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April 2024

Prince Of Persia: The Lost Crown

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Jan. 18, 2024


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PC Review - 'Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 5, 2024 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is an action-adventure platformer game set in a mythological Persian world.

Unless you count the mobile runner games and the remake of the second title from 1993, there have been no big Prince of Persia games since 2010. Jordan Mechner's original title in 1989 would be an instant classic that would be re-issued over the years, but it wasn't until The Sands of Time in 2003 that the series would hit the mainstream and get a big-budget movie. Since 2010, Ubisoft has shifted its focus to more open-world games, but in 2024, with the help of the team behind the recent Rayman titles, fans got their wish with Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.

The story isn't tied to any of the previous games, and it even changes some expectations. You play as Sargon, the youngest member of a group of Persia's heroes known as The Immortals. After saving the kingdom from an invasion, you arrive at the palace ready to celebrate, but the Prince of Persia is abducted. What makes it worse is that the crime has been committed by your mentor. The group gives chase, and the trail ends up in Mount Qaf, a former capital that has become a site of a mystery instead. Your mission to rescue the Prince is now more complicated, as you have to either solve the mystery behind the ruins or get out before things get worse.

The story's paths are predictable enough, but it still plays out well thanks to the locales you visit that are all contained in Mount Qaf. From open courtyards to caves to frozen ship battles, the excitement is in where the tale will lead you. If there is a visible weakness to the story, it lies with the game's missed opportunities at fleshing out its cast of characters. Some get some decent backstories, but many tales don't go anywhere. Some people you think would be important show up briefly and are promptly forgotten. It is a shame since each character looks like they've got some intriguing stories to tell, and you'll lament that lost opportunity.

The game falls squarely in the Metroidvania subgenre of action-adventure games, which means that there are three gameplay mechanics that act as its pillars. The first is combat, which is a huge improvement when compared to past Prince of Persia games. You start off with dual swords and the ability to parry hits and some projectiles. Simple multi-hit combos are already at your disposal, as are things like a launching strike, vertical stabbing, and kick combos when you start from a dash. Eventually you get things like arrows and a chakram, but perhaps your most powerful weapon comes from your abilities powered by Athra, a sort of mana that is built up by combat. Your first power is a simple drilling attack, but soon, you start to get abilities like producing a healing field or shooting a large powerful arrow at your foes.

The combat is fantastic. The window for parrying is generous, and the graphical flourishes to let you know whether a parry was successful are loud and distinct. The versatility of the parry also helps, since it becomes useful in so many fights, but it also feels optional, since you can survive a good deal of bouts without learning how to parry. Actual combat is fast and never boring, thanks to your execution of multiple swings and the versatility of your full arsenal. Boss fights remain exciting because of what you can perform and what the enemy can do, and even regular fights become encounters you'll be glad to undertake.

One of the more interesting aspects of the combat is how it breaks away from Metroidvania tradition. In games of this genre, you either start out as a weak character or a very strong one before succumbing to something that takes all your powers away. In both cases, you'll eventually get strong enough to take on any possible enemy thanks to your myriad of powers. The game starts you from a point of strength but never takes away anything. You feel powerful at the start of the game, and you only get better once you start finding more powers and tools to use. It is a very welcome difference compared to others in the genre and one that fans will appreciate greatly.

Platforming is the game's second pillar, and it is solid, but that's not a surprise, given how the older games in the series were praised for it. Like combat, the game starts you off with a fairly robust set of platforming moves, from wall jumping to swinging on poles. Once you discover new abilities, your traversal becomes much more robust as you get higher jumps and multiple air dashes, along with the ability to cling to sand waterfalls. You'll also get time-related abilities, like entering a new dimension to avoid obstacles or making a clone of yourself to perform tasks in tandem or retreat when things get hairy.

The best part of the platforming is that it feels so precise. There's never a moment when it feels like you need to fight the controls to pull off moves. Everything feels rather easy to execute, and it feels almost effortless to pull off some death-defying moves in rooms full of traps. That isn't to say that you don't need any skill to get this done, but the barrier to pull off cool-looking moves is lower than in other similar titles.

The crisp platforming and various abilities work very well with the The Lost Crown's newfound sense of exploration. As in any good Metroidvania game, there are a good number of ingenious puzzles that use your movement abilities and combat tools, and the world is littered with plenty of areas to divert you from the main path, often resulting in a number of prizes for your efforts.

While the game doesn't mess with the established formula, it does something interesting with its Memory Shard ability. You get the ability very early on in the game, and while it has unlimited uses if you pick up old shards that you no longer need, it allows you to take photos of the current location, so you can remember what kind of obstacle or treasure is present. Considering how every modern platform allows you to take screenshots and even video clips, this feature might not seem like a big deal, but that mindset changes once you realize that you can pin the screenshots on the in-game map, making it an ideal tool that you wish future Metroidvania titles would adapt.

All of this is tied together with some notable quality of life options to ensure you'll see the game's ending by catering to your needs without making things too easy. Combat still has variable presets, but you can also create a custom version to do things like give yourself a bigger parry window or negate the loss of Athra over time. If your platforming skills aren't up to snuff, you can bypass the difficult sections, but it only applies to areas that are essential to the main storyline, so you'll still need some platforming prowess if you're going after the optional stuff. You can also modify the general navigation elements, so you'll get a subtle guide to the next checkpoint or immediate hints of areas that aren't ready to unlock or traverse yet.

With the knowledge that the Rayman team is behind this, it comes as no surprise that the presentation is stellar. The graphics don't go for an animated look, but they have some flourishes, such as action lines for some of the cut scenes and bright flashes when you parry or get hit. The character designs are a bit exaggerated but are very much welcome in an era where realism is expected from a big game publisher. The varied biomes stand out more with their excellent use of colors that prevent places from being too dour. Animations are absolutely smooth, and the focus on getting this to work well on the Switch means that accomplishing at least 60fps is achievable on low-end hardware. The sound is also on a similar level of quality. The soundtrack does an excellent job of keeping an adventurous vibe going, and while the voice work is decidedly English instead of featuring people with more Persian accents, their performances are still excellent all around.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a great game and a nice pivot for the long-dormant series. The combat is enjoyable, since you never go through that expected moment of weakness like in other games. The crisp controls translate well to platforming that requires a good deal of skill to master but rarely devolves into frustration. The puzzles do an excellent job of being tricky but satisfying to solve. You can still point out a few flaws, like the fact that the story is fairly standard, but those are minor nitpicks that don't stop the game from being a title that's worthy of a classic adventure fan's library.

Score: 9.0/10

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