An enjoyable game overall, but definitely a lesser one than its predecessor.

User Rating: 8.2 | Prince of Persia: Warrior Within PS2
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within in the first ever real sequel to a story in the PoP franchise. Not only that, this game is also the sequel to the highly praised Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which is considered to be the first successful transition from the prince’s old 2D world into glorious 3D. So Warrior Within definitely has something to live up to, and the pressure for creating a great sequel has undoubtedly been great. But sadly, even though this is still a very enjoyable game, it appears as though Ubisoft has failed to live up to the standards set by their first achievement. If you want to know where they went wrong, I suggest you keep on reading. If you have followed the development if this game you will most likely already know the initial story of it. However, for those of you who haven’t, a quick recap: In the first game, the prince unlocked The Sands of Time, and with it he unleashed a plague upon humanity. Everyone touched by the sands would be changed into a creature of the sand, their old selves gone forever. The prince, however, was left unaffected thanks to the dagger of time--which incidentally was also the key that unlocked the sands. As the prince, it was your task to lock the sands back into the hourglass and set things right again. In the end, he not only succeeded at his mission, but he also managed to prevent the sands from being opened again. The unwilling hero had saved the day, and life could, once again, continue on as it always had--players rejoiced! But as it turns out, the prince would not be given the chance to continue on with his life. Instead he has learned by now that he is no longer supposed to exist. When he first unlocked the sands, he was supposed to die. But obviously he somehow, unknowingly, cheated death. Unfortunately for him, Fate is not one who likes to get cheated, so Dahaka, the guardian of the timeline is sent after the prince to seal the deal, and kill the prince. And this is where the sequel starts. The young prince feels that his time hasn’t come yet, and has set out on a quest to keep the Dahaka from killing him. He learns the location of the sands’ creator, and sets out to prevent the sands from ever being created in the first place; with the belief that if the sands were never there to trigger the events that would lead to his death, the Dahaka will have no quarrel with him and he will no longer have to live his life on the run, constantly looking over his shoulder. As the game starts it is already quite obvious that the tone of the game this time around is quite different from that of The Sands of Time. The music, visuals, and everything else is now engulfed in a far darker theme than its predecessor. This change in the game was brought about by the change within the prince’s own life--one of trying to survive--and seems, at first, as a logical decision made by the developer. But even though the idea might have suited the story in theory, Ubisoft has gone too far in applying this darkness to the overall game. In fact, it has been done to such an extent that it is hard to even recognize this as a true PoP game, let alone for it to have the same magic that made SoT such an incredible game. One of the most glaring changes, for instance, is that of the music and visuals. Where in the Sands of Time, the music was composed to be an outstanding mix of Arabian, rock, and other elements of music, the focus has this time around strongly shifted to the rock-side of things. While some adrenaline-pumping rock in itself isn’t a bad thing, the rest of what made the music so great before has been pushed too much to the background. So much in fact, that it’s hard to ever even notice that they’re still there--in many cases they simply aren’t. Sadly, the music is now nothing more but an overwhelming mix of heavy guitar music and power chords. At times you might be fooled into thinking that you’re finally going to hear some of the great background music we all loved from PoP:SoT, but the Arabic tunes die down almost faster than they came after which a heavy barrage of guitars once again fills your ears. As I already mentioned, the visuals have been drastically changed as well. The charm of the previous game’s visuals is no longer there, as everything is now set in a monotonous, dark color. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by these bland and depressing environments. Those of you who’ve played the previous game might still remember the moody atmosphere of the caves which you had to travel through to reach the baths. Basically, the entire sequel is set with that kind of moody atmosphere in its areas. Of course, the excuse here could be that this is no longer Arabia, and therefore the place the prince now finds himself in looks different from that of the SoT. Granted, this might be true, but it is hard to imagine the prince going about things in this environment. After all, part of the charm with the previous installment came from the visual splendor; and that, sadly, is almost nowhere to be found in this new game. I say almost because there are some areas that still remind of the great visuals of before. This quality comes in to play once you start venturing into the outdoor areas; and most notably are the gardens. These are a marvel to behold, and, although only for a period of time, restores faith in the designs of the game. This area is, by far, the most spectacular of the entire game, and the rest feels like mere filling compared to it. The colors, the vegetation, the structures; everything simply feels right in this one area. Unfortunately, as I already said, the rest of the game fails to deliver on this graphical beauty. That’s not to say the designs are all bad, though. No, the strength for the designs of the areas in this game definitely is within its platform/jump puzzles. The acrobatic puzzles are far more elaborate than before, and seem to be far more complex as well. This time around the design for the puzzles also takes your powers into account, as you will be making use of them to clear certain obstacles along your path. Even the number of traps has been upped considerably, and this time around, traps become genuinely more difficult as you progress, asking the most from the prince’s acrobatic abilities. And despite the overly strong presence of the depressing color scheme, most of what you come across feels like it belongs there, and not so much as if it’s been put there just to fill your screen. Even in terms of plain graphical quality, this game still resides on the same level as its predecessor. The game still sports some excellent use of lighting, and the nice, filter-like look overlaying the world is still there, helping to still give this game its familiar visual feel despite the overly dark theme. The biggest improvement, undoubtedly, comes in the form of the game’s fighting system. Having listened to the complaints regarding the tedious and rather dull system of the first game, Ubisoft decided to give make it a tad more interesting this time around. Our royal hero, this time comes with an entire new set of moves; and we’re not talking just a couple of moves, we’re talking dozens of different combos for you to choose from and master. You’ll even find weapons along the way that you can pick up, and then dual-wield, giving you an even broader array of styles to choose from, as each secondary weapon changes the prince’s movements somewhat. The idea behind the new free-form fighting is that players no longer have to adept to the game’s style of fighting, but the game now adepts to the players’ style instead. Over time, your secondary weapons will even degrade, and eventually it’ll be pretty much useless, after which you’ll need to find yourself some other, secondary, weapon; or you can choose to stick with your standard blade, and make use of some of the cool-looking grabs that you can now perform. Heck, if you’re bored with that second weapon in your left hand, why not toss it at an enemy and see if the blade gives him a new haircut. Even the enemies you’ll square off against are more diverse, and provide you with more challenging overall. As cool as the combat system might be, though, eventually you will still have to face that same feeling of monotony. This is largely due to the fact that with combat, the developers seem to have gotten too excited in adding enemy encounters to the gameplay. The crazy amount of combat in between puzzles, and the lack of places to restore health makes it so that the slightest scratch in a final puzzle before a save spot can oftentimes mean that you’ll have to redo long stretches of the game several times. This serves to quickly change the sensation of a good challenge into something completely frustrating--especially later on where both the fights and puzzles become increasingly more difficult. After a while these annoyances becomes reason enough to ditch the cool-looking combos, and instead work to simply dispatch your foes as quickly as possible, by either tossing them over an edge or resorting to the plain, dull attacks. Even the few--real--boss fights don’t help matters. Just about every boss you’ll encounter is capable of blocking your best combos, yet can be defeated by the use of some simple, boring moves. The plus is, perhaps, that the final boss fight is far more challenging and satisfying than that of the previous game. Also, healing now takes far less time than it did before. (Now if only you’d actually find a decent amount of places to heal during combat.) The controls itself during combat aren’t entirely flawless either. Imagine trying to jump over an enemy in order to keep from being assaulted from all sides, but then for some reason the prince seems to insist on simply performing rolls into the enemy. Another example would be when trying to do a vertical wall-run during combat, where at times our hero seems to prefer to keep looking at the enemy, rather than obeying your commands for running up the wall. Even when simply hacking-and-slashing he seems to have a tendency to simply assault the enemy of his choosing, rather than the one of your choosing. Fortunately, once you do get used to the sometimes dodgy combat controls it becomes easier to properly time your moves, although the chaos in battles can sometimes cause the most skilled of players to mess up thanks to these, at times, unwilling controls. The game overall features more open designs, somewhat negating the definite linearity of The Sands of Time. Players are freer in exploring their surroundings. If you wish you can try to find the hidden chests that unlock various kinds of artwork; or you can try to get your hands on the health boosts scattered throughout the game in chambers filled with booby traps. The people at Ubisoft have also introduced the element of time travel in the game, successfully adding to the length of the game and offering a reasonable amount of variety in the areas you’ll be exploring. But even despite this time traveling, backtracking is still a problem in the game. The frequent backtracking sometimes makes navigating confusing, as you’ll find yourself running into places you’ve been to before, making you wonder if you’re going the right way. In general the story of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is deeper than that of the previous game. It has a more complex and bigger plot, with some nice plot twists along the way. Certain players, however, might end up uncovering parts of the story way before it was supposed to be revealed thanks to a nasty--but rare--bug that basically screws up your save-game and propels you forward into the story, skipping vital parts in the plot. But, as said, this is a rare bug so not many people are going to experience it. Even so, the story in itself is less involving than the one in PoP: SoT. The emotional attachment people might have felt with the previous game doesn’t come into bloom until much later in the game. Even the prince himself is no longer that arrogant, yet likeable fellow most players have come to love. Instead of being that cocky guy who still tries to do the right thing, he now appears to have turned into a rather selfish bastard who seems to care very little about anyone but himself. There are times when he does show some of his old characteristics, but in general he sooner resembles and olden-day, Arabian styled Rambo. All that’s missing basically is a corny codename and a red or black bandana. This corny persona is emphasized by the even cornier lines he dishes out during combat. Lines like: “I am the prince of Persia… and the king of blades!” tend to sound more comical than impressive. It has to be said, though, that even if the prince is no longer as likeable as before, it is still somewhat understandable why his personality has changed so drastically. After all, wouldn’t you tend to get bitter if you’re constantly doing nothing but running from your own death? Luckily the voice-acting during cut scenes is decent enough. And while the new voice-actor isn’t as good in portraying the prince as the previous one, he does a pretty good job at keeping with the prince’s new tough-guy, no-nonsense, butt-kicking personality. The rest of the characters, however, while doing an ok job, don’t particularly sound interesting. Especially the empress herself--voiced by Monica Beluci--doesn’t really serve up a satisfying performance in terms of voice-acting. Perhaps it’s largely her accent that’s to blame, but there’s still no denying that--during the cut scenes at least--the prince’s voice-actor does a far better job at delivering his lines. In the end most players are likely to still enjoy this game--most notably the ones who played--and loved--the one before as well. Just don’t expect this one to have the same kind of magic as The Sands of Time did because even though several improvements have been made, there are also more flaws this time around, serving to make what could have been an outstanding game into something lesser than its predecessor.

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