Whatever Happened To That Other Prince Of Persia?

The aptly named Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands picks up the tale of the Prince, filling in that gap between Sands of Time and Warrior Within. But what happened to that reboot of Prince of Persia from two years ago?

Was the decision to go back to this main timeline and the more conventional Prince of Persia gameplay a sign that Prince of Persia 2008 was a flop?

Not exactly.

Michael McIntyre, level design director for Forgotten Sands and the 2008 title, describes Prince of Persia as a polarising game, one that people loved or hated because of its take on death (You can't die in the game) and the simplified acrobatics and combat.

But, he's quick to point out, work on Forgotten Sands was started before Prince of Persia shipped, so its successes or failures didn't drive the decision to return to the main timeline of the series.

"We firmly believe that Prince of Persia is a brand that can have multiple environments," McIntyre says. "It makes a lot of sense for us."

The decisions driving the changes in the 2008 title were in many ways spurred by a desire to experiment with the franchise, he says. While Forgotten Sands returns to the traditional take on death and the more complex acrobatics and combat, that doesn't mean Ubisoft views the 2008 game as a failure.

"We are happy with what we achieved with that title," McIntyre says, "and I think games like that can still exist.

"For me the difference in the 2008 game is that it had less player participation. The player didn't decide when they wanted to be saved and when they wanted to wall run. In 2008 the experience was far more Zen. You keep playing, keep moving forward no matter what. You got in a rhythm and kept moving forward."

McIntyre likens the game to a platforming, combat-heavy version of PlayStation Network's Flower. Another dive into that sort of Prince of Persia would likely be philosophically the same, he says, but maybe with a less heavy helping-hand.

"Maybe it would be a mix of both, as things got harder maybe it would require more skill from the player."

As much as McIntyre says he liked working on 2008's Prince, he says that working on Forgotten Sands resonates with him more.

"I grew up with the original Prince of Persia and with Sands of Time," he says. "I like tough games."

McIntyre says how pleased Ubisoft is that they became the "bearers of the torch" for Prince of Persia Games.

We spend a few minutes reminiscing about Broderbund's 1989 side-scrolling title. The game, originally developed by Jordan Mechner, used rotoscoping to deliver a surprisingly realistic prince with amazingly fluid movements.

That first death on a bed of spikes, I tell McIntyre, blew me away. It's one of my most memorable gaming moments, I say.

"Something from that original game is coming back to Forgotten Times," McIntyre says with a smile, "the spike death."


    I really liked the 2008 Prince of Persia game, although I realise that I am defenitely in the minority. I hope that Ubisoft is quietly working on a sequel to that game, because the ending leaves questions unanswered.

      Yeah, I liked it too, and wanted a sequel to that a lot more.

      The dialogue was quite funny but the gameplay just left me feeling bored and uninspired. Boring puzzles, boring fights, boring platforming. Each to their own, sure, but definitely feel like I wasted my money on that one.

    The death thing was nothing more than checkpoints with a pretty coating - it was functionally no different to any other game where you die and go back to the last checkpoint. You didn't "die" in the story, but you did have to repeat the last platforming section.

    I much preferred the PoP:SoT fiction where when you die the Prince, who's retelling the story, says "no no no, that's not how it happened."

    The combat and platforming wasn't crap because it was "simple", it was crap because it was essentially quick time events - here's a ring, press B! Here's a wall, press jump! There was very little player control.

    It just wasn't fun to play.

    And Nolan North's American prince just grated.

      yeah and the only time you really fell off a puzzle was when someone walked in the room and started talking to you

      The game was nothing more than Quicktime buttons

      Easy Way to Fix it the is to piss off the whole Open world thing they put in. It's introduction means that it is virtually impossible to make the difficulty in puzzles and combat scale up and due to the nature of the area layouts ie all square/circular rooms and having to move through them to get to the other areas all the time made the puzzles seem really repetative something i never had in the originals

      I'm pretty much agreement with Jeremy here except about the death thing.

      That lack of a death thing felt a lot faster than a whole falling animation.... loading screen... combination thing like you usually see.

      That and it was sort of Bioshockish how it tried to add the lack of death to the actual world the game is in. Instead of just pulling you out of the world and saying 'ok, have another go' you were still engaged with the characters and within the universe.

      But 100% agree on the voice acting and boring ass puzzles/fertile ground BS though mate, couldn't agree more.

      Don't even get me started on those f'n light seed things.

    To be honest I stopped playing it, despite enjoying it. I just didn't "get" the combat, and having those ten bajillion light things to collect was just a huge distraction and I kind of got lost and didn't really know what to do so I lost interest.

    I had no problem with the 'death' system, though. I play games to destress, not get frustrated.

      I destress by the feeling ive actually achieved something not run around in a world were i cant get hurt

    I found the difficulty progression in the game a bit weak.

    With the open world design, you get to pick which order to attack the first four bosses. So you pick one and the levels get progressively more difficult as you move towards that boss's final level. You then move on to the next boss and the difficulty has been reset, because that boss needs to be beatable by a new player. It isn't until the very end of the game that they increase the difficulty again.

    Can't help but feel Ubisoft is making a mistake here. The significance of the original Sands of Time series was that it formed a bridge between its immediate cultural predecessor (the Tomb Raider games) and a new philosophy of game design that emphasised rewarding successes rather than punishing failures. It was a unique title in a marketplace where platformers were still relevant but driven largely by younger-generation titles such as Jak, Spyro, and Ratchet & Clank. Going back to that isn't the right move for a number of reasons; partly that a lot of the platforming audience have migrated to the Wii, which is a punishing environment for third party developers; partly that the marketplace has moved on and non-Nintendo platformers don't drive sales the way they used to; partly that the hardcore edge of the market now verges into titles like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and God of War, which provide stiff market competition; and partly that Ubisoft are competing against and splitting the audience of their own Assassin's Creed franchise, which when it debuted was heralded as a natural evolution of those original Sands of Time mechanics. The 2008 Prince of Persia may not have moved the units that Warrior Within did but it was successful in attracting a new audience to the franchise and in creating a memorable and unique brand ID that stood out from its competitors. The correct move was to leverage that branding and that new audience into a more successful second iteration, not discard them and go back to basics.

    I can smell his LIES from here!

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