PS3 Review: Prince of Persia – The Forgotten Sands

In my last commentary, I mentioned how much a disappointment “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” was, especially as the sequel to the critically acclaimed and ingenious “Sands of Time”. Since “Warrior Within”, Ubisoft had churned out two more home console “Prince of Persia” titles, but no matter how they tried to tweak and innovate, they seemed to have missed the mark that “Sands of Time” nailed brilliantly. The last outing on the current generation console gave the franchise a complete graphic style overhaul but still lacking the magic that “Sands of Time” offered.

“The Forgotten Sands” was released at a sensitive time with the Hollywood movie of the franchise storming into the cinemas. This raised the fear of Ubisoft trying to cash in with a tie in game – which usually mean they will suck – for a last time. However, the game has nothing to do with the movie at all but related to the original storyline of “Sands of Time”.
“The Forgotten Sands” bridges the time between “Sands of Time” and “Warrior Within”. The Prince was on his way to visit his brother who was guarding the Solomon’s Palace currently under siege by foreign invaders. In order to win, his brother bet on unleashing the Solomon’s army against his enemy. And as usual, events didn’t turn out as planned and thus we have the Prince jumping from wall to wall and poles to poles on a rescue mission.

Here we go again...

The gameplay of “The Forgotten Sands” marked a welcoming return to what made “Sands of Time” a great game. The mix among puzzle solving, acrobatics and enemy slashing were well paced enough to keep you interested. Also the Palace’s self-defence mechanisms were clear homage to “Sands of Time” and gamers who had played that game to death will feel right at home. The controls on PS3 were quite ok although the heavy deployment of skills through the shoulder buttons did sometimes cause confusion and frustration when you are trying to solve complicated puzzles that required complicated acrobatic moves and other skills. On top of the shoulder buttons, the D-pad was also deployed for some additional elemental skills for your hacking and slashing. Basically “The Forgotten Sands” has fully utilised all the buttons available on your PS3 controller for you to get through the game’s mechanics.

Apart from your standard acrobatic moves and time rewinding abilities, Ubisoft had thrown in a couple of twists for your puzzle solving and platforming skills. Now you can freeze water and recall memories in the environment. Freezing water can turn jets streams into swing poles, holding columns and waterfall walls. However water may not be jetting out at the same time and there is a time limit for freezing water. So you will need to make sure you notice the pattern of water fountains and jets before you do your leaps of faith. For recalling memories you can call upon old structures that were already collapsed back into physical existence. There is a catch though: you can only recall one piece of memory at a time. So you have to make sure you are off the current recalled platform before you can recall the next platform you need to land on. Otherwise death is surely waiting for you. On top of that there are bird jumps for you to get to higher areas or widely spaced out areas. But these birds will not just happily lend their wings to you as they will shake you off and disappear if you stay too long. These introductions gave the game a breath of fresh air in terms of gameplay but at the same time also became major frustrations. Once you unlocked all these skills, you will have to time your moves and jumps accordingly as there are areas that you will need to jump normally, freeze water and jump / swing, then jump, recall memories, jump, freeze water, jump between solidified waterfalls, unfreeze water to jump through the same waterfall, recall memories to land etc. etc. and the list goes on. That kind of time / polygon precise jumping will eventually become your usual cause of death in some areas. To make it more challenging, there will be areas that you are forced to slide down broken platforms while doing all these freezing water and memory recall and even with a bit of traps in the mix. And when it comes to traps, there are some areas so filled with traps that they can occupy the whole screen to a point that you can’t even see where the passages are unless you stand right in front of your TV.

A water park in the desert?

The combat system is still your standard normal attack, kick attack, charge attack and jump attack etc. You can add elemental magic to your attack by sacrificing your time rewinding energy slots but they are not really necessary for you to finish the game. Nonetheless if you have spare experience points they are good eye candies and sometimes proved to be good supplementary skills e.g. the ice attack pushes all the enemies in front of you down. Boss fights are not really that hard even on normal mode and in fact they are quite easy as most of the bosses are so huge and slow that you can just run to their back and slash their legs with your chained charge attack and voila they are done!

“The Forgotten Sands” also included an experience point level up system like RPGs. You receive experience points by defeating sand creatures (though there were a few compulsory battles that do not grant you experience points which is quite strange) on top of occasional refill of life and energy slots. Once you’ve got sufficient points you can unlock a node on the development tree. Unlocking one node will open up the next tier of the same branch. These branches vary from basic stats like more HP, stronger attacks to elemental magic of all kinds (basically wind, earth, fire and ice). The system is not particularly innovative as there are RPGs that provide more creative development systems but it is a welcoming addition to the game. Since you won’t have enough points to open up the whole tree, you can carry over the tree and the points to the next game save and it will be available to you again once you start battling sand creatures again.

When you finish your game once you can proceed with game save and use your UPlay points to unlock other things such as survival mode, time attack etc. Also Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed fame is an unlockable playable character for gamers who want to play as a different “Prince”.

One hell of a puzzle

“The Forgotten Sands” is no doubt a reimagining of the magic of “Sands of Time” in a bid to recapture fans of the original game. In fact it is a welcoming return to the roots that made “Sands of Time” a great game. However, the game came a few years (and a few games) too late as all the once cool acrobatic moves and mind and skill blowing puzzles now look stale and over exploited. Certainly the frequent inclusion of puzzles that involved heaps of luck in precise polygon jump didn’t help to entice players to enjoy the game as it should be too. The introduction of RPG elements and magic though provided some freshness to the game, were not enough to salvage the game from being the shadow of a well made clone of “Sands of Time”. Should there be no exploitation of the franchise with the previous entries “The Forgotten Sands” will stand much more strongly in the “Prince of Persia” family. If you love “Sands of Time” this is still a playable title. Otherwise this is just another game in the franchise.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

About the Author

Level up freak. Level 99 is a norm not a goal. Love my JRPGs and RPGs in general. Also love my platformers and puzzle games. Was addicted to Zoo Keeper, Magnetica, Animal Crossing, Disgaea DS, Dragon Quest IX and White Knight Chronicles. Prefer to spend my time away from gaming as an actor although do have a full time job that keeps my mortgage going. But generally love anything creative. And if anyone tells you gaming is a waste of time, tell them you have great eye, hand and brain coordinations that they will never have!