Xbox | GameCube | PC | PlayStation 2[/c]
I knew I was in for something different when I cut the guy's head off.
The Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is a sequel to 2002's The Sands of Time, which was one of the best platformers of this console generation. Not only did it have a particularly cool hook -- by use of a talismanic dagger, the eponymous hero could rewind time if he happened to miss a crucial jump -- but it's one of those rare games that's as much fun to look at as it's to play. The Prince's acrobatics led to some amazing and intricate sequences, as players ran along walls, leapt over pits, spun on parallel bars, or launched themselves from column to column, all of which was amazingly animated and incredibly easy to learn.
Warrior Within is a refinement on that same system. You still play as the Prince of Persia, who's lost none of his nearly supernatural agility or style, but it's a darker, harder-edged style of game.
It's been ten years since the Prince managed to reseal the Sands of Time. The Prince has spent those ten years traveling the world, fighting on foreign battlefields, honing his swordsmanship, and constantly being pursued by a giant black demon called the Dahaka.
When the Prince survived the release of the Sands of Time, he actually defied his own fate. He was supposed to die with the others. The Dahaka's job is to catch him and kill him, thus fixing the problem.
The Prince's only hope of survival is to reach the Island of Time, where the Empress of Time rules. By using the portals on the island, the Prince can travel back to a point before the Sands were created and prevent them from ever having been made. That way, his previous adventure will never have taken place, and
the Dahaka won't be able to chase him.
The Empress isn't particularly fond of the plan, and sends her legions of warriors to stop the Prince. At the same time, the Dahaka is never far behind.
The citadel on the Island of Time provides the setting for most of Warrior Within. In the present day, it's an atmospheric, crumbling wreck, inhabited by a couple of stray sand creatures and a few malfunctioning deathtraps. Occasionally, the action shifts into the past, and when it does, the citadel comes back to life. A dusty chamber becomes a lavish throne room, while a dusty hallway with one small pit turns into a spinning forest of knives surrounding a truly difficult jump.
The citadel is, if anything, more visually spectacular than the palace from Sands of Time; Ubisoft hasn't lost its knack for cinematography or simple set design. If anything, the only weakness in the new locations is that you'll be seeing a lot more of it; rather than a linear path, you'll be constantly backtracking throughout parts of the castle, both in the present and in the past.
The Prince hasn't lost his knack for acrobatics, and that's how you'll spend a lot of Warrior Within. Each room of the citadel has a potential way through it, though it's rarely obvious or labeled. You've just got to figure out the best way to use the Prince's talents, which now include clinging to ropes to boost his wall-runs or sliding down a banner to safely reach the floor below him. About the only real change is that triangle-jumps are a lot easier now; they were difficult to time properly in the last game, but here, it's almost second nature.
The biggest change between games, however, is the combat. For one thing, there's more of it; it's a rare room where you won't run into at least three guards, from ordinary sword-swinging mooks to nimble female assassins or dagger-throwing shadow creatures. You'll almost always be outnumbered, and there's enough variety among the enemies that a single tactic won't always work.
Fortunately, the Prince has gotten a lot better at combat. His formerly small moveslist has been revised and expanded, turning his familiar style of combat (the When in Doubt, Do Three Backflips school of swordplay) into a constantly evolving, amazingly cinematic display of skill.
You can seize weapons from enemies and fight with a sword in each hand, or keep a dagger or chakram handy to throw at an oncoming opponent. You can still run up an enemy and flip off his shoulders, but now you can either slash him across the back or launch yourself across the room, to better dodge another enemy or rebound off the wall. With the Triangle button, you can grab a swordsman and toss him off a ledge or into his buddies, or let the Prince throttle him or force him to stab himself with his own sword. If you land a particularly well-timed or -placed hit, you may be rewarded with a slow-motion kill, where an enemy's head tumbles from his shoulders or your blade cleaves him neatly in two.
You have access to all the Prince's new moves from the start of the game, and you'll need them all. Warrior Within doesn't really hold your hand; it throws you straight into the thick of the fray from the start, complete with a boss fight against a surprisingly tricky opponent. By the time you're about a tenth of the way through, you'll keep running into fights where you're outnumbered six to one, by a crowd of varied opponents who're designed to keep you constantly scrambling for the advantage.
You'll have a couple of other tricks with which to even the odds. Despite not having the Dagger of Time, the Prince can still use several time-based powers, which're unlocked gradually as you travel through the portals within the citadel. You'll earn Rewind early on, which works in much the same way as it did in the previous game, but you can also get powers like Slow Time, which works like it says, or Breath of Fate, a blast attack which damages all the enemies that surround the Prince.
It's not easy and it's a definite change from the original, but Warrior Within is a worthy sequel to a great and often criminally overlooked game. If you haven't played the first one, you've done yourself a disservice; if you don't play this one, you're doing yourself another.
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