Since it was announced late last year, there’s been a healthy amount of curiosity swirling around Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. Set for release this May, it marks a return to the storyline of the last-gen Sands of Time trilogy, something that’s made fans both elated and suspicious. With the release of the movie right around the corner, is it a “real” Prince of Persia game? Will it feature the clever platforming, character-driven story and attention to detail that fans expect, or will it just be an asinine, hack-and-slash tie-in?
After seeing three levels of the game in action last week, we’re prepared to answer these questions. First and foremost, you need to know that…
You may already know this one, but it bears repeating: While Forgotten Sands will be out this May, shortly before the release of the Prince of Persia film, the two aren’t really connected. Yes, the film is probably at least part of the reason we’re revisiting the Sands of Time Prince instead of his cel-shaded counterpart from 2008. But he hasn’t been redesigned to look like Jake Gyllenhaal, no events from the movie will be adapted into the game and there’s no communication between the game’s developers and anyone working on the movie.
Instead, Forgotten Sands is a direct sequel to Sands of Time, wedged somewhere into the intervening seven years between Sands and Warrior Within. It opens when the Prince goes to visit a kingdom ruled by his brother, only to find it under siege by a rival army – which, in the first level we were shown, he has to fight himself, slashing and leaping across huge, crumbling castle walls while massive armies clash below.
Above: This is why you should only fight near handrails, kids
In desperation, the Prince’s brother (who we won’t call Prince of Persia 2, tempting as that is) unleashes his kingdom’s greatest secret weapon: an army of sand zombies that had been sealed away centuries before. They repel the invaders, but then quickly turn on the kingdom itself – and worse, they instantly change every denizen of the kingdom into sand statues, frozen in place at the moment when the zombies were released. Naturally, it’s up to the Prince to set things right.
One of the biggest criticisms leveled against the 2008 Prince of Persia reboot (other than that it didn’t really have an ending) was that it took away the sense of control, however illusory, that the last-gen games gave players over the Prince’s acrobatic moves. Instead of holding down a trigger to run along walls, for example, you just hit the appropriate button and the game did the rest for you.
With Forgotten Sands, the developers want to restore that sense of control. During our time with the game, Level Design Director Michael McIntyre took pains to demonstrate that this time, wall runs are executed by holding down the right trigger, and letting go means you drop. It’s a small thing, but for long-time PoP fans, it’ll be a welcome addition.
The highlight of Prince of Persia games has always been the environment itself; every room is a trap-filled puzzle that you need to solve by figuring out where to run, where to climb, and where to hang after a series of carefully timed jumps. Forgotten Sands is no exception, and it’ll even give the Prince a selection of new magic powers intended to make the exploration more interesting.
Above: Yep, that’s water he’s bouncing off of
We saw three of these during our demo session, the first being the Prince’s old ability to rewind time, erasing the last few seconds of any blunder he might have made. New to the party, however, is the ability to solidify water, turning waterfalls into walls, streams into walkways and decorative jets of water into poles he can climb or swing from. The Prince also has a new air-dash maneuver, which can rapidly launch him at a distant enemy, even if he’s leaping or wall-running when it’s activated.
As you can probably imagine, you’ll eventually have to use multiple powers in quick succession, something McIntyre demonstrated when he ran up a waterfall, leapt off it to swing across a few solid water jets and then abruptly unfroze the water so that he could air-dash through another waterfall at a hapless sand zombie.
What we saw was just a small taste of what’s to come, but it was elaborate and fast enough to give us hope that Forgotten Sands will not only understand what PoP veterans want, but that it’s prepared to give them a ton of it.
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