Sadly, there remain a few minor reasons to grumble. The first comes down to that old Prince of Persia bugbear: combat. Ubisoft has wisely downgraded its importance from Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, and the tremendously irritating mass scraps of old have been replaced by tense, one-on-one duels. The actual fighting system works reasonably well, and there are some nice touches like ‘state changes’ where your enemy becomes invulnerable to all but one type of attack. However, after a while fights develop along two strands. Either you use a pitifully simple combo to dispatch your enemy in seconds, or you spend five minutes or more wearing the tricky git in question down while he wallops you every instant you let your guard down. The more the game progresses, the less fun the fighting gets.
And this also affects the game’s boss battles. The game has four major villains supporting Ahriman, and each turns up several times during the game before you face them down in one climactic battle at their stronghold. Each boss has its own personality and idiosyncrasies, and you can sense that the game is building them up as strong opponents so that it’s all the more satisfying when you finally defeat them. However, the methods of doing so grow ever more ornate and the repetition gets a little wearying. For me, the final battles turned into wars of attrition, with the speed and vigour of enemy attacks making the game’s deep combo system almost unworkable, and our hero instead relying on regular resurrections while he slowly chiseled away at the enemy’s health. Maybe I just never fully grasped the intricacies of the combat system, but this stuff slowed the game down a little too much for me.
This isn’t a disaster, and neither is my second minor whinge – the limited number of puzzles. Sands of Time, with its ingenious time control mechanics, had some fantastic examples, and even The Two Thrones had a few good brain-teasers. In this Prince of Persia we only get a handful, and none of those are particularly memorable. It’s a shame that there isn’t a little more smart stuff to go with all the swashbuckling, wall-running, pole swinging stuff that makes the game so great, but – lest we forget – even The Sands of Time had its share of flaws. Forget Tomb Raider: Underworld, forget Mirror’s Edge, forget Ninja Gaiden 2. This is the best action-adventure of the year, and unless you demand a seriously hardcore level of difficulty, there’s really no good reason to miss it.
A spectacular rebirth for this great action-adventure series, and one that’s built for just about everyone bar the most hardcore gamer to enjoy. It has a few flaws, but after the mild disappointments of The Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, the Prince is back to being the stuff of legend.