Prince Of Persia: The Warrior Within
Developer: UbiSoft Montreal
Genre: Action Adventure
System: X-Box (Also on GC, PC and PS2)
The Prince of Persia has had a very storied career in the videogame industry. Many of his early exploits were looked at as being some of the best action adventure games in their time. The Prince went away for a while, maybe to make his fortune, maybe to cavort with his harem. Whatever the case may be, he was back in 2003 with a stunning comeback effort entitled “ËœPrince of Persia: The Sands of Time’. Gamers who picked up the game found themselves praising the storyline, the innovative gameplay and the mind boggling traps that were in the game. These gamers also found themselves amazed that such a quality game could be lost among the rest of the games released around the same time, because it sold roughly two copies. UbiSoft too must have been stunned, because it wasn’t long before they announced that the Prince would be back in an all new title that focused more on combat. They felt that this was why the first game didn’t sell. Were they right?
We rejoin the Prince shortly after the end of the last game. We discover that the Prince wasn’t supposed to survive his encounter with the Sands of Time, and that no man may change his fate. To ensure this happens, the timeline has sent an unstoppable force, the Dahakkah, to return the Prince to the proper period and wipe out any trace of his further existence in the present. Because of this the Prince cannot sleep, cannot stay long in any one place. His appearance has changed, as has his once flippant attitude towards life. Gone is the arrogant yet somewhat lovable Prince, replaced by the Warrior he has been forced to become.
The Prince decides that he must travel to the source of the Sands of Time and stop them from being created in the first place. That way the Dahakkah would have no reason to want him gone. So off the Prince sets on a journey to the shores of The Island of Time, to stop the Empress of Time from creating the Sands of Time. Thus the adventure resumes.
The story was solid, not spectacular, but nothing I could really complain about. There are some twists that I wasn’t really surprised about, but nothing is so blatantly obvious that you’ll say oh ya, that’s the bad guy right there (other than, of course, the Dahakkah).
Sometimes a game only looks like it has gotten uglier than its predecessor. Take Knights of the Old Republic 2, for example. Same game engine as the first one, yet the game doesn’t look quite as good for some reason. Much of this has to do with our perceptions of things. It looked great at the time, but now it’s not quite so hot. When I first powered up Warrior Within, I felt that maybe this was the case. Maybe I just remembered Sands of Time as looking much better. So I popped it in and gave it a look. I found to my dismay that I had been correct, Sands of Time was a much better looking game. Much of the polish that was found in the first game simply doesn’t exist this time around. Perhaps it was a style decision, if so it was the wrong one.
Environments that once had a dream like quality and took me to another world now feel as though they have been reeled in and brought back to reality, at least somewhat. Bright and colorful has been replaced by dark and moody. Character models have lost their polish as well. The hair on these character models looked like it belonged in a 32 bit game, not current hardware. The Prince has gone grunge about 10 years too late, and it does not suit him.
So the game doesn’t look as good as its predecessor. As I stated above, it could have been a style choice. This isn’t a horrible looking game, despite all that. Much of the environments are just as beautiful as in the previous game. The game takes place in two separate time periods, so you will see areas as they were, and then later when the place has been over run by weeds and such. The levels tend to look good in the past and not so good in the present. Just picture some ancient civilization, say Rome or Athens, and then imagine the city had been left to decay instead of rebuilt around the ruins. That’s the before and after images you get while playing the Warrior Within.
Who the hell decided that the music from Sands of Time needed correcting? Who sat at their desk and said “ËœYou know what this game needs? A really repetitive metal beat! Ya! Ancient Persia, repetitive heavy metal beat! It will be awesome!’ No, it isn’t. In fact it’s down right horrible. And I LIKE heavy metal! But even I know when it’s a bad idea. I understand the theory. The producers are trying to make the game more intense, more dramatic. Instead what they wound up doing was making a horrible decision. What’s even sadder is they could have made this work. Middle Eastern music and Heavy Metal have been brought together successfully before. There’s a band called “ËœThe Tea Party’ which is fairly popular in Canada that have basically made a career out of doing this, so it’s not like UbiSoft Montreal couldn’t have heard of them.
Perhaps it is due to the game featuring more outdoor locations this time around, but the sound effects have changed a little also. In the first game you could hear the echoes of the Prince’s conversations with himself in certain rooms, and if the room was cavernous you would hear an echo from doing just about anything, like jumping from ledge to ledge. This time around the sound effects are still solid but the echoes have gone. Maybe they felt it was driving people batty. Anyway, this game sounds beautiful when the volume is up and there is nobody talking (in game). Find yourself a trap and just listen to the machinery moving. You’ll think you’ve discovered an ancient factory humming away.
For whatever reason the voice actor who once played the Prince has been replaced by another, and for the life of me I can’t say why. Maybe it was a money matter, maybe the old dude just didn’t want the job anymore, I don’t know. I do know the new fellow has none of the charm of our old Prince.
Aside from the main character losing the appeal he once had, the voice work suffers from other annoying flaws. The first boss you face has the most annoying habit of moaning and yelling while fighting you. It’s like a women’s tennis match. The Prince himself yells and groans quite a bit this game also, all the while spewing pithy quips like “ËœCan you hear it, my blade calls for you!’ which sounds great if you hear it once or twice. After the tenth time when you realize it’s going to become one of those lines that repeat throughout the game, similar to the way Madden has its “ËœWhen you’re talking about good defense, that’s what you mean’, you will have to fight the urge to just mute the entire game. I know I reached for the remote more than a few times before stopping. This is what I do for you people.
Control & Gameplay:
The popular time manipulation techniques were all still intact, but much was made of the additional combat options to be found in Warrior Within. Wait until you see what you can do, I kept reading in previews. Yet when I finally got my hands on the game, the controls felt very much the same. Some things were different, like the ability to wield and throw a second weapon, but unless you really love to dig deep and learn combos, the combat is much the same as before. Often I found that the second weapon really didn’t give me any particular advantage, except in one case where swords that certain characters drop give health when used. There are some pretty obvious moments where you are supposed to use a pillar like a strippers pole, swinging around dealing death, but this was just a little more awkward than I would have liked. Much of the time you will not be strong enough to kill enemies in one blow, so you might be tempted to just jump over the enemy and chuck them into a fatal trap/off a cliff. This works very well on most enemies, and the only real downside is you don’t get any sands of time from those you have cast off the mountain, so to speak.
I did find that the more I fought, if I got into a really long and protracted fight with numerous enemies, the damage I would do increased the longer I went. Many enemies that would normally take four hits to kill would die in one shot if I struck them in a combo. And while this is a really nifty idea, there were never enough enemies around willing to die by my blade to make this really useful. At most I think I found five, maybe six enemies facing me at one time. Only once did I run into a fountain of enemies willing to respawn and die by my hand, and if the main selling point is supposed to be the new combat system then at least do a better job of making it worthwhile to stand and fight.
Movement remains just as fluid as before, with almost everything feeling intuitive and instant. My one complaint in regard to the movement was when swinging from ropes it was easy to forget how to let go of the rope at the proper time in order to continue a wall run, causing me to press a button that would no longer mean let go of rope and would now mean jump off wall now. If there is one thing that needs correcting when it comes to moving the Prince around, that’s it. Good, but pedestrian.
The game is not as long as I might have liked it, and many of the locations are used more than once (even if they are ruins). The death traps that were so ingenious in the first game have returned in a big way. While they start off fairly easy, you soon work your way up to some traps that will force you to stop and ask yourself just what these guys are doing making videogames when they could be designing and building death traps for evil tyrants. And while the death traps have improved the same can’t really be said for the puzzles. I had more than my share of moments in Sands of Time that forced me to stop and think things through, and I can only really think of one time where that happened in Warrior Within. They weren’t super easy, but the difficulty was usually in completing the tasks necessary to solve the puzzle rather than in figuring things out.
The boss fights are a little harder than perhaps they need to be, at first. To begin with you fight a boss within the first five minutes of game while you are still trying to figure out what controls have changed and what remains the same. This one fight will take you a while if you are not patient. As in most games each boss has a pattern, and a weakness that can be exploited. Not all are easy to find, and I struggled quite a bit at times trying to beat some of the bosses. The final boss was literally driving me nuts until I discovered the way to beat them, and then I could have finished the fight without taking damage had I bothered to. Once you get your time powers the boss battles will force you to use yours in a strategic manner, use them right and win, use them wrong and help the Dahakkah.
There are two endings to the game, thus giving you at least one extra play through if you choose to do it. The secret lies in obtaining all the life extensions that can be found throughout the game. There’s more to it than that but I’ll leave it to you to figure it out. I can’t go giving away everything now can I? There are also treasure chests scattered all over the game that contain artwork which can be accessed in the main menu, and the game will be getting new content via X-Box Live in some form or another, so there is that to look forward to.
Honestly, I don’t see myself playing through this one again, even for the second ending. The story is cool, the twists and turns are nifty, but I’ve seen it already, and the combat isn’t the kind to keep me coming back, like say a Devil May Cry might. Where the last game was a rental that wound up being purchased, this one just fails to make it past a rental.
Replay Ability: 4/10
Did you love the first game so much it scared you? Could you see yourself swinging from poles and running across walls? If so, and you REALLY wanna experience that again, rent this and have someone else finish the first level, then hit mute and go to it. Pretend your speakers blew out. The game has subtitles for the cut scenes so you don’t even need to listen at all.
If on the other hand you were one of the millions who missed out on Sands of Time and are thinking of giving this one a go, don’t. Go give Sands of Time a go instead. It’s well worth your time and is probably a total bargain now anyway.
Much of the originality lies in the new time powers you are granted as you progress through the game. From the “ËœRavages of Time’ which is the Prince just attacking everything like he was the Tasmanian Devil, to “ËœEye of The Storm’ which slows everything down around you for a time, these powers are what give you the edge in combat. Also new in the game are the ability to grab banners with your sword and slice your way down, enabling larger rooms to be traversed. While new to the series, I can’t really say that I’ve never seen powers like these before.
The death traps and puzzles were good enough to make me finish this game. I enjoyed the challenge that many of them presented. However had I not been reviewing the game I’m not sure I would have bothered finishing this one. It isn’t a steaming pile, but it’s not terribly addicting either.
About the only thing I’ve yet to discuss is the Dahakkah. Much like the Tyrant in the Resident Evil games, the Dahakkah is always there, in your mind. The threat is established very well in your first encounter with him, slip up once and that’s it, you’re dead. I realized after a while that he couldn’t find you in the past, but anytime I was in the present I was expecting him every time I turned a corner. This is the one thing added to the gameplay that I found worthy of addition.
But another thing I feel I should mention is the number of people complaining about bugs that have killed the game for them. IGN has actually posted a list of bugs that have been confirmed and that will kill your game if you aren’t careful. So keep a second or even third save that you update every now and then. Also note that I myself didn’t run into any bugs that were game killers, but on more than one occasion the game crashed on me when I attempted to reload.
Replay Ability: 4/10
Short Attention Span Summary
The Prince has changed his name to the “Game Formerly Known as Awesome”. While much of the gameplay that was found in Sands of Time returns in Warrior Within, what is added adds nothing and what is taken away hobbles the game. Not bad by any sense of the word, but simply average especially when taking into account the last game. Rent if you must, but be warned.