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The Prince returns, although he's a little more angst-ridden then the last time we saw him...
Last yearâ??s release of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was certainly surprising; itâ??s not often that a much revered franchise from days gone by gets the make-over with such aplomb. Not only did Sands of Time manage to capture the very essence of the series, but also managed to move the action/adventure genre into new dimensions with fluid and smooth controls, thought provoking puzzles and more then itâ??s fair share of slicing action.
So it comes as little surprise to find a sequel released soon after. Set a few years after the events of The Sands of Time, this time around the Prince has to make amends for unleashing the sands; an action that has unleashed a supernatural creature bent on his destruction. Forced to run, the Prince discovers that this mythical creature is in fact the immortal incarnation of Fate (known as the Dahaka), and that his previous quest to save the Sultanâ??s palace from destruction, has caused a rift in the timeline and the Dahaka will not stop until everything is back in place â?“ starting with the Princeâ??s death.
So the Prince sets off on a new quest, travelling back in time to try and stop the creation of the Sands of time at its birthplace, and hence the Princeâ??s last adventure will not occur and the Dahaka will hopefully vanish. His journey leads him onto an accursed island, and ultimately a fateful meeting with the Empress of Time.
The first thing that strikes you when playing through Warrior Within is its mature and gothic style; in comparison to its â??lighterâ? predecessor, the Prince is closer to Sinbad without his harem this time around. In introducing a new â??free-formâ? combat technique, the sequel places a lot more emphasis on action and combat, which pushes what was already great onto new dimensions; however we have to say that the darker storyline just isnâ??t as engrossing or compelling compared to the fable like settings of its predecessor.
A lot of the enjoyment gained from playing Warrior Within, much like its predecessor, comes from the joys of its control set-up. Maintaining the series trademark qualities, the Prince is an agile chap who can easily run across walls and slide down drapers; leap onto the back of an opponent during combat and just generally make all other videogame characters look about as nimble as a arthritic 80 year-old. Whereas combat was always impressive and responsive in The Sands of Time, there were some who criticised its repetitiveness, and so UbiSoft Montreal have been busy working on a new system, dubbed â??free formâ? combat.
The Prince can now wield two weapons at the same time, which are each split into five different classes â?“ Swords, Axes, Maces, Daggers and Fortune Weapons. Dependant on your chosen combination the Prince will have a variety of different attacks, such as wielding an Axe to knock an opponents to the ground and then finish them off with the sword. In addition the Prince can also throw weapons and use the environment to his advantage, leaping from walls and performing deadly spins around pillars.
As youâ??d expect its visually impressive and somewhat satisfying, although we do have some concerns that thereâ??s probably a little too much depth now. Itâ??s likely that most gamers will end up forgetting the sheer number of different techniques, despite the game doing its best to teach these during the opening sequences; the result is a game that invariably lends itself towards button-bashing, mainly because itâ??s virtually impossible to memorise all of the different techniques and also because just bashing buttons will always get a result due to the sheer number of techniques available.
Thereâ??s certainly a lot more depth to the combat system, however we have to question whether itâ??s taken a step back in its refinement. Itâ??s also somewhat questionable that you can often rely on rather simplistic combos to get the job done is most cases; more then often flipping over somebodyâ??s back and dealing a quick simple combo is often the most effective attack.
Despite not starting with any of his Powers over Time (and thus frustratingly highlighting why it was invented in the first place), itâ??s not long before the Prince soon gains control over time and can rewind, slow-down and fast-forward to his heartâ??s content. This is still a brilliant concept that negates the frustration issues evident in virtually every 3D action/adventure/platform title. However this time around he also has access to one or two other abilities that are tied into the sands; special moves such as the Breath of Fate which unleashes a devastating attack at the cost of a significant drain on your sand meter.
As weâ??ve said before and somewhat replicating the shift to action, Warrior Within is distinctly aimed towards a more mature market and hence features decapitations, bodies being split into two and blood by the bucket full. Although we donâ??t have a problem with this (weâ??re not writing for certain national newspapers after all), vast changes have been undertaken to both the style of the game and the Prince himself. Whereas he was a somewhat deprecating yet loveable hero within Sands of Time, shifting through time is obviously having a detrimental affect to the Princeâ??s personality, as heâ??s now much more arrogant and less-likeable then before; spluttering phrases such as â??Run, whilst escape is still an optionâ? and â??I can smell your fear from here.â?
OK so I can understand that the Prince may be somewhat in a bad mood knowing that eventually he is meant to die, but sadly a lot of it just doesnâ??t come off and ends up feeling somewhat cheesy, especially when you throw in the atrocious ROCK tunes that awkwardly clash in whenever the action mounts.
Although the combat is slightly hit-and-miss and has one or two issues, nothing but praise can be lavished upon the rest of the game, particularly in regards to the various puzzles and how these are incorporated within the game. Taking time-travelling as a fundamental aspect, youâ??ll play through the game often exploring the same location in both the past and the present. Although itâ??s not quite near to the delights of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time and thereâ??s a tad too much back-tracking for our likes, it does throw up some taxing conundrums as areas on the island change accordingly over time.
Much like its predecessor the game is essentially broken up into chambers, with each one featuring a specific puzzle and its solution the means to progress on to the next one; much like The Legend of Zelda series, this style of progression works well, youâ??ll often have to sit and ponder, but at the same time gain a great deal of satisfaction when youâ??ve worked it out.
Taking the trademark traps from the Prince of Persia series, Warrior Within intensifies these even further, as often youâ??ll be tasked with escaping from the Dahaka whilst navigating through an intense chase sequence rammed full of hazards and traps to avoid. These sequences are frenzied and provide a nice degree of variation compared to the rest of the game, however one or two â??cinematicâ? camera angles could cause one or two frustrations as youâ??re left repeating it time and time again.
Visually the game is somewhat similar to The Sands of Time in so far that itâ??s an impressive game with nicely detailed character models which animate beautifully, although itâ??s darker environments are not as immediately appealing as the sun-drenched saturated landscapes from The Sands of Time. Asides from the dreadful rock tracks that have vulgar habit of breaking up the ambient of the game, the sound in general suffers from feeling somewhat subdued whilst the overstated voice acting comes across as slightly hammy â?“ please give us the dulcet Arabian delights of The Sands of Time.
Bizarrely it’s not any aspect of the game that lets the experience down but that over style – we simply don’t like the mature nature of the game compared to the delights of its predecessor. The end result comes across as desperately trying to be edgy and blatantly falls short of the mark, resulting in a somewhat hammy experience with characters that you fail to bond with; please Ubisoft let’s have a return to the fable like presentation and amiable Prince for the next title in the series.
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