I have a long and passionate history with the Prince of Persia franchise. It’s a series that helped bridge a gaming relationship with my Dad due to his personal history playing the original game, so we both spent plenty of nights playing through the Sands of Time trilogy together when it released in the early 2000s. I had always hoped that Ubisoft would return to the series some day with new games, but had truthfully given up hope given that the series somewhat evolved into Assassin’s Creed, and we all know that series is showing no signs of slowing down. But then out of nowhere, Ubsioft revealed last year that we would in fact see the series return, with a completely brand new entry and that the franchise was heading back to its classic 2D viewpoint. Now after playing through the game, I can confidently say that Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is not only a great game. It’s up there with the best the series has to offer and also manages to push the modern Metroidvania genre forward.
It has been some time since we’ve gotten a new entry in this franchise, and I think Ubisoft have also acknowledged that by making The Lost Crown a new reimagining of the series. It doesn’t directly tie into any of the previous games and focusses on a fresh cast of characters so that all players are going to be on the same page when beginning the game. The Lost Crown sees the series going back to a 2D design and adopts a metroidvania approach to its design where you’ll have to traverse through the game’s various biomes which are packed full of traps, puzzles to solve and enemies to defeat and then revisit many of the areas again after obtaining new abilities to access areas that were previously unobtainable on first visit. Providing the game with steady pacing when it comes to exploration and progression and it’s also further enhanced thanks to how well designed and diverse each of the sections of the world are.
In The Lost Crown you play as Sargon, the youngest member of the Immortals, a group of Persian soldiers that are considered some of the toughest fighters in the kingdom. Being the youngest, you can see that Sargon is proving his place within the Immortals is justified, but he’s a very capable fighter even right from the beginning of the game. Instead of playing as the titular Prince of Persia, in The Lost Crown the plot actually sees Sargon and the other Immortals on a rescue mission to retrieve the kidnapped prince. A journey that will take him to many areas across Mount Qaf.
The Lost Crown also comes with a flashy new visual style too, opting for a more stylised look for the world and especially the cast of characters. It provides a look that is fresh for the series but also suits the style of game it is very well. Character designs are nice and match the artistic direction of the world established with this new refresh of the series. The anime inspirations come through clearly, not only in the designs and attitudes of the characters but the whole game features flashy movesets, finishing moves, camera framing and cutscene compositions that pay tribute to the anime genre and that was something I personally loved to see.
On the gameplay side of things, outside of telling a pretty interesting story that is uncovered the more you interact with the npcs of the world, this Prince of Persia entry is primarily focussed on providing a fun Metroidvania experience that is built upon its combat, puzzles and platforming sections and the game is at its best when it combines all 3. The areas of Mount Qaf themselves are visually diverse and come with their own distinct style and typically new types of enemies. This made each of the environments visually interesting and still entertaining to revisit when the game has you backtrack through areas previously visited without it feeling like a chore and adding unnecessary length to the overall experience.
The combat is simple to begin with and the game does a great job at teaching you the ropes in the early hours, gradually getting the hang of performing attacks, combos, then parrying and dodging. Sargon has all the skills needed from the beginning to feel capable, but throughout the course of the game, you’ll have the ability to learn new skills and abilities and enhance Sargon via the equipment menu. The enhancements aren’t just focussed on the combat side of things and Sargon’s brute strength. You’ll also unlock new traversal abilities that allow you to navigate the levels more efficiently and also access new areas that you were previously unable to reach on first visit which plays more into the MetroidVania design that The Lost Crown nails. By the end of the game you’re pulling off some downright amazing looking combos and abilities which certainly come in handy against another fantastic aspect of The Lost Crown. The boss battles.
The moment to moment combat is fun and certainly keeps you on your toes, but the bosses in this game are on a whole different level when it comes to scale, challenge and fun-factor. They’re each unique and range from smaller scale, to much larger scale enemies, many also utilising the environment to provide a further layer of challenge. To come out on top you’ll have to learn to read the movement of the enemies, predict their attacks and pick the opportune time to strike. Messing up when it comes to strategy can quickly lead to death as the enemies in this game hit hard when they land blows on Sargon. Not just bosses, all enemies can take you down if you’re not careful, which adds another layer of challenge and risk to the moment to moment gameplay.
From a performance perspective, the game itself is fluid and feels amazing to play. The pacing of the gameplay, thanks to it’s hand’s-on feel and Sargon’s movement based abilities means you always have something right in front of you to be doing at each moment whether that be fighting an enemy and utilising Sargon’s jumping, dodging and parrying skills, traversing through puzzles or progressing towards the stage’s next point of interest. There’s no time wasted just standing around waiting. And the lack of downtime comes as a real strength for a game like this as I consistently felt like I was progressing forward and getting into new encounters and story beats at just the right time.
Outside of the main golden path there are also Xeroxes challenge coins to locate and try to collect as well as optional pathways with additional dialogue moments and encounters to discover for players that love to see and do everything.
The Lost Crown takes a lot from other great Metroidvania titles but it also gives back too. The game’s Memory shards system is a game changer for the genre. It allows you to ‘memorise’ the location of points of interest that may currently be inaccessible to you when first reaching a new area, allowing you to take a screenshot of the current area and store it on the world map so that you can have a visual representation of what the point of interest for that spot was. Making it really easy to plan where you need to travel back to and what still exists in the area. I loved this feature and it’s something I hope all games start to introduce in the future, even ones outside of this genre. It was such a handy tool to have and helped me plan my trips through Mt Qaf more efficiently.
Overall, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is an amazing revival of a series that hasn’t been given much love in recent years and is an incredible addition to the Metroidvania genre. It’s combat, puzzles and platforming are really satisfying doesn’t overstay it’s welcome when it comes to overall pacing. There are still some unexplained story threads that I would have loved to see resolved, but leaves me hopeful for either further dlc or a sequel to help wrap up or expand on the events set up in this refreshing new take on the Prince of Persia.
A ps5 review code was provided by Ubisoft for the purpose of this review.
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