atypicalreview

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

Sequels are tricky things. Warrior Within’s predecessor, The Sands of Time, was near-perfect. But it didn’t sell too well, presumably because the Prince wasn’t driving a car or shooting anyone, or even playing professional sport. So, as well as trying to improve upon perfection, Ubisoft also had to try and make the game more marketable without losing what made the first game so special. In order to do this, they tried to make the game more ‘adult’ and less ‘fairy-tale’. Clever readers will probably see that this isn’t likely to mesh well with keeping what made the first game so special. But even if you were deliberately moving away from The Sands of Time’s mythic quality, you could still find a cool new place to go.

You bitch! — The Prince. No, Really.

Or, you could add boobs, butts, rock music and random swearing. Sure. Whatever.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, really.1 Yes, the Prince bears almost no resemblance to the charming but foolish hero of the previous game. Yes, he’s started swearing at the villains.2 Yes, the music is about as Indian as a Quarter Pounder. But, the gameplay has only gotten more slick, the combat awesome, and the game has lost that slightly niggling feeling of linearity without gaining the even more annoying feeling of excessive backtracking.

So — what’s the Prince’s problem anyhow? He sorted things out neatly at the end of the last game, didn’t he? Well, yes and no. Yes it was sorted out, no, it wasn’t neat. There’s a few paradoxes hanging around the place, and it turns out there’s a huge monster who likes to eat people who cause paradoxes. And so, the Prince travels to the Island of Time™ — the place that the Sands of Time™ came from in the first place — to see if he can’t find a way to put things right. Once there he finds a series of time-travelling portals that transport him to the ancient past, and back again. This, it must be said, is an awesome idea, and it’s handled well. In fact, it all even manages to make sense for a considerably large chunk of the game.

I am… the architect of my own destruction. — The Prince

In the previous game, you had a few moves. In Warrior Within, you have scores. Not only are there a boodle of new combos that look awesome and aren’t too much of a hassle to pull off, but you can also pick yourself up extra weapons along the way. There’s one particularly cool move where you can flip over a near-death opponent, spin around, grab his weapon, and then twist your body about, slicing the poor sucker’s head off. In slow motion, with an awesome camera angle. Or, you could kill him normally and pick the weapon up afterwards — but it’s not nearly as much fun. You can even throw the things — a very nice way to deal with the sneaky little bastards who’ll attempt to ambush you in the middle of highly complicated acrobatic manoeuvres.3

All the special time manipulating powers are back this time too — you can roll time back, blast sandy goodness from your person, slow down time… the usual. Well, not quite; when you slow down time, you don’t slow down yourself, thus making it considerably more useful than the Sands of Time incarnation of the power. How are you doing this without that handy dagger? Well, you’ve got Farah’s Amulet of Time™ which you picked up after the last game.4 No, she’s not in it (sniff) but at least her legacy is felt. So where’s the romance, you ask? Well, there’s this priestess called Kaileena, you see. You can tell she’s the love interest because she’s wearing three strips of red cloth and has breasts like bowling balls. What’s that? That’s not enough to build a romance on? Tell that to the Prince; despite her showing him little attention, or even seeming particularly nice, he’s continually wondering if maybe they could have something.5 The game’s peurile, high-school level attempts at being sexy don’t end there, but I shan’t go into more detail because, frankly, you wouldn’t believe it anyway.

Did I mention that when you’re near pillars with enemies about, you can swing around them and slice the baddies up real good? Because you can. Awesome.

The unhurried style of The Sands of Time is broken up in this game by the thrilling Dahaka segments. The Dahaka is basically some kind of time creature that wanders the world removing paradoxical elements from the timeline.6 This is a problem for the Prince, who is — let’s face it — the biggest problem the timeline has had in some time.7 And so, when the Dahaka turns up, the world turns all sepia and blurry, and you’ve got to run for your life. These segments are handled really well — there’s enough clarity so that you almost always can see the path you should take, but at the same time the music and camera angles are pretty scary. They’re also a clever way for the game to force you to go a certain direction. Even cuter is when the destruction wrought by the Dahaka in the past affects you in the future.

Oh, and there’s this move where you jump on your hand and spin a few kicks about before slashing back into combat again. Awesome.

The hidden health upgrades are back as well — and because of the more exploratory nature of the game, you can go around searching for them at almost any point in the game. And you really should, because you get a much cooler ending if you find all of them.8 I’m not sure about this sort of crap though. Giving a completely different ending seems less like rewarding the expert gamer and more like penalising the novice gamer to me. But I would say that, falling more into the latter category.

This game is a mixture of fantastic and lame. In terms of the actual gameplay, it’s probably superior to The Sands of Time — though the extra options do sacrifice some of the impressive elegance of it’s predecessor’s controls. But in terms of style, it’s lost out considerably. I don’t really mind the rock music — though a mixture of old fashioned Indian and modern rock would have been truly cool. But you just don’t feel for the Prince, or anyone, as much as you did in the first game. Tonally, Warrior Within is more action movie than legend, and it loses a lot as a result. But it’s still tremendously playable and great fun. It’s times like this I’m really glad that we don’t do star ratings on this site.

  1. Of course, you might not even think that it does sound bad.
  2. Yes, he’s voiced by that pansy Byron from Babylon 5’s excreable fifth season.
  3. Those pricks. They’re just jealous of my incredible athletic prowess.
  4. Collect the whole set!
  5. I’d like to think that, in a life-threatening situation, a semi-naked woman with humongous boobies wouldn’t be enough to distract me from my purpose. I really would like to think that.
  6. A distant relative of the Reapers one assumes.
  7. Time presumably is a meaningless concept for the timeline and thus this sentence makes no sense.
  8. Just make sure that you’re not playing the Xbox version if you missed the one behind the throne near the start, because there’s a bug in the game and you can’t get back if you go for it. BASTARDS! Not that I’m bitter. Luckily Jackson was playing it at the same time and was able to show me the ‘proper’ ending.
2 comments posted — most recent by andy on 27/02/06