Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is the second installment in the series following The Sands of Time with the HD treatment. Ubisoft created this entry to the original trilogy on December 2, 2004 on all major last generation consoles. They threw away the innocent, cartoonish feel and replaced it with darker tones and complimenting imagery in order to appeal to a wider audience. Is this darker prince worth revisiting or has the outdated title become a victim of time itself?
If there’s one thing Prince of Persia consistently did write it was story telling. Warrior Within continues the story seven years following a more disturbed prince who finds himself hunted by the Dahaka, Guardian of the Timeline. After consulting an old man about his course of action the prince decides to venture to the Island of Time. Residing on this mysterious island is the Empress of Time, the creator of the Sands. By stopping the creation of the sacred Sands he hopes to deter the attention of the Dahaka. Upon leaving the old man leaves the prince with the statement “Your journey will not end well. You cannot change your fate. No man can.” From here the dangerous and perilous journey is set into motion as the prince attempts to do the impossible.
As with its predecessor, Warrior Within knows how to assemble challenging yet entertaining puzzles. This is definitely one aspect that has hid its age well. Some might even go as far to say its complexity rivals that of Assassin’s Creed, a series that debuted 3 years later. That is an impressive feat. Players can expect to jump, swing and shimmy their way across crumbling architecture as each leap puts them that much closer to their goal. Ubisoft definitely knows how to create intricate level design and I can guarantee players haven’t seen how games should tackle traversing areas until they’ve seen a Ubisoft platformer.
The Sands of Time was partially criticized for its lackluster combat system. This game looked to right those wrongs by adding a more intuitive and fluid method of engaging enemies. Instead of the basic combo sets that you could count on one hand from Sands of Time, Warrior Within has thrown in longer combo chains coupled with new abilities. Not only are throws added into the mix, but secondary weapons can be picked up from enemies to play on the updated dual wielding combat. Even a new Sand power is bestowed on the prince to make him as deadly as he looks. This move knocks down enemies in the vicinity of the circular sand blast. All of these additions are welcome to the series as it continued to progress throughout the years.
Another area which the second title surpasses the first game is in the game’s length. With more content packed in gamers have found themselves logging between 15 and 20 hours on average. For linear single player games nowadays this play time is almost unheard of. Prince of Persia is a game that provides tons of platforming that will keep your attention for days. It definitely is a nice change of pace having an immersive title that can’t be completed in one sitting.
As mentioned earlier, Ubisoft went in a different direction with Warrior Within. This isn’t your light hearted prince you first met in the Sands of Time. The prince dons an evil look with long black hair, sunken eyes and an attitude to bring the entire package together. Unfortunately, this was the wrong move. It feels like Ubisoft sold out their character just to try to gain a few extra followers. The cartoon design of the first prince was very fitting not only because of his innocent and heroic attributes, but it complimented the shimmering, vivid environments. Having the prince lose his innocent identity kind of creates a disconnection between the two games and between the player and the prince himself.
The game’s new tone isn’t the only problem when it comes to presentation. Visually, this “HD” upgrade doesn’t feel very high definition at all. It is only in the minor details that minuscule work has been done. Otherwise the game looks nearly identical to its 6 year old counterpart. Also, the images sometimes don’t seem to fully fit the 16:9 ratio of HD tvs nowadays. It seems as if they took the 4:3 SD ration and stretched it over the larger area to make it seem better. This only brings out more jagged edges along with blurry sections.
There may come a day where the camera doesn’t hinder platforming so heavily. In a game about leaps of faith and death defying acrobatics it is crucial that the player understand their position in correspondence to the surrounding environment. There were many instances where the camera decided not to line up properly to show the prince the proper path to traverse. Obviously this lead to some unnecessary deaths which can cause even more annoyance when you realize the spacing in between checkpoints. Ubisoft has lead the industry for the most part in what free-running/platforming should be, but in the 6 years that have passed since this game’s release they still struggle with this issue.
Warrior Within boasts an updated combat system, but I’m not sure its potential is fully realized most of the time. The game rewards the player for defensive actions it seems since a constant attack upon enemies rarely results in obtaining victory unharmed. This is extremely apparent with numerous enemy types and bosses alike. The player will, most of the time, fall into a routine for fighting certain opponents. When you have found a proven method in being victorious why would you change it? This leads to 15+ hours of grinding through the same encounters rarely switching up your tactics as you come across new foes.
The other area in which repetitiveness is found is within the platforming itself. It is not because the platforming is by any mean awful. It is a combination of the checkpoint spacing and odd camera angles. This leads to repeating the same platforming areas over and over until you can get your character heading in the right direction. The platforming is fun because it is unique. That wears off on your fifth attempt.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within HD is a classic game that remains the part of the wonderful trilogy. That being said it i easily the weakest installment of the original three. The combat received a boost as did the length of the game. Making a return is the ever addicting platforming that made the game what it is and that’s where most nostalgia will be found. For those who have played Warrior Within before this should be the one you skip if you’re downloading the titles as the come out. If you’re new to the series its hard to tell you to skip an entire entry in the series because it is a good game with a great story, but it is weighed down by issues that plague this genre along with others that have shone through with old age.
[Editor’s Note: Prince of Persia: Warrior Within HD was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 hardware. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Prince of Persia: Warrior Within HD Review,