Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands Hands-On Preview

Over PAX East weekend, fans and critics were treated to a hands-on look at the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Ubisoft’s long-awaited return to the Sands of Time saga. I was among those lucky players, and came away from the demo kiosk pleased with what I had played, looking forward to more.

The Forgotten Sands, or "How the Prince went emo," takes place between the Sands of Time and Warrior Within, and recounts the tale of the Prince’s involvement in the defense of his brother’s invaded kingdom. Of course, this brother carelessly releases the Sands of Time, turning soldiers into sand warriors and unleashing other, bigger baddies, all of which the Prince has to mop up.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Two segments were available at the show, and were tacked together to give players a taste of a few different game mechanics. The first part of the demo was what appeared to be an opening scene, much like that of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Here, the prince navigated a Middle-Eastern palace exterior as soldiers clashed with him and each other and catapults pelted the stone walls and walkways in his path. This environment provided a perfect backdrop for learning the most basic of the game’s controls, such as wall-running, wall-jumping, shimmying along ledges, sliding down flags, etc. It was very straightforward, with little planning involved — a point A to point B affair — but the controls felt tight and responsive, improved from the previous Prince of Persia and that game’s delayed responses to player input.

The game’s button layout will be quite familiar to Prince of Persia veterans. The face buttons make the Prince jump, drop down from his current perch, swing his sword, and kick his enemies, while the shoulder buttons make him run up or along walls, rewind time, and activate special abilities like the water-freezing mechanic that was showcased in the second part of this demo.

After switching from the opening scene to an interior location from later in the game, I had the opportunity to make use of one of the Prince’s major elemental powers — the ability to freeze and un-freeze water at will. By holding the L2 button, I was able to freeze waterfalls and cascading water columns into solid walls and climbable pillars to help the Prince navigate his way forward. Thin streams spouting out of walls at timed intervals could also be frozen into the horizontal, ripe-for-swinging poles the franchise is known for. This, just one of the new platforming powers, will clearly expand the possibilities in The Forgotten Sands, especially as sequences become more complex. For example, the Prince may have to freeze a waterfall, run across it, unfreeze as he jumps through another fall toward a water column, freeze time again before latching onto that, leap to and swing from a frozen pole, unfreeze long enough for the next hole to spout, refreeze to grab hold of the newly created pole, and swing to safety. Players will have to think differently when entering each area, considering new platforming options provided by water, as well as the more obvious solid structures in the environment.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Continuing the game’s elemental theme, the Prince will have new powers mapped to the controller’s directional pad, such as rock armor or the devastating, area-of-effect tornado he can call upon in battle. These will be acquired from a Djinn residing in a mystical dimension over the course of the game, and will draw from the same power bank as the Prince’s rewind ability each time they are used.

As far as combat is concerned, it seems Ubisoft has once again focused on challenging the Prince with large hordes of enemies, this time flooding the screen with up to 50 foes at once. Combat will be quick, rather than methodical, with much dodging involved. I was sad to see the block button removed from this entry in the series, and there seemed to be fewer opportunities to pull off flashy moves, a la The Two Thrones. I specifically tried to spring off of walls and over/into my enemies, but to no avail; most of the combat was a matter of "slash, slash, slash, power…." The Forgotten Sands is still an unfinished product, however, so I hope a little more complexity can be infused into the Prince’s swordplay before release.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is shaping up to be a welcome return to form for the Prince after 2008’s aberrant Prince of Persia. Come May 18th, gamers will be rewinding time and running through the Middle East all over again.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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