The Prince Will Die!

That’s the tagline for the upcoming Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, debuting on November 30, 2004 for the PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. As with any good sequel, everything will be bigger, meaner, and better looking than even the Prince’s previous groundbreaking appearance in The Sands of Time, which you should really think about picking up, if not for its bargain price, then for the bonus of getting the original Splinter Cell – for free!

The game’s storyline isn’t entirely clear yet, but the Prince is forced to battle invincible foes and death incarnate in a struggle to stay alive, as it is foretold that he will be dead soon. Exactly how and when the Prince dies remain mysteries the player will be left to unravel. Surely death will strike many times along the way, but the Prince comes equipped, once again, with his chronomorphic abilities. Make a fatal mistake – just hit a button and rewind time for instant resurrection and a second chance. This is something of a mystery, though, since it’s not clear whether the famous Dagger of Time is even involved during Warrior Within.

Though he seems to have retained the dagger’s power, what replaces the physical dagger is the Prince’s ability to pick up any weapon that an enemy drops along the way. This can open new types of attacks, depending on the weapon, while adding an element of disposability. Meaning that the Prince can use these weapons for melee combat or as projectiles to take down an enemy from afar. These ranged kills, combined with Warrior Within’s Matrix-inspired cinematography make for some impressive special effects.

Adding a second weapon (the Dagger of Time was more of an accessory/item than a weapon) alters how the Prince can do battle in other ways, too. The fluid, well animated and acrobat combat style first witnessed in The Sands of Time is still in evidence here, but there are also a wealth of original features included this time around. Several new moves hinge on the Prince having a weapon in each hand in ways that wouldn’t have worked in The Sands of Time. As the Prince stabs, slices, and guts his foes, another thing that’s immediately noticeable is that they bleed the distinct crimson of blood – not sand. From what I’ve seen so far (check out the movies here), the game may struggle to remain below a Mature rating. That could limit those who can buy the game upon its release, but, conversely, may also increase its appeal with the older gaming demographic. We’ll see how it measures up with the ESRB over the next few weeks.

Some other sights have changed as well. The Prince looks a lot worse for wear now, much like an outcast or vagabond. The graphics have a darker and grittier feel too, from the unshaven, long-haired Prince, to the dark and dingy environments he must traverse. This series still sports some of the best visuals seen in modern gaming; however, where the style of the original was more akin to Disney’s Aladdin, Ubi Soft’s Warrior Within more closely resembles something Stephen King or John Carpenter might have dreamt up.

This new rugged and forbidding world the Prince finds himself in not only looks great, but also adds another element to the relentless combat – even more attack moves based around his surroundings. He can swing on pillars to hit multiple enemies. He can vault himself up from an enemy’s shoulders and leap to a wall, pushing off it and leveling his foes with blades akimbo. Wall running, curtain sliding, rope swinging, pole-vaulting, the Prince can do it all, and then some, with the greatest of acrobatic ease.

Back at the beginning, it is mentioned that the Prince would die. But then, it wouldn’t be much of a game if you knew the hero was going to die right from the start, right? How this unfurls and whether the Prince can defy his own destiny are just two of the many reasons you ought to check out this game come the end of November. If you need any more compelling reasons then get your hands on The Sands of Time. A stellar game in its own right, it also serves as a fantastic introduction to one of the finest gaming franchises in recent memory. Remember, just because it doesn’t say Madden on the packaging doesn’t mean it can’t be great.

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