Previews

Dead Cells crew brings Prince of Persia to life — Hands-on preview with The Rogue: Prince of Persia

I’ve spent a lot of time with Motion Twin’s fantastic roguelike, Dead Cells (our review here). The game fully embraces that death is far from permanent, resurrecting you as a green lump of slime every time you die. Even the final boss holds secrets (that I won’t spoil), and its death is anything but final. Who better to reimagine how the sand-shifting time manipulating Prince of Persia might also embrace his immortality? The reveal trailer did a fantastic job of showcasing exactly that as the titular prince jukes, dodges, and flips through impossible situations, only to be riddled with arrows and ultimately his death. We went hands-on with The Rogue: Prince of Persia, and ohhh boy are we in for a treat!

To be clear, this game isn’t coming from Motion Twin, precisely. A new studio was formed, named Evil Empire, to focus on this game while Motion Twin brought the Return to Castlevania and The Queen and the Sea updates to life to close out Dead Cells. While this may be the first game from that team, the DNA of Dead Cells runs deep and throughout The Rogue: Prince of Persia. A roguelike Metroidvania, The Rogue: Prince of Persia is a heavily stylized 2D platformer. Before you smash the ESC key right off your keyboard (let’s be honest, Steam is overrun with 2D Metroidvanias), The Rogue: Prince of Persia has a number of tricks up its sleeve that makes it very, very different. Let’s get into the particulars.

The Rogue: Prince of Persia (or at least, our demo of it) starts off with the titular Prince pulling off some incredibly acrobatic moves only to ultimately end up at the bottom of a spike trap, impaled. An ignominious start to this adventure, to be sure. As this would be a very boring game if it ended there, The Prince has a magical artifact that allows him to simply resurrect back at the central hub of The Oasis. This ability to simply pop back to safety has made him incredibly reckless, but has also allowed him to hone his near-supernatural abilities. It’s here that the magic happens.

Going hands-on with the game I immediately felt just how far the game was along in the process, despite coming to Early Access in May. Every drop of the work the team did for Dead Cells is paid forward directly into this game, but with a few new goodies on top. The Prince is able to jump, bounce off walls, and dodge. The Rogue: Prince of Persia adds to that mix by giving the Prince the ability to jump kick an enemy, use a ranged weapon (a bow by default), and launch special attacks. We’ll get back to those specials, but I want to talk about the special sauce that brings this game to life in a whole new way first.

The Rogue Prince of Persia: Reveal Trailer

When a wall is in the background, The Prince can turn towards said wall and clamber up, gaining some height for attacks and exploration. I was immediately reminded of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as this breaks that 2D plane in a cool and interesting way. I guess I missed a tutorial prompt early on as I didn’t realize I could do it until I’d already played for nearly a half hour, but when I discovered it, it was like I was playing a completely new game. Suddenly the world’s verticality came to life. I’d jump, clamber the wall, jump again, bounce off a wall, clamber again, and find myself in areas I didn’t even know existed!

Eventually, you’re going to die. It’s just the way of roguelikes. Respawning at The Oasis, The Prince then has a chance to swap a few things for his next attempt. Like Dead Cells, you’ll be given a chance to select from three weapons periodically, either before you leap into danger, or mid-mission. By way of example, you can pick up an oversized axe that is very slow to swing, but does tremendous damage. Or you could use a pair of daggers to do a lot of damage, and quickly, but at a far more limited range. If range is your objective, you might also select a spear. It has a bit more reach, and it can be thrown, though it also has to be retrieved.

I also mentioned that The Prince has access to ranged weapons, starting with a bow. This is fueled by a meter under his health bar – it’s not unlimited – but taking out targets will refill this meter. A bow is fairly obvious in its use case, but a chakram (also a throwable) will fly out, spin around, and then return back to the person who threw it like a boomerang. It’s when you combine this with the trinkets system that things get really, really interesting.

If you haven’t played Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, you should immediately remedy that. The game is an absolute triumph and highly recommended. In that game you can pick up trinkets that can modify the way your attacks work, or effects that can be applied. The Rogue: Prince of Persia adopts some of this (calling them Medallions) and with some of the same effects.

These are randomized in the environment, or like Dead Cells, you can select them before you head out from The Oasis. Being able to set an enemy on fire when you kick them, or cause a toxic sludge to spread under their feet, can change the entire dynamics of a fight. Fast moving foes don’t appreciate it when you plant their feet in tar and set them on fire after all. They REALLY don’t appreciate it when you then kick them off a cliff and into a waiting spike trap or buzzsaw either.

While I only got a few hours with the game, what I’ve seen already is surprisingly complete. The team has given us a very healthy foundation to build what could be one of the best Prince of Persia games to date. The best news is that you won’t have to wait long to try it for yourself – The Rogue: Prince of Persia will hit Early Access on Steam on May 14th.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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