While I didn't hate the last entry of the Prince of Persia franchise it was certainly underwhelming. The elements were all there and admittedly the game was fun to play, but something felt off and the gaming community as a whole pushed it off to the side in hopes that Ubisoft would bring back what made the Sands of Time games great. Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands takes the prince back to his not-so-forgotten roots and adds some fresh new gameplay to bring the parkouring persian back to his feet. The Forgotten Sands, taking place in the seven year gap between Sands of Time and Warrior Within, is considered an Interquel (a sequel between sequels).
The story starts off with the prince riding through the desert seeking his brother Malik and his palace. Upon arrival you quickly realize the city is fiercely under siege by an army who has plans to obtain the treasures hidden within the city. After finding your brother but being unable to reach him he yells for you to meet him in the treasure chamber under the palace. Malik stands in front of a giant vault, inside lies Solomon's long lost army. Deciding that it's the only way to defend the oncoming horde, Malik opens the vault, unknowingly unleashing a horrible curse upon himself and his palace. Our story starts here.
Taking a more realistic gritty approach to graphics that again harken back to its last-gen brethren was an instant step forward in my book and obviously the current-gen hardware gives the game a visual boost. The world of The Forgotten Sands doesn't ever venture outside of the palace but the difference in scenery, feel of environments, and the pallet of colors varies greatly. Most of these areas shine with brilliance but, a few are just meshes of brown and grey and get a little washed out over all though most of the game is a great piece of graphical work. Some of the set pieces used are gorgeous amalgamations of ancient technology and the scale really has to be played to be appreciated.
One gripe I did have was the lack of variety in enemy models. The game admittedly throws tons of enemies at you at once and the number of onscreen enemies can certainly be impressive at times but, most of the game is spent mowing through waves of the same characters. At times I felt as if I was playing a persian version of Dynasty Warriors.
Luckily the combat is really fun. Ubisoft did a great job of creating a combat system that allows you to easily mix melee, magic, and evasion. Your melee attacks consist of one five string combo, it may not sound like a lot but keep in mind that you can charge any one of those five strikes to perform a power strike, while still maintaining your combo. The all to familiar ariel slash makes a return here as well along with a newer ability to leap from enemy to enemy. Add to that the ability to knock opponents down or knock back their shields and you have an already relatively deep combat mechanic.
Beyond your standard combat is a new frontier for Prince of Persia which adds a small RPG segment to the game that introduces elemental magic and brings back your ability to rewind time. For every enemy you defeat you get experience to level up, each level requires more experience and grants you one stat point to allocate to magic, health, and a few other areas. Defeating enemies isn't the only way to gain experience, along your travels you'll find hidden sarcophaguses which are sometimes a pain in the you-know-what to get to but are always worth a ton of experience.
Also new to the series are the ability to freeze time and the ability to recall destroyed parts of the palace. These two new additions make some of the later platforming sequences incredibly difficult and rewarding, at some points the game has a very rhythmic feel to it. You'll be running walls, freezing time and recalling the broken down palace all within seconds of each other and its truly exhilarating. The game doesn't have a ton of play time on the normal difficulty, a definite down side but I can see myself playing through this a few times on the harder difficulties.
Both the combat and the movement are animated beautifully here. The wall running, pole swinging and column jumping are all fluid and the controls are incredibly responsive. Precise button presses and timing jumps correctly plays a large roll in the challenge of this game, so the controls certainly had to be tight.
Ubisoft did a great job of bringing back the look and feel of the Sands of Time series while adding a bit more depth to the princes abilities and a bigger challenge when it comes to the platforming. I'm happy to say this game is certainly worth your time, after the last dismal encounter with the prince the team at Ubisoft has reinvigorated a fantastic series and given us a reason to look forward to future entries.