Considering that people are already drooling over the graphics, Ubisoft may well succeed in rejuvenating the series with its upcoming Prince of Persia, but the important question is how does it play? We met up with Ubisoft during E3 to take a closer look at the gameplay, even though we had to keep our greedy little hands off. However, we did get a closer look at the role Elika plays, as well as the new fight system.
Elika, a guardian of the land, teams up with a drifter who is not yet a prince to fight against the same enemy. Ahriman, the god of evil, has broken free from the Tree of Life and is spreading his corruption throughout the land. The lovely Elika works to restore the land to its luscious state, whereas the prince is just along for the ride; his interests are limited to wine, women, and carpets. Thankfully, this new support character does not get in the way, you won't have to wait for her, and she won't get stuck. She comes in handy if you miss a jump, and you can use her for some elaborate moves and combos. As we watched the prince jump from one side of a cliff to another, Elika helped him boost over large chasms, and her usefulness doesn't end there. There are magic plates that she can activate that will propel them both over long distances.
Given that the game is open-ended, if you happen to get lost, Elika has a compass that she can use to set your objective, so you always have an idea of where you need to head. The areas are massive, and there are always multiple ways of getting to your destination. In the level that we had a chance to look at, we were chasing down a hunter, who had left behind tremors that act as obstacles to block your path. They seem relatively easy to avoid with some careful maneuvering. Each area was referred to as a bubble and you can play in any order that you wish. The game will increase in difficulty as you progress further, given that corruption will spread throughout the land.
Fights are now one-on-one with well-choreographed sequences to make the experience a cinematic one rather than button-mashing your way through cannon fodder. Enemies will change their state, and if they're in an aggressive state, the prince will have a better chance at dealing with the situation. Once they switch to a corrupted state, only Elika can do damage. It's a collaborative fight, and enemies will adapt to your moves, which means that you'll have to change up the combos to be more effective. During the fight, certain animations will indicate what you need to do to counter the attack. It's like a minigame, but we didn't go through the tutorial level, so we weren't sure what buttons correspond to particular actions, and it changes each time. In the demo that we saw, after beating the hunter, Elika brought life back to the barren wasteland almost instantly.
Like previous Prince of Persia games, there will be puzzle elements involved with obstacles, and traps to get around. We saw the prince do a grip fall with his glove, in which he slides down the side of a wall at a controlled speed. Every movement that he and Elika makes is fluid and graceful, and with the impressive art direction that this game has taken, it is truly a wonderful visual experience.
Prince of Persia is set to hit stores this holiday season on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Check back soon for more coverage.