Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Hands-on Preview
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown was a surprise when it was first announced during Ubisoft Forward earlier this year. Not quite the remake news people were hoping for, this Metroidvania-type outing from Ubisoft Montpellier went on to turn heads with its stunning art style and fast-paced gameplay.
A little over a month before its release, Ubisoft graciously allowed me to get my hands on the game. With over 3 hours of gameplay under my belt, it’s safe to say that Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is certainly a title that will appeal to both old-school fans and newcomers, featuring a blend of old and new gameplay that is surprisingly challenging but also very addicting.
My time with the game took me from the very start of the campaign, telling the story of Sargon, a young, gifted warrior and member of an elite group called The Immortals. After repelling enemy forces, The Immortals celebrate their short-lived victory as Prince Ghassan is kidnapped by a familiar face. As all tales go, nothing is as it seems, and Sargon, along with the rest of The Immortals, will find out that they face a threat that is much bigger than they initially thought.
I won’t go over the story specifics, but one immediate thing players will notice from Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is its bold take on an edgy and colorful art style that pops out from the screen. It’s a stark contrast from the Prince of Persia of old, and I like where this new direction takes us, giving the game a much-needed personality kick.
From the backgrounds down to the characters, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown paints the game in an art style that emphasizes sharp lines and flashy VFX to bring life to the world. It’s eye-catching and one of the things that I liked about this release. While I understand that not many may like this, images do not do it justice, and it has to be seen to be believed.
The Metroidvania influence is very strong in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, taking Sargon on a quest to explore the mysterious Mount Qaf and uncover the mysteries hidden deep within. Players will explore citadels, forests, and a variety of colorful yet deadly environments, often backtracking to already traversed locations upon obtaining new tools and powers. This should feel very familiar if you’ve played titles like the recently released Blasphemous 2.
What often makes Metroidvanias interesting are two things: puzzles and abilities. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, thankfully, has both of them in good amounts. In the limited time that I spent with the game, I was exposed to several tools and abilities, like the bow and a spinning disc that can bounce off walls and trigger switches. Some puzzle elements are fairly easy, while others will require a bit of thought and some dexterous fingers to complete.
Apart from taking down enemies at range, the bow can be used to shoot these flower-like seeds that reveal petals that fold when stepped on for a long period of time. The spinning disc can be used to open up gates and operate lifts, and it can be recalled at any time when the obstacle has been overcome. Players will also get familiar moves like an air dash that can bridge gaps with ease, opening up levels significantly.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown also puts a premium on platforming skills, and if you’ve played titles like Celeste or Ori, then you’ll know what to expect. There are some challenging ones, even as early as three hours into the game, but nothing too tough that will make you pull your hair in frustration. Players will learn to mix up all of their learned abilities to get past spiked walls and deadly traps, all of which are a Prince of Persia specialty from way back.
Of course, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’s strongest suit is its combat, and while it isn’t too complicated in terms of the number of buttons to deal with (you just have a parry, dodge, jump, and attack button), the game is surprisingly challenging and will take players several tries if they aren’t careful as they face off against the impressive enemy variety that Mount Qaf has to offer.
Combat in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is simple enough to pick up and learn within a few minutes. There’s one button to have Sargon attack foes, and pressing that repeatedly will string a combo. As this is a side-scrolling action-adventure title, directional movement paired with the attack button will result in a different move altogether, crucial in taking down flying foes or adversaries that stick close to the ground.
Sargon can also parry attacks, and while the timing does feel a bit generous, the enemy tells aren’t too evident at times and can result in pressing parry a bit too early or late. Some attacks can’t be parried, but some attacks will reward players for parrying, oftentimes leaving the enemy open for consecutive hits. This is an essential tool in Sargon’s arsenal and is almost as essential as dodging attacks altogether.
I faced off against the fearsome Manticore, a foe that had multiple attacks that would increase in difficulty as the battle went on. It would burst open the ground with its poisonous tail, leaving a puddle that would inflict poison damage when stepped on. Apart from sweeping tail strikes and a flying attack, I had to repeat the battle a couple of times before I could get the hang of the timing. This battle also stresses the importance of parrying certain attacks, inflicting a good deal of damage while knocking it down for free hits.
To even out the odds, Sargon has a meter that he can fill up to unleash a damaging skill. One level of the gauge offers a lunging heavy attack, while the second level opens up a healing rift that can replenish our health. There seem to be many other attacks that can be mixed and matched depending on playstyle, offering players various ways to approach the tougher challenges in the game.
Overall, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is looking to be a highly promising release from Ubisoft, starting 2024 with a bang after the recently released Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. While many are looking forward to the Sands of Time remake, The Lost Crown is not to be overlooked, as it skillfully blends old concepts with modern flair, resulting in a fast and frenetic experience for both fans and newcomers.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is scheduled to release on January 18, 2024, on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch, and PC.