Everybody knows that I don’t heap praise lightly. Looking back over the year there have been several titles that while others gave excellent reviews and perfect scores I did not. To me a GOY candidate, a perfect 5 game has to be something bigger than just a video game. It has to be a story of epic proportions that draws you in and won’t let you go. This is what Prince of Persia from Ubisoft is.
At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the graphics, but then the longer you play the you realize the pure beauty of it. The colors are bold and vibrant, the character movements are natural and fluid. This is definitely a game that a lot of time and effort was put into the little things and as someone who plays so many games I really appreciate that. The game’s storyline is a familiar, good versus evil and the battle that ensues between them. You are the Prince, though not royalty, and it is your mission to bring light back to the fertile grounds that have been consumed by “corruption” and darkness. The game is non-linear, meaning you can go anywhere at any time and you don’t have to complete the objectives in a predetermined order.
The adventure begins with you returning home from a previous adventure. Suddenly, you are caught up in a fierce sandstorm, and when it subsides, you find yourself in a mythical garden of beauty, dominated at its center by the massive Tree of Life. You come upon a women being chased by guards and you save her. The woman turns out to be Elika, a princess, and you two eventually end up at the center of the oasis. When you arrive at the temple, you are just in time to witness the destruction of the Tree of Life, and the liberation of Ahriman, the ancient god of darkness. After being set free, Ahriman starts corrupting the land with darkness and evil. You and Elika join forces against Ahriman’s corruption, in an attempt to drive back his evil and bring light back to the land.
The gameplay is excellent. The controls are fluid and intuitive. You are capable of running on walls, sliding down walls, climbing walls, crawling across roofs and jumping from wall-to-wall. The fighting system is great with the face buttons each triggering a certain type of attack, the cool part is that you can mix them together to do some seriously sick combos that include Elika. During most parts of the game Elika will be with you (she is usually restrained by the boss at the beginning of each major battle) and help you along the way. I was very interested to see how they would incorporate her into the game and have her not feel like an afterthought but they do it amazingly well. They kind of made her an amplifier for everything you do and made it absolutely necessary to get some places and achieve certain things you need to use her help. You can’t die in this game, if you miss a jump she will grab you and pull you back to safety and in battle if you are severely wounded she will protect you and let you regain health, though to counter the fact the she protects you it will give your enemy time to recover their health as well so be aware of that. So I know some of you are like if I can’t die in a fight, what’s the point? Well it actually works very well, if you master your fighting skills battles can be relatively short but if you ignore them then, you won’t die but you could potentially be battling for a long time.
Elika will also help you solve puzzles, in fact some require it and if you are ever unsure about where to go next, you can press triangle and she will use her magic compass power to show you the way. This I think is a great feature because like this where the environment is so vast it allows the gamer to never be lost and to never have to spend too much time trying to figure out what’s next. Elika’s powers can be expanded and increased by collecting “light seeds” over the course of your journey which become available after you heal fertile ground. There are a lot of them around, some take a little bit of thought and some effort to get to but the benefits of unlocking Elika’s powers more than make up for it and to be quite honest you have to collect so many to unlock each of her four “special” powers. (I suggest collecting all of them in the area as soon as you heal the fertile ground, there are no enemies and you can’t die so just take your time and get them all, although you will need to gain all four to get to some of the light seeds)
The game is brilliantly constructed and nearly flawlessly executed. You will notice a few minor glitches such as a certain points you need to turn cranks and Elika will not come help you the way she should and you have to run to her to get her back in sync, though this is more of a minor annoyance than anything. The game does have a structure that leads to basically getting to an area, “beating” the boss and then healing that fertile ground in order to gain light seeds and access to new areas. This would become monotonous similar to the repetition we saw in Assassin’s Creed (though it does run on the same engine as AC) if it weren’t for the non-linear structure of the game. I must say that I am impressed with this latest effort from Ubisoft and it is a definite instant classic, 5.0 out of 5.0 stars no doubt. Trust me this is right up there with GTA IV, MGS IV, GOW, and the rest for game of the year.