Where Did the Prince of Persia Series Go Wrong?

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

One of the first video games I ever played was the original Prince of Persia. I was a child when I fell in love with the amazing storyline, the challenging gameplay, and the edge-of-your-seat moments that organically happen as you play through the game. Since then, I have been following the Prince of Persia series closely — from the first sequel, The Shadow and the Flame (1993), all the way to the last outing, The Forgotten Sands (2010).

It’s been a decade since we’ve had a genuine Prince of Persia game. Since 2010, there has been a remake of The Shadow and the Flame in 2013 and a mobile game called Prince of Persia: Escape. Although Ubisoft has announced a VR Escape Room game titled Prince of Persia: The Dagger of Time, fans like myself are starving for a full-fledged triple-A Prince of Persia game. And no, a limited-time Prince of Persia event in For Honor doesn’t count. We want something bigger and better.

Prince of Persia in For Honor

Especially since Prince of Persia Redemption never materialized into anything more than a three-plus-minute-long cinematic video back in 2012.

As a hardcore fan, I want more Prince of Persia, but there’s one key component that I need to see: The series needs to go back to its roots. The setting for Prince of Persia was based on the classic 1,001 Arabian Nights tales. The series has always had a storybook theme — with rich characters, breathtaking magical environments, epic fantasy storylines, and swashbuckling acrobatics. Those are the foundations on which the Prince of Persia series was built.

I would argue that the series stayed pretty true to its roots right up through 2003’s The Sands of Time. I should point out that The Sands of Time was the last Prince of Persia game that series creator Jordan Mechner was involved in.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

However, things took a turn with Warrior Within. The problem is that the protagonist, the Prince, was never a hardcore warrior or a bully; he’s an adventurer who’s been flung across the exciting storylines of 1,001 Arabian Nights. He’s an intelligent hero who makes use of stealth and strategy, not outright warfare, to overcome his many obstacles. Ubisoft seems to have forgotten this.

When it comes to the Prince, it simply doesn’t make sense to have a fast-paced, multi-enemy, uber-stylized combat system where monsters are swarming everywhere. That might be fun in other games, but the better Prince of Persia entries lean toward a slightly more realistic combat system that factors strategy, timing, and reflexes into its execution.

In the original games, the Prince encountered a blend of human and supernatural enemies. Yet ever since The Sands of Time it seems the Prince’s enemies have mostly become supernatural monsters — this is another shift away from the core offerings of the series. Prince of Persia is no Resident Evil or God of War, and it shouldn’t try to be.

Prince of Persia

So where can we go from here, story-wise? Well, I see two options, though I’m sure there are plenty more I have’t thought of. The first option would be to reboot the series yet again and create another Prince character with a fresh start, creating an all-new storyline to revive the franchise. I should point out that this sounds a lot like what they tried to do in 2008 with the game simply titled Prince of Persia.

The second option, then, is arguably the better one. The series could pick up a plot thread that’s been dangling since 1993’s Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame.

The Shadow and the Flame had a cliffhanger ending, leaving some unfinished business that could make for a great sequel. Moreover, I’d like to think that The Shadow and the Flame is probably the most popular Prince of Persia game to date. Despite being a 2D side-scroller, the game was an amazing adventure, and it had such an incredible impact on me — I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame

Nobody in the world is better equipped to tell another great Prince of Persia story than Jordan Mechner himself. He’s the person who brought all of these amazing characters and adventures into our video-game lives. His involvement in The Sands of Time led to a game that won several awards. Mechner’s work has always been critical to the success of Prince of Persia.

Let’s be real here, Prince of Persia does not need to do anything revolutionary to make a return; it just needs to go back to the things that were always great about it while adding just a little bit of the polish that gamers expect in 2020. While the rewind feature of The Sands of Time was unexpected and different a the time, it never felt like it was shoehorned into the game. So if Ubisoft absolutely must add something new, at least make sure it’s a natural fit and not forced.

I’m speaking from my heart here — the heart of a true fan. Bring back the 1,001 Arabian Nights fairy tales. Bring back the more grounded approach to combat. Finally, bring back the pioneer of the Prince of Persia series, Jordan Mechner. If you can do these simple things, Prince of Persia fans around the world will rejoice.

What do you say, Ubisoft?

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Ola Crussen
Ola Crussen
2 months ago

Disagree.
The Arabian nights and 7+ rating is what killed it.
People want to see a Prince who has depth. He’s no adventurer, just unlucky. There’s a reason why 2008 and Forgotten Sands failed, they tried to capture the Sands of Time vibe in later years, when gamers were fixated on better and mature content and mature doesn’t necessarily mean sexual, but content with a well written characters and themes that people can relate to. The whole POP franchise falls flat at that with the exceptions of a few cutscenes in the trilogy where the Prince becomes hopeless.

The POP franchise needs a more mature approach, a character people can relate to, not a character people just have to play for the sake of it.
Trying to bring back the ‘charm’ of Sands of Time will always bring failures because this is not 2003, gamers aren’t kids anymore because kids, are more interested in Fortnite than single player linear games.

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