2008’s Prince of Persia reboot was means forward of its time

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Ubisoft

Prince of Persia: The Misplaced Crown is a incredible Metroidvania reimagining of the historic collection, however it’s removed from the primary reinvention the franchise has seen beneath Ubisoft. Essentially the most iconic one was 2003’s The Sands of Time, which Ubisoft is at the moment remaking. That’s not the one I made a decision to play after beating and adoring The Misplaced Crown, although. That honor goes to 2008’s Prince of Persia.

I noticed Prince of Persia on sale for about $eight a few months in the past at my native impartial sport retailer. I knew nothing about it on the time, outdoors of the truth that it was a bit controversial for its lack of issue and epilogue DLC on the time of launch, however I made a decision to select it up in case I had the urge to attempt to play extra Prince of Persia after The Misplaced Crown. I gave it a shot over a protracted vacation weekend, anticipating a dated puzzle platformer that historical past would have understandably forgotten.

As an alternative, I found a third-person motion sport that might lay a blueprint that collection like The Final of Us, God of Battle, and Star Wars Jedi would observe. In 2008, Ubisoft Montreal predicted the place third-person, narrative-focused motion video games would go over the following decade. It’s time the studio will get some credit score for that.

Spoilers for 2008’s Prince of Persia observe.

Forward of its time

Prince of Persia begins with the titular character stumbling right into a battle between a daughter and her father. Princess Elika’s father has succumbed to the affect of Ahriman, the god of darkness, and in pursuit of Elika, he destroys the Tree of Life. To forestall Ahriman from being utterly let loose, the Prince decides to assist Elika heal Fertile Grounds round her kingdom so Ahriman might be locked away within the Tree of Life once more. It’s a swashbuckling fantasy premise about dangerous fathers and located household that arrived years earlier than these grew to become extra frequent themes in video games.

In some methods, Prince of Persia can be the primary Metroidvania sport within the collection. Gamers have some freedom in selecting which Fertile Grounds to heal. Alongside the best way, gamers should acquire Gentle Seeds, that are spent to unlock new powers that allow progress, like what we see in The Misplaced Crown.

Prince of Persia was launched only a 12 months after Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Murderer’s Creed, so some climbing and platforming isn’t fairly as easy as in these video games, and it options some eccentricities in how controls are mapped. Nonetheless, I may see how the emphasis on free-flowing motion had an affect on future video games like Respawn Leisure’s Star Wars Jedi duology. The enormous drill battle from Star Wars Jedi: Survivor attracts from Prince of Persia’s flight means. It doesn’t get practically the identical credit score as a trailblazer of fluid, considerably lifelike human motion in 3D motion video games as Murderer’s Creed and Uncharted do, nevertheless it’s an enchanting take a look at a contemporary third-person motion platformer in its nascent stage.

Climbing in 2008's Prince of Persia.
Tomas Franzese / Ubisoft

Additionally forward of its time is how Elika is integrated into gameplay. Elika is at all times with gamers and may even assist out in a battle. This was lengthy earlier than video games like The Final of Us and God of Battle would garner approval for related methods. Extra importantly, it’s inconceivable to die in Prince of Persia.

If gamers miss a leap, Elika will seize them and produce them again to the final platform with steady footing. If the participant falls in fight, Elika immediately revives the participant, with the one punishment being that the enemy regains some well being. This strategy to issue was derided in 2008; Wired stated the sport “misplaced one thing important” by together with these options. Taking a look at these mechanics in 2024, this gameplay system feels surprisingly forward-thinking. It makes Prince of Persia a extra approachable sport, even immediately. It makes me want I’d performed this hidden gem when it got here out, as my youthful self would have appreciated its strategy to issue. Sixteen years later, a Prince of Persia sport is as soon as once more being lauded for its strategy to accessibility, which the gaming trade takes much more critically now.

Fight is essentially the most dated facet of Prince of Persia. It tries to be very cinematic with easy combos, a scarcity of fail state, and many quick-time occasions with particular digicam angles. It suffers from repetition as gamers are solely preventing the identical 5 or so enemies all through a lot of the sport. If Prince of Persia was made immediately, I think about it will draw upon the Souls collection’ fight, simply as the trendy God of Battle and Star Wars Jedi video games have. It represents an period wherein 3D motion video games have been trying to grow to be extra partaking and cinematic — an experimental midpoint between Satan Could Cry and Demon’s Souls.

The primary of us

All these parts already cement Prince of Persia as a hidden gem in my eyes, one which’s price trying out in 2023. However after I thought the sport had no extra to provide, I used to be flabbergasted by its ending.

Combat in 2008's Prince of Persia.
Ubisoft

The Prince and Elika develop nearer all through the journey, and the Prince ultimately learns that the King succumbed to Ahriman after Elika died. He revived her, which granted Elika the magical powers she makes use of to assist the Prince and heal Fertile Grounds over the course of the sport, however she is now a puppet of Ahriman. The Prince and Elika proceed to work collectively and ultimately cease her father, however Elika understands that to revive the Tree of Life, she has to surrender her personal life and power to it.

She does so, a lot to the Prince’s shock and disappointment. Credit roll over gameplay because the Prince slowly carries Elika out of the temple the place the ultimate battle occurrs. It’s a second not too not like the credit of 2018’s God of Battle, when Kratos walks again down the mountain on Jotumheim together with his son, understanding his demise is doubtlessly inevitable. Believing that Ahriman will ultimately be freed once more not directly because the god is solely trapped and wanting Elika again, the Prince touches the darkish facet.

Within the closing post-credits gameplay phase of Prince of Persia, gamers should minimize timber across the temple, draining the life from the land that they spent the entire sport restoring. This provides the Prince the ability to revive Elika. however unleashes Ahriman upon the world. If that sounds acquainted, it might be as a result of The Final of Us was lauded for the same ending 5 years later, when Joel murders a gaggle of medical doctors who may save the world as a result of he doesn’t need to lose Ellie.

For 2008, it’s a subversive and thought-provoking ending, doubtlessly the primary of its form in a mainstream AAA motion sport like this. It’s not completely executed — it doesn’t grapple with the fallout of the Prince’s resolution fairly as a lot as The Final of Us did with Joel’s  — however Prince of Persia was nonetheless daring sufficient to sort out a heavy theme in that memorable second.

The ending of 2008's Prince of Persia.
SourceSpy91 / Ubisoft

Contemplating I didn’t find out about this twist after I booted up the sport, I used to be floored when Prince of Persia wrapped up like this. Why don’t folks speak about this ending extra? Effectively, it had a popularity for being unfinished on the time of launch. Epilogue DLC was launched a couple of months after launch, providing perception into what occurred subsequent to the Prince and Elika. It doesn’t add a ton to the story, and narratively, the bottom sport wraps up in a satisfying means as is. That didn’t dispel the concept that the sport ends on a cliffhanger as a result of Ubisoft wished to attract out the “true ending” in DLC.

Video games can get away with constructing on their endings post-launch these days; Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 each did that. It’s one other means the online game trade wasn’t fairly prepared for Prince of Persia in 2008. It garnered strong critiques at launch and went on to promote hundreds of thousands of copies, however Prince of Persia doesn’t have the legacy it deserves immediately.

Platforming gameplay in 2008's Prince of Persia.
Ubisoft

After a Sands of Time follow-up, known as The Forgotten Sands, the collection would lay dormant till The Misplaced Crown’s launch on January 18. Ubisoft determined to pursue extra Murderer’s Creed-style video games reasonably than proceed this rebooted Prince of Persia collection. Having not recognized a lot about it after I picked it up, I can’t cease interested by Prince of Persia. I doubt Ubisoft will proceed this story, however I don’t assume it must. Prince of Persia from 2008 and 2024’s The Misplaced Crown are each proof that the collection nonetheless has an influential place within the trade and may coexist with the likes of Murderer’s Creed. It’s a collection that shouldn’t be misplaced to the sands of time.

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