New Beginnings

Over the last few months, and culminating in Ubisoft's Parisian conference last week, it's steadily been revealed where that is. The surprise for some will be that it begins with an all new prince. The prince of the Sands of Time trilogy is the focus no more, instead we have a new prince; a wandering adventurer who finds himself embroiled in a battle between ancient forces of light and darkness. As producer Ben Mattes told us at Ubidays, "We never felt that we could only make a Prince of Persia game with that prince, or only make a Prince of Persia game with the Sands of Time." Instead, the new Prince of Persia - called just Prince of Persia - is all about creating "a new experience; to keep the things that are critical to making a Prince of Persia, Prince of Persia, but to innovate in all the other areas to make sure that when we finally come out on next gen it is not just a next gen iteration of the previous experience. We want to go 'Bang! This is the new reference point for Prince of Persia. This is the game that people are going to be talking about in years to come.'"

This means big changes across the board. For one thing, Prince of Persia isn't a linear experience anymore. Mattes is keen to stress that Prince of Persia isn't a sandbox game, instead its levels are structured as a web of interconnected nodes, with various areas linked by a number of routes, all of which will give the Prince the chance to employ the acrobatic and combat skills that the series has become known for. At the centre of the new story is an ancient god of darkness who pollutes the lands with The Corruption; a hideous blight that saps light and energy from the world. The new Prince will have to travel throughout the land, battling The Corruption and its agents everywhere he can, and returning the game world to its natural order. As he does so the game will adapt the world and the story to accommodate his actions, upping the difficulty level and adjusting the narrative to fit the player. "It's not an easy challenge to tell a story as engaging as the one we are trying to tell in a world where you don't know where the player is going to be or when they're going to be there" says Mattes, "so we've had to come up with what I think are some pretty interesting narrative systems."

One of these is an AI controlled companion character, known as Elika, though her role will go way beyond storytelling. Mattes explains that she's designed to be an asset, not a liability, and that you'll learn to fight with her, perform acrobatic stunts with her aid and make full use of her own mysterious powers. We don't have concrete examples yet, but the Prince of Persia team clearly feels that Elika is one feature that will help revolutionise the whole action/adventure genre. How she will make up for the lack of the Sands of Time and time control - neither to be part of the new game - remains to be seen, but you can bet that the team has some clever idea to sort it out.

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