|Prince of Persia: Warrior Within|
|Platforms||GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows, PSP|
|MtAMinutes to Action||4|
|Keep Playing?||Drop Everything Else|
|Buy from Amazon|
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is the sequel to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which was itself a relaunch of a popular 2D platformer from the early 1990s. The relaunch, developed by Ubisoft Montreal, eventually became a trilogy, released on PlayStation 2, XBox, GameCube, PC, and even a version for the GameBoy Advance. The series has since been relaunched again on the current generation of systems.
Sands of Time was very well received for many reasons, including beautiful art direction, spot-on controls, fluid animations, clever mechanics and a wonderful intangible quality. It had two main downfalls: the combat was repetitive and the game was short.
Warrior Within sets out to correct both of these follies, boasting a longer story and a much-improved combat engine that takes the acrobatic attacks of the first game and expands them to a move list that takes up several pages in the instruction manual.
With these improvements, the game has also "matured" in the video game sense, which as usual means blood and scantily-clad women. Oh, and heavy metal. I'm not really sure why Ubisoft felt this was necessary; I'm assuming it was based on customer feedback.
I played through Prince of Persia: The Sands of time a while back and enjoyed it very much. When it was over I wished it wasn't, and that's what sequels are for. Will Warrior Within satisfy my craving for more acrobatic platforming/adventuring featuring the Prince of Persia?
Note: If I say "the first game" I'm referring to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, not the original Prince of Persia game.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select New Game and the First Hour of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within begins. I choose Normal difficulty,
01 - A cutscene shows the Prince fleeing from the Dahaka, a monster intent on correcting the timeline which the Prince messed up in the first game. By “correct” I mean kill the Prince.
03 - Cut to the Prince on a ship, being attacked by a ship full of monsters led by a woman wearing a tiny bit of black armor.
04 - I have control now. I'm surrounded by enemies, and a caption at the bottom of my screen tells me how to fight them. B swings my sword, R blocks, X picks up and throws enemy weapons, and Y uses my off-hand weapon.
05 - If I'm not holding a weapon, Y grabs the enemy. A jumps, and can be used to vault over foes.
06 - The tutorial teaches me several combos: I grab one enemy and slice him with my sword, vault over another and kick him in the head. The moves look really cool, as the Prince animates very smoothly.
07 - I'm really low on health after the first combat sequence, but I get dropped through a hole into the ship's hold, which is full of water. As in the previous game, health is restored by drinking water (with the R button) but I have to ponder: wouldn't this be salt water? Anyway, I learn a move where the Prince grabs a column and, depending on which button is pressed, either kicks or slashes with his sword in a circle around it.
08 - It's confirmed: in this stretch the hull is breached and sea water is pouring in. Drinking from the resulting puddle restores my health. Gross. Doesn't he know what fish do in that water?
09 - The tutorial text tells me what attack to use next, but I don't have to do it. When I do, it moves to the next one, giving an incentive for following its direction.
10 - I'm fighting Shahdee, the leader of the enemy ship. She has a health bar, so I'm guessing boss fight? Maybe mini-boss? I decide to go with "boss" after she kills me.
11 - I start back about halfway through the level, but since I've learned all the moves I get through quickly.
12 - I'm back to the boss but I have barely any health when I get there.
13 - I die again. Early boss fights are cool, but in less than fifteen minutes I've already died twice on her.
15 - I'm back to the boss battle with more health this time. Fortunately it allows you to skip cutscenes, and does so with a cool effect as well: basically the cutscene plays in super-fast-forward with no sound and a motion-blur effect. In fact, it's the best cutscene-skipping effect I've ever seen.
16 - I can't grab this boss like I can normal enemies.
17 - We lock swords, I have to tap B rapidly to break it, which isn't very hard. I found a couple of effective moves, but she seems to catch on after I use them a few times and starts dodging them. However, I whittle her health down enough to trigger a cutscene where she disarms me and kicks me over the railing. The Prince sinks in the water.
19 - A cutscene depicts an old man explaining to the Prince that it is fated that anyone who opens the Sands of Time (which the Prince did on the previous game) shall die. However, the Prince used the Sands to go back in time to before the event, thereby saving himself... or so he thought. Because he treated the timeline so flippantly, the Dahaka is after him to make things right by killing him. Therefore the Prince decides to voyage to the Island of Time, travel back in Time, to kill the Empress of Time before she creates the Sands of Time. Of Time.
20 - The Prince awakens on a dim beach being pecked at by crows. He reaches for his sword and, finding it absent, grabs a plank of wood. I proceed to beat away the crows (which are abnormally large) and after three explode in showers of feathers and blood, the rest fly away.
21 - I find that this game offers more camera control than the last, aside from default, wide and first-person views I can manipulate the camera with the C-Stick. The Prince's health also refills much more quickly when drinking than in Sands of Time.
22 - Now the tutorial text gives me movement tips, like jumping and wall-running. I realize I haven't saved yet, but shortly afterward I run across a fountain, which allows me to save when drinking from it. This is a huge improvement; I'll discuss that more in the thoughts section.
23 - The platforming starts, and I have to beat off crows while hanging from a ledge.
24 - I run across a wall; it just feels so right. I wonder how many kids got hurt trying to emulate this move?
25 - I break open a chest and the game says "Artwork Unlocked." Ok, I figured it would be something for the Prince to interact with, but I guess this is how they did bonus content. I roll under a door and come face-to-face with enemies. My plank isn't very powerful, but after killing the first enemy I pick up his weapon, which turns out to be a hammer.
26 - The hammer broke from use. So, the plank of driftwood I picked up is indestructible, but the hammer breaks after killing a few enemies with it. That makes sense, right?
27 - Z pulls up the map. I got to the fortress entrance, which was my goal (said so on the map) but the way is shut. I look around and, aha! The Prince won't be stopped by something like a measly wall! I run up the wall and grab onto an edge, making my way over a broken section. The whole fortress is crumbling, looks abandoned.
28 - A cutscene has the Prince surveying the ruined fortress, and Shadee sneaking up behind him. She dashes at him, but he steps aside and smacks her with his driftwood, sending her flying into a wall. She commands her soldiers to kill the Prince and he quickly kills a few, taking one of their swords. I regain control and it tells me I have the "Spider Sword" to replace my board. I was getting kind of attached to it!
29 - Strangely, in the cutscene he took the Spider Sword from an enemy, but in gameplay if you take an enemy's weapon it breaks after a little while. Anyway, I now have the Spider Sword as my main weapon and the wood as my off-hand weapon.
30 - The tutorial text mentions several combos that use both weapons, and they're pretty nifty. A couple of them end in a spin attack, hitting enemies on all side. Or I can charge up and attack one enemy in front of me with both weapons at the same time, which I later discover will neatly behead an enemy.
31 - After defeating the monsters, I'm able to to go through a door that was previously closed. There's a fountain right inside, and I save on a different file, just to be safe. I'll discuss why later in the Thoughts section.
32 - Some crows flew together and formed a big bad guy.
33 - I burst him apart, but the crows reform on a distant ledge.
34 - I make a few jumps and wall-runs to get to the crow guy, but I fall too far and die. I don't have a Recall ability yet, so I have to accept the Game Over.
35 - I beat the guy a lot faster this time, as I understand his pattern.
37 - I fall to my death by jumping in the wrong direction. I really wish I had the Sands of Time right about now, so I could try the jump again. That's one thing that made the previous game so enjoyable, was the ability to redo missed jumps instead of having to replay from the last save.
40 - Fighting the crow guy again.
41 - I miss a jump and die again. This game seems to assume you've played the first one, as it has already thrown some tricky jumps at me.
43 - I made the jump I kept missing and got to the second round with crow-man.
44 - His pattern is the same, so I beat him quickly. The crows reform once more, I make the jump easily and face off with him again. I'm assuming it's the last because there's a closed gate behind him.
45 - I vault over his head, plant on the wall, then dive off into him sword-first. That was sweet and totally accidental. This time he blocks more, I can't get as many hits in so it takes longer.
46 - I finally beat him and he disappears for good. I wall run up the wall onto a switch and run through the resulting open gate. Thoughtful of the fortress architect to place gate switches on the wall at the exact height the Prince can attain via wall-run.
47 - The combat in this game isn't nearly as boring and annoying as in the first game. I no longer dread battles just because of the drudgery.
48 - By pressing A then X, I vault over a monster and throw an axe in his face. That's an actual combo, not just two things I did back to back.
49 - The environments look very natural in this game. Except for some conveniently placed switches, the palace doesn't really look like it was built for the Prince to traverse. He just can. That makes every move he makes feel awesome, instead of just like you figured out what you're supposed to do.
50 - Oops, graphical blemish! Some ivy growing on the wall was flickering in and out. I pass by some traps that aren't moving. I wonder why... it makes me nervous.
51 - I find a fountain and save. Then a cutscene shows Shahdee step into a glowing cloud of sand and disappear. The Prince follows and appears in the same place, but with more light.
52 - I gain the Recall ability! Thank you! I can now hold L to rewind time for up to 8 seconds, so if I miss a jump or something I can do it again without restarting at the last fountain. I have three "Sand Tanks" which represent the number of times I can use Recall before refilling. Killing enemies in certain ways gives me sand to refill them.
53 - So the portal sucked me into the past, in which the fortress is not destroyed. In fact, it looks much like the palace from Sands of Time. So we're in kind of an Ocarina of Time Situation here it looks like, traversing the same ground in two time periods. How this granted me the Recall ability I have no clue, but I'm not complaining.
54 - Ah, the traps work now! Apparently they were all broken in the Present time period, but during the heyday of the fortress they were alive and well. That's kinda cool.
55 - I attack an enemy, but a short in-engine cutscene interrupts me in the middle of a move and when it's done I'm standing there defenseless. Bad form!
57 - Broke open another chest to unlock some more artwork. Then I miss a jump and die... but I use my Recall ability to turn back time and try again.
58 - I hit a switch to open a door but don't get through it in time, so I have to redo a platforming section to get to the switch again. It was my own fault; the door was right there but I wasn't paying attention. I make it through on the second try.
59 - I come out where I fought the crow king in the past, but now it's all bright and cheery. Well, kind of cheery.
60 - I fight a few more enemies and get low on health before the hour ends.
Minutes to Action: 4
Favorite Thing: Jumping, wall-running, pole-climbing.
Least Favorite Thing: The learning curve is steep; it seems to assume you've played the first game, and even though I had, I died more times than I should both on the first boss and a later jumping segment.
Graphics: As with the first Prince of Persia game, the environments look spectacular. The Prince and the enemies look pretty clunky from up close; I think most of the resources went into the levels. However, the Prince does look fine from a distance, and that's how you see him most of the time.
Sound: I don't mind popular influences on my video game music, and it's appropriate to hear a harder-edged track during battle. However, the music that plays is a little much. Supposedly the Prince is voiced by a different actor than in the first game, but I didn't notice.
Story: It's confusing, but a story about time-travel set in ancient Persia is unique. It's told only through cutscenes, which is a little bit of a downer, but this is the kind of game where the story is just to set up amazing gameplay, so no points off.
Environment Design: The Prince of Persia games live and die by their environment design, and I'd have to say Warrior Within improves on its predecessor. The structures look more natural, less like they're specifically made for climbing by an individual with a particular moveset. In fact, I'd have to say these are some of the best in-game environments I've ever experienced.
Fun: It had the enjoyment of Sands of Time's acrobatic action, and at the same time the combat was less dreadful, though it still took a back seat to the platforming. It was a bit tense until I got the Recall ability; I died a couple too many times on one area.
Keep Playing: Yes, this game rose to the top of my "currently playing" list
You Will Like This Game If: You liked Sands of Time, but wished it contained more blood and heavy metal.
Thoughts: For reasons unrelated to the game, I had to stop playing after about 35 minutes and come back and finish the next day. I was quite disappointed after the first session, because this game hadn't really delivered what I was looking for. However, after finishing up the hour the next day, I was much more excited about it. The game delivered the Recall ability after letting the player go just long enough to appreciate it once it was bestowed upon the Prince.
The game actually did get right to the action at the beginning, and had one of the best tutorials I've seen, offering a suggestion on what to do next but not forcing you to do anything.
The combat was cool, with many moves that could be pulled off such as decapitating, bifurcating both vertically and horizontally, and throwing bladed weapons in faces.
The tone of the "Present" areas was dark and grim, taking away a lot of the charm of the previous game, but the past levels had that same glowing brilliance I had come to expect.
Now I'd like to write about he improvement that is "save fountains". In Sands of Time the saving devices were clouds of sand that would offer a quick cutscene of what needed to happen next. Although a fountain was usually nearby, that was not always the case. In one instance, I made it though a tough battle with just a smidge of health left. I saved in the resulting sand cloud and continued. A puzzle in the next room required me to make a long jump that did a little damage on the drop. There was a fountain shortly after it, but I didn't have enough health to survive the drop. I tried over and over to make the jump without losing any health, but the drop was just too far. Fortunately I had alternated saving on two files, so I only had to go back two saves, survive the battle with more health and continue. If I had to restart the game, I probably wouldn't have finished it. The save fountains completely does away with that slim but dangerous possibility, and really doesn't change the gameplay at all. There are about the same number of save points as the previous game, and they offer water in pools or whatnot when they want you to gain health without saving.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within did what a game sequel should do: delivered more of what made the first game great, fixed all the problems from the previous game, and tried out some new things of its own.