We got a closer look at a new PlayStation 2 version of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which showed off the franchise's new twist on the princess character. Unlike in previous entries in the series, the princess in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is more than just a helpless damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. The new princess, named Farra, is one of the principal characters in the story and is far from helpless. She's also not entirely friendly when she first meets the prince. It's hard to blame her, though, because Farra is the daughter of the Indian maharajah who is apparently killed by the Persian army at the start of the game. To add insult to injury, she is captured by the army and brought along as a slave with the other valuables, such as the prince's dagger and the hourglass containing the sands of time, that were looted from her late father's kingdom. However, while she's far from chummy with the prince, Farra will be a useful ally and should add an entirely new facet to the game's already impressive gameplay.
You'll first encounter Farra in some of the early cinematics in the game and see her on the periphery in the early parts of the game. You won't begin to interact with her until the prince unleashes the sands of time and transforms everyone into surly sand creatures. Just as the prince's dagger protects him from the effects of the sands of time, Farra is protected by a medallion given to her by her later father. When the pair meet up it isn't exactly a lovefest--Farra fills the prince in on what has happened and, of course, gets in a few digs about the recent "conquering and pillaging" unpleasantness in her homeland. Despite her obvious disgust with the prince, Farra proves to be a valuable ally, since she has knowledge of the powers of the sands of time. She also appears to be willing to take an active role in helping the prince restore order and combat the assorted sand creatures. As you can imagine, their relationship will develop as you progress through the game. Whether that means they'll be friends or the prince will be found dead in a ditch with a shiv in his back by the end of the game remains to be seen.
The prince's relationship with Farra translates into some unique mechanics over the course of the game. We got an early look at how she functions in the game, and, while her AI is still being tuned, she appears to be shaping up to be a nice complement to the prince in terms of abilities. Farra is armed with a bow and arrow, which lets her attack enemies from a distance, and she can squeeze into small spaces the prince can't. As a result, in some levels you'll have to work in tandem with her in order to progress. For example, the two of you will start a level together, and you'll reach a point where she'll move ahead and trigger switches to open locked doors in your path. These levels offer a nice change of pace from solely using the prince, and they keep the action moving along at a good clip.
As a final note about the new version, we noticed a serious bump up in the game's graphics from our previous looks at the game. While the new version was still a work in progress, as evidenced by small bits of code that popped up onscreen during gameplay, the frame rate was improved, and the visuals were more polished. New bits of animation have been implemented as well as new special effects and camera angles. Given how promising the game is now, we're looking forward to seeing how much more Ubi Soft can cram into the game before its November release.