Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - game review

Date: 2004-01-05 13:14:00
The review was based on the PC version.

When writing the introduction to my reviews, I have already referred to more or less ancient past, citing more or less justified connections with the games described. Whether I like it or not, I am forced to do so this time. However, it is difficult not to go back in time to the fateful year of 1989, when on your desk there is a box with the game "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time", which is nothing but a "modern" continuation of the greatest two-dimensional platformer you have ever come across play off the human race!

Some history

Fourteen long years ago, a home-grown programmer named Jordan Mechner knocked on Broderbund's door. He proposed to release his platform game about the adventures of a young prince who fights against the hordes of minions of the ugly Vizier in the name of his love for a beautiful princess. It is not hard to guess that after seeing Mr. Jordan's little work, the decision of his future work companions could not be different than: "Sure! We're in! ”.

Soon, the game landed in stores, delighting both with its captivating plot, ingenuity in the implementation of individual locations, as well as brilliant animation of the movements of the hero we lead. Fighting, running, and above all the moments of pulling up from the abyss filled with traps have been remembered to this day by all those who remember those times.

The second part of the game, released shortly after, offered only minor variations compared to the original. Therefore, it owed its great popularity only to the fame of the original.

It was even worse in mid-1999, when "Prince of Persia 3D" entered the market with his head held high. This head was quickly cut off by fans of the series, who considered the release of "PoP", offering terrible control, not very high gameplay and average graphics, as a scolding of the memory of "The Prince". The fact that the cool reception was not only a sign of exorbitant expectations is evidenced by, for example, the rating of the game on GOL, not exceeding 40%.

The creation of the next part was not so obvious until recently. Discouraged by the previous proposal, Mechner made it clear that as long as a given project did not convince him 100%, it would not allow the work to continue. However, since he was given the opportunity to see the initial results of the actions of the people from the Montreal branch of UbiSoft - which had previously developed the sensational Splinter Cell - there was no doubt that something special was being prepared.

Until the time of the Sands ...

The game begins when the title Prince of Persia steals the ancient dagger of time from his father's enemies. In his youthful naivety, he succumbs to the vizier's persuasion, who orders him to use the spoils in order to free the sand from the magic hourglass. As it soon turns out, the scattered sand spreads over the whole of Persia. To make matters worse, it turns all people into creatures that will treat the vizier as their ruler from then on. Only three people resisted the powerful magic of sand - apart from the vizier and our prince, it is also beautiful (and also sexy, seductive and yummy;) Farah. It is not difficult to come to the only right conclusion that from now on, the only goal of our lives will be to join the forces of the young, strive to eliminate the evil and restore the known order!

Together with the prince, we go to the vizier's palace to reach it and kill it once and for all through the mass of cramped chambers and treacherous corridors, just like in the good old days.

Okay, maybe not quite like the old days again ...

The graphics are captivating. Only now can we really see how great potential lies in presenting what has so far been in our consciousness as quite schematic. The chambers, corridors, halls and lobbies are surprising in many respects. First of all - the size. The rooms are really spacious and if you move from one point to another, you will probably express your appreciation for this fact. The size does not affect the decor, because it also looks good.

Masses of details and details will often appear in consciousness only when a person forgives himself for a moment to blindly wade and decides to look around the area for recreation. Suspended paintings, marble floors, picturesque patterns adorning the walls, candles hanging from the ceilings burning with live fire, as well as torches - create a unique atmosphere of the palace - at times delightful, and at times repulsive with its atmosphere of darkness and hostility.

Have I already told you that the guys who caressed the world of Sam Fisher are responsible for the game? Exactly. Although the play of lights and shadows, due to the formula of the game, does not play such a significant role here as in "Splinter Cell", also in "Sands of Time" it is an element that has received a lot of attention. The sun's rays fall through the shutters, along with dust particles in the air, giving reflections around them. The already mentioned candles and torches cast a glow on the whole room. Coming to this point, we must not forget about the dust rising from under our feet while running, the effect of water running down our body when we had closer contact with it. Ba! We go further - when we run next to the curtain, it will move carried by the wind, we will make the plaster crumbs fall off by stepping on the cornice, and after grabbing one of the omnipresent bars, we will make it spring back.

For the fact that we are not content with pretending, but trying to reproduce reality as much as possible, big applause, gentlemen!

During the first parts of The Prince, motion-capture was a completely unknown term from another planet. It is true that it did not hurt in obtaining realistic movements of the characters, but today their mapping has to go "step" further. And it went - even two steps! Compared to many other titles that use this way of copying reality, "Sands of Time" boasts one thing that is often lacking in competition. It is a great synchronization of the hero's subsequent moves.

The visitor runs, jumps, grabs the jib, makes two somersaults and lands on the ground, running smoothly on the wall, jumping off which he throws himself into the fray - phew, respite :) Here it is! No downtime, no "putting together" individual movements. Everything we want to do can be done smoothly - it looks great.

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "The Matrix", or the last gem of Asian cinema - "Hero", opened in our imagination a gate through which we previously used to pass at most in our sleep. Incredible, acrobatic movements, running on walls, a specific dance in the air, the perfection of controlling your own body and mind expressed by slowing down time - to a large extent find their outlet in "Sands of Time". For the first time, the game focuses on the joint use of the motives of running on the walls and the "bullet time" mode (here it works in two ways - we can both slow down and speed up the speed of the characters' actions), which she manages perfectly. If you can not imagine what it looks like in practice - I will not shred my tongue. I strongly encourage you to download from our server one of the videos showing the above in action. You have to see it with your own eyes!

The issue of the death of our ward was originally solved. During our journey, we collect the magic sand of time scattered at the beginning. When we have enough in our possession, we can use it in the event of death to raise the prince from the dead. The "operation" itself immediately reminded me of the patent known to players from "Soul Reaver". It is true that there were slightly different rules (including the theme of parallel worlds not present here), nevertheless the general concept and animation of bringing the hero back to life with the characteristic blur effect will vividly remind the players of the effects of communing with the continuation of "Legacy of Kain" .

A very important element of the game is combat. You have real abundance in the game. However, as "SoT" in its concept is focused on action, adventure and generally understood "moving forward", usually the battles are not too demanding. A few swings of the weapon (single or combined in "combos"), combined with skillful blocking against strikes by the opponent, is usually enough to move on to the next victim. It will be even easier considering the handicap that the use of bullet time gives.

Perhaps the above was a bit disturbed by the enthusiasm for the game, which so far had the players who appreciated the extensive fighting straight from console fights. However, we must not forget that the game is quite extensive (about 15-17 hours of gameplay) and long stopping for a tactically complex skirmish against each of the encountered enemy groups in the long run would be tedious and significantly weaken the pleasure of discovering the game.

Nothing is perfect ...

The cameras behave not quite as I would have liked. Yes, the vast majority of their work is the most positive. More than once, I was even surprised how the picture takes on fancy positions without causing discomfort in playing the game. Sometimes, however, it happens that the camera sets at an angle that is absolutely not working at the moment. When something like this happens in a fight, or - worse - when making a difficult jump, it can really irritate you.

I do not recommend approaching the game with a keyboard, if we are able to borrow / buy / in any other legal way arrange a joypad. The truth is that "Sands of Time" is a multiplatform game, which producers thought mainly of console owners. A few keyboard keys + two mice, if we have to operate them all at the same time, fall off in the run in confrontation with a properly configured joy. Really, sometimes it's worth spending a few zlotys on a decent controller, instead of suffering torment in the name of solidarity with a writing device. ;>

The game has not yet been translated into Polish. Despite the fact that the distributor announced such a version, eventually the localization work was delayed so much that it was decided to launch an English version on the market. Cenega announces, however, that all registered users of the product will receive a polonization patch after the completion of the work, free of charge.

In a word of summary

Products as innovative and at the same time as refined as "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" are not often launched on the market. UbiSoft's production - rather more hidden than advertised before the premiere - turned out to be a worthy successor to the original Prince of Persia. Excellent graphic design, masterful mapping of character movements, motifs straight from movie blockbusters ... all of this adds up to a game that every fan of the genre should play. Others should at least try - I guarantee it's worth it!

Krzysztof "Bakterria" Mielnik