Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Hands-On PreviewBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Mar 29, 2010
A little while ago, I got my first look at Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands at Ubisoft’s San Francisco offices. It was quick demonstration of the game’s element-based combat system and environmental puzzles (you can read my original preview here). At PAX East, Ubi let the general masses get their hands on a slice of that demo and try out the water-manipulation (you can freeze time, turning water into solid objects you can interact with) themselves. Using my undercover skills and disguises, I slipped into the general masses unnoticed and gave it a run through. For the purposes of this hands-on report, I’ll go back to my first-look observations and see how the playable experience lines up.
“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.”
Combat does seem faster, and I found myself instinctively mashing my attack buttons while wiping out the surrounding horde. Contrast this to my slower, methodical approach to Assassin’s Creed II, where more often than not I was waiting for my enemy to strike so I could launch a counterattack. No time to wait in PoP: I was constantly jumping, dashing, and slashing, with a little bit of ice magic sprinkled in to increase the damage dealt. The evasion roll came in handy when I was extremely surrounded (the demo had two large battle sequences) and needed to get over to and silence the necromancers, who were summoning fresh fodder just as quickly as I was eliminating them. In situations where I had 3 or 4 enemies zeroed in on me, I could start attacking one, get him in a stunned animation and then quickly change my direction to the next immediate threat. A knock-back maneuver was also helpful in such circumstances.
“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.”
This was actually a lot of fun. The two primary water features in this demo slice were indoor waterfalls and spouts coming from the walls and ceilings. The left trigger (demo was using the Xbox 360) is how you activate the elemental power; in the case of water, it freezes it in place and makes it a solid platformable (let’s pretend that’s a real word) object in the environment. The waterfalls were pretty straight-forward, as it was obvious that whenever I needed a wall to ascend, I’d have to freeze time and make one of my own. There’s a meter that keeps track of how long you can keep the water frozen, and there was plenty of time to get where I needed to be before it ran out.
The spouts were a little more complicated. They were being activated at different times, so I had to wait until they were “on” before freezing time and turning them into poles that I could swing from. There were also timed spouts coming down from the ceiling. When frozen, they’d turn into columns to hold on to. As I got further in the demo, there were sequences where I needed to keep my columns and poles frozen for longer, which made me nervous about my meter and kept me focused on getting through the puzzle on the first try. I have to imagine that the game’s more complicated areas will definitely ramp up the anxiety level.
The demo did a good job of conveying how the elements are going to be used as puzzles, though I would like to see more instances where multiple elements are combined before I’m completely sold.