It should be no surprise by now that when the third Prince of Persia game was announced, fans of the series (this writer included) were sufficiently cautious of it. The previous title in the series had been quite polarizing for fans of the series, and people were hesitant to see the Prince’s story become even more unnecessarily dark and gruesome. But when the game was proclaimed to have the best features of the both The Sands of Time and Warrior Within, gamers became intrigued, but still skeptical. And that skepticism is addressed in this week’s edition of Emmori’s Prince of Persia Spectaculariffic Game Reviewing Time for Great Justice, which features the third installment of the classic Sands of Time trilogy.
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, released by Ubisoft in late 2005, is the final chapter in the adventures of the titular Prince of Persia. Upon his return from the Island of Time with his new love interest Kaileena, the Prince finds that someone has invaded his kingdom and is ransacking his home city of Babylon. He learns quickly that this has been the work of the Vizier–the villain of the first game–who has been brought back to life thanks to the Prince’s manipulation of the timeline in Warrior Within. The Vizier proceeds to sacrifice Kaileena and remake the Sands of Time, which begins to infect the populace of the city, including the Prince himself. His infection results in the creation of a darker side of him called the Dark Prince, whose voice guides and berates the Prince, and occasionally transforms him into a shadowy, menacing sand monster. Returning to the game (also as a result of the Prince’s meddling of the timeline) is Farah of the first game, who once again aids the Prince in his adventures. While it is a vast improvement over Warrior Within, the narrative of The Two Thrones suffers from some of the same problems as its predecessor: the story progression is well-paced and the Prince’s narration is once again pertinent, but the character interactions are still clunky. The Prince’s and Farah’s relationship isn’t nearly as fun or intricate as it was in the Sands of Time, and the Dark Prince’s inner dialogue with the Prince is usually interesting, but also often uninteresting and usually unneeded.
The gameplay of The Two Thrones is, however, undoubtedly the best in the series after two years of development. The fluid platforming once again is the central focus of the game, incorporating all of the games’ previous pitfalls, traps, and obstacles, as well as new features: The Two Thrones gives the Prince the ability to brace himself between narrow walls and climb up and down, as well as use the dagger to grab onto points of a wall during a wall run or jump. The Prince’s dark form also utilizes the ability to swing from fixed points, as well as extend a wall run. These new features have allowed the developers to create new dimensions of platforming and strategies to play with, and they are indeed a blast to play through.
Combat in Two Thrones deserves special note, since it has once again been changed and expanded since the previous games. In addition to the Prince’s standard form of agility-based fighting that utilizes the environment and a multitude of combos and weapons, the Prince’s Dark transformation allows him to utilize the Daggertail, a new weapon the Prince finds himself bonded to after being infected by the sands. The Dark Prince’s fighting style is far more aggressive and powerful than his standard form, but often feels too easy, since nearly every enemy in the game is unable to block most attacks from the daggertail, which means the player can generally just press the Secondary Attack button until victory is achieved. The third method of dispatching enemies is via a new stealth mechanic that allows a player to quickly dispatch enemies with a speed kill–a small interactive cutscene, with success based on timed button presses. Skilled players can even dispatch several enemies at a time, or dispatch multiple enemies, one after the other. Boss fights also make a return, each of them being reminiscent of previous fights from the series, but all relying somewhat heavily on speed kills to end each fight. After years of practice, Ubisoft has finally created the perfect formula for how a Prince of Persia game’s combat should be handled.
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, while still suffering from a lag in characterization the series has never fully recovered from, is still a strong title and a worthy final page in the Sands of Time trilogy. Its design offers a very back-to-basics approach to narrative, while still improving and innovating the action of the game above that of its predecessors. This reviewer recommends it highly, especially to those already invested in the series. Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones was originally released for PS2, Xbox, and GameCube, and can also be found over Steam, PSN, and on the Wii and PSP under the name of Prince of Persia: Rival Swords.