Prince of Persia The Two Thrones ReviewCain Dornan
Ubisofts revival of the classic PoP series with the release of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time back in 2003 sparked instant revival in the platforming/adventure genre. The game offered a superb combination of platforming and puzzle aspects, with a fighting system that was initially pleasant, however, the repetitive nature of it sparked negative views from gamers. Ubisoft then directly addressed issues concerning the battle system in a sequel, titled Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, which did provide a more solid fighting system than its predecessor, however, many fans of the previous title came away disappointed with the Princes new personality and the overly dark atmosphere. Realising the mistakes that they had made with both titles, Ubisoft has now returned with the third current generation installment of Prince of Persia, which also happens to be the final title in the Sands of Time series.
Thats right, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is the last time the Prince of Persia series will revolve around the time-controlling sands. In a fitting finale for the troublesome Prince that we have all grown to know and love, Ubisoft has provided easily the best title in the Sands of Time trilogy yet, easily surpassing the two previous titles. Ubisoft has effectively combined the best elements of both titles to produce the ultimate final chapter in this captivating and thoroughly enjoyable cinematic experience.
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones begins with the Prince and his newfound love, Kaileena (from Warrior Within), sailing back to Babylon. As the boat rounds the cliffside and begins traveling into the harbour, distant fires and the sound of fighting within the city shocks the Prince, just before a shower of flaming arrows are shot down at the weary travelers. The Prince barely has time to turn around as a large boulder is catapulted onto his small sailing boat, smashing it into pieces and leaving the Prince and Kaileena separated as they are pulled in different directions. After watching the visually stunning opening cinematic, the Prince washes ashore just in time to witness Kaileena being carried by two large armored creatures within the city walls, the large metal door slamming behind them, leaving the Prince to sneak inside his once proud city.
It soon becomes apparent who is behind the heartless attack, with the evil Vizier making an appearance soon into the game. With the dagger in hand, the Vizier only needs one final element to finally enable him to become immortal, and interestingly enough, the Prince delivered it street to his doorstep. Thrusting the Dagger of Time into Kaileena, the Vizier allows a powerful gust of the Sands to wash over Babylon, partially infecting the Prince in the process. With one black arm that glows with yellow, the Prince manages to obtain the Dagger of Time and begin his final epic quest to put a stop to the Vizier once and for all.
The Sands of Time trilogy has traditionally presented the storyline in a rather unique fashion, as a particular character explains the happenings, thoughts and what is required with in-game dialogue. While the original The Sands of Time game offered the Princes view on things, the unsurprising death of Kaileena brings her role into narrating the story of The Two Thrones with occasional mystic in-game dialogue that provides a unique view on the storyline, tying in happenings that occurred in the past and filling in any holes within the storyline. Although what is said by Kaileena is often pointless and has no significant meaning, it is a nice little storyline addition that allows true fans of the series to delve further into the games world.
The biggest addition in The Two Thrones is the inclusion of the two different forms of the Prince. There is the normal, passionate and caring Prince that we have long known, and there is now a darker, more sinister version of the Prince, a personality that focuses on achieving whatever will benefit it directly. The Princes personality split occurs soon into the game, where he is struck with the Sands as the Vizier unleashes the massive wave. The personality split has incurred psychical differences to the Prince, which are visible in both his normal and altered form. While normal, one of side of his upper body is black and marked with shinning twists of metal and the Sands, while the dark Prince takes on a badass appearance with his spikey hair and evil appearance. The differences between both personalities do not stop there, as the dark Prince is considerably different to the normal Prince in many ways. The dark Prince wields a long steel chain, which he is capable of swinging around in various different ways, with new combos being unlocked as you progress through the game. He can also use the same chain as a grappling hook, allowing him to swing or wall run further than what the normal Prince can.
But the intentions of the dark Prince, which has a demanding schizophrenic-like voice regularly popping into the head of the Prince, is somewhat questionable. Its evident that the dark Prince has different motives to the normal Prince, and the two different personalities will clash throughout the story, with the two different forms of the Prince being considerably different upon the completion of the game than what they were when first formed.
The Prince will regularly transform between both personalities at different points in the game. Typically, controlling the dark Prince will occur as you explore the darker depths of the city, such as sewers or other underground locations. Since the dark Prince has been caused by the Sands of Time, you are required to regularly obtain the sands as you play, which can be obtained by destroying objects or killing enemies, to replenish the dark Princes health as it will continuously deplete without the supply of the Sands. While the limitations that this imposes may annoy some gamers, it does aid in offering a slightly different experience than that of the normal Prince.
Regardless of which personality you are playing as, The Two Thrones offers a solid collection of platforming and puzzle elements. As with the previous titles, the developers have implemented each puzzle into the games environments perfectly, requiring the Prince to jump across rooftops and swing from pole-to-pole in order to solve the occasionally challenging puzzle. One example involves the Prince moving a large statue of his father to smash the door that is preventing citizens from exiting a burning building. In order to do this, you need to climb from one side of the corridor to the other, turning the correct levers at the right time. This puzzle alone can take some twenty minutes to solve, however, a sense of achievement is awarded when a large number of citizens come running through the smashed door, thanking you for saving them.
While largely the same battle mechanics have made a return from Warrior Within, The Two Thrones offers a new combat inclusion that is accessible by both the normal and dark Prince personalities. Stealth Kills have now made a strong addition to the combat system, allowing you to quickly and silently kill enemies before they even know what hit them. Stealth Kills are performed by sneaking up to enemies and tapping the appropriate button when the screen becomes blurred. If the enemy hasnt spotted you, a series of button combinations will begin, requiring you to tap the correct button as your dagger glows blue. The maneuvers performed during a Stealth Kill vary from enemy to enemy and the angle in which you attack them from. The new Stealth Kill inclusion is a great addition to the game, allowing you to solve battles quicker if you play tactically.
There is also the occasional driving section, which involves guiding a speeding chariot through tight city streets while battling against enemy chariots and individuals who attempt to seize your chariot. The chariot sequences only occur a few times and last for no longer than five minutes, however, they can prove to be somewhat challenging, as you are required to carefully guide your chariot through uncertain pathways, making trial-and-error an almost necessity for some sections.
The ability to control time also makes a return, with various upgrades obtainable as you locate new sand portals that are scattered throughout the game. In addition to slowing down time and rewinding it, a variety of different sand-based moves are available, such as one that throws all nearby enemies away from you with force. While the dagger is not as commonly used as it were in the first title of the trilogy, there is a balance between the Sands of Time use and combat and platforming elements.
The Two Thrones also throws in further gameplay variation with the inclusion of the occasional boss battle, which requires you to make use of battle tactics and surrounding environments to gain the upper hand on your enemies. Each boss battle involves defeating the enemy in various different methods, such as the first battle that you encounter. The boss is a gigantic, sword-wielding monster who is based within a classic Coliseum-like arena. Since getting within arms reach of the creature results in heavy damage being incurred, the only method of defeating the creature is to make use of the environments to attack the creature where it hurts most. The method for performing a Stealth Kill comes into play, as once you jump onto the creature you are able to initiate damaging blows by tapping the button at the correct intervals. The inclusion of the boss battles ties into the game surprisingly well, as they involve a mixed assortment of platforming and combat elements to defeat them.
While there are some notable improvements over the previous games, in particular the absolutely stunning cinematics, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones offers the same level of impressive environment and character detail that the two previous titles have offered. Running through the detailed streets of Babylon yields solid building and terrain detail, with the particularly breathtaking sections taking place upon the rooftops. The most notably impressive in-game graphics occur during the last section of the game that has you overlooking the entire beautifully rendered city. Character detail whilst in-game is also of a high standard, offering detailed enemies and a well-animated Prince as you run, jump and swing through the various locations that you find yourself in. While the in-game cutscenes are not overly impressive, as they offer nothing more than the same visuals that have been pulled from the in-game world, the actual cinematics, which sadly occur only a few times throughout the entire game, are superb. The development team has clearly shown their skill at creating detailed, almost lifelike cinematics that are impressive in every standard, so much so that the developers are capable of making their very own animated movie that will certainly hit big in the box office. A possibility that the artistic team at Ubisoft should consider.
The Two Thrones impressive presentation carries over to the games audio side, complementing the games visuals with great sound effects and outstanding voice overs. The original voice actor for the Prince makes a retur, keeping the series true and strong, while a new actor has performed the more evil-sounding voice of the dark Prince. The cast of other characters have also received some brilliant voice over work, sticking true to the series tradition of providing impressive presentation.
Its never an easy task finishing a much-loved series, as the likelihood of gamers being disappointed in a fantastic trilogy ending in a disappointing way is likely. Fortunately, Ubisoft has managed to evade this fate, as the final chapter in the Sands of Time trilogy is a cinematic, engrossing and purely fantastic title that ends this epic trilogy on a satisfying note. The game remains interesting and captivating from start to finish, with this series conclusion satisfying any fan of the series.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.