In 1989, Jordan Mechner published his simply “Prince of Persia” The so-called 2D platformer was a game that set new standards, especially with its innovative animations. However, later releases in the series were not always able to match the high level of the first film. However, after Ubisoft took over the trademark rights, that would change: “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” was a masterful reboot.
Today, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the launch of the European version for PlayStation 2, we would like to take a look back. In this article we will tell you why The Prince’s Adventure is a timeless classic and still worth playing.
Fight against fate
In the fantasy adventure we take on the role of a young prince who wants to impress his father. To do this, during a battle he steals an ancient and, it seems, magical artifact: the Dagger of Time. Ultimately the battle is victorious and the prince wants to brag about his trophy. A little later, however, he is tricked into using the dagger by an old man.
An hourglass can be opened with the dagger and the sands of time are released. As a result, almost everyone in the area turns into sand monsters. Only the old man, the prince and a young girl named Farah are spared. The dagger could undo everything, but the prince will have to overcome many obstacles to do so. Will he be able to defeat fate and save everyone?
The story of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time may not have been revolutionary in itself, but the way it was told certainly was. Unlike many other games at the time, the plot did not advance primarily through cutscenes. Instead, the prince and his companion Farah continued exchanging ideas during battles and puzzles.
In times of games like “God of War Ragnarök” or “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” it doesn’t seem that special anymore. Developers use this trick in almost every current story-focused AAA blockbuster. In 2003, however, the small team at Ubisoft Montreal was, in some ways, well ahead of its time. Furthermore, the trick of experiencing the entire story as a playful retrospective was extremely new at the time.
The fact that the creators of the action adventure decided on this approach can be attributed to Jordan Mechner. The creator of the “Prince of Persia” left on a Contribution 2008 discussed the creative decisions behind the game’s narrative: “However, a cool way to tell a story in a video game is to eliminate or reduce cutscenes as much as possible and instead design the game in such a way that The strongest and most exciting moments in the story happen in the game itself.”
Mechner and the “The Sands of Time” team quickly agreed to keep the number of scenes low. Instead, the stated goal was to provide players with “the greatest moments in history.” However, the story should never be the focus of the action. Instead, according to Mechner, gameplay should influence players’ core experience: “Gameplay does not exist to serve the story, but vice versa. The purpose of the story is to support and enhance gameplay.”
Control over time
The gameplay of the action-adventure hit was based on two pillars: platform elements combined with puzzles and fights against various sand monsters. Compared to the two direct successors “Warrior Within” and “The Two Thrones”, the combat system was still quite simple, but it served its purpose. In particular, the intelligent integration of the magic dagger played an important role.
The two most important functions of the prince’s “remembrance” were to go back and slow down time. Of course, the slow motion mechanic already existed in other games, such as “Max Payne”, but it was rarely incorporated as intelligently as in the case of “The Sands of Time”. A rewind option has also appeared repeatedly in various games in the following years, such as “Race Driver: Grid” or more recently “EA Sports FC 24”.
Thanks to the Prince’s various time powers, players have always had a way to overcome sticky situations or correct mistakes.
The individual facets of the gameplay were really good in their own right, but the game’s true strength lies in how they are connected to each other. Ubisoft Montreal manages to repeatedly demonstrate the prince’s strengths in an extremely elegant way. As gracefully as he could walk along a wall, he could also dance lightly among his enemies.
Since the game world also felt like a real, tangible place, this wonderfully reinforced the dense atmosphere. The palace where the adventure takes place does not seem like a mere setting. On the contrary, it’s like a big playground that we can explore like a prince.
Furthermore, the way “The Sands of Time” takes players by the hand deserves a special mention. Camera settings and movements in action adventures are almost always ideal. Every small shift in perspective serves a purpose and optimizes the bigger picture. What is normal today in games of this type was quite revolutionary back then. Overall, there’s no denying how much this “Prince of Persia” reboot left its mark.
A timeless classic
“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” may be somewhat forgotten today. After all, many younger players didn’t grow up with the trilogy at the time and the release of the last major installment in the series was also years ago. But the footprints that the title left at the time can still be clearly seen in countless games today, from “Uncharted” to “GRID” to “Assassin’s Creed”.
Ubisoft Montreal has created a timeless video game classic. Individually, the action and adventure components are nothing special, but the way the story, combat, and platforming elements are tied together is still masterful. It’s a fairytale fantasy adventure whose qualities have defied the ravages of time and are still worth playing today. “The Sands of Time” is a piece of video game history.
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