It has been 14 years since the last entry in the legendary Prince of Persia series by the team over at Ubisoft, but even longer since the Prince returned to his side-scrolling ‘Metroidvania’ style of gameplay, which started off the franchise by Jordan Mechner.
Being a lifelong fan of the series, I was left remaining a bit sceptical when Ubisoft initially announced Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown for many reasons. One of them is that I LOVE the Sands of Time trilogy and was looking forward to the remake of that game, which has been pushed back a few times now. Along with the fact I didn’t want the franchise to move backwards, I wanted them to innovate, and lastly, we were not playing as the Prince of Persia.
Well, to all the Prince of Persia fans out there just like me, who may have been on the fence like myself, the time is to get off it and jump over! Sands of Time fans won’t be disappointed with this game as the story aims to please the same way the previous 3D titles have. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be so captivated by a Metroidvania style of game. Yes, there were frustrating areas, and without the guided mode to help a newcomer like me to this style, I would have easily walked away. The accessibility the game adds is commendable for both old and new fans of the genre.
The game starts out telling of a war in Persia in which the Persians were losing to the opposing army, the Kushan, until they managed to summon the 7 Immortals to change the tide of the war. You play as Sargon, the youngest of the group and the one who shows the most promise.
After the siege, which serves as the tutorial, you are introduced to the Queen and the Prince of Persia – Prince Ghassan. It is not long until you head off to talk with the other immortals that the Queen is betrayed, and the Prince is kidnapped. This then sets the stage for the immortals to seek out the culprit and return the Prince home. Sargon and the rest of the Immortals then head off to Mount Qaf in search of the traitors and, more importantly, to bring the Prince of Persia home.
I won’t spoil any more of the story because it has so many twists and turns that will genuinely keep you interested in continuing further along in the story to find out what happens next. Needless to say, this was not just a simple action-adventure platformer. Time was taken in crafting this story to keep players engaged in the story to make them want to get good at this game. And a lot of game there is to be played.
When you step into the main area of Mount Qaf in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, it is easy to be overwhelmed with all the options of directions you can take, but as you slowly realise that there are some areas and objects that remain out of reach, you are reminded that this is indeed a Metroidvania title. I’m not going to lie, there is backtracking to be done, but Ubisoft supplements this with fast travel points carefully scattered across the map, so it ends up not being such a chore that I feared when I initially started the game. Save points are also aplenty, but not to the point where you do not have to worry about dying because when you die, it’s back to the last save point you checked in at.
The map in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is HUGE! With no area looking the same, you can tell when you have reached a new section of the map by the art style alone, from the catacombs, to the libraries and back again to the forest. There is a wide variety of areas to explore and new enemies to learn because simply pressing the attack button will not be able to kill them as easily as that. You will have to learn to dodge, slide and call on one of the many time manipulation powers you gain throughout the story. Also, as mentioned before, if there is an area that is out of reach early on in the game, you can press down on the D-Pad and take a snapshot of what you’re looking at, and this will then be displayed on your map. This was helpful for people as forgettable as I am.
That then leads to the many options you have to personalise your character on your journey. Sargon, while following the story and completing missions, will gain additional powers to help aid him, but there are also other friendly inhabitants you will come across on your rescue mission. Some are children, happy to sell you maps, others are gods who are able to craft and enhance your weapons. The main part of the collectable game is amulets. Amulets are also a great addition to the collection as they will add perks to many aspects of your fighting style, from extra health to assistance finding hidden areas to extra damage. So no matter your play style, there will be something there to enhance your weaknesses or just help you become more of a badass.
Oh boy, and you will need it. Almost every enemy in the game has a fighting flow to their combat. Once you get used to them, you can make short work of them until they ultimately change it up, so combat will always feel fresh against common enemies in your way. Also to note, all of them will have a yellow and red-based attack which, in the case of yellow, means you can parry that move and, if done with the right timing, can set off a special reversal animation. Whereas the red attack means you can’t block this, get the hell out of their way… NOW.
This also translates to the main bosses in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, if you watched the trailers, there is not much spoilt as what was shown (and demoed) at gamer events such as PAX Aus, as they are very early on bosses and I would call them more of a warm-up. As you progress, the bosses in Mount Qaf get larger and much harder as you move forward. Not all of them can be accessed by accident, so you won’t stumble across one and have no hope in hell against them. Generally, their areas are inaccessible until you have obtained a certain amount of power to give you a fighting chance. There was one of the early bosses that I’m not ashamed to say I had to walk away from a few times and then decide to grind out a few more kills to buy upgrades to assist me. I’m not a Metroidvania kinda guy or deep into Dark Souls or anything like that, so I felt a certain amount of pride when I defeated each of the bosses in the game.
Now you can’t talk about a Prince of Persia game without talking about the platforming. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s some of the best I’ve encountered since the last game in the series, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. The team at Ubisoft Montpellier did a fantastic job of easing you into the platforming of the game, and by the end of the game, I walked away so satisfied with it. There were so many areas that I walked into, attempted them and then thought to myself, ‘How the hell am I going to get passed this?’ Only to stick to it and think my way through it, some were mind-bending and required a lot of thought and some of them needed you to be precise with your movements and powers that you have accumulated along the way. When all of this came together, man, I can’t describe how satisfied it made me feel. It took me back to the magic of the Sands of Time Trilogy.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown was everything I knew I wanted but didn’t expect from a genre I’ve previously had no interest in. It combined the fantasy, time manipulation and magic that I love from all the Prince of Persia titles and introduced me to a genre of gaming I’ve never had much of an interest in. This is weird, considering the original titles of the series are what got me into gaming in the first place after the C64 and Atari. If you are a fan of any of the Prince of Persia games, you will LOVE this game.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE LOST CROWN REVIEW
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown shines a bright light on a beloved series showing that it can thrive no matter what genre it expands to. New and old fans will be thrilled to find an epic and captivating journey with gameplay that will have you saying “just one more try”. While this wasn’t the Sands of Time remake fans have been longing after, The Lost Crown is a wonderfully crafted game to help relive the wait.
The story stays true to the franchise in all iterations.
- The narrative is thoughtful and has many twists and turns that you won’t see coming
So many ‘Just one more try’ moments that will keep you up all night
Platforming and boss battles are hard but satisfying upon completion.
The art is magical and very well done for the style of the game
- Metroidvania could be a hard sell to original fans