Eddie: Welcome to TGR’s Prince of Persia textcast, where Jeffrey Matulef, Art Green, and myself, Eddie Inzauto will be discussing the finer (and not-so-fine) points of Ubisoft Motreal’s latest foray into Persian platforming. So, Prince of Persia…you guys played it; what do you think?
Art: As I mentioned to you prior to the start of this, I didn’t finish the game so my opinion isn’t completely set in stone. However, of what I did get to experience, the game felt solid, fluid, and for the most part fun — yet completely unmemorable.
Jeffrey: I really liked the art style, controls, and combat. My biggest gripe was the lazy, repetitive collect-athon nature of the game design. But I had so much damn fun that I didn’t care. What about you, Eddie?
Eddie: I definitely thought the game’s whole audio/visual presentation was pretty spectacular, but the platforming, for me, was relatively unengaging and the orb-collection just didn’t seem to fit the game’s style. It really broke pace to be moving quickly through the levels with a destination in your sights — doing something with purpose — and then to be halted by doodad collection, often retracing your steps over and over.
Jeffrey: The platforming should have been unengaging because it was so easy, but, for whatever reason, I was really drawn into it. I think it was because of the game’s audio/visual presentation. I simply enjoyed clamoring about the game’s many environments.
Art: That backtracking can happen from time to time, but I think that the game did a fairly good job of allowing you to collect orbs as you progressed through the game. I was rarely forced to purposefully seek orbs; as I would go from one destination to the next, I was constantly crossing paths with orbs.
Eddie: Yes, that’s true, for the beginning, but by the game’s end, there seems to be no way to avoid dedicated orb-hunting.
Jeffrey: It’s funny, but in a way it reminded me a bit of Assassin’s Creed. Both games had spectacular presentation and controls, but both were very repetitive and amounted to running from point A to point B. The difference for me anyway, was that I didn’t like running around so much in Assassin’s Creed (maybe because of all the guards that would chase you), but here, I simply enjoyed the fluidity of just moving around the game world.
Eddie: …and for me, the lack of interest I felt at various junctures throughout the game arose not so much from the game being "too easy" (although I guess that’s what it amounts to) but that I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot for ME to do.
Jeffrey: I agree that there really isn’t a lot to do in the game except run around and collect stuff. In a way, I almost feel dirty for liking a game with such pedestrian design so much, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I guess I’d call it a major guilty pleasure, but it had a lot of not-so-guilty redeeming value to it as well. So about the orbs…how did you all go about collecting them? Were you picky and wanted to get them all in the beginning, or did you ignore them until you hit a roadblock and needed more?
Eddie: I would navigate all the paths in each level, picking up whichever orbs were hanging out there, waiting for me to feast on them, and then I’d move on. Once I had all the powers, though, I just kinda breezed through.
Art: Yeah, same for me. Initially, I would try and get all of the orbs I could possibly get, but as I progressed, I wanted to just keep moving the story forward.
Jeffrey: Ah. I’m a bit OCD when it comes to collecting. I got as many as I could at whatever point I was at, and once I had all the powers I wouldn’t leave an area until I had all 45 light seeds. Even after beating the game, I went back and got all the remaining orbs.
Eddie: Wow, you’re a better man than I. I am usually pretty compulsive about doodads in games, but i ended up getting 35+ in each level and not worrying if i missed the last half dozen or so.
Art: I usually am initially, but over time, my interest in collecting them wears thin.
Eddie: That happened to me, fo sho, Art.
Jeffrey: I’m compulsive about doodads when I feel like it’s an attainable goal. Like finding all the gold skulltulas in Zelda…forget about it. But I felt like 45 was a pretty manageable number, and the levels aren’t that big, so I was tempted to find them all.
Eddie: Haha. I got all of those skulltulas! But I was younger then…and apparently more obsessive.
Art: Changing topics for a second, I think Prince of Persia, oddly enough, shares a couple of themes with Okami — a game that is near and dear to my heart. Either of you guys get a chance to play that game?
Eddie: Yeah, the restoration of natural beauty to corrupted areas of the world — a definite common theme between the two. Even the animations were similar, as flowers and other happy-happy things spread out from the fertile grounds upon purification.
Jeffrey: That’s basically what I noticed too, but the similarities didn’t extend much beyond the art style and the healing of land.
Art: I am a HUGE fan of cel-shading. I think it looks gorgeous and definitely does in Prince of Persia. And yes, the restortation stuff was really neat, again. I don’t think it hit the same chord with me this time, because while yes, they do share some similarities, I was much more invested in the world of Nippon (Okami‘s world) and I couldn’t honestly tell you what world I was saving in Prince of Persia.
Eddie: I can understand where you’re coming from, Art. The narrative was generally pretty sparse in PoP, so you didn’t REALLY have clear goals or motivation for saving the world, other than Elika wanted you to and you didn’t want to get smushed by a big bad god.
Jeffrey: I agree with you, Art, about the world. I never had a clear sense as to what this place was like before your adventure begins. Elika does mention at some point that the place was abandoned even before the dark evil god of darkness or whatever had escaped, so I wondered how important it really was to save these areas, but that’s a point that’s brought up a bit in the endgame. Still, a little more backstory couldn’t hurt.
Eddie: Did you guys see any parallels with Shadow of the Colossus? The isolated world; the dark god; the resurrected woman?
Jeffrey: As a guy who just wrote a long Super Retroid about Shadow of the Colossus, yes, I did. But a lot of them have to do with the ending, so I’ll hold off on that.
Art: I didn’t play Shadow of the Colossus (blasphemy, I know), so I couldn’t comment.
Eddie: Prior to launch, I heard rumblings that the game was similar, but for entirely different reasons than I eventually came to somewhat agree with those sentiments. I didn’t feel the one-on-one nature or the scarcity of the bosses was enough to warrant those sorts of comparisons.
Jeffrey: Speaking of which, what did you all think of the combat?
Art: I thought it was the single worst part of the game.
Eddie: I wasn’t a huge fan, at first, but as the game progressed, the battles seemed to become more and more intense. I don’t know if I just happened to play them in the right order for that to be the case, or if the game adjusts, depending on the path you take.
Art: I enjoyed the platforming for the most part, but I could never get into the game. It’s very slow, plodding and there isn’t a whole lot of variety to the combat. It feels a bit more of an after-thought than anything.
Jeffrey: I liked it at first because of how cinematic it was. Then I got annoyed by it because enemies kept blocking all the time. But I felt like I didn’t really come to grips with the combat until around the time I beat the game, and then I was sad that there was no more of it. I almost want to play the game again just for more combat, to be honest. I mean I didn’t fully understand the combat, but I enjoyed trying to understand it, and as soon as I felt like I was just starting to "get it," the game ended.
Art: I’m not sure, but you are essentially fighting the same few characters constantly — and I know they seem to evolve a bit from battle to battle, but it still is uninteresting to me. I also think they over-utilized quick time events way too much.
Jeffrey: I do agree that all the battles feel very samey to me.
Eddie: Yes, very much the same, for the most part.
Art: Having to jam the X button constantly (and you really have to tap that thing; they aren’t very forgiving in that regard) was not really my idea of fun.
Jeffrey: I usually hate QTE, but I liked them here because they fit with what you were doing. When a QTE required you to block an attack with your sword, you’d hit the square button (on PS3), or triangle when you’d need Elika to bail you out.
Art: Actually didn’t realize that, but now that you mention it…you’re totally right. The more you know, huh?
Jeffrey: Haha. I usually suck at mashing the same button repeatedly, but I had no trouble with it here. Maybe I’ve gotten better at it over the years or maybe the PS3 version is more forgiving….or maybe you just really suck at it (sorry, I’ve been there too).
Art: Well, perhaps my style isn’t suited for the game. They might want a certain rhythm to it, whereas I take my hand off the controller and just smash the X button.
Eddie: I sort of enjoyed the QTE parts, but the mashing of attack and defense buttons in a few different combos bored me a bit.
Jeffrey: Yeah, there was a lot of mashing the sword button and blocking. It was hard to come to grips with the finer points of the combat, but I enjoyed trying, nonetheless.
Art: Yeah, a simple press isn’t really that big of deal, it’s more the constant mash-fest that I was forced into, it seemed.
Eddie: To me, it was the QTE parts and the intensified barrages from your enemies in later stages that really upped the intensity, and made the fights more exciting.
Jeffrey: I really liked the camera in the battles. It was sweeping and cinematic, but ALWAYS framed the action right. I was never confused about what was going on.
Jeffrey: I’m glad they kept it to one on one for that reason. So how do you guys feel they could have improved the combat? Or would you have preffererd they cut it out entirely?
Eddie: I would definitely not cut it out completely. I think a bit more variety and free motion would really have made the fights better. Much of the combat took place on a single plane, back and forth, like fencing. I would have liked to circle and attack — to just have more control. Combat was similar to the platforming, I guess, in that you had a few things you could do, and certain times you could do them.
Jeffrey: Maybe allowing you to use the environments more would be better. Perhaps they could have made it so you could toggle between combat stance and platforming mode, and have battles taking place on several planes.
Art: At the end of the day, while I didn’t enjoy the combat entirely, I think removing it would have probably made the game lack variety. So in that regard, it served its purpose. But I think the combat could have just been picked up a little bit. It was just a bit too slow for my liking.
Eddie: I agree, Art, there seemed to be a lot of waiting involved.
Jeffrey: But for what it was, I thought it was a lot of fun, and helped break up the platforming sections.
Jeffrey: What did you all think of the narrative? Did you like the new cast? I hated the new characters at first with their modern American anime-dub accents, but after awhile they grew on me.
Art: I liked the characters, but I don’t think the narrative (up to what I’ve played) really stood out.
Jeffrey: Just to clarify, how far are you, Art?
Art: I’m about 250 seeds in, to give you a slight idea. I think that translates to about a third of the way through.
Eddie: I liked the playful nature of the relationship between the Prince and Elika, but I think the narrative wasn’t delivered all too well. Much of the information about the world, the history, the characters, etc., comes in the form of optional dialogs that the player has to initiate, and those conversations halt the game’s progress…again.
Jeffrey: I’m curious about that. Did you all listen to a lot of the optional dialogue, or skip it?
Art: I tried to listen to all of them.
Eddie: I listened to most of it. I’m sure I missed an area description here or there.
Jeffrey: Same here. There are some really funny lines.
Eddie: I really liked those parts, but just wish they could have been voiced over the platforming action.
Jeffrey: Yeah. I mentioned that in my review. I mean they had voice-over narration in sands of time 5 years ago…
Eddie: Exactly. So what’s up, Ubi?
Jeffrey: I didn’t feel like there was enough variety to the story to develop much of a relationship between the two. Their banter can be funny, but it’s a lot of small talk. I wanted something greater to happen to one of them to ratchet up the tension.
Eddie: Yeah, I was actually surprised by the Prince’s eventual attachment to Elika, because they were really still kinda strangers…even at the end. I really liked the ending — the entire ending sequence.
Jeffrey: I’ll try not to get into spoilers, but I REALLY liked the epilogue, too. I thought it added to the character of the Prince a lot. He’s a bit shallow in this game, but they hint at something deeper beneath the surface. I mean at first he’s a cocky Han Solo kinda guy, but he’s also a loser with a missing donkey and no friends or family. I think theres more going on there, and would like to see that expanded upon in the sequel. I liked how the game sets up for a sequel, but it still feels like it could work as its own standalone game.
Art: So, does the Prince evolve much through the story? He’s been somewhat of a jerk thus far
Jeffrey: He becomes a bigger jerk later, but also a deeper jerk, if that helps explain anything.
Eddie: He was jerk jerk jerk…then all of a sudden had some heart.
Jeffrey: Well, he’s a bit like Michael Scott on the Office. He’s a good-hearted guy who doesn’t know that he comes off as a jerk.
Eddie: I thought he was a softie inside who plays up his jerkiness. The sudden change at the end reflects that.
Jeffrey: Agreed. The prince is a good character and has potential, but they don’t develop him quite as well as they could or seem to think they are.
Eddie: I think we have only seen the surface, really. The Concubine boss, especially, hints at deeper characterization of the Prince.
Jeffrey: As does the ending.
Art: Yeah. I think they have the foundation for something that could be very interesting.
Jeffrey: So it’s not as good as Sands of Time, in that regard, but it’s much much better than Warrior Within, and I thought more interesting than the Two Thrones (which I otherwise liked a lot).
Eddie: …in terms of character development.
Jeffrey: I don’t mean to change the topic, but as a fan of the previous PoP games, one thing I noticed was that there were hardly any puzzles this time around. There were a few lazy crank-turning ones, but that was about it. There was one fairly clever puzzle, involving illusions, but it was rather easy and there was only one in the entire game.
Eddie: Yeah, I noticed that, as well, but it didn’t seem to bother me all that much, as I was already not participating a whole lot in navigating the environment, not having to search and plot my paths, so not having puzzles was an extension of that forfeiture.
Jeffrey: Yeah, plotting paths was something I really enjoyed in the previous PoP games and Tomb Raider, for that matter. This game is very, very straightforward, which is a bit of a shame.
Art: I don’t mind it all that much, to be honest. I’d rather know where to go than not. It seems like developers are moving towards designing games that don’t have people get stuck and unaware of where to go next.
Eddie: Yes, it felt like an introduction to this type of acrobatics-based platformer.
Jeffrey: One feature that was hyped before its release was that as you heal the fertile grounds, the corruption gets funneled into the places you haven’t healed yet, so depending on the order you go, each play-through wil be different. I’ve only played the game once, but it seemed like the corruption didn’t play too big a part in things, so I’m wondering if it’ll really make a second playthrough that different.
Art: It might, and it’s an interesting idea to add value.
Eddie: I think that’s a valid claim, that the corruption funnels into the later places. As I played, the later stages became increasingly more hazardous in terms of corruption, and even boss difficulty.
Art: Yeah, but I do wonder if that is more of a function of the game progressing and sliding up the difficulty accordingly.
Eddie: Well, that’s just two ways of saying the same thing.
Jeffrey: I went left to right for the main areas and found the later ones harder. Did either of you try things in a different order? Next time I play (and there will be a next time), I’m going to go from right to left and see if the ones that were easy before are now the hardest parts of the game.
Eddie: I did the 2nd, 1st, 3rd, then 4th assuming left-to-right numbering. In other words, Concubine, Hunter, Alchemist, Warrior.
Jeffrey: So that wasn’t too different than how I did it, but I found 3 and 4 to be much harder.
Jeffrey: What did you all think of not being able to die?
Art: I think that was smart on their part.
Eddie: Well, I hear that’s the gripe of the century about this game, but I didn’t mind it.
Art: It’s a terrible gripe. Those who want to complain can just keep tabs on the times that Elika saved you. There, that’s how many times you died.
Jeffrey: I liked it in Bioshock and I liked it again here. Game overs are old hat nowadays. It’s all about keeping you immersed in the game world at all times.
Eddie: Yeah, it was just like an instant respawn at the latest checkpoint, which happened to be the last piece of solid ground the prince set foot on.
Art: Exactly, and they managed to find a way to solve that problem — which is much more important than a screen whose only purpose is to tell you you failed.
Jeffrey: There is an achievement/trophy for beating the game getting saved by Elika fewer than 100 times. People complain that the game is too easy, but to me, that achievment sounds kind of hard. Thus, it’s actually no easier than the last few PoP games, but just seems easier because there’s no reloading. I didn’t get the trophy because I was wildly experimental when it came to getting all the orbs. Next time I’m just going to go straight through, only getting the orbs that I need, and see just how "easy" this game really is.
Eddie: Yeah, some orbs seemed to require you to "die" in order to reach them.
Art: Yeah, which I thought was an odd choice.
Jeffrey: I’m wondering about that. It seems like that at times, but I could swear that every single orb gives you a way out.
Eddie: It’s very possible.
Jeffrey: Often you’ll have to double jump to a wall, then double-jump back for example. That was actually my favorite part of the game — hunting down those hard to reach orbs. How many orbs did you end up getting?
Jeffrey: That’s pretty good, but go back for the rest. That was the fun part (for me at least).
Eddie: Yeah, I’ll probably play this game again, when I get a chance. Contrary to what I’ve made it sound like, I didn’ t hate PoP. I actually thought it was pretty solid and enjoyable, just really basic and not terribly exciting…until the end. What are your final thoughts, guys?
Art: I mean, even though we’ve been nitpicking a bit about the combat and some various aspects of the story, I would definitely recommend people check the game out if not for anything else than the beautiful art you get to see.
Eddie: Pretty majestic landscapes, huh?
Art: Definitely, some great views of the world. The game itself isn’t going to rock anyone’s world, but it is enjoyable enough.
Jeffrey: Despite all my nitpicks about lazy, repettiive game design, and how they don’t take as much advantage of the new game mechanics (or new Prince) as they should have, I REALLY enjoyed the core platforming and wonderful set pieces, not to mention among the best graphics of the year. And I happened to like the combat a lot too. After getting all 1,001 light seeds it probably took me about 13 hours, but I have to say, I enjoyed almost every second of that, missed opportunities be damned.
Eddie: …and missed achievements, grr.
Jeffrey: I kind of want to wipe the memory of this game from my mind, so I can play it again, to be honest.
Jeffrey: And you Eddie? What are your final thoughts?
Eddie: Well, i thought that the platforming wasn’t very engaging, in terms of raw play control, but watching the most agile Prince ever was entertaining. The best platforming sequences had the player moving across great expanses rather quickly, and for those, I am grateful. The orb collection was a pace-breaker, as were the static dialog scenes, and I felt like the game had some identity issues. It was two types of platformers at once — the acrobatic, fast-paced type, and the n64-era treasure-hunt. They don’t really blend all too well, in my opinion. Taking away the collection requirements would be to unify this game and make it a much better experience.
Jeffrey: The collecting I can understand not fitting well for the series, but the PoP series was never fast. It used to be slower and more methodical, a la Tomb Raider. This was a bit more like Sonic, in that regard. And to be fair, even though I think the colelcting is lazy design, there’s not much required. You could probably go through the whole game without going out of your way much for collecting and it would be much better paced, but also very short.
Eddie: …and shorter does not mean worse.
Jeffrey: I agree
Art: Well, they do have to justify a $60 game.
Jeffrey: But I think what you mean is that it’s trying to be a very fast-paced linear game, but also a slow-paced collect-athon, and they don’t really mix well.
Eddie: In the end, we all agree that PoP was a good game, but what level of "good" is up for debate.
Art: Definitely. Mileage may vary for this one. It all depends on how much you can look past the annoyances that the game does have. In the end, I do feel that it is universally a "good" game.
Jeffrey: Yeah. We all enjoyed it to varying degrees.
Eddie: Absolutely….I still <3 you, Ubi.