2003’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was one of the best Action/Adventure/Puzzle titles to grace the video game industry in an extremely long time. Therefore it was a gaming no-brainer for Ubisoft to develop a sequel. With more weaponry, a darker story, longer game time, and a few other additions and tweaks, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within gleefully revisits the gaming goodness we’ve all come to love after the adventures of the previous game.
Warrior Within’s story picks up several years after The Sands of Time. The prince is struggling to stay alive as a direct consequence of his actions from the first game. Seeing as the prince is responsible for releasing the Sands of Time, regardless of the fact that he eventually reversed the process, he has been marked for death – whoever releases the sands must die. The Dahaka (a servant of time) is hunting the prince with the sole intention of killing him. The prince duly designs a cunning plan that will hopefully prevent his imminent death. He will travel to the exact time and place where the Sands of Time were created and prevent their very existence, thus altering the timeline and stopping him from ever coming into contact with them.
The prince, although noticeably darker and more ragged from years of running for his life, is controlled in much the same way as the first game. Indeed, the majority of the controls remain the same. He can still hang and shimmy from ledges, climb pillars, swing and leap acrobatically, run up and along walls, etc. All the old tricks are still in his princely repertoire, but Ubisoft has added some new moves too. For one, you can now use your sword to slide down sails, curtains, and any other fabric that hangs from walls – definitely a ton of fun. Another cool trick is your ability to swing around poles and pillars during combat, effectively slicing and/or kicking multiple enemies in the process. There are many additions to the game in this regard, but most come in the form of attacks.
The combat system has been modified and the number of attacks greatly increased. In fact, Ubisoft has shifted the emphasis slightly more toward combat and less toward the puzzle elements. The puzzles are still in evidence, but you will definitely run into more enemies, traps, and new bosses. Back to the combat: basically, you have tons of combo possibilities. For example, hit the attack button once, and you’ll engage enemies with your sword; hit the button twice and you’ll perform a much fancier double strike swing. Hit it three times – well, you get the idea. From there, you have all sorts of combos involving all of the face buttons; the possible battle combinations are almost endless. Luckily for idiots like me, they are all listed neatly in the options menu whenever you want to check them out. The menu even tells you what they are called, and they truly have some cool names – any sword maneuver with the word ?tornado’ in the title has to be pretty sweet, right? All coolness aside, for some people, the sheer number of attacking options may be somewhat daunting, to the point where you may find yourself only ever using a handful of the attacks.
Another interesting aspect is the dual wielding the prince has become so fond of. He has his own sword, but that isn’t good enough. He can also take the weapons from any enemy he kills as they now just fall, discarded, to the ground. These secondary weapons come in all shapes and sizes, from mallets to scimitars. Plus, you can throw the secondary weapon at enemies and take off their heads. There are even some combo moves that allow the prince to steal his enemies’ weapons while they are still alive and fighting. Nothing sticks it to your foe like gutting him with his own sword, eh? You can also strangle, throw, behead, cleave in two, and skewer your enemies. Ah – sigh – choices, choices. It’s hard to make a decision sometimes.
Luckily for those of us who tend to leap before we look, Ubisoft has also brought back the chronological rewind ability from the original game, too. So, if you die you can just rewind time a few seconds and try again – such a handy tool. This was one of the most inventive aspects of the original game, and it perhaps would have been a silly oversight to leave it out, especially as Ubisoft has increased the variety and number of traps in the game. Nothing says “you’re not welcome here” like spikes, saws, and rolling blade-covered logs. Time manipulation is therefore a must.
There are all-new enemies in Warrior Within, and, oh boy, are they impressive. There’s everything from skull-helmeted peons to shadowy, black cloud-covered robed guys that move frighteningly fast. There are even ninjas – well, at least the Persian/Arabian variation on the theme. The point is that the game’s enemies are worthy opponents for the prince’s acrobatic fighting prowess, whereas in the original game they were mostly blinkered single-intention zombie people. Fighting enemies that flip and parry as much as you do is a ton of fun and a more concerted challenge. Most of Warrior Within’s bosses are really interesting too. One such character is a guy made of crows. Every time you put the beat down on him, he transforms into a flock of birds and flies to higher ground.
The gameplay is enhanced by the new aspects that have been added to the game. The additions to the combat system are a welcome change that will probably draw in fans of the fighting genre. Personally, this reviewer likes the changes; though I’m more of a puzzle guy myself – that being what primarily attracted me to The Sands of Time. The puzzle element is still present in Warrior Within, and, coupled with the new enemies and fighting techniques, it does not compromise or detract from the adventure game at its core.
The game is darker, bloodier, and edgier all around. The environments all look beautiful, and the combat animation is seamless. It is so much fun to watch the prince transitioning gracefully from one attack to another. It really looks as though you’re watching a choreographed fight scene from a film. The same must also be said for the acrobatics, too; they’re equally as impressive. The effects are incredibly realized as well, be they glints of light from slashing blades or the sparking and disintegrating effects that take place when you kill an enemy. The character models are amazing, especially in the facial expressions. The characters are capable of the most subtle and humanistic expressions, like the raising of an eyebrow or a quick sly smirk.
As you run down halls, the sounds of gears turning and powering nearby traps add so much to the experience. The echoes and random sounds within the various chambers and passageways do amazing things for the game. The music, however, makes for an interesting choice, and at first you may find yourself disgruntled. In this version of the Prince of Persia series Ubisoft has opted for a distinctly rock soundtrack. You’d be right in thinking that it might not fit the game – it’s what I initially thought – but the rock soundtrack doesn’t play throughout; it mostly accompanies combat, and is blended with a more traditional Arabian accompaniment. It’s Arabian rock?or something. Whatever you want to call it, it works. Sometimes you wonder why something so obviously not authentically themed was included in the game, but strangely it does add intensity to the battles. Much of the time, while jogging through the halls, all you’ll hear is a faint beat rattled out by some sort of percussion instrument and maybe some distant orchestration. Whatever music is playing in the game, it always fits well and makes your immersion into the Prince of Persia world complete – aside from the screaming rock guitars of course.
Add more combat options and a very dark and disheveled prince and you have a Prince of Persia that is quite different, and yet still the same as its direct predecessor. The gameplay, which is what helped make The Sands of Time so great, is still in attendance and mostly intact. If you’re a fan of the original, you are definitely going to like Warrior Within. It’s an impressive game and a good sequel, and it’s similar enough to the original to keep you interested. If you weren’t a huge fan of The Sands of Time, then this one may well have enough differences and additions to its combat system to successfully pull you in. However, since Warrior Within is just ?more’ of the original game it isn’t ever going to be viewed as original or groundbreaking or inspirational. That said, it’s a series sequel of stunning beauty and gameplay finesse; it absolutely deserves to be in your collection.