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It’s also a game that feels built to mend the faults of its predecessors. The repetitive, drawn out combat that marred The Sands of Time was only made worse by Warrior Within’s combat-heavy design, and finally Ubisoft has done something to make our lives that little bit easier. That thing is the new ‘speed kill’ system. Get into position behind or above a baddie and the screen flashes with a weird blurry, iris-in effect. Press the right buttons in the right sequence at the right time, and you can finish off your enemy before they have a chance to retaliate. Early on, this just seems like a flashy way of avoiding the regular scraps, but believe me: in later stages ‘speed kill’ will become your new best friend. It helps you narrow down otherwise impossible odds, and prevents you getting bogged down in tiresome, run-of-the-mill fights. It’s one of those enhancements that really does alter the flow and pacing of a game for the better.
Pacing was obviously a concern for Ubisoft, as there have been real efforts to spice the action up with chariot-racing interludes, heavily-staged boss battles and sequences which see you in the form of the prince’s demonic alter-ego, the Dark Prince. Now, while we love the “Dukes of Hazzard” slow-mo jumps, the chariot races are spoilt by the tendency of one wrong move to send you back to the start of the section, but the Dark Prince bits are simply ace. Your new form isn’t just faster and stronger than the standard-issue Prince; he comes complete with a cool, God of War-style chain weapon, which comes in handy when dismissing larger groups of baddies and also enables some new acrobatic feats. Of course, the Prince isn’t short of tricks of his own – you can still use the sands to turn back and slow down time, giving you a vital chance to cheat death just as it seems most inevitable.
When all the good stuff comes together – the daring runs high across the rooftops and through the streets of Babylon; the dark prince slicing and dicing his way through guards and monsters; the prince sliding down a chain to deliver a ‘surprise’ to the guard below – it’s time for a deep, cheerful sigh of satisfaction. In a year that’s seen a dearth of decent platformers, The Two Thrones seems a wonderful reminder of just how engaging the genre can be.