Friday, December 26, 2008

Prince of Persia "Triology"

Time for another round of game reviews, after finishing up with Tomb Raider (except Underworld, haven't played that yet) I moved on to the Prince of Persia "Trilogy", quotes are there since its really not much of a trilogy, but more like one great conclusive game with some garbage patched on. Anyway, lets begin, first in the row is:

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2003, PC)

A great classic that works nicely under Linux in Wine, not quite as perfectly as Tomb Raider, since it lacks widescreen support and loses a bit of performance in Wine, there also seems to be an issue with the bloom that seems off by a few pixels, but its still perfectly playable. Support for gamepads is also a little lacking, while the game itself works fine with one, the menus don't, they require a mouse. Those issues aside however its as good as it gets. Its one of the few games where story and gameplay go pretty much completly hand in hand, the level design is great, the graphics nice and the animation pretty. On top of that the game features a time rewind mechanic that has been repeated in numerous games since then. There really isn't much to complain about, games just don't get much better then this, so go play it if you haven't already.

Little sidenote: The game features as a bonus level the first level of the original Prince of Persia remade in 3D, it has no goal and is present in all versions. The PS2 version in addition features the whole classic 2D Prince of Persia game (in its original form, not as 3D remake), the PC version however does not. The wall you have to destroy to unlock it is indestructible.

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (2004, PC)

On the technical side, Warrior Within has the same small problems as Sands on Time, but adds some more on top of it. It requires a no-cd crack to function in Wine and when you up the graphic detail level the picture ends up being upside down. Playing a bit around with the detail level and Wine configuration makes things playable, but still leaves a little upside-down artefact when one slows down the time. But since you don't run around in slow-mo all the time its completly playable from start to finish, you however lose quite a bit of graphical detail compared to Windows.

In terms of story Warriror Within pretty much is a 180 turn compared to Sands of Time. Where Sands of Time had depths, athmosphere, Warrior Within is just flat, dark and bloody. The dialog and story that made the first game interesting, is nearly completly missing here, the princes dialog is mostly down to a bunch of *grrrr* and *arrg* sound effects, the skill to say complete sentences seems to be gone missing in this part of the series. Neatless to say, this part doesn't really connect much at all to the first one, so if you are looking for a decent sequel, you won't find it here. On the positive side, the story features some classic time travel twist, nothing you haven't seen before, but a little fun in what otherwise is just a completle failure.

Ignoring all that and focusing on the game itself, it also has plenty of problems of its own. Unlike Sands of Time this game features a much more non-linear level design. While your progress is still linear, the levels allow almost complete backtracking, this more then once ends up being heavily confusing, since a wrong turn can easily have you running around in circles for half an hour. That the game features two time zones and actually requires backtracking on a regular basis only makes matters worse, since it gets much harder to figure out if you are actually on the right path or not. The game does feature a map, but its as useless as maps can be, since it gives no precise indication where you are, where you have to go or how you reach it. Its just a undetailed picture with your character and an X and those don't even get updated after every change room, so its near impossible to figure out anything from the map

I also found the fighting system to be pretty terrible. It is often taughted as one of the good point of the game, but I found the fights to be overly long and just plain annoying. Not sure if I just didn't get the combo system or what else might have gone wrong, but it just wasn't any fun meshing on the same enemies over and over again.

On the positive side of things some of the jumping and running is still fun. I however found it to be a little confusing this time around, distances seem harder to judge and the animation often doesn't seem to properly fit in, i.e. you have jumps that look like the prince shouldn't have made them, but you still end up sticking to the ledge. The locations are much less memorable then those in Sand of Time, but given how bad most of the rest is thats one of the smaller problems. In terms of graphics there was one nice level near the end that features some pretty smoke effects, with smoke getting blown away when you swing your sword, neat stuff.

Warrior Within also features some unlockable artwork, but unlike Tomb Raider, its very badly hidden. You have to find a bunch of tressure cheats that unlock it, but they are completly randomly places, so you have really no motivation to actually search for them, you just stumble upon them by accident every now and then.

Overall the game just wasn't much enjoyable and its probally best to just skip it and ignore it.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (2005, PC)

Two Thrones is the last one in the series, and again it inherits all the technical problems of the predecessor and can be fixed by the same workarounds. Widescreen support is still lacking.

After Warrior Within Two Thrones however was a pleasant supprise. It is still nowhere near as good as Sands of Time, but it actually is a good game on its own. The level design is back to being linear and the map screen is gone. The game actually feels a little to linear at times, since often your path is predetermined by a number of 'jump-spots', leaving little room for exploration, but thats still better then the other end of the spectrum. Unlike Warrior Within it actually features a proper story and has plenty of in-game dialog again. Most of the overall story and even the ending is heavily inspired by Sands of Time, but thats ok, since that was really good and you have enough new things to keep it interesting. One thing where Two Thrones fails is the athmosphere, Sands of Time had a specific One Thousand and One Nights style athmosphere to it, while Two Thrones just feels like a relatively generic video game with swords.

The fighting is also back to normal and on top of that a little stealth-twist got added that allows quick kills of enemies when they haven't yet seen you, which works well enough most of the time. The vehicle sections that got added to this game on the other side feel pretty ridiculous and out of place, they don't ruin it, but neither do they add anything.

Overall, not a worthy successor of Sands of Time, since Sands of Time really didn't need one in the first place, but what Two Thrones does, it does quite well. The story keeps you entertained, the platforming is fun and there really isn't much to complain about.

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