Our opinion after playing the first 3 hours of the Ubisoft Montpellier title, a winning return?

Preview conditions: We played a non-final build of Prince of Persia The Lost Crown for 3h30, during a session organized by Ubisoft. The session took place remotely via remote play on the PC version. We opted for Warrior difficulty (Default) for combat as well as Exploration mode for discovering the map.

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The best of both worlds ?

Our session simply started as the game begins. The Immortals, warriors of the Queen of Persia, engage in a battle to protect Persepolis from the enemy assault. The opportunity to teach us the basics of combat via a short tutorial. This introduction, which ends after a first confrontation worthy of the name, works rather well and announces the color of the fights and the staging, resolutely punchy. It also lays the groundwork for the storyline, which leads us to clarify: we do not play the Prince of Persia, but rather Sargon, a promising young warrior freshly adorned with royal cloth. A subtlety that we have known about since the announcement of the game, but it deserves to be underlined again as confusion is allowed, just in terms of clothing in particular.

The Prince was kidnapped and taken to Mount Qaf. Obviously being a top priority for Sargon and the Immortals, they go there to free him. However, the place is struck by a strange curse where time does not seem to flow in the same way for everyone. Sargon will therefore try to make his way into this place full of mysteries. At this stage, and whatever our reference period allowing us to define what a Prince of Persia is, our benchmarks are slightly disturbed. Faced with a game focused again on 2D, we are obviously far from the rigid and punishing gameplay of the early 90s. More familiar with the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era? In this case the way of exploring or the absence of rewind and the very particular Arabian Nights flavor of Les Sables du Temps may be confusing.

The idea at Ubisoft Montpellier is precisely to draw on this multigenerational DNA and come out with a recipe intended to breathe new life into the license.. 2D then constitutes an environment that could not be more appropriate for the studio when we remember that the extremely excellent Rayman Origins And Rayman Legends came out of its furnaces. It is therefore shared between the destabilization and the excitement inspired by this new horizon that the first steps within Mount Qaf are taken. Then we quickly forget all fear as we move from room to room.

Fights are more enjoyable with Sargon

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If the tutorial made us face our first enemies, they were only humans. Diving into the heart of the altered space-time of Mount Qaf offers encounters of all kinds. From simple zombified soldiers to some sort of shamans attacking from a distance, including flying creatures or creatures lurking in the tall grass, several threats try to block our path, some of them with ferocity. And one of the main lessons that seems to give us Prince of Persia The Lost Crownis that you should not rest on your laurels or mess around without thinking. When playing in Normal mode, a few hits suffered in a handful of seconds by a group of 3 or 4 enemies are enough to come close to Game Over. One of the key words of this combat system is therefore mobility.. Sargon’s slides serve as a dodge and can cause him to pass behind an enemy. Believe us, this is a move that is wise to use without moderation, because even if you have a health potion, it will not always be enough.

The other leitmotif of confrontations consists of showing reactivity. Sometimes, avoiding blows is not enough, and parrying is then the best solution. Our hero certainly cannot protect himself, but using the parry button at the right time gives us a short advantage against our opponent. Better, when the latter prepares a blow symbolized by a yellow aura, parrying triggers a devastating counter. In order to put all his chances on his side, Sargon can count on a special attack gauge which, once filled by fighting without being hit, offers a powerful blow. Also, the presence of talismans providing many boosts, such as a boost in health or striking power, is particularly appreciable and suggests a number of combinations.

Coupled with the different combos and sequences available to us, and which seem to expand as we progress, the combat system proves to be very effective and can be practiced with pleasure. Dynamic, reactive, slightly open to improvisations and therefore rewarding when taking risks, this system gives us the feeling of being more powerful than ever when embodying a character from a Prince of Persia. The confrontation against elite enemies or bosses represents as usual a sort of exam where we test our mastery of gameplay. We were also able to come up against the first real boss of the adventure and, indeed, the fight was rather intense. The result was a sincere feeling of satisfaction once victory was achieved. Not to the point of what one feels in a From Software but still.

A metroidvania with solid foundations

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Alongside a combat system promising a certain effectiveness, the exploration proves to us that, still within the framework of a 3-hour long experience, the observation is likely to be similar. Thanks to Sargon’s mobility, you jump from wall to wall, grab platform elements one after the other and dodge traps with exhilarating fluidity and ease.. In addition, we were able to retain some nice mechanics, such as the presence of an invincible enemy who throws us in prison if he ever spots us. In the same way, although more perfect in the implementation, there are platforms which activate differently depending on whether Sargon’s gaze is turned to the left or the right.

Suddenly, quickly, and more and more as we advance, we find the typical ingredients of a metroidvania, reserved here with efficiency. The interconnection of the zones, the variety promised by the presence of the different biomes and their specificities linked to the bestiary as well as the platform sequences, we take pleasure in walking around and discovering. Several side quests should make up the picture although we haven’t been able to see many of them to talk about them. On the other hand, and just to enhance our desire to visit, it was possible to discover some of the many secrets scattered everywhere. Whether they are hidden behind an artificial wall, sometimes as a reward for a succession of avoided traps or a solved puzzle, the curious will be served. Elements of lore, health bonuses or shards of time to use at the merchant or the blacksmith, any find remains pleasant to unearth.

They undoubtedly constitute a recurring point of passage where we buy weapon improvements, talismans or potions. Considering everything there is to strengthen our warrior, shards remain a more than valuable currency. The other essential points of the map remain the Wak-Wak trees. A sort of Souls-like campfire, resting there regenerates us, refills our potion and gives the opportunity to change our talismans. And in the event of death, we reappear at the one closest to our place of death. Finally, to make navigation easier, we find our famous fast travel points.

Because of course, not all paths are immediately accessible, since we will be denied access requiring X weapon or power not yet acquired. The back and forth with the aim of scrubbing the map, in other words the famous sessions of backtracking, are likely to be regular. In the same way, we regularly display the map in order to find our way, which is enough to break up the rhythm of the game a little. Thus, in its overall structure, very few surprises are to be noted on the side of this Prince of Persia the Lost Crown. It suggests a very careful exploitation of the metroidvania genre without particularly overcoming its weaknesses or reinventing the wheel.

An extra notch in accessibility

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Ubisoft Montpellier therefore seems to be concocting a title for us which, although they recalibrate our approach to a Prince of Persia, represents a bit of the maxi best of comfortable metroidvania. But still in this desire to bring together the experienced public with those a little more novice, and in accordance with the good habits increasingly adopted by the industry, accessibility occupies an important place here. By “accessibility”, we mean the personalization of the experience around the difficulty. Regarding the fights, there are pre-established difficulty modes, but it is entirely possible to make your own sauce. The health of enemies, the damage suffered or even the parry window, several elements can be modified as we wish by placing the cursor where we want.

The same goes for exploration, which is already less common. Two modes are available: Exploration, or Guided. The first lets us discover the map as we progress. And to remember places of interest that you want to return to later, we have a limited number of in-game screenshots available. The capture is embedded in the map and therefore acts as a personalized point of interest. As for Guided mode, the map is much more marked. The open and closed passages, the main quest objectives, everything is indicated so as not to get confused. The experience is therefore modular and it is really a very appreciable asset of Prince of Persia The Lost Crown.

Finally, if we want to be nitpicky, the subject will perhaps be on the graphics side. Be careful, the cartoon-oriented artistic direction, the sharp production during the cutscenes and the almost flawless fluidity of the framerate deliver a satisfactory technical result. Simply, the title does not explode the retina and does not shine with the finesse of its textures. We can even discern a bit of aliasing in the character models. In short, nothing too bad to break the overall graphic coherence.

With this Prince of Persia The Lost Crown, which could resemble a return of the license without boasting may ultimately write a very beautiful page in its history. By leaving aside 3D and its delicate technical issues, while capitalizing on its know-how linked to 2D, Ubisoft Montpellier seems to have made the right choice by bringing the series back to its origins. Punchy, both in terms of combat and movement, and visibly loaded with content on the exploration side, the pleasure is already there. As often, the challenge consists of succeeding in renewing oneself over the 20-25 hours promised by the title, but there is something to be optimistic.

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