Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Succeeds at Saving the Franchise from the Sands of Time

I was never a big fan of The Prince of Persia series. I played it a bit back in the day on a 386 in one of its original incarnations, and I played most of Sands of Time, but I ended up watching a friend play its sequel, Warrior Within, after that game released and was largely unimpressed. That said, while I wasn’t a big fan of the series, I enjoyed Sands of Time enough and respected the series enough that when the most recent iteration of the franchise was announced, I took an interest.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown represents both a step forward and a step backward for the series, and both steps are simultaneously in the right direction. It’s a step backward in that it returns the series to its older 2D roots with a severe emphasis on trap-heavy platforming, and a step forward in that it succeeds in making the franchise relevant by turning into a massive Metroidvania infused with an ambitious storyline.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a pretty standard Metroidvania. That said, it is a really, really good Metroidvania, with the heavy focus on platforming that implies. As you traverse the game’s massive city you’ll gain a number of powers and abilities which allow you to reach new areas and traverse the city in new ways. Most of these are pretty standard: You’ve got an air dash and a double jump, plus a grappling hook-like ability. You also get a time rewind ability which lets you set a rewind point to zip back to. You can also wall-jump from the outset of play, giving you a solid set of movement tools which grows substantially – but not overwhelmingly – throughout the game, and all presented as time-themed to line up with the story.

Platforming in the game feels pretty great; it’s very snappy and there’s a ton of ways the game rewards you for mastering different combinations of movement. A large number of the game’s hidden power-ups and upgrades are hidden behind difficult platforming sections complicated enough to become puzzles in their own right, and there are a number of puzzles in the game which make clever use of your movement mechanics and the game’s time-centric backdrop.

Combat in the game is solid but unremarkable. The system has a decent amount of depth and success on harder difficulties will depend on learning the nuances of enemy attack animations, parry timing, and juggling opponents. On easier difficulties you can just mash your way through fights, however. Most of your power-ups give you some extra combat options on top of additional mobility but using actually using them in fights is mostly optional. That said, using the rewind ability is pretty great for getting through seemingly-unblockable boss attacks.

The Lost Crown features a robust set of accessibility sliders, letting players fine-tune how much difficulty they want out of the game at each step. This primarily plays out as a way to make combat easier – most of the sliders affect damage taken and dealt – though even on the game’s easy setting you may find yourself needing several attempts to take down bosses if you haven’t over-explored to find more power-ups. It’s not quite as relevant for the platforming sections, but the game features an assist option when it comes to difficult sections which are necessary to progress.

I started the game on normal and ended up switching to easy about halfway through. Combat was fine but ultimately I got a much bigger thrill out of the game’s platforming and puzzle sections. This was, incidentally, a bigger draw for me in Hollow Knight as well, where I loved tackling the Path of Pain but hated trying to take down some of the game’s bosses.

Players take on the role of Sargon, the youngest of a group of warriors named the Immortals in the employ of a fictionalized version of the kingdom of Persia. After the prince of said kingdom is kidnapped, the Immortals pursue his kidnappers to the mythical Mount Qaf, home to a cursed city ruled over by King Darius before some terrible calamity struck and everything went to hell. The curse itself is time-related: The city has become trapped in time, and time flows differently depending on where you travel.

This is used to varying degrees of success during the game, but is at its best when you visit the Raging Sea area. This portion of the game sees you traveling out past the city docks to a portion of the sea which has become completely frozen in time. The level itself is a ship stuck in the moment of being attacked and struck with lightning and the whole thing looks amazing. It’s by far the game’s best set piece. Don’t get me wrong – the rest of the game is very pretty, but the ship stands out.

The story in The Lost Crown is fine. It’s ambitious and the characters and voice acting are great. The developers have taken more care than in the past to incorporate real Persian mythology and influences and there are a ton of interesting story tidbits and background elements to discover as you progress through the city. That said, the story doesn’t really nail the landing and the ending is just kind of mediocre, and it leaves some dangling threads.

Final Verdict

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is pretty great. It’s one of the best Metroidvania games I’ve played in the last few years, and I liked it more than Metroid: Dread all things considered. It’s currently available on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch and it’s a great way to spend 30+ hours and I find myself looking forward to what the Ubisoft Montpellier studio can make next.

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