Michael Kontoudis
23 May, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Review

PS3 Review | Wait, that's not how it happened...
Dominion over time itself; the ability to reverse one’s mistakes and try again… such is the power of the eponymous hero of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, and the team at Ubisoft Montreal. Having birthed the esteemed The Sands of Time in 2003 and following it up with two relatively well-received sequels, the talented and prolific development house attempted to reinvent Jordan Mechner’s beloved creation with 2008’s Prince of Persia, which offered a large, branching world, rhythm-based combat, a gentle difficulty curve and an all-new storyline which drew inspiration from Zoroastrianism. We enjoyed the bold experiment, but the game received a mixed reception, with many decrying its concessions to accessibility and fantasy-based storyline. Two years on, with release of Jerry Bruckheimer’s adaptation of The Sands of Time just around the corner, Ubisoft Montreal has turned back time and revisited the aforementioned storyline with The Forgotten Sands, promising a return to the franchise’s most beloved iteration.

The Prince is in peril, and there is no sight of Elika.

The Prince is in peril, and there is no sight of Elika.

Falling chronologically somewhere between The Sands of Time and its angrier, underrated sequel, Warrior Within, The Forgotten Sands sees the anonymous Prince leaving Farah behind to visit his brother’s war-torn kingdom. When the aforementioned sibling releases an ancient evil to assist him in battle, it falls to the Prince to rectify the disaster and restore the kingdom. Ubisoft’s decision to return to the storyline of The Sands of Time trilogy is unsurprising, but what is surprising is the developer’s lacklustre effort to tie the events of The Forgotten Sands into the overarching narrative; the game’s story is largely forgettable and predictable, failing to capitalise on its character’s charm and elegance, and entirely absent is the clever banter and epic scale which so defined the trilogy. Yuri Lowenthal returns to voice the title character with wit and warmth, but the game’s script leaves him with very little to do or interesting characters to play off.

While the tepid narrative fails to live up to the standard set by The Sands of Time trilogy, The Forgotten Sands deftly manages to refine the series’ core platforming mechanics. Moment-to-moment play is tight and enjoyable, and while the game never deviates from the template set down in 2003, it builds on it incrementally to fantastic effect. Complementing the Prince’s ability to leap gaps, dodge gaps and rewind time to correct his mistakes, are elemental powers bestowed on him by a powerful Djinn which allow him to freeze water, dash through the air towards enemies and repair long-destroyed environmental structures. These new abilities allow for some truly ingenious level design and platforming scenarios which require quick-thinking and deft co-ordination to overcome, and in this regard, among others, The Forgotten Sands marks a philosophical divergence from its 2008 predecessor; the game is challenging, but never frustrating, and its general flow is perfect, emphasising intricate traversal and platforming sequences over its other constituents.

Environments range from the sweeping to the intimate.

Environments range from the sweeping to the intimate.

The Forgotten Sands marks a return to the series’ fundamental values, requiring precision, fast reflexes and instinct from the player in ways untested by most modern platform games. In many ways, The Forgotten Sands represents the pinnacle of the old-school template, and at its best, tops any of the best moments from any game in The Sands of Time trilogy. Jaded gamers may suggest that Ubisoft’s reliance on its seven year-old template is conservative and lazy, but it is difficult to complain when its core mechanics are so solid and engrossing. Combat, as with every Prince of Persia title, remains the most obvious blemish, favouring numbers over complexity. Each and every battle against dozens of enemies plays out in much the same way, with the Prince hacking and slashing his way through the throng with a few simple button-presses until only he remains standing. Upgradeable elemental powers, including fire, ice, earth and wind-based attacks, inject some much-needed variety to the proceedings, but do little to elevate what is ultimately a bland, workmanlike, but ultimately adequate combat system which serves as a breather between the frenetic bouts of leaping and dodging. The obligatory puzzle sequences are few and far between, but again, the brain-teasers on display are solid and clever enough to break up the action and flex one’s grey matter instead of their dexterity.

Aesthetically, The Forgotten Sands is the quintessential mixed bag, sporting visuals which range from the gorgeous and opulent to the uninspired and rudimentary. For a game powered by the formidable Anvil engine, the Prince’s latest is largely uninspiring. Character models are solid, but basic, and the Prince himself seemingly having undergone some unfortunate cosmetic surgery. Having said that, Ubisoft’s artists have done an exceptional job of merging the design philosophies of The Sands of Time and its two sequels, resulting in a game world which runs the gamut from extravagant palaces to dank, damp dungeons. In short, those expecting a technological showpiece or generational leap will be in for a disappointment; The Forgotten Sands merely looks ‘pretty good’ for the majority of its duration and never transcends its first impression of being ‘The Sands of Time in high definition.’ The aforementioned Yuri Lowenthal makes another stellar contribution to the franchise, giving life to a Prince who is as charming as he is cocksure, and the soundtrack is as sweeping and exotic as one would anticipate, making The Forgotten Sands a pleasurable experience for the ears.

We feel like we've been here before...

We feel like we've been here before...

The final way in which The Forgotten Sands replicates its forbearer is its brusque length; most players will complete their first run of the game on its default difficulty in a matter of six or seven hours and find little reason to return other than the occasional play-through for the sake of enjoyment. Of course, the aforementioned seven hours are never less than engaging and devoid of any of the loathsome padding which developers introduce to eke out the length of their titles, but the brevity of the experience will be a pivotal factor for many when considering whether The Forgotten Sands is worth the price of admission.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands will be a known-quantity for many, which makes it simultaneously welcoming, underwhelming, and a difficult game to evaluate on its merits. The game’s platforming mechanics are as good as ever, but Ubisoft’s steadfast refusal to deviate from a path well-worn since 2003 is slightly disconcerting. Furthermore, the game’s lukewarm combat and uninteresting narrative prevent it from surpassing its classic prequel. The Forgotten Sands is ultimately analogous to a comfortable pair of slippers; comfortable and dependable, but not something you would show off to your friends. If the franchise’s reinvention in 2008 represented too stark a departure from its beloved ancestry, then this latest installment feels like something of an easy way out for Ubisoft Montreal, and one which threatens to dilute the momentum of the franchise going forward. Perhaps the next Prince of Persia title will manage to find the nebulous middle ground between familiarity and innovation which has so far eluded the franchise since 2003, but for now, gamers must content themselves with an undeniably great game which boasts a few unfortunate frays at its edges.
The Score
Far from being a mediocre tie in to the Prince’s cinematic escapade, the Forgotten Sands is a platformer of the utmost quality, albeit one which unfortunately favours familiarity over invention. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 years ago
Hire this later when all the other awesome games are finished....
3 years ago
skrob73 wrote
Hire this later when all the other awesome games are finished....
I'm in the same boat.

As much as I love Prince of Persia, it was released beside two far more promising games i.e. Red Dead and Alan Wake. I'll pick it up when it's half price in a few months.
3 years ago
picked it up and loving it. Nice to not be beating people up or shooting people down for a change
3 years ago
I might get this at some point,though I have to admit I'm slightly disappointed to see the direction revert to the Sands of Time style of game; I actually really enjoyed the 2008 game and hope a sequel is on the way.
3 years ago
Good review Michael. I'll be giving this a miss as I'm fairly 'over' the current PoP series. I would like to see them make a PoP with the old school combat mechanics, they were much more involved and deadly.
3 years ago
I also enjoyed the 2008 Prince of Persia, i loved every bit of it. Hopefully they will make a sequel soon...

As for this one...meh. I think i will give it a pass, at least for now.
3 years ago
this will be a rental for me when it hits the "weekly" shelves..
3 years ago
I'm enjoying it. Platforming and traps are fun, the combat is a little wonky but reducing enemies to sand feels very Sands of Time.

Plus, SoT Prince isn't Nathan Drake. That's cool, too.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/05/2010 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
  UBI Soft
  Action Adventure
Year Made:

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