Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands First ImpressionsBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Feb 19, 2010
The Prince of Persia team at Ubisoft Montreal is eager to rewind some time. After a successful but mildly-received redesign in 2008, they’re going back to the Sands of Time universe and starting to fill in a 7-year gap of fiction between the first game and its follow-up, Warrior Within.
The Forgotten Sands is about just one of these stories (the implication is that there are more ideas in the works). While visiting the kingdom of his older brother Malik, our titular Prince discovers that it’s under siege. In order to fend off the invaders, Malik summons the Sand Army – but the price he pays for that action is not a pleasant one.
Five Enemies at Once? Amateurs.
There’s plenty of traditional platforming (with a new twist I’ll soon explain), but Ubisoft is also focusing on the combat, in a “Prince faces off against 50 enemies” sort of way. At first glance, it seemed that they are sharing a fighting engine with the Assassin’s Creed team, but that’s definitely not the case. Where Assassin’s Creed is slower and based heavily on counter-attacks, Forgotten Sands is faster and reliant on quick attacks and evasion (there isn’t even a block button), which is how they can get away with sending large squads of enemies up against the Prince. In the demo I saw, the enemies still did that thing where they stand around and wait to attack (or be attacked), but they were the baseline fodder units, and didn’t seem too smart in the first place. The rest of the game’s enemy types (“between 5 and 10”, says Ubisoft’s Michael McIntyre) all have unique battle characteristics.
You’ll also get combat powers. One I was shown was a dash move that you use to lock onto distant targets and launch a charging attack – you can also use this as a “I need to get all the way over there” platforming maneuver. Another power was a powerful tornado attack that sucked up enemies and slammed them down.
Liquid, Solid, Gas...Just Like Science Class!
The aforementioned new element in play is… elements. Again harkening back to Sands of Time, navigating through a complex, trap-laden environment is the meat of the game. But this time, you can manipulate the four elements. I was only shown how water worked in my demo, but I can already tell how complex the puzzles are going to be. In its natural game state, water is liquid and mostly inconsequential. But using your elemental power solidifies the water and turns it into a platforming surface. The best example is a waterfall – when solid, it turns into a wall that you need to use to wall-jump upwards. But in the next degree of difficulty, you’ll have to turn it solid but then quickly reverse it back to liquid in the middle of your jump, so you can leap through it and on to the next area.
Manipulating the environment in this way adds another layer for the designers to play with, and McIntyre promised that there’ll be instances where you need to play with multiple elements at the same time. (And if you screw up, time rewind makes its welcome return.)
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands will be out in May, so now would be a good time to remember the original Sands of Time trilogy.