Ubisoft goes back in time with its first full remake, bringing Prince of Persia: Sands of Time to current-gen consoles and PC.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was released in 2003, and despite spawning a trilogy of games that continued through 2005 and spin-off titles in 2008 and 2010, the franchise is effectively dead.
Wait, that's not how it happened. Shall I start again?
It seems Ubisoft has rewound time for anotherchance at Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. As revealed during the publishers Ubisoft Forward digital press conference, a full remake of the 2003 hit action-adventure is on its way from Ubisoft's Pune and Mumbai studios, reviving Sands of Time in Ubisoft's Anvil engine with improved gameplay and an expanded story that adds to the tale told in the original.
If you missed The Sands of Time the first time around, it focuses on the titular Prince as he platforms and battles his way through a palace ravaged by the magical Sands of Time. The Prince has a couple of useful advantages, though. First, he's incredibly agile, able to run along walls, climb crumbling structures, and leap huge gaps with parkour abilities. Second, if he blows a jump or takes too many blows from an enemy sword, he can rewind time to the moments before his demise and try a different path.
As director Pierre-Sylvain Gires explained in an interview with GameSpot, when Ubisoft looked to remake The Sands of Time, it identified areas it could improve to make the game a little easier to play than it was 17 years ago. That meant alterations to the combat--which, though acrobatic and inventive, was also cumbersome and frustrating--as well as the game's stationary camera angles, which could sometimes make it tough to keep your eyes on the Prince or to make certain jumps.
"We knew there were some tweaks to provide for the players if we wanted to fulfill the expectation for a 2020 game," Gires said. "So we stayed true to the story. We stayed true to the overall design of the game. However, we did improve a lot of the three C's (character, camera, and control), because the camera was the most out-of-date, as well as the combat. So we definitely approached this remake with improving and enhancing the velocity of the Prince, and the acrobatic moves that you have to perform to go through the 40 levels. So that was our main focus--stay true to the original design, respect the beautiful story and the narration, but enhance everything that we could, from the navigation to the camera, the targeting system, and the responsiveness for the player."
One big change, Gires explained, is the speed at which the Prince moves and navigates his environment. Players expect a higher velocity of movement out of characters than they did in 2003, he said, so movement and control of the Prince has been tuned with that in mind. Elements of combat have also been tweaked, too--in The Sands of Time, enemies will often respawn until the player manages to use the Prince's signature weapon, the Dagger of Time, to retrieve the magical Sands of Time from the area. It's the Sands that power the enemies, so you have to go after it if you want to shut them down for good, and Gires said the remake should telegraph that fact to players a little better than in 2003.
One thing that isn't getting reworked, however, is The Sands of Times' story. Ubisoft is using the original script from the 2003 game, and though the Prince's ally, Farah, is now played by actress Supinder Wraich (The Expanse, The Strain), returning to the project is Yuri Lowenthal (Marvel's Spider-Man), who voiced the Prince in the original Sands of Time and in a few other games in the franchise.
Dialogue has been fully re-recorded to go with motion capture performances for the remake, which sets it apart from the original. And although the new Sands of Time remake uses the original script, Lowenthal and Gires said that some lines cut from the 2003 game have made it back into this version of the game. Gires noted the addition of motion capture has changed the feel of the performances, especially the interactions between the Prince and Farah.
"There was something magic about that first game and that character has remained close to my heart," Lowenthal said. "And so getting to go back and do it again was both exciting and terrifying, because I just had the potential to mess it up as much as I had the potential to bring something new and make it better. But just the fact that I got to do that at all is unparalleled in my career, to get to come back after so many years for another stab at something that I loved so much."
A portion of The Sands of Time takes place in India before the game heads to 9th century Persia, and part of the work the Pune and Mumbai studios are bringing to the remake is in reimagining the art design and architecture of the original to bring it more authenticity. That was also a consideration in casting, Lowenthal said.
"That was a big conversation earlier on, because it is a different world, for the better, as far as representation in games is concerned (than it was in 2003)," he said. "And I had my own concerns going into it, but we went back to the fact that this is a remake of a very specific game. ...While I was nervous, in today's day and age, to go back to that, we agreed that because this was a remake and not a new game, that we would go back to that original part of it. Supinder is such a wonderful and talented actor and brings a strength to the role that I think, it will have the same relationship, but we'll really update it in many ways just for her being her."
"We definitely wanted to bring authenticity to the characters because we really pay attention to this for the production and for the players," Gires added. "But when you're talking about the Prince and when you're talking about Sands of Time, when we had the chance to work with Yuri, it was quite of use. We wanted to play on the nostalgia, and Yuri's voice in itself is actually such a trigger for that nostalgia, because of the voice, the intonation. It was straight-forward that we definitely wanted to work with Yuri, to bring the player the exact same feeling that they got in the original game."
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake releases on January 21 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games Store and Ubisoft Store.