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Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PlayStation 3) artwork

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PlayStation 3) review

"Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is such a sad game. It isn't really that bad, and it aims high, but it just isn't that good. After a failed reboot, the developers sought to resurrect the franchise by bringing it back to its roots. And though it stays true to form and feels just like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, it just isn't a whole lot of fun to play. Despite high production values, it doesn't seem like a whole lot of thought went into the game's design, leaving ..."

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is such a sad game. It isn't really that bad, and it aims high, but it just isn't that good. After a failed reboot, the developers sought to resurrect the franchise by bringing it back to its roots. And though it stays true to form and feels just like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, it just isn't a whole lot of fun to play. Despite high production values, it doesn't seem like a whole lot of thought went into the game's design, leaving behind a mindless and monotonous adventure that players, even franchise fans, can feel comfortable ignoring.

Once again, we assume the role of a time-controlling Persian prince. In this adventure, our hero sets out to visit his brother Malik, only to find his brother's kingdom is being sacked. Malik, desperate to save his people from annihilation, unleashes a sand army that had been locked away for millennia. Once released, it becomes clear quite quickly that neither Malik nor his gymnastically adept brother is capable of controlling the army when the sand people start killing the few remaining people left alive. From then on, it's up to the Prince to find a way to stop this ancient evil once again.

Though released at around the same time as the mediocre Prince of Persia film, the two thankfully aren't tied together. Even still, though marginally better, the lack of a direct tie-in doesn't help the game all that much. Classic Prince of Persia gameplay returns to the entry, offering occasionally clever, mostly basic, platforming to keep the player entertained in-between fights against dozens of sand soldiers and an occasional boss here and there. And it almost goes without saying, but players will still have to employ Prince of Persia's classic time mechanics - the ability to pause and rewind the action on screen.

Part of what I think made the previous Prince of Persia games so enjoyable was that, while the platforming was often very challenging, it was because it required the player to actually think about how to approach each segment. Sadly, the "ah hah!" euphoria rarely hits in Forgotten Sands. The level design is incredibly straight-forward and basic, with the exception of a handful of challenging, interesting segments dotted over the 7 hour experience. One such level, "The Final Climb," requires absolute precision and technique, forcing players to freeze time, flip and leap across massive chasms under tight time restraints. I failed - quite a bit - but it felt great when I finally reached the top.

Unfortunately, few levels match this. Most of the time, you'll follow a fairly obvious path, even on the higher difficultly levels where some more obstacles are put in your way. There was also a more pressing matter, at least for me - there's a general purposelessness to the game world as a whole. There's very little continuity in terms of the world's design. You'll have little idea of why you're going to the next place other than you haven't been there yet. And several set pieces just don't even make any sense.

The stage "The Works" is a prime example of this. It offers some generally interesting platforming, requiring players to navigate three challenging levels as they work their way to the top of the structure. The name implies that it is some sort of forge, and the sheer size of the structure, combined with massive gears the player has to navigate over and through, imply that it produces something very large indeed. But we don't see what it creates or how it creates anything - it is just a jumble of machinery and flooring and circular saws following tracks in the wall and nothing more. This level in another game would be fine if the creators weren't trying to build a cohesive world that we're to imagine is a Persian kingdom. As it is, this and several other stages in Forgotten Sands just don't make sense within the greater game world and pull the player out of the experience.

When players aren't navigating treacherous platforms, they're engaged in frequent combat. At times, you'll square off against upwards of fifty enemies at once with your scimitar and some magical abilities. The game feels at time a bit too much like Dynasty Warriors, forcing players to mash mash mash on one button while sometimes rolling out of the way (not often). The best battles should be against the larger enemies that the sand army throws at you, but sadly, these are pretty weak as well. The most massive enemy, armed with a huge sword and with legs as thick as tree chunks, appears intimidating until players realize they can stand under his feet and hack away without harm. The best Forgotten Sands ever challenges players with is wave after wave of enemies, which quickly grows old.

Despite absolutely striking graphics, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands just isn't very much fun. The platforming segments don't present much of a challenge and the combat doesn't either. If the Prince of Persia series is ever to be resurrected, the developers should start by looking at the developments that other games in this genre have made. Uncharted provided players with challenging platforming across a coherent game world. God of War III gave us challenging, epic hack-and-slash gameplay that made us forget that we were pounding the same buttons over and over again. Prince of Persia is a great series with a lot of potential, but the developers just didn't hit the mark with this entry.


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Community review by asherdeus (December 25, 2010)

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Leroux posted December 29, 2010:

Nice review. I think it was a mistake, but I got a laugh out of tree chunks.

It's a real shame how after such an influential debut with Sands, one of my favorite games, this series hasn't done much of anything to build off of it and instead seems to keep repackaging the same adventure.
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Masters posted December 29, 2010:

I dunno if you've played Warrior Within, but I am playing it now and it's not wonderful. Two Thrones just seemed bland and derivative, but Warrior Within is downright boring.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 29, 2010:

I was so psyched to play Warrior Within after finishing the first Sands. Not only did I find the game boring, but glitchy (I have the Gamecube version). I've been trying to force myself to play the other games, but cannot muster want.
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Masters posted December 29, 2010:

Although I didn't play them in order (I played Sands, then Thrones, and now, much later--Warrior), I can safely say that Sands is EASILY the best, and then Thrones which feels like a pretty but limp retread and then Warrior at the very bottom. The stealth stuff in Thrones is pretty cool at least. Warrior's story is seriously lame.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 29, 2010:

I also hated the ill-fitting Godsmack song that played at different moments.
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Masters posted December 29, 2010:

Ha, I don't know that I'd recognize a Godsmack song if I heard one... I'm wondering how the previous PoP game for PS3 was. The cel-shaded looking one.
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Leroux posted December 30, 2010:

I never touched Warrior Within -- all the negative reviews scared me away.
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- posted December 30, 2010:

Sands of Time was awesome. I played around a couple of hours each of both Warrior Within and Two Thrones at a mate's house. Two Thrones seemed okay, but I wasn't drawn in enough to buy it for myself. As for Warrior Within, well, to say I wasn't impressed is a bit of an understatement.
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Masters posted December 30, 2010:

Yup, that's the general consensus.

Oh, and--great review Matt.
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Suskie posted December 30, 2010:

Ubisoft seems frustrated with this series. Whenever they try something new, it gets shot down. When they try to make it up by reverting to formula, they get attacked for being derivative.
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asherdeus posted December 30, 2010:

LOL, yeah, that was a typo. Tree trunks was what I was supposed to put there. But thanks for the feedback everyone. I enjoyed writing this one.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 30, 2010:

But I still like "tree chunks". ;)
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fleinn posted December 31, 2010:

lol. I don't know.. When Warrior Within came out, it had a lot of unfortunate commentary. Among other things, Mechner himself said he didn't care for it all that much, and disliked the gritty direction. The raw violence was slammed as terrible, the underdressed women was thought to be obscene and inappropriate. Etc, etc.

In truth, the plot in Warrior Within is much deeper than the one in Sands of Time. SoT has a story-telling method that makes it similar to something you could read in 1001 nights. The way the story in the game exists outside the story-telling, etc., is very artful in that way.

But the theme and the story in Warrior Within is no less well written, while the platforming actually is much better paced in that game compared to the first. The increased amount of moves, the difficulty, the interrupts in the fights, things like that - all make Warrior Within a different game that isn't worse in any way.

Still.. one of the first things the Prince does is to stab an oversexed woman through the stomach. And that gave the game an M rating. Best scene in the entire game apart from Kaileena's rant half-way through the game, really. But it's overtly violent, while Sands of Time was more suggestive and family friendly.

But seen outside of that, the way the Prince ends up pursuing his ambition, fighting to undo his mistakes - and then ends up orchestrating his own doom. All of that is actually well written. The same for the sequences in the game. They are short and effective, and the time-travel segments towards the end when things are wrapping up are priceless. Just as the Dahaka escapes, and I really like the way the Prince ends up fighting it.

The PC version also used pixel-shader tech that was entirely new at the time, which does give you very pleasing visual effects. They really went to town on the in-game cinematics in the game as well - even though they are extremely short, and so on.

But stabbing the oversexed woman unceremoniously in the chest, and lines like "Die, you bastard!" ..had the game not exactly meet expectations, I guess.

It still is the Prince of Persia game I like to play the most, though. It's not as polished as Sands of Time, thanks to development deadlines, and release before christmas and so on(ironically). But the things that work in that game really do work extremely well, imo. The way the fighting doesn't actually end up being necessary, or that patience and timing is much more important than just repeating the same moves over and over is great as well.. In Sands of Time, you actually have to defeat all the enemies to continue on. That's not necessary in WW, for example. There's also how the platforming is actually so fun and reasonably non-linear that it's not a defeat to go back to a previous save to unlock the water sword, to get the less gut-wrenching ending..

Anyway. I always had a hard time understanding why a lot of people /hate/ the second game.. :)
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joseph_valencia posted December 31, 2010:

I haven't played "Warrior Within" in years, but I thought it was an excellent action game that suffered mainly from glitches. At the very least, I enjoyed it more than "Devil May Cry" or "God of War," glitches and all. Fleinn's post is spot-on.
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Suskie posted December 31, 2010:

I'm having trouble thinking of a single thing I liked about Warrior Within.
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fleinn posted January 01, 2011: you go, Suskie. :p
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bloomer posted January 01, 2011:

> I also hated the ill-fitting Godsmack song
> that played at different moments.

Heh, I love that song, but for me it hails from The Scorpion King game and film, which also feature in the videoclip:

I Stand Alone - Godsmack
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fleinn posted January 03, 2011: the way, asherdeus - it's a /Persian/ prince. Not an Arabian prince. Very important. :p
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JoeTheDestroyer posted January 03, 2011:

I don't mind the song, I just don't feel it fits with Prince of Persia. Kind of like a Fallout game with Slipknot in the soundtack.

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