Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. Thoughts upon completion

I've just finished PoP: The Forgotten Sands on PC. I've originally purchased the Xbox 360 version several years ago but never got to play it. The PC version was bought during one of the amazing Steam sales but managed to say off my hard drive for quite some time. Only now, three years after the release, I managed not only to play but also complete the game.

It's worth mentioning that completing the game wasn't much of a feat. On "normal" difficulty (maximum available on first playthrough) it took me 5 hours and 40 minutes to reach the end credits. This has to be one of the shortest games I've played recently. There are arcade games and games on mobile platform boasting better length. Nonetheless, I managed to get bored of at least some of the aspects of the game. Namely, combat.

The combat in The Forgotten Sands is ridiculously dull and repetitive. This is the first and only PoP game that has a skill development tree. Thanks to that tree, the Prince can improve existing or receive new combat skills. Even that considered, the combat comes down to just mashing one or two buttons. There are numerous opponents to be killed and none of those require any special tactics. Rolling around and or jumping and waving the sword is more than enough. Throwing in one of the abilities acquired though the skill tree will make it even easier but not especially fun. Despite a pretty spectacular sequence preceding the final boss battle, the battle itself doesn't involve anything other than what the Prince was doing before to cut through any other enemies. It's all in the slashing. Maybe because of that, despite of the cool scenery, it doesn't feel epic. And the ending doesn't feel that much rewarding.

Overall, the game tried hard to get back to the (original reboot) roots, to what the PoP was during the Sands of Time. Needless to say, it falls short in almost every aspect. On one hand, we have your usual Middle Eastern themed story with an older brother, an evil Djinn, a hot magical girl to advise the Prince along his road and a huge castle to explore from dungeons to the highest towers. On the other hand, the combat is much less fun and even not as visually impressive as any of the previous PoP games. Yes, including the original trilogy. The story resembles the one in The Sands of Time a lot but lacks the romantic touch. As I already said, there's a hot girl included, but it's a 1000 year old magical entity so there isn't any romance involved whatsoever. The environment puzzles are sometimes mesmerizing thanks to some of the newly acquired powers, like an ability to freeze water. On the other hand, the ability to leap great distance through the air to reach an enemy, even though looking cool, feels overly ridiculous. I mean, there are birds all over just pinned to some places in the air, waiting to get jumped by Prince in order to reach higher ground. Doing absolutely nothing. Or a single sand warrior waiting on some platform. If the Prince gets to such platform by means of jumping the enemy but then decides to track back, the same single enemy will respawn and  get into the position to get jumped again. Total garbage.

There are also a few things that make us think Ubisoft was eager to recreate the success of the rebooted trilogy after Prince of Persia (2008) didn't manage to create much hype. Like, this Prince is actually the same person as the one in the Ubisoft's reboot. He mentions some of the events of the previous game. Also, the events occurring in this game supposedly happen between the events of The Forgotten Sands and The Warrior Within, according to the developers.The voice actor is also the same, Yuri Lowenthal, who is the perfect fit for the Prince, unlike Nolan North, the voice of Prince in Prince of Persia (2008). Although Nolan is incredible as Nathan Drake from Uncharted, I really dislike him everywhere else, including Assassin's Creed. Interestingly enough, Yuri gave his voice for the Prince in the Sands of Time and The Two Thrones but no The Warrior Within.

In the end, the game is pretty smooth and I did feel an urge to continue playing it till the end. Although, I was quite disappointed by the story after just finishing the Prince of Persia (2008) which has the deepest story of all the PoP games. The ending in The Forgotten Sands was way too obvious.

Technically the game is a marvel. You get to see the loading screen only once and everything else will get loaded dynamically as you move around the enormous rooms of the palace. Also, all the movies except the intro and the outro are rendered in real time, which means you never loose immersion due the low quality of the recorded movies as it happens in oh so many other pretty big titles. Batman games and Deus Ex, just to name a few.

As for platform difference, the X360 version is not overly annoying, but playing at 1080p and 60 frames per second on PC makes a world of difference in a such fast-paced game as this. I would say that PC version of The Forgotten Sands is a bit better than the Xbox version of Prince of Persia (2008) which was making me dizzy almost all the time. The PC version has no drawbacks at all, except one - for some reason the volume in the game is really low. I had to crank up the volume to extremely high levels. All the other games I played recently are at least five times louder at the same volume settings. Annoying but hardly a deal-breaker.

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