Sunday, January 08, 2012

Prince of Persia - The Two Thrones

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is the third and final game in the self-proclaimed “Sands of Time” trilogy of games which started with Sands of Time and Warrior Within. The Prince of Persia series, at least in this incarnation, is famous for its platform elements, deadly traps, acrobatic combat and use of sand to rewind time and perform various attacks. Overall, The Two Thrones remains true to the series, but lacks a little extra oomph to stand on its own feet.

The Two Thrones wants to be a transaction between the best aspects of its two predecessors. Although Sands of Time was praised for its platforming elements, the combat system was wholly lackluster. Warrior Within was at the other end of the spectrum, with more engaging battles but little else overall. 

The game thus takes Sands of Time's general gameplay and couples it with Warrior Within's combat system, and adds “speedkills” through the use of quicktime events to boot. These speedkills, which revolve around little cutscenes in which you need to press the attack button at appropriate times, eliminates a good deal of the repetitive nature of combat. Still, it can get quite annoying at times since missing one click of the mouse will void the entire speedkill. Apart from that, the combat is generally fine but certainly not as polished as could be expected from a third game.

Meanwhile, the platform elements are essentially on par with those of Sands of Time. You can thus expect a lot of jumping, running and swinging while avoiding strings of traps. There is not much that can be said beyond that: if you have played Sands of Time, you will feel right at home because, in essence, nothing has changed. Depending on how you look at things, this can be either good or bad: it is as enjoyable as ever, but then again… it is the same gist. 

The major addition to the gameplay is the Dark Prince, essentially a corrupted and more powerful version of the Prince. You automatically shift into the Dark Prince form once in a while, and you get a whole new tree of attack combos, which are ultimately useless because you can just mash the same attack button over and over again to yield the same result. When you are in that form, your life continually depletes but you can heal yourself with sand. It creates a certain sense of urgency to the whole thing that is pretty interesting, but it gets frustrating when you linger for extended periods of time because you cannot find the correct route. Overall, the Dark Prince is an interesting, though flawed in nature, addition to the game.

The PC version is a pretty bad port, mostly owing the very bothersome controls. The game obviously supports gamepads, and I strongly recommend using one because the mouse and keyboard controls are frankly atrocious. It is playable, but very annoying. 

One thing that is sorely lacking in Two Thrones is good writing. Sands of Time had surprisingly good dialogues between the Prince and Farah, and when the Prince muttered to himself. Throughout the game, the two characters really developed a relationship and this helped make the game feel more alive and real. Sadly, all of this is thrown out of the window in Two Thrones. Not that there was not potential: Farah is back, and the Prince has to cope with his darker self who keeps giving him “hints” on his current situation. They really could have done something great out of this, but unfortunately the writing is mediocre at best and lacks any sort of flavour.

As far as the story itself goes, it is ripe with deja vu, and is used as little more than a simple background for the gameplay. Once again, there was real potential with the Prince/Dark Prince struggle, but the whole thing feels trite. 

Two Thrones is not a particularly long game. Depending on how quick you are at solving the puzzles, finding your way around and dispatching enemies, I would say you are looking at about 10 hours on average. There are a few unlockables, but nothing to right home about. The lack of any kind of extra game mode or customisation is the final stake in the replay value's coffin.

In the end, The Two Thrones is certainly not a bad game: it is in the same vein as the other games in the series and is generally quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, there is an overall lack of polish that is disappointing for a third game using the same engine and gameplay. Not only does it not innovate much, but it does not even truly improve the existing formula. For all intents and purposes, this is reheated sauce at its best. If you are looking to get a foothold in the Prince of Persia series, get Sands of Time. If you crave for more of the same after that, then pick up The Two Thrones.

SYSTEM: Play Station 2, Play Station 3, XBOX, Wii, PC, Mac OS X



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