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Now Playing: A Review of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Coinciding with the May 2010 release of Disney’s film adaptation of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands embarks on a new journey with our nameless protagonist, acting as the fifth title in the series since being taken in under the Ubisoft umbrella. The Forgotten Sands is not only the last Prince of Persia game to be available on a home videogame system, with the future of the series appearing cloudy at best, but it acts as a return to the Sands of Time story arc. This was, of course, after 2008‘s Prince of Persia videogame offered a clear and distinct departure that, clearly, did not receive a followup sequel.

As a devout fan of Ubisoft’s line of Prince of Persia games in-general, be it the Sands series or the 2008 followup, I am merely grateful to have had anything at all, especially after the ten-year drought we have experienced since The Forgotten Sands’ release. With that in mind, having dusted off the series many times, I can’t help but wish they would have released Prince of Persia 2, or whatever it would have been called. If only because I think that Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands did not do enough to differentiate itself from the original series. Whereas 2008’s Prince of Persia was a calculated risk on Ubisoft’s part, The Forgotten Sands feels like the celebration of a bygone series.

This isn’t to say Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is not fun. Released to a mixed-to-positive critical reception, the videogame is one I have spent a lot of time with. Furthermore, my review is only written after having completed the campaign on three separate occasions (initially both around the time of its release, I completed the campaign a third time only a week removed from its ten year anniversary).

The story is set between the seven-year gap between Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within. Thus, the character comes together as a cross between the character models in those two games. Personally, I think I consider it as my favorite look across the series. As you might expect, our narrative thereby can’t help but thereby feel safe and transitional. Prince is visiting his brother Malik at a time when Malik’s kingdom is under attack. Out of desperation, Malik calls upon and releases Solomon’s army using a magic seal, in hopes that it can be used against the enemy. Unfortunately, things go awry and now, not only has an undead army been unleashed, but Malik has developed a thirst for the power slaying the creatures grants him, with the power slowly beginning to deteriorate his mind. The Prince befriends a djinn named Razia who grants him special abilities in his journey to stop his brother.

Voiced again by Yuri Lowenthal, our Prince is charming and mostly surface-level. Aside from a couple quips, there is not a lot to say about the character. This is not necessarily a criticism. Simply put, the series has never been that kind of game, and has always been more about the game-play and sense of adventure it instills. Regardless, it is worth mentioning that our characters, their central conflict, and our antagonist are very much par for the course for what you would expect for an platform adventure.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is a decent length, about eight hours, give or take, which makes it the shortest of Ubisoft‘s series (with Prince of Persia coming in second at about nine hours and Warrior Within being the longest at about twelve).

I know some gamers are sticklers about this sort-of thing, but I actually prefer a videogame that doesn’t overstay its welcome against a videogame that pads itself unnecessarily. Then again, a lot of players buy new releases for sixty dollars, whereas I almost never do that, and thereby, kind of avoid that heightened expectation.

Admittedly, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands may feel a little short as well. This is partly due to the difficulty level. Although I have a lot of memories of dying left and right in earlier entries, The Forgotten Sands is very casual player friendly.

The melee mechanics are straightforward and simplified, with straightforward attacks and no way to block. This very much exemplifies the “hack-and-slash” formula. Characters flail weapons at you and you flail weapons back in prettier fashion. I found that, if I tried to play strategically, I actually had more trouble than if I merely always stayed on the offensive. With no way to adjust the difficulty and special abilities that overpower you against any boss you come across, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is a real cake walk. It isn’t something I think could be artificially benefited from a new difficulty setting either, because it merely doesn’t have that depth in its combat. As a matter of fact, I was able to complete the campaign and unlock all the achievements in only a couple days. One of the achievements calls for you to defeat the final boss with sustaining any damage, a feat I was able to accomplish on my very first attempt.

The only “difficult” aspect about the “full 1,000” or the Platinum Trophy on The Forgotten Sands is the collectibles that are included. There are twenty-one sarcophagus’s hidden throughout the campaign, and it is really unlikely you will be able to find them all without an assist. Especially considering that the collectibles aren’t cumulative (carried from campaign to campaign) and there is no chapter selection. When I first tried for the “full 1,000” on The Forgotten Sands, I accidentally walked into a room, triggering a door to close behind me, and then, it auto-saved, keeping me from one of the remaining collectibles. The same thing happened again, only this time I deleted my auto-save and loaded the backup instead. I lost about an hour’s worth of progress, but I was able to get all of them.

It doesn’t matter if something is easy though, right? I mean, so long as you are enjoying yourself, that’s what really matters. Is Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands fun? Absolutely. The graphics hold up, even after a decade, and the music is immersive.

All in all, the production value is a high standard. The puzzles are simple but fun, and the platforming is a lot of fun, incorporating elemental powers and new abilities for a unique spin on the established formula.

I will admit, sometimes – particularly with the water, certain aspects could be a little unresponsive. I noticed often when I solidified and de-solidified the water, which is something you have to do often, the water would sometimes stick to my character, and, when it did that, it kind-of sticks to the character for a couple of seconds. This would be a nothing more than a small graphical snafu, but I found it would usually make certain abilities not function properly. That, and the camera-angles, where it would sometimes fixate a certain way, could make platforming difficult.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands may not be a great game, per se, but I did enjoy it. It offers a very casual gateway into the Prince of Persia series and it feels nice to run around, dismantle enemies, and overcome certain peril nine times out of ten. Even the most intimidating area I found could usually be overcome not only the first try, but by running through it like a madman, avoiding every blade and pendulum. It may mean The Forgotten Sands accomplishes itself more as a one-and-done “comfort food” kind of experience, but I was still entertained from start to finish.

That said, I can understand why this installment in the Sands series is the forgotten one.

Placement on the List: The (Lower Tier) Goods

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