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Sometimes, change isn't always a good thing. When a game like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time sells below the grand expectations of such a hyped title, changes are usually abound in the sequel, if one is planned. And here it is: The much maligned (by most fans of Sands of Time, at least) Prince of Persia: Warrior Within has released, and though it is clearly a continuation of the gameplay presented by its predecessor, it is a very different beast in terms of presentation.
The Prince is now darker. Meaner. Angrier. The settings he traverses are grimmer, scarier. The entire color scheme of the game has changed from a more Prince of Persia-esque setting to a gritty world with a dark color palette. To seal the deal, the nu-metal band Godsmack has lent their hands to the presentation of the game.
And the fans are angry.
But what does that say about the game itself? The aforementioned changes might still encircle what is, at its core, a great Prince of Persia experience, albeit one that has some strong cosmetic changes. But the gameplay has been tweaked with accordingly. The new game has a strong focus on being a Warrior, as the namesake suggests, and while the Grand Theft Auto crowd may fall in love with this concept if they were lukewarm on the first title, the new system will surely anger fans of the series - one with strong roots in puzzle solving, not baddie bashing. But this is the new Prince of Persia, and we must live with it. So should fans stay away, or not?
The game begins a few years after the events of Sands of Time. Now, the Prince is being pursued by the Guardian of the Timeline, Dahaka, who will not relent until the Prince is dead. Weary of the constant threat to his life, the Prince makes an attempt to change things forever, hoping to go back in time and prevent the Sands of Time from ever being unearthed. The Prince is pissed, and he's going to do everything within his power to change how things are going in his marked-for-death life.
The Prince is immediately presented in a different light than in Sands of time. He has a new voice actor, one with a much more menacing voice to match his equally irritated persona. Not a single negative word, feeling, or thought is not expressed, and many swear words are simply dripping from this release - while this did not offend me, it may irritated younger players who enjoyed the first game and now cannot play this one in front of Mom and Pop. The new Prince could have been done with a bit more grace, but here, every moment of gameplay that stops for him to speak makes me want to shudder. When I play Prince of Persia, I don't want to her how much of a "bitch" he thinks some enemy is. I want to solve some puzzles and have some brainy fun. Most of us probably won't be offended by the new Prince - we'll just roll our eyes at the silliness of it all.
Besides being steeped in moronic personality, the new gameplay style is a mixed bag. While Sands of time had more than enough of its own share of crazy acrobatics and fun combat, Warrior Within brings almost too much focus on those areas. Oddly enough, Warrior Within is a much slower paced game than the first, despite the focus on such fast-paced design ideas. More backtracking is abound than ever before, so the game feels more tedious to play through than Sands of time ever did.
Since the Prince of Persia series has always been steeped in platforming, one might hope it would fare well in this new game. And for the most part, it does, although there is far less of it in this game than in any other. And that is the problem. Most players were completely floored by how flawlessly the platforming segments played in Sands of Time, and often listed it as their favorite portions of the game. With such a de-emphasis on this type of action, Warrior Within solidifies its place as the less exciting game of the two, which is baffling considering that this is more of an action game than any Prince of Persia release before.
The most developed portion of Warrior Within is, of course, the combat system. The new free-form fighting engine controls nicely, and is very flexible, as it allows players to create their own combos within their own comfort levels. Nobody needs to learn this system inside and out, but if they do, it definitely helps. Still, as with many adventure games that attempt a more complex system of, well, just about anything, many of the new options aren't really needed. The best way to rip through a gaggle of foes is still using the Prince's standby blade. The battles would have been more amusing had the player been forced in some way to use everything at their disposal, but alas, this is not that type of game.
And then there is the graphics. The new art style, as previously mentioned, is darker than ever before. Greens, blacks, dark browns - the color palette is almost the opposite of what was found in Sands of Time. And it, like the Prince himself, feels ridiculous to look at most of the time. The overhaul is simply too drastic to not put a sardonic smile on my face; it feels too mechanical. The engine, however, is as strong as ever. Only a few moments of slowdown rear their ugly heads within this game, and no matter which platform you play it on, the textures and aliasing are always dealt with deftly.
Sound, on the other hand, has almost no redeeming factors. The Prince's new voice actor makes him sound like a whiny, if angry, little fool, not the type of character any of us thought the Prince ever was. But for many adolescents and nu-metal loving older folk, he is the perfect main character. I'm just not sure many gamers are going to take the bait.
The worst part of all is the music. Chunky, clunky metal riffs make up the sounds heard in the game, always feeling out of place and completely ludicrous. And then there is Godsmack. That's right. Godsmack. This isn't a U.S. Navy commercial, Ubisoft, this is Prince of Persia.
Warrior Within is a disappointing release to fans, but sadly, the hype surrounding its overhaul may throw it ahead of the first title in sales. While for a Prince of Persia fan it seems like sin, the new Prince and his new settings really do appeal to a large demographic, one that probably didn't pick up Sands of Time. And old fans will end up buying the title too, if only to get their hands on the little bits of incredible platforming and puzzling action inside. The focus on combat makes the game boring, and the lack of good puzzles and platforming of the same caliber as in Sands of Time make Prince of Persia: Warrior Within a slow ride that many fans should honestly stay away from.
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