Thursday, February 09, 2012

Battles of Prince of Persia

The game that explains the events between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within.

Battles of Prince of Persia is a somewhat unknown strategy game in the popular Prince of Persia series. In it you control the titular prince as he searches for a way to free himself from the Dahaka, a supernatural being that he unleashed in the events of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

STORY: The story takes place between the events of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. If you've played those games, one major thing that anyone would notice is how much darker and war-hardened the prince has become between the two games, and that's where Battles of Prince of Persia comes in. In it, we see the prince continue to try to overcome his fate. In order to find a way to escape the Dahaka, he needs to search other countries for a mythological item, and thus plots to start a war with them in order to facilitate his search. The story covers the prince's many battles with his neighbors, as well as several events that happened before The Sands of Time by the evil Vizier.

I really liked the story in the game; it really fits in well and explains a lot of events between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within. The new characters were interesting, but the focus still remains on the Prince, as it should. Also, all of the battles were more or less relevant to the story, with the exception of a couple of the initial battles, which served as tutorials.

GAMEPLAY: First of all, I'm not new to the tactical/strategic genre by any means, but Battles of Prince of Persia has a lot of features in it that you just can't find anywhere else. Being a card-based strategy game, you play with a customizable deck of 30 cards. You can make your deck out of hundreds of different cards to create your own method of playing, such as adding in specific cards in order to move your units farther or adding in additional defensive cards in order to protect your men, no matter what you do you will have to make your deck reflect your preferred playing style. 

Also, as I mentioned before, the game features a war between three factions, and throughout the game you will be forced to play as certain people in certain missions, each of which has their own unique deck and cards. For the record, I didn't really like being forced to switch people so often, because I definitely prefer some generals over others and each time you switch generals you have to make a new deck for them. Aside from that, the core gameplay is quite good. As you control your army, you will have to keep in mind numerous factors in order to successfully attack and destroy your enemy, such as what weapon type and size the squad is that you're attacking with, as well as from what direction and what status cards they may have active on them. The game features a rather simple paper-rock-scissors concept in its battles, each squad either has lances, swords, or arrows where lances defeat swords, swords defeat arrows, and so forth. It gets complicated when you add in the various card effects, but the game is pretty good at giving the player a decent learning curve and tutorial.

Also, you will have a general unit who can grant bonuses to squads within his zone of control. There are also status cards that can grant bonuses within a certain zone, adding another element to think about. Another feature I really liked is that it DOES matter how you attack an enemy. For example, if you attack an enemy squad from behind, you will be much more successful than attacking head-on. You can even perform a pincer attack to attack for 150% damage, giving the player a good reason to outflank his opponent. To recap, the core gameplay and strategy is solid, but the card element can make most battles feel like a play-as-you-go affair as it can be hard to get the cards you need at the right time. The gameplay is quite fun, but it loses points for forcing the player to play as people they don't want to be.

GRAPHICS: The graphics in the game are pretty much what I expected by looking at the box. First of all, you can play everything with the stylus in this game, and it works quite well. The top screen is used to display how many units each general has left, as well as what objectives your troops must do before the battle is complete. In the bottom screen you control your units in a square-box grid. Each one of your units is also represented by a square and a symbol, so you can tell what kind of unit they are without clicking on them, though they could have done a better job in giving the units better symbols, as a couple of units symbols look too similar to each other, which could lead to problems. I did like the fact that the number of people in a squad decreases as they are attacked, and you can tell by looking at the battle map because that squad has fewer dots in its square than a fresh one.

When one squad attacks another, the screen fades out to show a close-up view of the fight. The attackers will run/shoot at the enemy and strike them, while the defenders try to block and occasionally counter-attack. These close-up views are rather neat, but after the first couple of missions, they just become repetitive, even more so than other titles that also do this such as Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, due to there being much fewer unit-types in Battles of Prince of Persia.

SOUND: The music in the game is decidedly Arabic, taking on the sound of The Sands of Time, rather than the more rock inspired Warrior Within. The music varies from women singing with a harp-like sound in the background to a mix of Arabian-style guitar playing during the battles. The music isn't too rememberable, but it does sound good at least. The sound effects are also rather standard, and you'll be listening to a lot of sword clashes. I would've liked to have heard more death cries in the game, as they don't really have that sound effect at all; instead enemies just simply disappear after you hear the sound of a sword hitting something. The rest of the sound effects are what you would expect, so overall everything in the category is average.

REPLAYABLE: There is literally no reason to play through the game again once you beat it. The only reason I could see even picking it up again would be if you had a friend playing through it who wanted to battle you, and honestly I really can't see that happening as I don't believe this game is very popular at all. While I did enjoy the story, and the strategy elements and gameplay were rather fun, some of the battles felt more like a chore at times when they made me be a general that I didn't like.

OVERALL: Overall, a good strategy game with excellent ideas that just didn't pan out well in the end. If you could be the prince throughout the whole game and maybe even get to pick which units you get to fight with, I think the game would have done a tad better. I'd definitely recommend it to a fan of the genre that may be looking for something fresh to play, or maybe even a hardcore Prince of Persia fan, as the story alone provides a lot of background information between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within. Other than that, though, there are a lot of other games that will probably entertain you much more. If you do decide to pick up Battles of Prince of Persia, you should be able to find a rather cheap copy at your local game store. Have fun and keep playing.

SYSTEM: Nintendo DS