost turned me off from playing Two Thrones entirely. Here, even if your enemies block your attacks, you can chain the blocks into deflects, counterattacks and combos of your own (once again, with rhythm) – so once again, I find combat flows very nicely without devolving into the infuriating stop-start hack-n-slash of the previous trilogy.

    I agree that the story is rather weak – Sands of Time was a perfect storybook adventure that could have ended satisfyingly after just the one game, and yet still provided a serviceable out for the developers to continue the story through sequels. In this one, the developers have already planned an entire new trilogy (they have, haven’t they?) and from that perspective, the ending was disappointing – but you could see it coming a mile away. The main characters are alright, nothing spectacular. Shades of Han Solo and Princess Leia (cheesy dialogue intact as well, but without Harrison Ford’s inherent charm ;).

    In the end, for me, whatever quibbles and niggles and lack of challenge the game offered did not dissuade me from picking it up. It really is a stunning-looking game; the art direction, the beauty of the world, and the fluidity of the animations make it a pleasure to experience. If you’re looking for a challenge, and if QTE’s annoy you to no end, then it’s probably not for you; otherwise, give it a shot. Pick it up when the price goes down if you’re on the fence about it if you must, but I haven’t had as much fun with a gravity-defying acrobatic showboat of a protagonist since the very first Sands. YMMV.

  50. Link says:

    @ Matt Kemp – that’s odd, my block rate during combat is practically nil ever since I found out that if you timed it right you can deflect an enemy’s attacks even in the middle of a combo. In fact, I practically invite them to attack me, then just deflect and chain it into a combo of my own. If they deflect my counter, I deflect their counter-counter (does that make sense? erk), and chain it into my attacks again.

    I find myself prolonging combat just to chain together some elaborate and spectacular combo for self-awarded cool points. Considering how much I hated the Sands trilogy combat, I find it almost comically illogical when I stop to think about it. But that’s just me :p