The classic franchise makes a return in a side-scrolling Metroidvania adventure that is both familiar and refreshing
When the remake of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was continuously delayed, fans weren’t optimistic about the big comeback of a beloved franchise, but just half a year ago, a whole new game was announced under the same franchise. The Lost Crown features side-scrolling and flashy action that seems different from what fans were expecting, and it seems that Ubisoft is reinventing the franchise with a tried-and-tested formula seen in classic games and in some indie games. Who would complain about seeing The Prince of Persia becoming a Metroidvania game? That seems to be a great idea and we haven’t seen the franchise testing that kind of subgenre. But is this truly reinventing the classic franchise or it might just fuel the fans’ disappointment? Let’s find out.
Production 4 out of 5
The game takes place in Persia with you playing a Sargon, a young member of an elite warrior clan called the Immortals. After a successful war mission, the Prince is abducted and the Immortals are on a rescue mission that eventually brings them to the Mountain of Qaf where it resides an ancient city, as mysteries have shrouded the city where no one has ever returned.
Ubisoft went with the cartoonish art direction that you might see in games like World of Warcraft or Torchlight, and it works well with the characters. There are special moves and kill animations that added some cool factor in the battles, it makes it more anime with its sick moves and flashy effects and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Character designs are well-thought-out as they still have some accuracies on how Ancient Persians would done their battle garments. And yes, Persian Immortals do exist in history. Though some characters have great designs, some feel flat in terms of character personalities as some feel flat or uninteresting due to the limited screen time and dialogues they have, since the game is heavily focused on gameplay than setting up a great story narrative. The story has its share of plot twists that keep the playthrough interesting up to the end and you can learn more about the lore and other trivial details as you discover collectibles throughout the game.
Some tracks provided some good ambiance in certain areas, from dark and eerie sewers to ancient libraries, it helps set the mood as you traverse the ancient city. Voice acting was also good and Ubisoft brought in Middle-Eastern voice actors to add that level of authenticity and many of them are veteran actors that lend their voice to several games. And if you want to be more immersed in a Persian setting, there is an option to select Farsi (Persia) as a voice language.
The game runs on 4K resolution on the PS5 with 120fps framerate and it runs smoothly on my entire playthrough, loading time only occurs when launching the game, but even if you try to teleport to different zones with the fast travel, there aren’t any load times in between. It was also reported that the Switch version can run at 60 frames per second, for those planning to play the game on portable.
Mechanics 4.5 out of 5
With The Lost Crown sticking to the Metroidvania formula, expect running back and forth on different zones to uncover secrets and new areas that were once unreachable. Each level provides different obstacles that are themed in their locations, some can poison you and gradually deplete your life, and some enemies and platforms in a different area become invisible in one location, very few areas have the same design in their puzzles that adds more challenge in your playthrough. Savepoints come in the form of Wak Wak Trees where you can replenish your life and supplies as well as customize your Amulets and Athra Surges. The trees are well placed in different areas where you’ll eventually encounter one after a tough fight in a previous room or if there is an anticipated boss battle that is going to happen in the next area.
Throughout the game, you will be able to acquire Time Powers that give Sargon unique abilities that can aid him in his exploration and combat, combining them in your battles has that satisfying feel after you bested a boss as you can approach a battle in different ways. There won’t be any time rewinding powers in your arsenal, though some of them are already a staple in different Metroidvania-like games. You’ll also be able to use special moves called Athra Surges that can dish out massive damage, you can activate these skills when your Athra charge is full, and you can charge up your energy by landing attacks on enemies. Different kinds of Athra Surges are effective in certain situations, from counterattacks to piercing range attacks and you can equip up to two Athra Surges.
As for combat, your default weapon is the dual swords, and a bow and chakram for your ranged weapons. There’s no weapon variety that you can choose which could feel limited, but the combat in the Lost Crown is great as you can do different combos on the ground or in the air. Bouncing off your targets off the ground to continue the combos on air then slamming them on a wall as you finish them off with an Athra Surge never gets old and you can maximize your Time Powers as you fight and become creative. Defense is also the best offense as you can perform dodges and parries, timing your parry can leave an enemy open for a devastating counterattack and certain attacks have color-coded indicators if they are unblockable or can be countered with an insta-kill, though some enemies can be brutal as they offer smaller window time for parries and dodge too early or late can punish you hard. These functions add more variety to the lack of weapon options as they provide more approach to how you can fight in the game, and you can customize how your attacks will behave with the use of amulets.
The Amulet is your accessory function where you can customize how your attacks will behave, you can add a burning effect to your bow or create a time bubble that slows down enemies whenever you parry. As there are limitations on how many amulets you can equip, you can increase the capacity by finding the slot-increasing items in treasures or secret areas. This adds more variety to whichever style you would like and you might set up a different build when you take on powerful bosses in the game.
The boss battles in The Lost Crown can be brutal if you aren’t prepared, each of them has unique attack patterns that will require you to learn all the basics and familiarity of your Time Powers. Some battles can be difficult on the first attempt It would remind you of the bosses in Mega Man X games as you need to learn their patterns and strike when there’s an opening, each of the bosses has special moves that can trigger an unskippable animation as it deals massive damage at you. This is one of the best highlights in the game as each boss has their defining moments and when you finally beat them, you feel very much accomplished.
Content 4 out of 5
The game has a ton of secrets to uncover and this will make you return to other areas you feel might have more areas to explore. The Lost Crown has a Memory Shard feature that lets you mark a location with a screenshot of a location. This is handy when you finally unlock a new Time Power that you can use to reach those unreachable areas for any possible treasures you can find. It’s a nice function though it’s weird to see that you still have waypoint markers that you can use in your map separately which makes it feel redundant.
Aside from the main story, there are a handful of sidequests that you can tackle, with some that can be easy to finish by fetching an item while some may require venturing further into new zones, it is just enough for players to return to other areas that they might miss out and the rewards are good enough to upgrade Sargon.
Several zones have different puzzles that you need to solve, either through platforming or utilizing your Time Powers. They offer some level of difficulty and may take several attempts before you can reach the exit, though there are a few that have rewards that feel underwhelming after you finish a challenging puzzle which some might skip.
You will be able to finish the game in around 20 hours if only focusing on the main story, but this can be doubled if players want to complete all the unlockables and side quests. Sadly, there is no New Game+ feature after you clear the game or even a Boss Rush or Speed Run mode for players to challenge themselves for the best record. I do hope they could add some post-game unlockables in a future patch update.
Features 4.5 out of 5
The game has a ton of accessibility options that make it easier for players with disabilities (such as colorblind) or those who want an easier challenge. There is a Guided mode where it displays your quest objective and other areas that become accessible to make the navigation easier and cuts off the time on finishing the next objective. It also features a Platform Assist mode where it teleports you to the end of the area that has platforming obstacles, it’s very useful when going back and forth to a location where you need to pass through a platforming puzzle. For those who want to experience the challenge, these features can be disabled at any time and can be toggled back if you get stuck in a puzzle, though the Platforming Assist will not work in some puzzles that have secret areas or treasures.
You can also tweak the difficulty by customizing some parameters, such as enemy damage and life, environmental damage, and even Athra depletion and Aim assist. I hope there was an option for the controls where you can swap the analog stick to the directional pad for your movement which makes it much more comfortable for players who are used to directional buttons for platforming games.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown managed to provide a refreshing take on the classic franchise by going back to basics with the side-scrolling gameplay and adding the ever-popular Metroidvania formula for the exploration aspect that Ubisoft is known for its open-world games. It still has that level of challenge that requires several attempts, but it has a wide range of difficulty options for you to tweak, so it’s more on how high you would like the challenge to be. It may not be an original concept, but it provided an experience that works to keep it faithful to its roots.
The team behind the development of the games seems to enjoy creating this project in that the flashy anime-style cutscenes are more of showing off the things they love, and it works. I won’t be surprised if we will be seeing this direction for Prince of Persia in the future, though the Sands of Time remake is still happening (probably), but who knows, I’m fine with Prince of Persia being a Metroidvania game. So if you are looking for a great sidescroller that offers some tricky platforming puzzles or someone who wants a great action game with challenging fights, this game is must have.
We give Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown a 4 out of 5
The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.