Growing up on the PS2 was an infuriating experience. I was constantly told of these fantastic games that were revolutionising the industry and breaking world records in sales figures but they were all out of my reach because of the age rating. My parents were pretty lax when it came to age ratings on games and when they deemed me old enough to play something they’d let me play it, but even they weren’t lax enough to let me get GTA San Andreas when I was 6. So, I was constantly finding alternative games to fill the cravings that were more age appropriate, so when the consistent hype of GTA was circling the playground I filled the gap with The Simpsons Hit And Run and in 2006 when the original God Of War was getting a hell of a lot of praise I filled the gap with Prince Of Persia. Prince Of Persia (2003) was at its core very similar to God Of War, its heavy combo based combat, versatile movement system and large-scale boss battles are staples throughout both game series. It was a worthy substitute and satisfied my urge to play God Of War until I became suitably old enough to finally play it. So, with the recent announcement of the God Of War (2018) Collectors Edition it reminded me of the times I couldn’t play God Of War and as such, it took me on a trip down memory lane to ask the question Prince of Persia Where Are They Now?
Prince Of Persia Sands Of Time was originally released on pretty much every main console at the time, Xbox, PS2, GameCube and even Gameboy Advance. It’s a straight reboot of a series of 2D PC platformer games that share the same name (but very little other qualities) and follows a nameless Prince who has to fight an evil army of monsters who are being manipulated by the aforementioned sands of time. The game plays like I said it did earlier, with a heavy focus on combo based combat and versatile movement. You spend the majority of levels free running around ancient buildings, running across walls, jumping from crumbling ledges, basically doing what would now be considered to be platforming norms. The crux of the gameplay is that you are in possession of a weapon known as the Dagger of Time, a large blade that gives the Prince the ability to rewind time if he happens to mistime a jump in a tricky platforming segment (an oddly specific tool to have stumbled across in this world). This can also be used in combat, slowing down time to get bigger combos or even just freeze enemies altogether. The plot itself goes to insane places as what starts off as a contained problem suddenly begins to threaten the whole world and as such the game’s stakes rise as it continues. Prince of Persia Sands Of Time is highly regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, its review scores are all close to perfect 10’s and its sales figures are astonishingly high (around 2.2 million copies sold worldwide), but it’s easy to see why. For 2003 this game is remarkable, the sheer amount of mechanics and variation in gameplay means that you never get bored no matter how long your play session is. There are unique puzzles, a brilliant recovery system that makes tricky platforming sections so much more bearable and a combat system that is incredibly satisfying to master. Prince of Persia Sands Of Time built the foundations for platformers to come and as is the norm when a game do this well, it got a sequel almost straight away.
The second game in the Prince of Persia reboot is The Warrior Within, a straight sequel to Sands of Time which takes place a whole 7 years after the first and with a time jump like that you can expect a severe repertoire update for our nameless Prince. Thankfully that’s exactly what we got, with a new plot that surrounds him being hunted down by someone who believes the person who released the Sands of Time should be dead. So, to counter that the Prince goes on an adventure through time to attempt to stop the Sands of Time from ever being created. It’s expected that after the success of a game like Sands of Time you don’t make any drastic changes to the gameplay in its sequel, just to keep the winning formula. The Warrior Within definitely takes that logic into account as the gameplay only adds to the foundations the original set. The free-running mechanics, time manipulation mechanics and combo-based combat all returns with improved features in every department. The combo system adds in new moves as well as a system called finishers (gruesome ways to dispatch the creatures you face at the end of a fight), the time system adds in a move called wave which pushes away everyone around you and the free running mechanic is much more open due to the now less linear environments you’re exploring. That latter is a key point in the Prince of Persia franchise as well, the upgrade to a more open area was only improved upon with each further release and really led the pathway to the games that followed in its footsteps. The Warrior Within made a conscious choice to expand upon the foundations the excellent Sands Of Time laid and it served well because of that. Its review scores remained consistently around the 9/10 mark and it sold around 1.6 million copies worldwide. It’s hard to deny that a game series that within two entries has sold nearly 4 million copies isn’t influencing the market and it’s not long after the third entry in the trilogy that we really saw the scale of influence Prince of Persia was having on the industry.
As a separate entity Prince of Persia The Two Thrones was not a revolutionary game, it again just built off the foundations of the previous two, this time adding in dual wielding weapons and a significantly improved free running system. But instead of drastically changing things, it cements in the fantastic gameplay that the previous games brought in and really just shows how well made this trilogy of games really is. The story sees you attempt to fill in the story blanks from the previous games, narrated by Kaileena, the girl you’re attempting to save in Warrior Within. This time though the crux of the gameplay is not just the time mechanics but the addition of the Princes alter ego known simply as the Dark Prince. Every so often the Dark Prince will take control of you and instead of the normal weapons, you’re wielding you’ll be given a long-spiked whip that can be used to eradicate your foes. There’s little to actually say about the game because it just follows in the same footsteps of its predecessors. But that doesn’t make it any less of an important game in the franchise. With the year now being 2005, you can start to really see the number of games that were truly influenced by the insane success of Prince of Persia. In fact, it’s the sheer amount of games that took inspiration from this series that I believe caused its downfall.
As I mentioned Earlier God Of War and Prince Of Persia are at their core very similar games, you can tell that the original God Of War took heavy inspiration from the Sands of Time in its mechanics and gameplay. Ubisoft themselves took inspiration from the franchise and used the free running and stealth mechanics to build up the now mega-franchise that is Assassins Creed and when Tomb Raider made its triumphant return you could see what mechanics had been lifted from Prince of Persia. That’s only a few examples as well, so many action platformers took the foundations of Sands of Time and implemented them into their own games, in turn, oversaturating the market. In fact, the niche of Prince of Persia was overdone that much that by the time they decided to reboot the franchise once more in 2008 they had to change what the franchise was at its core to stand out from the market.
Prince of Persia (2008) completely changed up the franchise, adding in a new story, removing the sands of time, adding a new revamped cell-shaded graphical overhaul and an entirely new mechanic in the form of Ellika. Your aim is to rid the world your stuck in of corruption so to escape and return to the normal world, all with the assistance of your new companion Ellika. Without the sands of time being in this game, Prince of Persia needed a new crux, this time it’s in the form of Ellika. While you never directly control her, you can use her to assist you in making jumps that may have previously been unreachable, to activate spectral pads or even just to further your long-winded combos. She works as a much more useful version of Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite and is vital to master if you want to get anywhere in this game. In a further attempt to revamp the franchise the world/ story is highly manipulative. You can tackle anything you want in any order you want, choosing the powers you face and the enemies you come across in each of the 4 worlds. It’s a complete departure from the linear structure of the Sands of Time trilogy and is much more akin to the games the Sands Of Time trilogy were influencing. Don’t get me wrong this third reboot wasn’t a bad game, it received solid reviews and equally sold pretty well. But it was a complete departure from what Prince of Persia had built itself up to be and as such the fans didn’t accept it that well. Because of that, a direct sequel was never made, instead, when the Prince of Persia movie came out in 2010 an accompanying game came with it that took it back to the original Sands of Time trilogy era. After that there was was a couple of remakes and HD remasters following it but nothing major or even noteworthy. The Forgotten Sands itself received solid reviews and sales figures but it never got the same hype that the original trilogy got.
The Sands Of Time trilogy will remain one of gaming’s best trilogy’s, its unique and influential mechanics influenced games for years to come and it remains a solid foundation for games even now. But as is the case with most incredibly popular things they are milked to the point of no return. There are rumours that a new Prince of Persia game will start production soon and that has potential to revamp the franchise once more but after 3 reboots and terrible film spin-off I can’t see Prince of Persia making its way to our consoles anytime soon
Would you like to see a new Prince of Persia game? Let us know in the comments below!