The Old Man said to the Prince, “Your fate has been written. You will die” Talk about motivation...
Warrior Within takes place a few years after the conclusion of The Sands of Time. After he returned home to Babylon the Prince soon realized that he was being followed. No matter what he tried he couldn’t shake off his shadow so he finally sought help from an old hermit. The old man revealed to him the full scope of his actions in the prequel: The Prince should have died back in the palace and only the Dagger of Time saved his life. This alteration of the timelines awakened the Dahaka, the immortal incarnation of fate. The Dahaka is now hunting the prince and will not rest before the fate of the Prince has been fulfilled. Our hero has only one chance: reach the island of time, the birth place of the sands and the place where the maharaja once found the hourglass. There he might be able to find a time portal and travel back in time to prevent the creation of the sands of time in the first place. Hence with the sands never having been created the Dahaka would have no quarrel with him – at least so he hopes. But even if he is able to get that far, the Island of Time is no place for mortal men. The island’s fortress and its defences have killed thousands of careless adventurers even though most of them crumbled to dust over the centuries. The maharaja was one of the few to reach the island and live to tell. Only a selected few know though that the army of 5.000 he took him was reduced to a group of less than ten in the end. Even if the prince is able to reach the island and find a working time portal in the ruins he will still have to face yet another powerful enemy: the Empress of Time. Little is know about her, a being created aeons ago for a purpose unknown. It is rumoured that she build the Fortress of Time to defend herself from a danger she has foreseen in the time lines. Is she too trying to changer her fate? She, who should know best of all living creatures that one cannot change his fate?
Everyone who finished “Sands of Time” will remember that the Prince returned the Dagger of Time after he completed his mission. So is he still able to manipulate time? The answer is yes! In our recent preview I already explained that the story somehow forgets to explain why he is still able to do so. If you finish the game you will learn that it has nothing to do with the cut in his hand he received from the dagger of time but with a medallion he is wearing (supposedly Farah gave it to him at the end of the first part). While it is true that some early trailers featured the cut it isn’t mentioned at all in the final game - someone else suspecting that it will play an important role in the next game?
The basic gameplay itself hasn’t changed that much but for one thing: the fighting. Let’s face it – if Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time had a major flaw it definitely was the fighting system. Enemies kept re-spawning out of nowhere and using the basic attacks it often took ages before you were allowed to move on. The consequence: people concentrated one the two or three special attacks and repeated them over and over again. Effective it made the game very repetitive.
The developers were aware of these flaws and revamped the fighting system from scratch. The all new “Free Form Fighting System” is a real improvement and you are now capable of many versatile moves while the controls remain simple all the same. A small example: let’s start with grabbing an enemy. While strangling him we can use him as a human shield, try to snatch his weapon away or kick him. Combining the grab move with another buttons may also result in throwing the enemy or cutting him in half. There are so many variations it takes quiet some time to figure out all of them.
Another new feature is the dual weapon system. Still remember the prequel? The Prince used the Dagger of Time as a sidearm to “take the sand” of his enemies. With the dagger gone we have room for new weapons. “Borrowing” a weapon from your opponent you have access to even more powerful combos. There are four basic kinds of side-arms: axes, maces, daggers and swords. Swords are good at everything, Axes are slow but they inflict a lot of damage. Maces are slow but throw enemies back. Daggers finally do very little damage but come in great numbers and can only be thrown. You guessed it throwing your second weapon is another new move. Use a suitable weapon and time the throw right and behead an unwary enemy before he even knew what hit him – gruesome? Sure, but also very stylish... Beware though that unlike your main weapon the side-arms are of poor quality and break sooner or later – so be smart and throw them before they do.
The oriental, dreamy music from Sands of Time partly made room for hard rock sounds and beats. The mix of both works out ok for me but it depends on your personal taste. The prince and his enemies also have way more to say this time round. Besides the usual battle cries and moans both parties will throw curses at each other. Especially the Prince, he loves to brag about his skills - “I’m the Prince of Persia and the KING of blades!” The limited number one-liners are not really inspiring and get really tiresome over time.
Ubisoft Montreal yet again proved an urban myth wrong: that multi console games have to look average. The PS2 version looks good, the Xbox and GC version even a little better and the PC version is simply great. The character animations – especially those of the main character – are still second to none on the consoles.
To draw level with the dismal situation the prince is in the graphic style had to adjust itself as well of course. The palace in the first part was one thing. We explored rooms that obviously were filled with life only moments ago, all of a sudden abandoned by its inhabitants. The Island of Time on the other hand is a place of sorrow and pain and obviously has been so for decades. Whether you like the new style or not you have to give it to the developers that they achieved what they wanted, to create a gloomier new look.
Real eye-candy is evident in some of the new enemies and your battles with them. Take the brute for example, a giant three times the size of the prince. To bring him down you have to attack his un-armoured back. Once he falls to his knees you can climb on him and continue attacking his head. You bet he doesn’t like that! Once you figure out how to beat them they are not that hard to beat yet it is always a small highlight to encounter one of them.
The prince is back! The gameplay was improved and polished where needed and will not leave many fans wanting. But whether one likes the gloomy atmosphere and music style will differ from player to player. In my strictly personal opinion Warrior Within is a worthy successor to one of the best Action-Adventures of the last several years. Rest assured that I’m already sharpening my swords for the next installment...
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