Sunday, May 8, 2011

VGR PoP: Warrior Within

I decided to continue my on-going reviews of the PoP series.

In the past, the second episode of the classic trilogy wasn't near as good as the original. How did this second episode of the second trilogy far off?

VGR: Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
From Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal/Pipeworks Software (PSP port)
Played on Gamecube
Also available on PS2, Xbox, PC, PS3 and PSP

Type 3D Platformer/beat 'em all
Year 2004

Only a year after Sands of Time, Ubisoft was back with a sequel to that well appreciated reboot.
But this time, well decided on making Warrior Within a commercial success unlike the way SoT fared in the market.

For this, all details of the game itself were designed specifically to make it sell at all cost.
This game, with a bigger budget behind, was to be the definitive blockbuster the Prince of Persia series never had until that point.
Did it end well?

He sees your every move.

The story takes place about seven years after the previous installment.

The Prince is now on the run.
Since he escaped his fate at the end of the Sands of Time, he's been trying to escape a monster called the Dahaka who's been after him since he escaped his fate.
For you see, playing with the "Sands of Time" themselves, one usually ends up dead. But through time shenanigans in the past episode, the Prince was able to play around with time, find a loophole and escape death (by "resetting" the timeline).
And now, this Dahaka-creature is after him trying to "correct" this error as is his role of protector of the timeline.

So the Prince finds only one possible way out of this.
He has to find his way to the Island of the Sands of Time, where the giant Sands of Time' Hourglass was created, prevent it from ever being created and thus escape this new "destiny" befallen upon him.
But easier said than done, as soon as he arrived near the island, a mysterious woman, Shahdee, unleashes an army on the Prince to prevent him from reaching the island...

That's when the game starts...

He's back!....But who is "he"? He doesn't look like the guy from the last episode??

After a short prologue, the game drops you in the middle of the this plot right away.
And it takes only a second to guess how things will be heading compared to Sands of Time.

Like another Prince of Persia 2 in the past (The Shadow and the Flame), Warrior Within leaves the puzzling and the platforming to the background and is all about combat this time around.
Ironic turn of events?

The game leaves his exotic and arabian feel in the prequel and is instead full of grey-sh tones and monochromatic filters.
More adult, less fantasy, loads more grittier and even, dare I say, "gore".

Exit Jordan Mechner as well.
The Prince of Persia's original creator wasn't involved with this sequel as he was in Ubisoft's first PoP attempt.


For this reason I would prefer to consider this sequel as beat 'em all with platforming sequences rather than the other way.
This sequel is a lot more combat oriented. For that matter, you'll often have to fight against hordes of enemies instead of the usual duels 1-on-1 of the series.

But fear not, the Prince, all buffier and sporting some manly beard, has become sort of a combat expert.
He can steal enemies' weapons, wield two weapons in each end, throw them back at the enemies...
His fighting movements are more acrobatics, there's lots of combos to experiment in combat, etc..


Though you'll still die easily if you forget to play around with time like before.

But even his time manipulating abilies have expanded. Back are the stopping/rewinding/fastforwarding abilities with some new details like the sand/time blast....

Classic PoP? Not quite, but not that far!

What about the platforming?

Well it's still here, to a much important degree.
First of all, the game is now built around an open-ended sandbox type of world. No level based progression this time.
But it isn't necessarily a bad nor a good thing. It's different from past games, sure, but it's sort of natural when you reconsider the original 2D sidescrolling Prince of Persia (where you were running around the dungeon, trying to escape a prison that seemed to go on and on in a "free" environment)-

The Prince will have to survive and explore the palace of the Empress of Time, both in the present and the past. For doing so, there's some time warps which also serves as checkpoint where you will be able to play around with time in a natural progression.
Progression. For you see, it may be an open-ended map, but you can't go play where you want to, there's a sort of natural order, as though the game was guiding you by your hand.

Also on that note, the game will offer two endings.
Based on either you'll get all the collectibles or not. Most of those can be acquired whenever you want to, backtracking if need be..apart for some (or just one?) which if you'll miss it the first time around, due to the level designed being affected during the story, you'll never be able to get it back later on. Which reaaaaally annoyed me might I add.

A story of precision, concentration, memorization and endurance.

All in all, it's all about taking your time to note everything in during your playthrough, being able to endure waves after waves of enemies (and giant sand creatures), not losing your cool and never, ever losing track of where you are or where you've already been.
For so there's an in-game map which at first seemed a bit confusing, empty and silly...but in the end turned out pretty useful to not lose yourself, be it in the past or present.

There's also some pretty kickass action sequence à la Resident Evil: Nemesis where the Dahaka will pursue you through long fun platforming scenes (and altering the level structure!!) which will usually end up with you running across water the Dahaka won't be able to cross over..

All in all, the platforming's not really that difficult and you will usually fly through anything in the first try easily. But it's seeing through all this game's filters and grey tones that will have you miss details, objects to interract with or structures to climb to.

And most of your deaths, outside combats, will be because of the game, not because of the player.
It's not your precision during platforming, not lack of brains solving puzzles, nor missing a jump, a timed trap or running out of sand....

But missing a switch in the back in a not well-designed room or some obscured details in the background.
Or one of the game's many bugs.
Less so than there was in Sands of Time, but just as deadly - seriously.
That's why I also recommend the use of 2 saveslots, just in case a glitch will let you go through a passage, but end up trapped because of that.

Other than these annoying recurrences, the game's pretty good.

The idea of a sandbox world is good for the series (even if myself, I'm not a big fan of these).
The tone of the game doesn't ring right to me, it's called Prince of Persia afteral. They tried too much.
The game doesn't have that Arabian Nights-atmosphere, that fantasy.
It's like a comic book from the 90s, it's too much grim 'n' gritty.
The music is again by Stuart Chatwood for the most part, but he want more guitar-ysh and rock and Godsmack (the band!) provides the rest of the soundtrack. It's edgy, it's kool for teh kiddies. Don't misunderstand me, listening to the music of this game outside the game is alright, but I find it quite mismatched in the Prince of Persia universe. I miss the more scenic atmospheric score.

The story seems really confusing at first, but going through it again, it all makes more sense.
I'd say the story is pretty good, looked from afar.
Play it a second time (maybe while you try getting the 2nd ending!) if you want to give this story's a second chance!
(aren't all Prince of Persias about second chances?)

Overall, it's not a bad game, it's even pretty good for it's combining of time altering-mechanics and combat.
But it's before hand not a really good Prince of Persia.

Like PoP2 The Shadow and the Flame in the past, they tried to expand upon the prequel's fighting elements, shake things up, make it harder and more violent...and the result ended up pretty far from the rest of the series.

Prince of Persia is a classic and cult series of the world of platformers (cinematic platformers), and I think the future of the series lies up in the more acrobatic parkour platformers. Not beat 'em alls!

The 2 endings are a nice touch (only one's canonical with the follow-up!)
The story is probably the best part of this game.
The manipulative Kaileena, the Prince's use of the mask of the wraith turning him into the Sand Wraith during a replay of this game's earlier events is a great twist (but if you didn't play it yet, hush~), the loophole used by the Prince to escape the final act of this game... it's all good, though a bit confusing at first like I said.
On the PSP,  under the name Prince of Persia: Revelations the game was kinda expanded upon. It's still the same game overall. But some rooms were added to make it longer.

The game least favorable elements are the fact it was designed mostly to sell kids!
Girls wearing the skimpiest costumes they could afford in a PG game (which kinda degrades and destroys any attempts of making either Kaileena or Shahdee important players in the Sands of Time universe), kickin' ass "cool" music which doesn't work much in this game's settings, emo Prince, tons of grey filters on the screen, combat, combat and more combat...

I'd say, try it...if you're interested..or too young for the original games or Assassin's Creed :P

I give it:

 1.5 / 3 Quacks!

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