Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones Review
developer: Ubisoft Montreal
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Dec 01, 05
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Every December for the past few, err, Decembers, we've seen the release of another Prince of Persia title. Prince of Persia may be the only franchise that has managed to stay fresh despite the fact that the games in the series have come out one on top of the other. It takes a lot of talent and creativity to fix what isn't broken twice in a row, but Ubisoft Montreal has managed to pull it off.
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones continues the story of the Prince of Persia, a chap that despite being a master swordsman, able to perform acrobatic moves even Spider-man would be jealous of and possessing the unique ability to control time still manages to get himself into an awful lot of trouble fairly regularly. He's in trouble again: while he was busy on the island of time trying to save his selfish ass from the Dahaka, he managed to distort the timeline and got his hometown of Babylon invaded.
As far as looks and sounds go, the game is pretty much the same. It's still a pretty game, despite not being a beautiful game. The game sounds good, the music is better than in the last Prince of Persia. Just expect more of the same, and you will not be disappointed from a technical standpoint.
As far as animation goes, this game is still the best there is. Prince of Persia is the standard by which all other animation systems are compared, and when you realize that the animation was drawn rather than attained using a motion capture system, you see that this is a work of art. I have yet to see a game that moves as fluidly and beautifully through such huge environments as Prince of Persia. While the game might lack the high-end features of the next-gen engines, the characters' movement has always been a sight to behold. The Two Thrones does not disappoint in this area as well.
As far as gameplay goes, Ubisoft knows not to mess with what works. Instead, the development team has simply added on to a finely crafted work of art. While the original game focused more on puzzle solving, and the second game improved the combat from the first game, the third simply perfects what the other two had set out to accomplish. When solving puzzles, there are a few new moves at Prince's disposal. The Prince may now stick to walls by driving his dagger into certain (easy to spot) places, and there are switches that must be flipped by a similar process. The Prince is also capable of performing a shudder jump: while running along a wall, he may come across windows with open shudders. He can then bound off of them diagonally. This is perfect for getting the drop on enemies as it allows you to shift direction off a wall while still maintaining forward momentum.
Speaking of getting the drop on enemies, there's now the speed kill system, which allows the player to catch their enemies off guard and through a series of well-timed strikes, eliminate opponents while staying relatively free from harm. This does require good timing, and is a little tricky to get sometimes, but fortunately, you can rewind back to the start of the attack if you happen to mess up. I was skeptical of how this was going to be implemented, but I feel that the system in place now doesn't make the Prince unstoppable, but it isn't impossible to use it to great effect either. It is worthwhile to use it, but you will still have to fight a considerable number of times as well.
Not that that is a bad thing. Combat is a lot of fun, and I feel, improved over Warrior Within. My favorite moves are a little bit harder to pull off (running up the walls and then flipping off into a sword strike) and the AI at least seems a bit better, but it still isn't great. You're really not facing thinking enemies yet, but to be honest, I don't think the series was ever about combat. That might have been where Warrior Within went awry, although combat is probably the part of the game that is lacking. This isn't to say that it isn't fun; it just isn't as much fun. The developers realized this however, so you'll spend more time solving puzzles than fighting, and much of the fighting can be subverted by the aforementioned speed kill system.
Boss fights are much improved. Many of them revolve not so much around straight combat (which was the WORST part of Warrior Within), but often times you'll have to use the environment to your advantage, as well as your sand powers. They're challenging, but not frustrating. I've never really been big on the idea of bosses, but The Two Thrones had done a good job with the ones that it contains.
One of the other features of the game is the inclusion of a second playable character, the Dark Prince. The Dark Prince is interesting because he is much better at combat, but is more challenging to use when solving puzzles. The reason is that the Dark Prince loses health constantly, but regains it whenever he gets sand. In combat, this makes him almost immortal, and with his sword-whip, he's a hurricane of destruction. In puzzles, you have to move fast, and you'll often find yourself seeking out enemies so that you can gain sand and therefore more time to complete said puzzles. This is a nice variation to gameplay, and prevents it from becoming boring to play as just the Prince.
The writing is excellent. While Farah is a bit different in both voice and appearance from how I remember her in The Sands of Time, and a little less sexy, (There! I said it! I'm sexually attracted to Farah!) she's still an interesting character, and a good balance to the Prince. The Prince is an interesting character because he keeps on growing. He's a classic example of the tragic hero, and it is well-written characters like the Prince that make this story worth paying attention to. The Dark Prince is funny; when you listen to some of the things he says in his arguments with the Prince, you'll crack a smile at least. Kaileena provides interesting narration that sheds light on the events going on, as well as insight into the Prince's mind.
The story, as always, is fantastic. I think that this game might have one of the most interesting and involved plots of many games today. I'm hoping that the Prince of Persia universe will continue to be expanded upon in the future, not only because of the fun gameplay, but also because of the quality of the writing.
I'm sad that this is the last game, at least for a while, and I'm hoping that someday we'll see a continuation or a new beginning with the same style of gameplay. I would recommend that everyone who is a fan of the series give this game a shot, and that those of you who haven't been fortunate enough to play the last titles will give this one a go as well. It is a fantastic trip. Next December is going to feel a little hollow unless something rises to take Prince of Persia's place.
All of the highs of the last games in the series, wonderful gameplay, puzzles, and animation, improvements to combat from the last two;
Same old engine although this is more a fault of the aged consoles the game runs upon, AI has room for improvement, Farah isn't as sexy.
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