In Forgotten Sands the Prince’s powers are based on the four elements—wind, water, earth and fire—and the platforming is where this theme gets the most attention. Early on you gain the ability to freeze water in time, turning spouts, drains and waterfalls into solid icy poles, columns and walls. The kingdom’s water supply is timed so that you must leap off a solid spout, unfreeze the water just long enough for the next one to start flowing, and then re-freeze it just in time to grab on.
About two-thirds through the game Razia lets you see parts of the ruined city that long ago crumbled, and temporarily apparate them. The catch is that you can only recall one section at a time, so you’ll quickly be leaping off of one beam, returning it to the ether and summoning the next mid-jump. The third elemental power lets the Prince leap like the wind, as long as he has an enemy to leap into. This is obviously scripted when you have a solitary skeleton to dash to at the end of an elaborate platforming sequence, but the wind power gets more complex and fun once there are long sequences of floating sand birds to jump between.
You only end up using three elements in the platforming, with fire conspicuously absent, but considering how complicated these sequences are now, I can’t imagine how crazy they’d be if they implemented burning away plants or something of the sort. As it stands, the platforming in Forgotten Sands is the best in the series, offering a shirt-drenching level of challenge to even Prince of Persia veterans. There are rooms and set-pieces that demand extremely precise timing and the intervening trap-filled corridors are downright masochistic at times, but in the end it’s nothing short of brilliant.
As the Sands Trilogy Prince’s first outing in HD, Forgotten Sands is a decent, if not breathtaking transition. The early environments are a bit homogenous but the scenery gets livelier once you enter the lush gardens and royal chambers. I especially liked the stray coins the Prince’s feet kick up in the treasure room. Later on the ruined Djinn city changes things up with a distinctly African mythological feel, which is a nice change from the Arabian Nights flavor of the past games. The ever-present water is always gorgeous to behold, and the end sequence in a massive sand cyclone is a visual and platforming tour-de-force, even if the end boss isn’t much of a challenge.
The Prince himself has bulked up his spritely physique since the events of Sands of Time and he looks a good bit older, hinting that Forgotten Sands happens at least a couple years later. He wears the same leather armor and red sash from Warrior Within, and coincidentally it’s the same outfit he has in the new movie. I have a feeling they did as much as possible to make the Forgotten Sands Prince resemble Jake Gyllenhall’s portrayal, even though the game and movie are plot-wise completely unrelated.
The sound design is high quality but not as distinctive as the rest of the series. Sands had an intoxicating blend of traditional Arabian music and indie rock, Warrior Within had grim n’ gritty metal with guest work by Godsmack and Two Thrones went full orchestral epic, but Forgotten Sands just doesn’t stand out in the music department. It’s not bad music by any stretch, but it just doesn’t “stick.” There isn’t a whole lot of voicework either, but Razia is convincingly otherworldly and Malik does a good turn as an overconfident charismatic king. Ratash isn’t that memorable as a villain, but the demonic Sanskrit they have him bellowing makes him feel like he’s straight from hell.
Forgotten Sands is shorter compared to its brethren, taking at most eight to ten hours to finish. There are some extra costumes to unlock through Ubisoft’s Uplay service and a combat endurance/time trial arena, but considering the combat isn’t that compelling to begin with, it isn’t something you’ll be coming back to often. Forgotten Sands will probably be the one I replay just for the platforming.
As a whole the game feels like an extensive expansion pack or an expert mode platforming course. The platforming clearly got the most attention, which is good considering it’s the defining aspect of the series, but the combat and story feel like incidental filler used to round out the package into a separate game. As a unified experience, Forgotten Sands holds together better and moves more cleanly than the plodding, repetitive Warrior Within. Still, at the end of the day Warrior Within advanced the story substantially and had a few great twists, while Forgotten Sands is predictable and mostly shut-off from the rest of the trilogy. I went in expecting it to bridge the gap between the first two games and it just didn’t do that.
If you play the Prince of Persia games for a satisfying multi-course banquet of combat, free-running and emotionally gripping story, Forgotten Sands might disappoint you. But if you’ve been missing the raw gameplay, then the perfect platforming on offer here demands at least one play-through.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Forgotten Sands feels like a big expansion pack, and while the acrobatics are far and away the best in the series, the combat has a lot of unrealized potential and the story isn't that satisfying. This is one case where Prince of Persia fans will have a great experience and be disappointed at the same time, but rest assured--the brilliant platforming demands that you play this entry at least once.
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