Fit for a King?The Forgotten Sands
isn’t totally without innovation though and there are several new things in place which help redeem it a bit from just being an amalgamation of the titles before. The first and most out of place of all these is the introduction of a new RPG-lite system, which rewards you with XP for every enemy killed or secret sarcophagus discovered.
The Prince’s new upgradable abilities are all based on the classical elements and are gifted to him by the D’jinn that guides him through his mission – which would sound pretty interesting if it weren’t negated by how useless the powers are. The nature of the Prince of Persia
games means the action all takes place on balconies, towers and other high-up places which, since the Prince can now kick enemies to knock them back, means that none of the battles are even close to taxing. That’s doubly true when you can rewind time at a button press, so it really doesn’t matter whether you choose to level up or not.
Still, on the plus side, at least you can
die. That alone puts The Forgotten Sands
above the The Prince of Persia
in the eyes of many, regardless of how useless it is for the Prince to trail flames behind him if he wants too. Or shoot ice from his sword. Or knock enemies back with a whirlwind. Or turn himself into stone. Or…no, wait, that’s all of them.
The Trail of Flame power emulates the after-effects of a Vindaloo
Where The Forgotten Sands
really livens things up and starts regaining ground though is outside the combat and in the platforming sequences that have always been the signature of the series. Ubisoft Montreal doesn’t mess around either, quickly scaling up the complexity of the locations and weaving in some incredible vistas for players to fling themselves around on.
There are the usual trap-filled gauntlets to run through as well, with spike-traps and oddly modern buzzsaws rippling along the walls in ancient Persia. It’s same-old, same-old for the most part here though – there aren’t any new dangers to contend with and while the trap-laden corridors are definitely a lot of fun to explore, the reality is that they won’t slow you down for too long. We ran through most of them without slowing down.
The only part that’s likely to actually cause anyone any grief are some of the more complex timing puzzles that are borne out of the Prince’s new magical skills, which exist separate to the combat abilities. Steadily unlocked over the course of the game, the first and most used one lets you freeze all water in your vicinity, turning fountains into platforms and waterfalls into columns you can climb up. Puzzles are built around this that see the Prince having to carefully time it so that he can jump through unfrozen waterfalls and grab on to solidified waterspouts.
Bosses are easy to beat and require nothing more than button mashing
Learning to negotiate these sections represents the absolute toughest part of the game and unfortunately it’s a challenge which arises more from trying to coordinate trigger presses than anything else. It’s the hardest that Forgotten Sands
offers and it’s only really difficulty because of the control scheme.
Where the Prince of Persia
games have always shone is when it comes to the way they funnel you into a certain mindset, putting you in ‘the zone’ and letting you glide through the levels effortlessly. To be fair to The Forgotten Sands
we’ll admit that it is at least brilliant at inducing this state and, once you’re familiar with each of the powers at your disposal, dealing with waterfalls and the like becomes second nature. Once you’ve got the knack then bounding around the castle walls can be incredible fun, which makes it a shame that the experience doesn’t last very long. It’d be easy to complete the whole thing in just a day or two, leaving you with a shallow Challenge Mode and a bunch of endlessly annoying U-Play rewards piled up on top of the PlayStation Trophies or Games for Windows or Xbox achievements.
Really, Ubisoft, the U-Play achievements system is totally redundant and without merit.
It’s clear that Ubisoft’s main aim with The Forgotten Sands
has been to put all the strengths of the series in one place – the story and character of the first game, the combat of the second and the stealth-kills of the third. In many ways it does it quite well too and there are occasional glimmers that suggest Forgotten Sands
is moving towards something quite brilliant, but the vast majority of the time these individual elements feel a bit too diluted to work as well as they could. It’s fun while it lasts, but it struggles to ever rise above that.