The once legendary Prince of Persia series, like the game’s protagonist, has been lost in time, falling into the shadow of its own successor. Perhaps a return to the roots, to the legacy of the very first Prince, is exactly what the series needs. And it looks like the new Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, which in many ways really refers to Jordan Mechner’s game, meets these requirements. This is a really good game and a real gift to the fans of the series.
|Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
|Windows, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One / Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
The Lost Prince
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, the last part of The Sands of Time quadrilogy, was released in May 2010, along with the movie Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton and Ben Kingsley (a good movie, by the way, and I recently watched it with pleasure). The game had mixed reviews and not very high sales. So Ubisoft decided to put Prince of Persia on the back burner for a while, focusing on another series that was showing much better dynamics in terms of reviews and money. We’re talking, of course, about Assassin’s Creed, which has been on an annual release schedule since 2009.
As is well known, the Assassin’s Creed series was born from concepts created for the sequel to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003). It was supposed to be an open-world “Prince” where you play not as the prince himself, but as the bodyguard of the heiress to the throne, whose role was played by an NPC. Originally, this game was called Prince of Persia: Assassin, or Prince of Persia: Assassins, but eventually they decided to abandon the NPC prince and only the assassin guard remained. We know what happened next.
While Assassin’s Creed conquered new platforms and fans, Prince of Persia got lost somewhere in Ubisoft’s huge portfolio. From time to time, the franchise was mentioned, dusted off, and put back on the shelf.
The remake of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, announced back in 2020, went to production hell. Ubisoft Mumbai and Ubisoft Pune made a mistake, and the game was given to Ubisoft Montreal, which actually developed the original, as well as the Assassin’s Creed games. Ubisoft Montreal is said to have thrown away all the work of their Indian colleagues and is creating a remake from scratch on a new engine. If this game ever gets to release, it will most likely not happen this year, especially since the Montreal studio is also working on Assassin’s Creed Project Hexe. Can you guess which project is a priority?
Meanwhile, since 2020, Ubisoft Montpellier has been secretly working on another Prince. The studio that gave us such games as Rayman, Beyond Good & Evil, Rayman Raving Rabbids, and Valiant Hearts: The Great War, each of which can be called distinctive in terms of both gameplay and style, was supposed to breathe new life into the franchise by modernizing the old mechanics and style of the original 1989 Prince.
Metroid, Castlevania and their children
But before we get to Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, let’s recall what metroidvania is, the subgenre in which this game was created. Because, as it turned out, some of our readers are hearing this term for the first time, which has been around for over 30 years.
Metroidvania is a term that arose by merging the titles of Metroid (1986) and Castlevania (1986), which used similar game mechanics. This is a subgenre of action/platformers in which the player has to explore a large intricate game world, access to the next parts of which is closed until the character receives special abilities that will allow him to go further. Metroidvania is characterized by truly colossal, intricate levels and the need to return from time to time to already explored areas where new paths open up.
Famous modern metroidvania games are: Guacamelee!, Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori And The Will Of The Wisps, Hollow Knight, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, SteamWorld Dig 2, Dead Cells, Worldless. In addition, elements of metroidvania, the same discovery of shortcuts and access to new parts of the levels are available in games of the Dark Souls series, Batman: Arkham, and even Prey.
Having figured out the terms, let’s talk about Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.
In search of the prince
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a 2.5D metroidvania. That is, 3D characters exist here on 2D levels, which, however, have depth. As it should be in a good metroidvania, there is a huge, in fact, very large level – the legendary Mount Kaf, a mountain range somewhere on the edge of the world, which you will explore for hours, returning from time to time almost to the very beginning.
But this story begins in Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of Persia. The protagonist of the game, as the developers of Prince of Persia: Assassins, is not a prince of Persia at all, but Sargon, one of the Immortals, members of the elite unit of the Persian army that guarded the royals. That is, this is the assassin bodyguard that was featured in the game that eventually became Assassin’s Creed.
During a celebration in honor of Sargon as the victor of the Kushan invaders, the unheard of happened – someone kidnapped the real prince of Persia from the palace. Sargon and his comrades go in search of the missing prince. This is how the squad of Immortals ends up on the cursed Mount Kaf.
Kaf is a strange place where time works differently for different people. For some people, only a few hours have passed, for others, many years. Kaf changes people and their surroundings. Here you can meet strange freaks and even divine beings, and you can also meet your own distorted reflection. Sargon has to find the prince, find out what is behind his kidnapping, and try to escape the trap of Mount Kaf.
The inhabitants of Mount Kaf
In fact, the plot of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is not as simple as the previous description suggests. There are several twists and turns, betrayals and loyalties, new alliances, and unexpected encounters.
As promised by the genre, Sargon has to climb every nook and cranny of Mount Kaf to find new skills that will allow him to advance further. In addition, he has to collect amulets and resources to be ready for boss battles, which are very tough and do not forgive mistakes.
The combat system of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is quite interesting and rich in possibilities, and we strongly recommend that you go beyond basic attacks and undergo appropriate training to hit enemies without giving them a chance to respond, and even without putting them on the ground, like in some good fighting game. New skills, such as jerk, teleportation, or time bubble, further expand the character’s abilities, allowing you to experiment and create really interesting combos.
The enemies here are quite brutal, and the bosses generally require preliminary preparation, the choice of appropriate amulets and combat skills, and the improvement of weapons. But they don’t read, and you can always see where you made a mistake or didn’t have time, and how to act next time. Even if you think that this boss is impenetrable, just try a different approach. And believe me, defeating a seemingly invincible boss is a real pleasure here.
On the other hand, the complexity of the combat part can always be lowered, although it will not be as interesting, but the complexity of the acrobatic etudes cannot.
Labyrinths of Mount Kaf
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is, of course, a metroidvania, but almost every 2.5D metroidvania is a platformer. There are a lot of acrobatic tasks in this game and, in my opinion, they are much more difficult than the combat part. Performing a dozen jumps on platforms that disappear or appear depending on the direction of your movement, dodging spikes and pendulums without making a single mistake for 30 seconds is difficult. Synchronizing the actions of three of your own copies, which have to open and close new paths in time, is just hell.
One mistake and you have to start all over again. Life is over – go to the checkpoint on the other side of the map. It’s tough, but then again, it’s incredibly fun to unravel the huge puzzle-maze that is Mount Kaf. This is a real complex and demanding metroidvania that requires perfection.
In search of your own style
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a stylish game that doesn’t look like any of Ubisoft Montpellier’s previous titles (they can do it!). It is different from the first “Princes”, but it resembles them in some subtle way. Something in the animation, in the design elements, in the traps of this game resonates with the corresponding elements of Prince of Persia (1989).
The Lost Crown is based on Persian mythology and contains many references to Persian epics and real historical events, while the game looks very modern, energetic, and stylish. An interesting combination and a really new direction for the series.
Unfortunately, I can’t say anything about the optimization, because on my PC (Intel Core i5-13600KF 3.5GHz, NVIDIA RTX4070-O12G) Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown just flies. But the game doesn’t seem to be very demanding on hardware.
Return of the Prince
Despite initial skepticism, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a very cool game in which almost all the elements are perfectly made and work as they should. It’s addictive, it makes you feel angry and want to smash your computer, but it also makes you want to come back and try to play through it again. This is one of the best metro dungeons of recent times, and if you like games of this genre, you shouldn’t miss it.
Jordan Mechner himself, the author of the first two Prince of Persia and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, said of the new game that “this is exactly the Prince of Persia I dreamed of.”