Persia revitalizes series with new art direction

Ubisoft’s latest release of Prince of Persia lets the Prince loose in a new generation of consoles. The latest installation of the game is without precedent as it borrows neither story nor gameplay from previous games. For better or for worse, Ubisoft has completely redone Prince of Persia and given the series at least a decent introduction to new a generation of consoles.

The most noticeable feat of the game is its artistic direction. By using an unconventional approach called “Illustrative” styling, models, characters, objects and environments are rendered with their concept art in mind, not by photorealistic expectations. The game is similar to Okami, which was designed with concept sketching, not realistic models.

Although the scenery is not photorealistic, this does not mean the game cannot be believable. Instead, the art seems to match the tone of the game—something magical, but also daunting, and something explicit, yet rhetorical.

The environments can distract the gamer from his or her objective, leading the player not towards the next checkpoint, but wherever the most fascinating and beautiful environments seem to lie.

Prince of Persia’s artistic direction easily beats most other games of 2008 as well as 2007. Similar to Braid in its lush, captivating scenery, the game’s artistic basis is intrinsic in every aspect of gameplay.

From an extremely simple user interface to straightforward yet potent boss battles, the game is a monument to artistic efforts in game design.

The main goal of the game is to stop the Corruption from spreading. It has overtaken four major regions (each of which is subdivided into six parts) and the Prince helps his new friend Elika, who uses her magical abilities to rid the area of corruption.

Each separate area essentially requires the defeat of the region, meaning the player has to fight each “boss” six times, though new elements are typically added and create a greater challenge each time.

The combat is all one-on-one (or two-on-one, if including Elika as a separate entity), and requires timing, reflexes and creativity to properly take out an enemy. Many different combo moves exist, and players are rewarded for using the various available moves to defeat enemies.

The gameplay mechanics have created much stir among critics. Many attacked the developers of Prince of Persia for making the game too easy and not providing the challenge associated with dying in the game. In this Prince of Persia, the player takes control of not only the Prince, but also his new sidekick, Elika.

Though both end up doing equal parts for progression, the player can employ Elika to use her magical abilities to help launch the Prince further, and will fight alongside the Prince in combat and ultimately save him in any situation where he may die. Any time the Prince is close to dying in a fight or will certainly die from falling, Elika will reach down and save him.

If the Prince is about to die in combat, she saves him by pulling him away from the opponent, though the opponent may regain his or her health from taking out the Prince.

Some may find this aspect of the game cheap and too easy, though it is also easy to understand why the developers did what they did. If the Prince were to die, many save points would be required and the game would become monotonous, since the player would have to go through the same area multiple times.

With the ability to be saved by Elika, the game is more fluid, and there is a reduced chance of grinding through the same part over and over. Should the Prince need Elika’s help too often, gamers will lose achievements and trophies, and it takes far too long if a player is careless or lazy when playing. Expert timing and an intimate understanding of the game are rewarded.

Most importantly, the idea of saving another in the game is a major premise in all character plots. All the evil characters saved themselves by submitting to major antagonist, Ahriman, the God of Darkness.

The good characters (of which there are few), save others at their own expense. However, the game ends with one certain option that unlocks what may set up future releases on consoles, though little speculation can be made on what the next game might be.

The musical score of the game is also notable, as it was composed by Inon Zur, well known for the scores of Fallout 3, Crysis and Prince of Persia: the Two Thrones.

It works beautifully with and against the backgrounds the Prince ventures through. Providing guidance and ambience, and never being overbearing, the music for a region is unlocked by defeating the Corruption in the area.

Since Prince of Persia is still only a one-player game, many will find themselves more willing to rent than to buy, since the game can be beaten within a dozen hours.

However, more experienced players may be expected to buy a clearly welcome installation of the Prince of Persia series, one that is most certainly worth at least a single play through, if not for extra achievements and gorgeous environments.