It is hard to complain as a Prince of Persia fan this gen. We’ve had several entries in the series where as some other franchises have had nothing (like Jak which I am much more upset about but I will save that for another blog). In 2008, we got the ambitious yet flawed reboot. It definitely had some problems, but I enjoyed it and the artstyle is probably my favorite of any game this generation. A couple of years later we got the not-really-a-movie-tie-in game The Forgotten Sands. It was a solid game and had some great platforming sequences, but it didn’t feel like Ubisoft Montreal put in their best effort and it told a story in the Sands timeline that no one really needed to hear. The Wii version of The Forgotten Sands was a completely different game than the HD one. I’m not sure it was any better, but it felt like Ubi Quebec put their heart into it and really tried their best. It was also interesting in that I believe it started as a game in the new PoP universe, but was reworked to be in the Sands timeline. The outdoor environments definitely feel more reminiscent of the reboot and rumors suggest this was indeed the case, but I am getting a bit off-topic here. There were also some less impressive handheld outings. There was the underrated remake of the first 2D game on XBLA and PSN that married the original game’s design with a more forgiving difficulty and the look of the Sands of Time series.
So as a fan of the series, I can’t be too upset with what I have got this gen. Yet I’m ready for another game. I think it comes down to two things. One being that none of these games are the elite action/adventure games that Sands of Time and The Two Thrones. The other being that no one does the style of platforming that those games do as well as they did. When the Sands of Time released, there was nothing quite like it. Sure Ico was kind of similar, but it lacked SoT’s depth and movement abilities. The PS1 Tomb Raiders had a similar vibe, but it had been sometime since there was one of those and it lacked the fluid controls of the Prince’s newest outing. Sands of Time might be the most influential game in the platforming genre in the last ten years with a number of huge franchises taking inspiration from the PS2 PoP games. But none of these match the greatness of PoP’s acrobatic traversal. Uncharted’s is too easy. God of War’s just isn’t as good and both series are more focused on action. Assassin’s Creed’s tombs very much want to be like PoP. They nail the “how do I get from point A to point B” part, but they miss another aspect that made the Sands games so great. Sands of Time and its successors had both this puzzle element of figuring out how to get where you need to go along with the timing based challenges that the trap hallways brought (and well the fact that the whole game was based around this aspect, not an hour out of 20 like in AC). Crystal Dynamic’s recent Tomb Raider titles have been the closest at aping what the PoP titles did so well. And I have appreciated them and maybe the new Tomb Raider will scatch that itch, but I still want a new Prince of Persia.
Now what Prince of Persia would I like? Well, I’d like to see the story of 2008’s game continued. I loved the look of that game. The world and characters were great to me and that ending obviously left the game wide-open for a sequel. The gameplay would need to be tweaked. As far as the platforming goes, I would suggest one of two things. You build on what was there. Make it less automated. Lessen the window for inputs. Add more traps. Add more of a puzzle element to the environments. Maybe more linear sections that can only be navigated one way between the more open sections that the first game had. Or you can rebuild it into something more like the PS2 games’ systems. The combat is a whole different issue. I still think The Two Thrones had the best combat, but none of the games have nailed this element (and Ubisoft in general seems completely incapable of making a great melee combat system). But at least 2008’s was different so I’d build on that as well. Add more variety to the enemies. They had this idea of making every battle feel like a boss fight, but when you replay those fights six times a piece, they feel less like bosses. So add more enemy types. Maybe make it so you could take on a couple of enemies at once via a toggle or some sort of smart targeting system. Make some of the bosses platforming based (the final boss fight is a good jumping off point for this). Maybe you are taking on this giant enemy and you have to puzzle your way to his weak points by wallrunning and bouncing between surfaces all while dodging his attacks. Some other general tweaks to the game like allowing you and Elika’s conversations to take place while you climb would be good. I think an improved sequel to this game could really be something special. Maybe we’d see the kind of jump in quality we saw from an Assassin’s Creed 1 to AC2.
There is another option. They could make a new game in the Sands of Time universe. It would have to be with a new prince though. The ending of The Two Thrones is too amazing to have that prince have another adventure after. They could use his son or just a different prince altogether. And maybe they could just bring back the rewind mechanic in a whole new universe. That time control mechanic is something people liked. And if it turns out that people aren’t into 2008’s cel-shaded graphics (shame on those people) and Ubi will feel more comfortable marketing a game with realistic graphics, they can do that. It could bring back the Sands of Time style of platforming that was so brilliant. The core combat could be reworked, but the stealth system that tied the traversal in as a way to avoid combat in T2T could be brought back and expanded upon. But this seems like something to leave for the next generation, so I think a sequel to the 2008 game is the way to go right now.
The thing is I know the answer to the question I posed in title of this blog. The Prince is currently living in the shadow of the Ubisoft’s new flagship action/adventure series. The one that sells something like 8 million copies each year. So Ubi would rather put about seven studios to work on putting out an Assassin’s Creed title every year. I’m not sure what makes it such a big hit (Note: I enjoy the AC games, just not as much as PoP). Maybe it is the sandbox environments. Maybe it is the more realistic graphics or the cool commercials. Maybe an assassin game is just more appealing… I don’t know. Regardless of the answer, I am ready for another Prince of Persia game. Give me more of that amazing platforming and level design that was a key to making Sands of Time and The Two Thrones two of the best action/adventure games last gen. It probably isn’t likely with AC3 coming this year, but I’d love to see them announce a new PoP game. I’ll just have to wait and see what this year brings. I guess for now I will have to be content with revisiting the Hall of Learning with Farah or climbing the Tower of Babel again.