A return to the good 'ol Arabian nightsEdit
If you were to go by the traditional representation of a Middle Eastern prince, our acrobatic hero would have a vast beard, a massive harem of dusky young maidens and the finest jewels, palaces and riches available. Instead, our favourite Persian (besides Zarathustra) lives an essentially nomadic existence, with only a horse and a sword for company. And wherever he goes, disaster, perturbation and despair are only seconds behind him, usually in the form of some kind of ancient curse.
Our Prince is on his way to visit his elder brother Malik, who he discovers is being besieged in his ludicrously oversized palace city. The battle is going badly and Malik is getting desperate, and seeks the assistance of a mystical armed force sealed deep in the bowels of his citadel. See if you can guess what happens next.
These events fit in the period between Sands of Time and Warrior Within, acting as if the last game (Prince of Persia) didn’t exist. In practice this means playing Forgotten Sands is like playing a slicker Sands of Time.
In many ways, this is a great thing. The Sands trilogy is fondly remembered, so giving the fans what they want is a sensible thing to do. It’s been tried, tested and found to succeed, so after the relatively experimental “you can’t die” approach of the last Prince of Persia, it’s good to see a return to classic roots for the series. Time can be rewound and the tension of actually being allowed to fail has returned. Something that was missing from Prince of Persia, where your female ally would save you every time you screwed up a jump.
While what worked in 2003 still works now, having no actual progression, bar the ability to freeze water a bit and a more exciting combat system, isn’t really good enough. Annoyingly, things that did work well in the last Prince of Persia have been stripped out, like using a companion’s attacks to assist you in combat or in making huge jumps, and the hub-based mission structure.
The Forgotten Sands still presents you with increasingly big rooms with conveniently placed levers, poles and columns to jump between and, while the action is exceptionally fluid, you’ll be intimately familiar with the concept of déjà vu after only a few hours of play. Admittedly, it’s inherently difficult to change such a successful concept without losing something, but to basically run away screaming from evolution like this is a bad sign for the future. Game development should be about evolution and pushing boundaries, not just about playing it safe and chasing the easy dollar, pound or euro.
Things aren’t all the same, though. Combat has been improved since Sands of Time, with a Batman: Arkham Asylum-style setup where huge numbers of enemies advance slowly forwards, while you try to chain together a fluid series of attacks, dodges and special moves. This works well, with huge swarms of skeletons being despatched with swift sword strokes and acrobatics, but it suffers from the same problems that afflicted Rocksteady’s release.
You still get locked into animations too often, causing you to take unnecessary damage, and sometimes things can degenerate into farce as you roll around frantically while your health recharges. There are also too many of the boring big brute enemies that rush you with a charge attack, smash their heads against walls, causing them to remain concussed just long enough for you to hack at them from behind a bit. Word to any game developer out there – these are over-used: please stop cramming them into your games.
None of these points stop Forgotten Sands from being a fine game. It’s an unapologetic remake of Sands of Time, a back-to-basics action/platform game that will delight any who play it. It’s just not original and after seven years, more has to be expected than what Forgotten Sands provides. Perhaps the most interesting thing to arise from this game is the question of where the series goes from here, if Ubisoft are so scared of change.Don’t forget that Forgotten Sands is carrying Ubisoft’s much-maligned DRM system, where your PC has to be online at all times in order to play the game. Your saved games are also stored online by default. However, this can be changed if you want.