Last year’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (my review of the Xbox version) was easily one of the top games made last year. Although it did not win the overall Game of the Year award on many lists, it certainly did show up as a winner in other categories.
A spiritual successor in gameplay to the Delphine games of yesteryear (Out of this World, Flashback and Fade to Black) and the standout Sony game ICO, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was simply a game not to be missed. Exquisite control, the puzzles and the immersion factor all added up to a game that was not to be missed. Yes, the game had some problems that mostly revolved around the combat parts when the Prince had to use his sword, but the overall game outweighed the negatives.
One year later the Prince is back in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, a game that is at best one step forward and two steps back for the series. The low sales of the first game obviously pushed Ubisoft into taking a different direction with the game. The Prince’s voice has been replaced by an actor with no accent and his attitude has gone significantly darker along with the overall tone of the game. There is indeed a good game in Warrior Within, but the game loves to throw annoying things at you that make you want to turn it off; things I’ll get more into in a bit.
The graphics in Warrior Within are a minor step back from last year’s game in my opinion. The game is still very beautiful, but with the darker tone you don’t get the “fantasy” feel that The Sands of Time had. The “soft lens” that was employed in Sands of Time is barely seen here. It made the game look a lot like ICO, a game that thrived on the softness of the camera. Here things are much more on the straight and narrow. With the darker tone of the game comes an overall darker set of graphics and movements. The Prince is still acrobatic and does many jumping puzzles, but they take a back seat to the combat scenes in this game. The sad fact is that the jumping puzzles, especially involving the towers, make this game so wonderful; yet Ubisoft chose to boost up the combat areas in a dynamic way, but also with a bigger scale to them.
The Prince himself is animated as beautifully as he was in the last game. He isn’t as clean cut as he was in Sands of Time, but with the darker tone of Warrior Within it is no surprise that the Prince has come upon hard times. Along with the Prince, the new enemies are also very well animated. Since Warrior Within is a more mature game than the last one, you will see the Prince chopping off heads, arms and legs of his attackers. Along with the chopping comes the required blood spewing out of the enemies. It certainly complements the darker tone, but I feel it was a step that wasn’t necessarily needed.
This game is still beautiful in the graphics section, it just seems like a total 180 degree turn from Sands of Time. Darker and more sinister, this game doesn’t add to the idea that this is a fantasy game.
I’m a big fan of hard rock music, but I’m not a big fan of hard rock music being put into a fantasy setting like this game. Godsmack’s songs and instrumentals are all over this game. It’s not so bad until you find you’re in a quiet moment in the game and all of a sudden the hard rock instrumentals start playing and the current mood just doesn’t fit the music. I can somewhat see it during the action parts, but not during the “get from point A to point B doing acrobatics” parts. This is obviously a ploy to bring about “mass appeal” for the game, but in many ways it alienates the fans of the previous game. Then again, companies will do anything for more bucks I guess.
The voices are simply terrible in this game. The Prince has been re-voiced without an accent, complete with idiotic lines that are spoken from time to time. Many of the enemies also have voices, but you’re really going to wish they didn’t. This hits really hard when you meet up with the shrouded women who love to talk in double entendres and are going for an obvious S&M-type kick. I think it is fine to hear them say the lines once, but when they start repeating it gets very tiring. I can only take so much of, “We love pain…give us more” type lines.
This brings the game’s enjoyment down quite a bit especially when compared to Sands of Time. Having less voiced lines within the gameplay engine probably would have made this game better.
I also did not hear any audio dropouts like many people have experienced with the Xbox version of the game.
The control is still very spot on once you get the hang of it. You have a bunch of new combat moves since Ubisoft made it a priority to have better control when you are in a combat situation. This was one of the major gripes about Sands of Time. They’ve made it a heck of a lot more dynamic about what you can do, but they also upped the number of enemies you’ll be fighting at once making it almost a moot point. You are also able to pick up a second weapon and use it during battle, including throwing it at enemies or doing a nice slice of the head with the two swords at once.
The platform elements are still some of the best around and it is too bad there aren’t more of them. The controls are still very tight in this section and they once again show you how to do the different moves. Warrior Within doesn’t contain the same amount of platform sections as Sands of Time, but the ones it does have rise above what Sands of Time had.
Gameplay for Warrior Within is a tough one to score. I am not a big fan of the new twist on the Prince’s story. The Mistress of Time is after him because he broke the glass containing the Sands of Time. Fate is about to catch up to him and kill him, but the Prince has other ideas. He plans to go back in time and stop himself from releasing the Sands of Time, thereby stopping the dark entity Dahaka that is trying to hunt him down (and also doubles as some of the best parts of the game when the Dahaka catches up to you) and living another day.
The Prince has all of his powers over the Sands of Time again, although it takes him a bit of time to be able to use them all again. He also has an added power of slowing down time while being able to move at regular speed. As a time travel game, this game certainly doesn’t hold a candle in the story department to something like Eternal Darkness or even the Prince of Persia game from last year. The time traveling is just a means to an end for the Prince this time around.
What is most frustrating about Warrior Within is that there are certain parts of the game that supersede any of the sections in the Sands of Time, but those enjoyable times are absolutely destroyed by the rest of the game with its dark tone, emphasis on combat, the hard rock music and the voices. One such section is the towers that the Prince must climb in order to continue on. This allows Warrior Within to put you in the same type of situation as most of Sands of Time was done in. IN many ways I think the towers are a great representation of the same kind of high-end gameplay as there was in the Clock Tower in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, one of my favorite games.
The crutch of having the majority of the game be action elements makes Warrior Within a game that moves one step forward but takes two steps back from its predecessor. For everything the game does right, it has a lot more that it does wrong. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within could have been a great game if it had more set pieces like the towers section. As it stands, the game went a totally wrong way and I hope the next one, if there is one, is better.
This game is slightly longer than the previous game. You won’t beat it as quickly, but the frustrating parts with the voices and music may push you to just turn off the game and not play it. Warrior Within is a very good game that was wrapped incorrectly. There are also Xbox Live options here, although none of them allow you to directly play against other players in the world. They allow you to run through levels in a time test and go through an arena combat section.