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Gaming Review #2 – Prince of Persia (2008)

My second review is for the game simply known as Prince of Persia (2008) – yes the cell shaded one.  Published by Ubisoft, this version is for the Xbox 360.


Prince ofPersiais a successful action/plarformer franchise; rebooted back into popularity after a successful trilogy of games on previous generation consoles (PS2, Gamecube and original Xbox).  It has been so successful that Disney picked up the rights to make a movie, starring none other than Ben Kingsley and Jake Gyllenhaal – perhaps a somewhat questionable decision but none the less I admittedly enjoyed the film…more so because I liked watching Jake Gyllenhaal.


However, today I discuss Prince of Persia (2008), a game that moves away from the main story line of the series with a brand new prince, a decision some fans have not liked.  In retrospect, this is an issue that doesn’t particularly bother me.  I’d also like to fore warn people, this article will contain major spoilers.


You start the game off as the prince (though he’s not really a prince, but some thief or mercenary – I can’t remember exactly what) who’s lost in the dessert looking for his donkey laden with his valuable items, when he comes across Princess Elika who is running from guards.  It turns out, Elika’s father has released the god, Ahriman, who is determined to corrupt the world, turning it into a dark, dank and inhabitable cesspit.  It is up to the Prince and Elika to stop this.


While playing this game, I was really impressed with the cell shaded graphics and background music.  Good graphics and music I find really adds to the atmosphere of games.  As you explore corrupted parts of the landscape you have a real feel of eeriness and foreboding; likewise when you explore areas that are free of corruption you see beautiful Middle Eastern landscapes accompanied with Arabian music that adds a touch of authenticity to the scene.  It really was a pleasure to immerse myself into the game’s world.


I also really enjoyed the platforming elements of the game.  The controls were easy to use, responsive and it felt very fluid when you travelled from A-B; pretty much what you want from a platformer.  The levels were also well constructed for platforming, making them fun and interesting to do.


Another aspect I enjoyed was the battle system.  Again it was easy to use with responsive controls.  It basically consisted of you battling your enemies and combining chains of move combinations.  It works very well and is very satisfying when you rack up high hit combinations (there’s even an achievement available if you can produce a move with over 200 hits).  The only problem is, as well as this system works, you hardly have to use it, as enemies are few and far between.  With so few enemies, there were boss battles that allowed you to utilise the battle system more, but…the boss battles were somewhat underwhelming. 


Normally when fighting boss battles, they’re bigger and tougher than your standard enemy and regular moves just isn’t going to work.  For example: if you’re fighting a monster with a great big, all seeing eye and multiple limbs to hit you with, a standard tactic would be to blind the eye and hack at the limbs while the boss creature cannot see you.  Another example: if you’re fighting a huge fire demon, encased in ability enhancing flames, what one would do is to extinguish the fire and beat your enemy while it is weak.  In Prince orPersia(2008), no such tactics are needed; when all you have to do is to keep hacking at the beast with the standard battle system for a prolonged period of time.


I can’t help wanting something more from my boss battles, and Prince of Persia left me feeling very unchallenged in this aspect.  There were times when the boss’s auras changed, allowing you to use only certain types of attack on them for a duration of time; but then again, this wasn’t something that was predominantly available to boss battles only, and such tactics were used in standard enemy fights.  In light of the situation, boss battles were extended goon fights. 


There was one boss fight where you had to alter your tactics of battle, causing him to rush into parts of the scenery or off a cliff.  However, considering there were five bosses in total, which you faced on 3-4 separate occasions (with little or no change to their battle strategies), it really wasn’t enough of a challenge to be considered a good boss fight.   In fact, I strolled through the boss fights with relative ease.


Talking about ease, the game its self is really, and truly…easy!  It has been a rising issue among gamers that games are getting easier and provide the player with little challenge.  Prince ofPersia really takes the biscuit in this issue, because you cannot seem to die! 


This is because Elika saves you’re big, fat behind time and time again!  There will be no miscalculated leaps causing you plummet to your death; because Elika will use her powers to catch you and return you to the point just before you jump.  There will be no monster trying to bite off your head; because Elika will use her powers to push the monster back, giving you time to regroup and slay the beast.  Yes it’s a fact, you cannot die in this game.  But is this a good fact?


Well…no.  It takes away any element of challenge or danger from the game.  There will be no regrouping on reverting to plan B as you retry a level or approach a boss from a different angle.  Of course, this does eliminate the frustrated hissy fit of when you can’t get passed a certain level…but…it does make a boring game. 


I suppose this feature was installed because in previous games you could use the sands of time.  A feature that allowed you to reverse time to correct any mistakes you may have made.  The difference with this feature compared to Elika constantly saving you, was that you could only use the sands if you had substantial amount of sand, and you chose when it was activated.  Unlike Elika’s life saving skills, the sands of time added something to the game instead of detracting from it.


Moving on from the fact that the game is easy, I now want to look at the storyline of the game.  The story its self is a tried and tested plot we have seen in many different variations before; and within such a short game it is done relatively well.  The real bonus of the story however, is the interaction and rapport between Elika and the Prince.  During the game we watch them bicker, banter, get to know one another and even flirt with each other; and throughout all of this as you watch their relationship grow you can’t help wanting a happily ever after ending for the pair…at least the romantic in me wanted that.


However, here’s the bombshell in the story (spoiler alert), Elika tragically dies, sacrificing herself to seal Ahriman away in his prison.  NOOOOOOOOOO, how could they do that, after everything they’ve been through together!  Distraught rant put aside, at least the story has a concluded, if but sad, ending.  Wrong!


Before the game is properly over, the last thing you have to do with the Prince is cut down all the seals Elika painstakingly put in place to keep Ahriman locked away, then take the light energy to revive Elika, and ultimately end up freeing Ahriman to reap destruction upon the world.  Then we reach the end, with the Prince carrying Elika in his arms as they flee the raging chaos of Ahriman escaping and the words ‘to be continued’ flash upon our screen.


After seeing that, one would expect that there is to be a sequel; well, as far as I can gather, no there isn’t, and nor is there one planed.  However, there is some DLC (Downloadable Content) available – Yippee!  Finally we’ll get a conclusion to the story.


The gameplay for the DLC is pretty much the same as what you have already been playing, with top quality platforming and more of a puzzle element to it.  Unfortunately, the DLC also has all the issues that the main game has; lack of battles, unchallenging boss battles, lack of being able to die and very short; but at least we have a conclusion to the story…right? 


Unfortunately not.  Throughout the DLC Elika spends her time being pissed off at the Prince because he undid all her hard work and freed Ahriman; while the Prince tries to reason with her that he couldn’t let her die and Ahriman was just going to find another way out.  When the pair eventually escape the ruined city, Elika decides she’s going to search for her people to find an end to Ahriman, thus abandoning the prince, and we’re left with another ‘to be continued’. 


We are now stuck with even more unanswered question than what we had with the original ending.  Does Elika forgive the Prince?  Does she find her people?  Do Elika and the Prince reunite?  Is Ahriman ever going to be defeated?  (Am I expected to fork out more money for another lot of DLC just to get another to be continued?)  AND DO WE GET THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER ENDING BETWEEN ELIKA AND THE PRINCE?!?!?! 


Sadly I have no answers to these questions, as there is no further DLC to tie these loose ends up, nor is there any planed to be released.  I suspect this is because of dissatisfied players having spent money on the game and then DLC, yet still received no resolution to the actual story and no promise that we’re going to get one!  It is with these facts that the player can’t help feeling cheated, at least I certainly did.


At the end of it, Prince of Persia (2008) is a good game providing the price is right.  The game is short, and with the gameplay issues and inconclusive story line your certainly don’t want to pay full whack for it.  If you see it for £5 then it would be worth getting for the few hours of fun gameplay it provides, though you might want to skip on spending money on the DLC as it adds nothing to the original game.