(Not sure why I’m writing here given that probably no-one will be able to see it. It’s kinda like a diary )
Prince of Persia 2008 is rather infuriating. Not totally in the usual game sense, but in the they were so close and they did so much right and then they sabotaged themselves!! sense.
I’m far enough in now that I get what they were going for, and when it comes together it’s great. But there are a couple of dumb decisions that undermine all their hard work.
When the platforming gets into its groove, it feels great. It’s much faster and smoother and more fluid than SoT or Tomb Raider and you’re flying from wall to pillar to ring to wall. It’s like a great half way house between Tomb Raider and Assassin’s creed. It doesn’t quite have the planning and puzzle solving elements of the slower games, but it’s not quite as automatic and mindless as the faster ones.
But because it’s much more reaction based than the slower ones, and because the chains of moves get longer as the game progresses, it’s easy to miss one button press at the end of a chain and throw yourself into the abyss. At which point you have to restart the chain from the beginning. At which point the gameplay can become frustrating.
Which is so maddening, because they already had the perfect mechanic to deal with this! This game would be exponentially improved by a rewind function.
It’s like they tried to make a Ferrari, but for some reason forgot that they’d already invented round wheels and so they decided to go with square ones.
The actual platforming isn’t super hard, but failing just breaks the flow that they’re going for.
There’s also a really weird choice where each level starts Corrupted, but after you beat the boss it gets cleansed. Again, cool idea and it looks lovely.
But again a dumb decision screws it up. To level up you need to collect orbs. The orbs only appear after you cleanse a level.
So you go through the level. Beat the boss. Cleanse the level. Go back out through the level collecting orbs. So far so good.
But now you need to go back through the level again to get all the remaining orbs. And then back out through the level again to get to the next area. It’s so weird.
Again, I get what they were going for… something more cinematic. But I just don’t really like the combat at all. It just feels really repetitive. I think there are combo moves, but I mainly just end up using the same button mashes every time.
The quicktime event dodges and blocks sometimes work, but are often annoying.
There are a couple of quicktime button-mashing events which I can’t even do with a regular grip on the controller (fail 100% of the time), so I have to put it on my lap and then mash the button… at which point it becomes succeed 100% of the time.
That breaks the immersion.
They double down on the weak points (instead of the strengths) by making you battle the same bosses again and again.
Once again, I get what they were going for… more meaningful battles against recognisable enemies. But it doesn’t work.
The level structure means I’ve just cleared out one region, which means I’ve just fought the same boss 5 times in a row. Using basically the same tactics every time. That was just tiresome.
I think the level unlocks are supposed to make you jump back and forward between regions to mix up the fight order, but that just seemed inefficient.
The game doesn’t really explain it, but the best way to beat a lot of the enemies is to knock them off ledges or into walls, resulting in a insta-kill animation. That’s a good idea, but I wish they’d highlighted it a bit more early on… otherwise the battles can drag on forever.
Story and Characters
I absolutely love Elika. She’s great. I love her attitude and her writing and her voice acting.
The ‘prince’ isn’t bad. A bit too jokey-dude but it’s grown on me as the game has gone on, and it works well as a set-up for Elika’s responses.
I also love the animation and the little touches about the way they interact as they move through the levels. The way he grabs her and pulls her onto his back for climbing, the way they switch places when on ledges or beams (with an occasional ‘excuse me!’ which is just great. )
I have no idea what’s going on with the main plot. The basic ‘good vs evil’ is clear, but there’s a total lack of explanation about what the main bad guy is up to. But the game is doing well at slowly building up the main relationship and slowly introducing background and lore.
But, again the way it’s all delivered is just dumb. To uncover all this dialogue, which is 90% optional, you have to push the ‘talk to Elika’ button. Each event or area seems to unlock a bunch of dialogue.
But in practice this means each time you enter an area, or beat a boss, you both stand there for 5 minutes while you click the ‘talk to Elika button’ 8 times until you exhaust the available dialogue.
The dialogue is good, but why put it all in these huge dumps.
So, yeah, they made a beautiful game with lovely levels, great platfoming and good dialogue, and then managed to find ways to make the levels, the platforming and the dialogue (and the combat) much more repetitive than it needed to be.
And why no time rewind???
You finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up!
Still playing though.