In 1989, Jordan Mechner released his single “Prince of Persia” The so-called 2D platformer was a game that set new standards, especially with its innovative animations. However, subsequent releases of the series could not always match the high level of the first film. However, after Ubisoft took over the rights to the brand, this was to change: “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” was a masterful reboot.
Today, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the launch of the European version of PlayStation 2, we would like to look back. In this article we will tell you why The Prince’s Adventure is a timeless classic and still worth playing.
Fight against destiny
In this fantasy adventure we take on the role of a young prince who wants to impress his father. To do this, during a battle he steals an ancient and, as it turns out, magical artifact: the Dagger of Time. In the end the battle is victorious and the prince wants to show off his trophy. A little later, however, an old man tricks him into using the dagger.
An hourglass can be opened with the dagger and the sands of time are released. As a result, almost everyone in the area turns into sand monsters. Only the old man, the prince and a young girl named Farah are saved. The dagger could undo everything, but the prince has to overcome many obstacles to achieve it. Can he defeat destiny and save everyone?
The story of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time may not have been revolutionary in itself, but the way it was told certainly was. Unlike many other games of the time, the plot did not advance primarily through cutscenes. Instead, the prince and his companion Farah continued to exchange ideas during battles and riddles.
In times of games like “God of War Ragnarök” or “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” it no longer seems so special. The developers use this trick in almost all of today’s story-focused AAA blockbusters. In 2003, however, the small team at Ubisoft Montreal was, in some ways, way ahead of its time. Also, the trick of experiencing the entire story as a fun look back was extremely novel at the time.
The fact that the creators of the action adventure opted for this approach can be attributed to Jordan Mechner. The creator of the “Prince of Persia” left in one Contribution from 2008 discussed the creative decisions behind the game’s narrative: “However, a great way to tell a story in a video game is to eliminate or reduce cutscenes as much as possible and instead design the game in such a way that the most strong and more The exciting moments of the story take place in the game itself.”
Mechner and the “Sands of Time” team quickly agreed to keep the number of scenes down. Instead, the stated goal was to give players “the greatest moments ever.” However, the story should never be the center of the action. Rather, according to Mechner, the gameplay should influence the core experience of the players: “The gameplay is not there to serve the story, but vice versa. The purpose of the story is to support and improve the game.”
Control over time
The gameplay of the action-adventure hit was based on two pillars: platform elements combined with puzzles and fights against various sand monsters. Compared to the two direct successors, “Warrior Within” and “The Two Thrones”, the combat system was still quite simple, but it served its purpose. In particular, the clever integration of the magic dagger played an important role.
The two most important functions of the prince’s “souvenir” were to go back and slow down time. Sure, slow-motion mechanics already existed in other games, like “Max Payne,” but they were rarely incorporated as cleverly as in the case of “The Sands of Time.” The rewind option also appeared repeatedly in several games in the following years, such as in “Race Driver: Grid” or more recently in “EA Sports FC 24”.
Thanks to the Prince’s various temporal powers, players always had a way to overcome sticky situations or fix mistakes.
The individual facets of the game were really good on their own, but the real strength of the game lies in how they connect together. Ubisoft Montreal manages to demonstrate the prince’s strengths again and again in an extremely elegant way. As gracefully as he could walk along a wall, he could also lightly dance among his enemies.
Since the game world also felt like a real, tangible place, this wonderfully reinforced the dense atmosphere. The palace where the adventure takes place does not seem like a mere backdrop. Rather, it is like a big playground that we can explore as a prince.
Additionally, the way “The Sands of Time” takes players by the hand deserves a special mention. Camera settings and movements in action adventures are almost always optimal. Every small change in perspective serves a purpose and optimizes the overall vision. What is normal today in games of this type was quite revolutionary back then. Overall, there’s no denying how much of a mark this “Prince of Persia” reboot has left.
A timeless classic
“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” may be somewhat forgotten today. After all, many younger players didn’t grow up with the trilogy at the time and the release of the last major branch of the series was also years ago. But the traces left by the title at the time can still be clearly seen in numerous games today, from “Uncharted” to “GRID” and “Assassin’s Creed.”
Ubisoft Montreal has created a timeless video game classic. Individually, the action and adventure components are nothing special, but the way the story, combat, and platforming elements are intertwined is still masterful. It’s a fairy tale fantasy adventure whose qualities have defied the ravages of time and are still worth playing today. “The Sands of Time” is a piece of video game history.
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