I have waited till I completed the game in full before offering up some final thoughts on Prince of Persia, and I’m glad I did, as I can now visualise the game as a whole and in the right perspective. I think the easiest way to go about it, is to direct you to GameSpot’s review and take it from there.
I’ll agree with GameSpot in that Prince of Persia looks and sounds fantastic. In certain places, it really is spectacular- drawing you in to the universe depicted in the game. Yet my opinion differs when turning my attention to the level design. The mechanics of the level design are technically sound in that the environments are visually interesting and quite exhilarating to navigate through. Yet as I was progressing through Prince of Persia I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that yes, this was just a game, and it felt like one too. In many respects, it’s all down to the level design for me.
Firstly, I knew that all the different cities were supposed to have been ravaged by ‘corruption’ but I felt that it was a pretty weak excuse for explaining why every single bridge in the land was destroyed, which conveniently allowed the Prince to display his aerobatic skills. Or is that just me being cynical? Even with the corruption banished from each area by reaching each area’s corresponding ‘fertile ground’, these places still did not feel like they could ever have been legitimate places to live. This brings me onto the fact that the entire land (excluding the odd bad guy; of which there were very few throughout the game) was totally deserted. And I mean completely and utterly deserted.
At this stage I will have to mention Prince of Persia’s ‘brother’ as they share so much in common- Assassin’s Creed. Some of the basic movement controls are either similar, or inspired from each other. Yet the crucial thing that Assassin’s Creed managed to do which its older brother still fails to do, is think about the people! Sure, each city was ruined, but what about having a few beggars or destitute people left who maybe escaped some of the destruction? Assassin’s Creed felt alive, whereas Prince of Persia felt at times like those renders of levels you see when a game is still in development: empty, just waiting for NPCs and other things to be added later. I felt that this added to my breakdown of immersion in the game. To finish on my criticism of the level design, there are certain sections in each area that have slides in a great big loop and you have to slide around in a sequence, collecting orbs of light which feels created for the game, not part of a legitimate city.
Considering all the points made above, it is those reasons for why I felt right throughout the game that I was not fully immersed in an organic universe; guiding the Prince and Elika through these dangerous lands, but rather taking part in a synthetically created game. Please do not think that I’m just mercilessly tearing apart the faults of the game- I’m only mentioning this because I thoroughly enjoyed the game. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I felt that the level design was the only major detraction for the game, and like any fan, I felt that it could have been better in this area.
One other small detraction of mine was the Prince, voiced by the exceptional Nolan North. This is not Nolan North’s fault, but the Prince is a bit of a jackass. Fortunately, Elika more than makes up for it with her charm, grace and depth of character. Furthermore, because Nolan North also voices Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, it ever-so-slightly takes the edge off the Prince in this game being a unique character. (For those interested, PlayStation.Blog.US has posted Meet Nathan Drake: Uncharted 2’s Nolan North which is well worth a watch.)
Much has been made of the game being ‘too easy’. In retrospect, yes, it was pretty easy. I completed the game in just over 12 hours, but that was due to taking my time with the game, and savouring it. Otherwise, it could take a lot less. I find it a bit of a confusing notion that people want games to be harder. I suppose what people really want is a bit more of a challenge. Prince of Persia’s aim is to take you on a visually spectacular, entertaining ride rather like a good film, which it succeeds in doing. I suppose if you wanted anything different, like true depth and complexity, then I suggest you look elsewhere.
Ubisoft have got something right- I can’t wait to give the Epilogue a spin! So, Prince of Persia: not exactly a perfect game by any means, but quite satisfying.