Prince of Persia Hands-on
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a trip out to San Francisco this past week to check out Ubisoft Montreal’s latest installment in the Prince of Persia franchise. Despite the popularity of the Sands of Time trilogy, a lot of gamers remained skeptical about the new direction Ben Mattes and the development team are taking with this next-gen iteration.
Throwing aside the combat mechanics of the past, introducing a new side-kick for The Prince and creating somewhat of an open world are just some of the changes gamers can expect to see from Prince of Persia. As the holiday season line-up slowly draws to a close, Prince of Persia signals the culmination of what has undoubtedly been the most impressive slew of software releases in gaming history.
The preview build on display started us off on a tutorial level. This particular area takes off just after The Prince has lost his trusty mule, fortune and way through the sandstorm-filled desert. Luckily, he happens upon a Princess being chased down by royal guards. This, of course, is Elika, whom as many of you already know serves as The Prince’s new sidekick and saviour. While she is a key component to the storyline, Elika serves as your guide, keeper and partner in order to successfully progress through the adventure ahead.
At first, I was very skeptical in regards to Elika and her role in the title. The obvious problem is the ability she has to prevent you from ever dying. Though this was one of my main concerns coming into the preview, I can say with confidence that Elika’s abilities are a fresh breath of air and still leave Prince of Persia a challenging experience. While she does have the talent to stop you from plummeting to your death, Elika works her magic in a way that feels more like a “quick-load checkpoint” than anything else. Of course, the best part about her is the fact she never gets in your way. She always seems to be there when you need her most, but never gives off the feeling as though she’s slowing you down. On top of this key component, Elika is also handy in combat and aids you in jumping greater distances. This is all done through a simplistic control scheme that gives the title a distinctly casual, user-friendly tone.
There are five key buttons that you utilize in order to progress quickly through the story. Square allows you to make swift, accurate sword attacks. Circle enables the usage of your gauntlet glove, thus giving you the added touch of tossing your foe high into the air. The X button, however, allows you to perform eye-popping, aerial assaults. Triangle is used to activate certain elements of play. These can range from special abilities to utilizing the cure wells to replenish Fertile Grounds. Finally, R2 is mainly utilized to block incoming attacks and aid in the opportunity to make a counter-attack against your enemy.
These five buttons are your path to becoming a capable fighter and explorer throughout the world of Prince of Persia. Casual gamers may not get the full experience out of the fighting mechanics, but hardcore players wanting to create massive combos that deliver “oohs and ahs” from onlookers should have no trouble getting to grips with the action. Of course, this is only made possible through the changes Ubisoft Montreal has made to the combat system in general.
Chances are if you’re a Prince of Persia fan, you’re used to holding off hordes of enemies at any given time. However, Producer Ben Mattes informed me that this wasn’t the direction in which the team wanted to take the franchise. While paying homage to God of War as the king of this combat style, Mattes described how the development team wanted to create their own unique combat system instead of going the same way as the aforementioned God of War, as well as Devil May Cry. The end result of this decision is a positive one to say the least. I had the chance to talk with Thomas Delbuguet (game designer) about this change and how it would alter the playing experiences for ... (continued on next page)