Latest news
Review: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
by Linford Butler

Prince of Persia works on an interesting premise. Though at its core it firmly remains a hack-and-slash title, it is the concoction of the various elements of fantasy, athleticism and swordplay which set Prince of Persia apart from other generic slashers. The formula intrinsically worked in previous iterations of the series, particularly in Sands of Time, which was met with universal acclaim. Perhaps, therefore, it is just time which has made the ‘fantasy-slashing' idea seem worn: The Forgotten Sands isn’t a game worth shelling the best part of fifty pounds out for.

Allow me to elaborate. The Forgotten Sands, an interquel taking place in the seven-year gap between Sands of Time and The Two Thrones, doesn’t feel like the same breed of polished title which Ubisoft is famed for. Perhaps this is down to my lack of experience of the Prince games – The Forgotten Sands is my first venture into the series – but that doesn’t excuse the fact that this latest Prince adventure feels like a quickly-ousted companion to the recent movie release. It seems distinctly rushed; unfinished.

The Forgotten Sands takes place in the unnamed kingdom of Malik, the brother of our titular hero, the Prince. As the Prince arrives, he finds Malik’s kingdom under attack by an enemy seeking a treasure somewhere inside the palace. Malik and the Prince liberate ‘Solomon’s Army’, a terrifying military power created to overpower its enemy but locked away due to its huge and unconquerable power. Malik and the Prince are separated and, for a reason that is entirely unapparent to me, the Prince just happens to stumble across a portal into the realm of a Djinn – a mystical creature similar to a human – called Razia. She tells him that he needs to reunite his part of a seal, of which Malik has the other, in order to imprison Solomon’s Army once more, and thus the Prince sets out on a goose-chase adventure to do just that.

With The Forgotten Sands, there isn’t a great deal in terms of plot, and what the player is served is much less than tender. There’s very little in the way of character development, as we learn too little about our various protagonists to even begin to make any impression of them. What the plotline actually consists of is undeveloped and inexplicable – why, for instance, does the Prince mysteriously find a trans-locational transporter (magic door) in his brother’s palace? Why does Solomon’s Army have a grudge against everyone they can find? For what reason does Razia, the Djinn, give the Prince magical powers with which to manipulate the elements? Throughout play, multiple questions are raised, and you never feel that they’re answered. Moreover, you never feel as though the storyline is in any way immersive or arresting – as a piece of Prince of Persia canon, it’s disappointing.

Combat also lets the title down somewhat. Please don’t misunderstand; the combat system is solid enough and battles have some sense of tension and pace. However, it is simple with it, and too much so. What tactic there is in the swordplay is taken away and replaced by a modus operandi which takes the explicit form of button-bashing. It’s too basic and too easy, and whilst such a style may appeal to the less experienced gamers among our ranks, the combat is simply disappointing to those expecting fully-fledged swordfights.

That said, combat begins to feel more worthwhile toward the end of the title, when unlockable power-ups, made available through experience points gained from slaying sandy enemies, come into their own. These power-ups take the form of various upgrades, such as increasing damage dealt by each sword swipe to being able to burn or knock over enemies using special abilities. However, it is only toward the final scenes of the game that you begin to feel powerful and formidable. Whilst the power-ups make the combat somewhat easier – the simplicity of which I realise that I have criticised – it brings a vibrancy and excitement to the gameplay which wasn’t present at the beginning. They almost make the simplistic swordplay mechanic passable.

Not everything about The Forgotten Sands, I’m glad to say, is negative. Sound design is fantastic – the music is immersive and matches the situations and settings, whilst sound effects are both believable and rendered in beautiful quality. Voice acting is up-to-par too, for the most part – though the Prince seems to have a penchant for talking to himself, the characters are well-voiced and believable.

Graphically, The Forgotten Sands varies greatly: it is largely impressive, with both textures and animation fluid and detailed. However, there are points at which the graphics become generally uninspiring – sandstorms, instead of raging, sharp-edged and angry, become cloudy and dull; more a yellowy-orange mist than anything. There are occasional framerate issues too: during large battles, in which many enemy AI inhabit the screen, knocking a single one over can result in a chain-reaction of falling enemies, which often results in juddery graphics and general glitchiness.

The game comes into its own when the platforming aspects are involved. One would be forgiven for comparing the platforming to the Assassin’s Tomb minigames in Assassin’s Creed II – they feel very similar, only The Forgotten Sands is entirely made up of that style. The Prince traverses the terrain, which is much and varied, with gracefulness and elegance. Indeed, his seemingly endless supply of athletic talent works well here, with the parkour aspect feeling open-ended and free - a refreshing contrast to the oversimplified combat aspects.

Level design is wonderful. On the whole, the game areas are challenging to master, entertaining to interact with and impressive to behold. They take some level of intuition and brainpower to conquer and, particularly toward the end of the game, make fantastic use of the various skills which the Prince acquires on his travels. Moving from A to B is exciting, fast-paced and dangerous – one wrong move can send you plummeting, as the player simply must be engaged in order to have even the faintest hope of success.

It is an absolute shame that The Forgotten Sands only becomes what it should have been at the very start by right near to the very end. You play through six or so hours of below-par gameplay, kept sane solely thanks to the marvellous level design and platforming, to be rewarded with gameplay – and even combat – which feels fast, furious and satisfying. It doesn’t feel like a victory, though; you can’t help but be disappointed and a little irked to find that the end of the game feels like what Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands should have been in the first place. It does, however, go some way toward redeeming what had, up until that point, been a mediocre and only faintly entertaining title. You even begin to wonder if the game will suddenly surprise you and become the Ubi-standard title which you always expected it to be.

And then, as suddenly as you were given it, the newfound quality and enjoyment is snatched away as surely as sweeties from a small child. Not that we do that here.

Enter a dull, tedious, never-ending and ultimately pointless set piece, in which you climb up an endless spiral slope, whilst various sand-based enemies scrabble toward you with no apparent purpose in doing so. Enter framerate issues when you attempt to tackle said horde of sand-monsters. Enter increasing amounts of frustration because it just goes on. And on. And bloody on. It ruins any illusion you had about The Forgotten Sands getting better from that golden point just before. Things go from bad to worse with a relatively uninspired section of gameplay during which you merely have to press the cross and circle buttons (or their Xbox/PC counterparts) in order to jump across large pieces of debris, amidst a sandstorm which is as undefined as it is atmospheric.

And a hint: it isn’t at all atmospheric.

I won’t even begin to speak about the near-impossible final boss-battle, which should be fun, edge-of-your-seat and – dare I say it – climactic. It isn’t. It quickly becomes frustrating due to your inability to complete it on any difficulty other than the easiest without dying repeatedly, the hugely small play area and the plain dullness of the battle itself.

In terms of my first romance with the Prince of Persia series, things didn’t go well with The Forgotten Sands. We wanted different things. I said to her: “it’s not me. It’s definitely you.” Because it was – The Forgotten Sands was, ultimately, a disappointment. It pains me to say it: I truly wanted it to amaze me, to stun me into fanatical obsession with the dashing prince and his amazing freerunning abilities. And whilst the freerunning was very good, it was one of very few bright sparks amidst the darkness of mediocrity. The game just feels, as I said at the beginning, rushed and unfinished. It had such potential, but fundamentally was always destined for the bargain bin. Which – if you still insist on buying this – is where you should look for it. Save your money for the day Ubisoft really deliver with the Prince, because we know that they can.


Labels: , , , , , , ,

- Linford Butler

Discuss this article in our friendly forums

Sign up to our community today and discuss our articles, debate over upcoming games and organise matches and playsessions with like-minded people just like you.

Liked this? Spread the word - share with your friends!

Done? You might also enjoy these!

All comments are subject to our commenting policy

GGTL Classics
Some of the very best articles dug out from deep in the GGTL archives, written by some of our past and present wordsmiths alike.
Your continued use of this website and/or any others owned by Gamer's Guide to represents your acceptance and indicates your full understanding of all of our legal policies and terms. Our legal policies and terms are legally binding. If you in any way disagree with or refuse to be bound by any part of said legal policies and terms, you are advised to leave this website immediately.