Looking back, it is kind of difficult to believe that it has been nearly fourteen years since a fully realized entry in the Prince of Persia franchise has been released. Sure, there have been efforts to remake one of the original games only for it to land itself in developmental hell and in many ways, Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed franchise has taken on parts of the series’ mantle. Still, there was always something charming and endearing about the history of the Prince of Persia franchise and now being able to once again return to this storied series with a brand new metroidvania entry hopes to be a delight. Are these hopes dashed upon the sands or is Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown a worthwhile entry in the franchise?
Sargon is a young hero and one of the most skilled members of the famed “The Immortals” that serve to protect the Persian Empire from any and all invading forces. After successfully defeating such an invasion, the celebration is cut short when the real prince of Persia Ghassan is kidnapped and taken away to the cursed citadel of Mount Qaf. With his fellow Immortals in tow, Sargon pursues his kidnappers only to find that the once sacred Mount Qaf that was seen as the home of the divine bird Simurgh has fallen into complete disarray and is now a land where time is not as it seems, the undead walk freely while magical beasts roam the hallways and those unlucky enough to survive find themselves trapped within a time that is no longer their own.
With only his skills to guide him and a bit of help from the other Immortals, Sargon must try to rescue the prince while also discovering the root of what happened on Mount Qaf, because resolving this issue might just be the thing that can save them all. Thanks to the flow of time being broken and easily meddled with on Mount Qaf, the story is able to take advantage of unique paradox style situations and allow for interesting setups that would otherwise be impossible. Along these same lines, the storyline is filled with some rather satisfying twists and turns that can be rather surprising. Sure, a few are a bit predictable, but many caught me off guard despite genre staples. There are also a number of simpler side-quests and extra bits of lore and storyline to discover should players choose to take them on. These bits of side-quest are optional and often reward players with talisman charms, tabs that can give Sargon more health, and more but the best part is often learning more about the plights of the humans still surviving within Mount Qaf despite being displaced out of their own time. This allows for a satisfying story that works narratively well alongside its gameplay to create a fulfilling tale for a metroidvania.
Ubisoft Montpellier has managed to craft a stellar metroidvania styled Prince of Persia game here by combining some expertly crafted platforming sequences, some challenging puzzles, and of course plenty of enjoyable combat with an ever increasing array of options available to players as they progress through the game. Initially, Sargon can only make use of his dual-blades, a simple combo and heavy attack, and the ability to dodge and parry blows. The parry happens to be one Sargon’s most powerful tools as it negates all enemy damage most of the time, though attacks that glow red must be dodged. Along those same lines, yellow glowing attacks can be parried into a punishing counter attack unique to each type of foe, capable of dealing massive damage to the enemy if pulled off correctly. Combat grows increasingly complex as players acquire more upgrades, extending Sargon’s combos, offering new weaponry for him to utilize, providing additional powers, and far more to make the already enticing combat all the more exhilarating.
Sargon’s combat flows fluidly thanks to the fact that he controls incredibly well here. Players will find that his snappy animations and the tightly responsive controls make it incredibly easy to make even some of the most difficult looking situations manageable if they have the proper timing. This of course comes in quite handy throughout the multiple platforming puzzles that see players needing to properly navigate trap-laden rooms to reach a switch or item needed to progress through the story or obtain an optional upgrade/unlock. Being a metroidvania style game, The Lost Crown is filled with hidden secrets and optional pieces of content that players can backtrack to uncover once they have obtained the required ability to reach it. In fact, the game offers a variety of options that make marking these locations down a bit easier. Not only does the map automatically update to show unexplored routes, players choosing to use the “Guided” exploration version will even be shown when a certain path is inaccessible without a proper ability. This type of help is minimal and doesn’t really affect much should players truly want the most authentic experience as it usually just points players in the general direction of their next goal.
Another option that is far more useful are Memory Shards. These reusable items allow players to take literal screenshots and mark them on the map of various secrets that they have found already but simply cannot reach at the moment. This could be thanks to players not obtaining the Bow yet or even a far more interesting ability that we won’t spoil here. This extra option to give players a way to keep track of secrets is extremely helpful in a metroidvania as well-crafted as The Lost Crown and makes exploration feel very rewarding. That being said, backtracking through the game still can be a bit annoying at times, even with the various tools on offer to make things a bit easier.
As mentioned before, exploration will often reward players with a variety of bonuses outside of the standard plot advancement. These upgrades include Soma Tree Petals, which when players collect four of will permanently increase Sargon’s health, amulet pieces which can be equipped at the Soma Trees that serve as save points, and even Anthra Surges (chargeable special moves) that can be equipped and changed around. Amulet Pieces come with a vast array of power ups ranging from simply boosting Sargon’s health or increasing the amount of damage he does to making the parrying window easier, slowing time when dodging an attack, or even triggering status effects on enemies.
The amount of amulet pieces Sargon can wear allows for players to customize it to fit their playstyle, whatever it might be. Along these same lines players can also use crystals they obtain throughout the game to upgrade their weaponry at blacksmiths to make their attacks more effective. These various upgrades, side-quests, and unlockables all give players countless options when it comes to exploration and tackling the various enemies and bosses they will encounter, including bosses that have fun and intriguing mechanics to take advantage of with some of the most unique looking bosses having some of the best mechanics, though a few are a bit too straightforward for their own good. It is also worth noting that while most encounters allow for players to immediately challenge their opponent again, a few require a lengthy trek back to the fight that can be a bit too annoying at times.
As mentioned before, the various platforming sections throughout Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown feel perfectly crafted for what players can handle at the time, and if they cannot, they likely don’t have the ability needed to clear an area. These platforming sequences are so well-designed at times that it is easy to simply flow through an entire dangerous section with ease only to look back and realize that you were within a hair’s breadth of hitting a spike-pit on at least three occasions but managed to avoid it due to how tight the control scheme is. This level of platforming is excellent but can be a little annoying when tied into the puzzle mechanic. This is because nearly all of the game’s puzzles revolve around the platforming system and, should players happen to miss a puzzle element or a jump, they may often have to start the entire thing over again despite the fact that they already know the solution.
It is nice to note that despite being a metroidvania, Ubisoft has made sure that Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is as accessible as possible for those who want to try their hand at the game. They have done this in a number of ways, one of which is mentioned before with a guided experience indicating the general direction of where players should go as well as a variety of difficulty options but things are far more in-depth than that. Should players choose, they can adjust enemy health, the amount of damage enemies deal, the parrying window, how long the invulnerability of the dodge can last, and while we never turned this feature on to even test it as it seemed like it went against the spirit of the game entirely, an option that will open up a portal to skip particularly difficult platforming sections. As stated, since we never tested this option it is unknown if this affects the more challenging platforming sequences that are often required to obtain special unlocks and hidden items but the option is there for those who may need it simply to progress the story. This level of accessibility in a metroidvania is a shockingly surprising one that feels like it should be offered a bit more from time to time, though perhaps not to the same extreme some options are here as it does feel like it goes against the spirit of the game a bit.
Audio & Visuals
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown features a stylized art style that may make it look a little bit dated at times but does allow the title to run perfectly smooth no matter what players are doing on-screen, even if they are pulling off a stunning looking counter-attack on a massive boss monster. The standard enemies players encounter are designed well-enough and the various places players explore are similarly well handled, though the game’s best designs come in the forms of the bosses that Sargon takes on. These enemies range from mythical beasts to powerful humanoid enemies willing to take the fight to Sargon in intense combat. As mentioned before, combat flows fluidly and looks exceptionally well, especially with how vibrantly colorful everything is in the game. There are a few times that strange screen effects can be a bit distracting though these usually only involve certain puzzle elements.
The voice work throughout the game is handled quite well, with the English cast sounding decent enough with Sargon being the best of the group. It is a bit odd to say that some of the members of the Immortals sound a bit off unfortunately which is disappointing. It is also nice to note that The Lost Crown does offer a large array of voice tracks to choose from should players choose to swap from English. The background music features a great collection of thematic tracks that work well given the exploration elements of the game and some great themes that play during boss battles.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a stylistic and wonderful approach to a metroidvania style game that controls just as well as any fan should hope for. With satisfying combat and platforming, some decent puzzle solving that is a bit too simplistic at times, and some great accessibility options, Ubisoft Montpellier has managed to create a stellar brand new entry in the Prince of Persia series and hopefully a sign of things to come for this long missed franchise.
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