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The Rogue Prince Of Persia Builds On Dead Cell's Formula, Puts A Heavier Emphasis On Wall Running

The comic book art style lends the game a unique flair that helps pull it away from comparisons to Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.


The wait for the next Prince of Persia game is going to be a lot shorter than the last one. After waiting almost 14 years between the releases of The Forgotten Sands and The Lost Crown, we only have to keep patient for a few months to play the next Prince of Persia. Titled The Rogue Prince of Persia, the upcoming roguelike is coming from Dead Cells studio Evil Empire and is scheduled to launch in Steam Early Access later this year. During a preview event for the game, I played about 30 minutes of it--it feels like getting another taste of Dead Cells (which is great!) but flavoring it with Prince of Persia's lore and emphasis on wall-running. I like a lot of what it's doing, but there are aspects that give me pause.

In The Rogue Prince of Persia, you play as the titular prince whose rash decisions have led to a Hun invasion of Persia and the near annihilation of his home city. Possessing the power to rewind time upon his death, the prince returns to an oasis just outside of his city amid the attack and vows to work his way into the city's heart to save his people and family and stop the invasion before it becomes too late. With each death, he returns to the oasis but with the knowledge of what's to come and who he has to kill to make it to the center of the city.

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Now Playing: New Prince of Persia Feels Like Dead Cells 2

As part of the preview, I spoke with Evil Empire game director Lucie Dewagnier about the game and, of course, I had to ask about how it felt making a Prince of Persia game knowing that another one was being worked on at the exact same time. "It was not a surprise because we worked with [Ubisoft Montpellier], we communicated with The Lost Crown team since the alpha stage," Dewagnier told me. "From the beginning of our development, they took our game, we played their [game]. So we managed to not do the same thing. Sometimes [however], because we're working on the same thing globally, we have the same idea--the same solution to an issue. But we communicated to make sure we were different and we are both making something new about the Prince of Persia."

Even though Evil Empire had the Ubisoft team to turn to, it's evident that The Rogue Prince of Persia most heavily leans on the bedrock established by Motion Twin's Dead Cells. Like Dead Cells, The Rogue Prince of Persia arms you with a primary melee weapon and secondary long-range weapon. As you move from one area to the next, you'll uncover plenty of randomized secrets and hidden chests, some of which offer you a choice of upgrades or alternative weapons. All of these upgrades are lost on death, but you can accrue resources that stick with you run-to-run, allowing you to unlock new starting weapons and abilities. As you explore each space, you'll mark your progress with waypoints you can fast-travel between during your current run and merchants who will sell you upgrades for gold coins--a resource you do lose after each failed run.

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"Dead Cells is in our DNA," Dewagnier said. "We took inspiration from Dead Cells for the fast paced gameplay, the combat system, things like that. But for The Prince of Persia, we wanted to make an entirely new game, not a copy [and] paste."

There are differences (and we'll get to one that irks me in a bit) but if you're familiar with Dead Cells, you already have a strong understanding of how The Rogue Prince of Persia plays. Combat is fast, encouraging you to think strategically and quickly, slashing through foes, kicking enemies into spikes, and dodging anything that comes your way. Mechanically, the one big change is my biggest issue: there's no dash. It's possible that a dash could be an ability the prince unlocks down the road, but you at least don't have it at the start. Roguelike, metroidvania, and other 2.5D platformers don't need a dash to be good, but these games have leaned on the mechanic in the past few years and it's difficult--at least in 30 minutes--to erase that muscle memory. I struggled to get into the flow playing The Rogue Prince of Persia, oftentimes forgetting the prince's dodge was a small backflip, not a full dash, that usually only helps him clear one attack.

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To account for the lack of dash in traversal, The Rogue Prince of Persia allows you to partially run up and along walls, even those in the background. So instead of quickly dashing forward to reach a far-off platform or speed past a troublesome attack, you can jump and then move along the contours of the background, assuming there's a wall there for the prince to parkour on. It's certainly an interesting mechanic, forcing you both in and outside of combat to pay attention to not only what's happening in the foreground but also the environmental design in the background. But I just didn't get enough time with the game to gauge how easy a skill that is to grasp. In the time I had, it was pretty tricky, to the point that I had quite a few character deaths I could attribute to my mind wanting to dodge through an attack or over a spike pit when I was supposed to remember to instead grab onto the background wall. I never really grasped it so I left the preview feeling frustrated with the mechanic, but, again, more time with the game could alleviate this issue.

My wish for a dash mechanic aside, I enjoyed my time with The Rogue Prince of Persia. The game is a colorful array of warm oranges, vibrant purples, and soft blues--the game takes inspiration from French comic books and historic Persian miniatures in its art direction, creating scene after scene that I wished I had the time to soak in. I can't wait to have the chance to play The Rogue Prince of Persia more slowly, if only to take stock of the incredible art and catchy music without the pressure to see as much of the game as possible within a 30-minute time frame.

But most of all, I'm just happy that it feels like a different game to play than The Lost Crown. I think it's wild that we're getting two Prince of Persia games this close together after not getting any for over a decade, but both games lean on different gameplay loops (a metroidvania versus a roguelike) so even though there are mechanical similarities, they feel distinct. There's plenty of space for both to fit into people's lists of favorite games for this year. The Lost Crown is already there for me and I suspect The Rogue Prince of Persia could also make the cut. Just give me a dash mechanic, Evil Empire. Please.

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