My love for Prince of Persia runs all the way back to the original game by Broderbund on the Apple II. An incredibly challenging platformer, that classic game was all about dangerous traps and challenging combat. Even hailing from a bygone era, it has more in common with Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown than I expected. This newest game, a 2.5D platform action-adventure, is the best blend of Sands of Time and the original, featuring tight platforming and even tighter combat, combined with magic and danger around every corner. I recently got to spend four hours with the beginning areas of the game, ahead of its release next month. Get ready for an incredible adventure – this is a fantastic return to form.
The story of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is that of a warrior named Sargon – a member of a group calling themselves “The Immortals”. The Immortals are a group of mercenaries that possess incredible resilience, acrobatic skills, and strength, their powers bordering on the supernatural. Hired to save the Persian capital of Persepolis, they’ve arrived at the foot of Mount Qaf and the entrance to the rapidly falling city. As they breach the gates they encounter something otherworldly that is having a distorting effect on time itself. What seems like days for The Immortals translates to months, years, or even decades for those trapped inside. Now, it’s up to Sargon and the rest of The Immortals to break the curse of this place and rescue Prince Ghassan before they succumb to its mystic time-bending power.
Like the original Prince of Persia, The Lost Crown is all about exploration. In the first title, the game literally starts with the slam of the portcullis and unceremoniously drops you into a dungeon. Here, Sargon is dropped into the thick of things as the rest of The Immortals scatter to explore the palace. Soon after arriving, Sargon finds that time operates differently here. I won’t spoil how, but if you were hoping for some of those sweet Sands of Time vibes, you’ll enjoy what’s ahead for Sargon.
At its heart, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is the perfect combination of Metroidvania exploration and some of the tightest combat mechanics you’ll find anywhere. I’ve had the chance to play this section before, and it was surprising to return to it a few months later to see so many improvements and additions. They say that a game truly comes together in its final few months, and this is an excellent example of that.
There’s one area that has been unshakeable since the game’s first reveal all the way until now – an unwavering devotion to 60fps, regardless of platform. Yes, even on the Nintendo Switch. When the combat timing is this solid, you need a stable framerate to support it. Regardless of what is going on in the background, foreground, or how many enemies are on screen, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’s performance is top notch – even in this early preview code.
One of the obvious pillars of the original Prince of Persia: Sands of Time title was slick and acrobatic combat. The game felt acrobatic and the titular Prince moved effortlessly, sliding from attack to dodge and back again and with deadly results. In The Lost Crown, Sargon uses two scimitars to dispatch his foes as well, flipping, sliding underneath, and artfully attacking and dodging to smoothly cut down any enemy. As you move through the story you’ll also learn new attack moves, growing Sargon’s capabilities, including stunning aerial attacks and powerful counter attacks. His greatest tool in his arsenal, however, is the simple parry.
Parrying is important in any game where combat can turn on a dime, and nowhere did I feel that more than in The Lost Crown. Your foes start off as old soldiers ravaged by the hand of time. They are slow, shambling in a zombie-like way, and generally aren’t that much of a threat. As you go deeper into Mount Qaf and the palace you’ll face faster, stronger, and more armored enemies. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, as you’d expect, but all of them have one primary weakness – you can block their attacks. It’s not every attack, mind you, but most attacks can be parried, knocking back a foe and providing a crucial opening for counterattack. Even the giant manticore I faced could be countered, and in doing so, gave me a chance to stun and destroy him. Countering is a big part of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, and the sooner I could move from frantically attacking to methodically approaching combat, the more effective I’d be.
As you explore you’ll soon find that you aren’t alone. Sure, the Immortals are running around as well, but you’ll also encounter people ranging from the mundane to literal gods. Shopkeepers offer up Amulets and equipment for sale. These amulets provide additional advantages, such as bolstering an attack, adding a resistance to poison (important for the manticore fight if you are struggling), additional health, and more. In the beginning you can equip three, but a bit of exploration will unlock additional slots for equipment. Once you meet the keeper of the forge you’ll be able to enhance your equipment, crafting new gear and upgrading what you have. It’s very RPG-lite, but helps break up the action with equipment that can make a real difference.
Without saying too much, ultimately you do gain access to time powers. One example is a simple dash move where Sargon can zip forward a bit – something that, when combined with the parry, allowed me to dispatch Jandahar, the manticore. The other power that I used extensively is a bit more unconventional. Sargon can drop a shadow marker and when needed “rewind time” to translocate back to that spot instantly. This has combat applications to be sure, but I used it more as an insurance policy when attempting some of the game’s more devious platforming puzzles.
The aforementioned amulets can be used to augment your powers as well. One amulet I found would fire a laser bolt any time I activated my translocation, allowing me to set traps for my foes. One example of this came from foes that had shields that ran from the top of their head to their feet. You couldn’t easily slide under them, and jumping over them carries risks. Teleporting behind them to strike them, and then running a bolt of light through them cut them down all but instantly.
As I explored the first four biomes (the demoist promised “many more ahead”) I was struck by the size and depth of each area. Hidden areas revealed new challenges, as well as the chance to test all I’d learned. I found one section that had no healing and a platforming challenge that was a huge leap above what I’d encountered prior, pushing my skills to the limits. In another area, the jump forward in monster difficulty was a surprise, but a fantastic amulet waited as a reward. Truthfully I could have spent all four hours just exploring, not pushing the storyline much at all, and been satisfied with what’s on offer – it’s that good.
Towards the end of my time with the game I made my way into some sort of dark prison. In it, I encountered a slender foe with some sort of mantrap staff. Around him was a dark sphere that represented his limited vision. If Sargon found himself inside this bubble, it would instantly agitate him, pushing this enemy to chase Sargon relentlessly. If he managed to catch Sargon, he would lock him in jail, forcing him to escape once again. This reminded me of all of the best parts of the EMMI encounters in Metroid Dread and pointed to some of the enemy variety that lies ahead.
Truthfully I could spend pages describing all that I saw in the four hours I had with the game and still not cover it all. The increased verticality, the expansive traps and hidden passages around every corner, the colorful characters dotted throughout Mount Qaf and the palace, and the massive and challenging bosses that lie ahead are just scratching the surface. There was a lot of worry about a Prince of Persia game that doesn’t directly tie to the storyline we’ve come to know and love. I’m happy to report that this offshoot is not only successful, but the start of something amazing. We won’t have to wait long to see where this grand adventure takes us – Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown comes to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on January 18th, 2024.
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 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).