In 1990, a Yale Graduate and New York native, Jordan Mechner, finished Prince of Persia, one of the greatest games for PC. The platformer had unparalleled animation, a great story, and smooth controls which made the game an instant success. The original Prince of Persia went on to win several awards as well as being translated into six different languages and twenty formats as the game continued to sell long after its debut. Mechner has since licensed the property to Ubisoft, who for the last three winters has dazzled us with the new tales of the prince and his adventures through The Sands of Time, The Warrior Within, and now, The Two Thrones.
The Two Thrones continues the story of The Warrior Within and brings back some elements from The Sands of Time. After defeating the beast Dahaka in Warrior Within, the prince has decided to sail home with the Empress of Time. When they arrive in Babylon, an army has already conquered the city and fires on the prince?s boat separate him not only from the Empress of Time, but the Dagger of Time as well. After finding the Empress, the prince discovers that the Vizier is back and watches helplessly as he kills the Empress and then uses the Dagger of Time to make himself a living deity. As the Vizier changes, however, the prince is affected by the Sands of Time, becoming fractured. Half of him is the same brave and honest prince we have come to love, while the other is a dark, dishonest and selfish rogue who wishes to rule the world. But, together they must clean Babylon of the Vizier and his army.
The opening sequence along with the cut scenes within the game, are impressive. The movie like quality of the rendered sequences really helps to capture the gamer at the beginning of the game.
Other than the cut scenes, there?s not much of a graphical improvement, if any, in Two Thrones. Not to say that the game needs an overhaul; this game looks great. The environments are still beautiful and magical and bring you back into the world of the prince and his struggle to restore peace to Babylon. Ubisoft has done another great job with Two Thrones and the graphics just immerse you into the game. However, the HUD so similar to Warrior Within, you wouldn?t be able to distinguish the two games unless you had already played them.
The Two Thrones goes back to the tried and true formula of Sands of Time in the audio department. After ditching the prince?s deep voice and soundtracks by rock stars from Warrior Within, Two Thrones is much more of the aural excellence that impressed most gamers in Sands of Time. When you?re not fighting enemies or platforming through dangerous arenas, the background audio is well suited to the situation. Whether in an empty room in the palace or crawling through the sewers of Babylon, the sound effects work well to validate the illusion of a prince running through a city within the desert. Once again, the story is narrated so well that you may start to empathize for the prince as he works his way to defeating the Vizier and cleansing his tormented soul.
Veterans of the Prince of Persia trilogy won?t have a hard time adjusting, the repertoire of moves and fighting abilities developed up to this point still reside within the prince in Two Thrones. However, now the prince has a quick kill ability, that is remarkably similar to the stealth kills in Mark of Kri. To complete a quick kill you must either be behind or above the enemy, next you should notice the screen get blurry and your controller will vibrate giving you the signal to strike. Once you strike you must press X when your dagger flashes to complete the kill, if you press early or late the enemy will reverse the move on you in the middle of your combo.
The level design in Two Thrones is much different than its two predecessors, as this game is more open and less subjective. You must find where to go next in Two Thrones, rather than being forced in one direction like in the previous versions of PoP. While the change is nice, the mere size of the levels makes finding the right path a little hard to follow. In some instances you?ll run into parts of the game that are meant to be secret while under the illusion that you are advancing in the game. The open design of Two Thrones is a pleasant change from Sands of Time and Warrior Within, though it could be a little more subjective in large-scale levels.
One hitch with the gameplay resides within the archer class of enemies. The problem: they rarely miss. While this would be acceptable on the hard difficulty setting, the normal difficulty setting may be ill adapt for these overly consistent archers. This can make the game maddening when trying to eliminate two opponents when one is an archer.
Unfortunately, the replay value in Two Thrones is minimal. Throughout your journey in Two Thrones you can find hidden treasure trunks that reveal hidden artwork and movies, but that is about it. There?s no real motivation to play this game again, unless you really fall in love with the story.
The quick story and low replay value has always been the major knock on the series, and this time around it?s no different. On the other hand, this is a great story and a great game experience, and while duplicating that experience is not as pleasurable the second time around, this game is worth playing at least twice.
Throughout the game one might notice certain aspects of Two Thrones that hurt the gameplay experience. For instance, the muted colors in Two Thrones diminish the level design and graphics. Some environments are hard to navigate because of the coloration in some textures that would lead you to believe that there are ledges where there aren?t. While any gamer will get through this issue on a trial and error basis, the result is a frustrated player who must fully use the camera functions before making jumps or going through a gamut of platforming.
Another problem with The Two Thrones is the merger of the narration and sound effects. Sometimes during crucial parts of the game, fighting enemies and sword?s clashing drowns out what is being narrated. Now you could adjust this through the options menu, but trying to find a balance is tricky. Moreover, why doesn?t the narrated voice drown out the sound effects so you can actually hear what is important? Two Thrones is not the first game to have this issue, but the regularity of this occurrence can be extremely frustrating.
There are some minor issues as well. It?s never been comfortable to use the Y button for combat. Trying to hop the A button on the S-Controller is a pain in the ass and Ubisoft has never seen fit to clear up the issue. Furthermore, there is no completion percentage indicator when you get to the save screen. Not that it?s necessary, but it has always been nice to see how far you had gotten in the game while you were playing it. Once again these are minor issues, but they could?ve been easy to resolve.
While it will be impossible to see Ubisoft kill the prince off, this may be his last romp for a couple of years. The continuous process of producing, developing and debugging the prince?s escapades through Persia in less than 12 months has been tough on Ubisoft?s Montreal team over the last three years. While they could be gearing up for more adventures on the 360, it?s common knowledge that the production time and development process for next-gen is considerably longer than it has been for current-generation development.
Either way, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is the last title of the greatest trilogy in current generation gaming. Since it?s revival, the Prince of Persia series has made room for more adventure games; and probably cleared the way for a title known as God of War. It?s simplistic fighting mechanics and complex puzzles and level design have revived the adventure genre and given gamers a trilogy of epic proportions. Whether you?ve played Sands of Time and Warrior Within before or not, Two Thrones is a game worth it?s weight in gold.