“Most people think Time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you they are wrong. Time is like an ocean in a storm.”
When I first played Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time back in 2005 or 2006, I immediately fell in love with the game. Yes, this was still back in the era of Gamecube graphics, but the mixture of great voice acting, interesting story and game mechanics, and parkour really sold me on the game. I even dressed up as the Prince for Halloween that year. So when the entire Prince of Persia franchise went on sale on Steam last year, I snapped it up as quickly as I could. Sands of Time was amazing, so the other games would be too, right?
So far, that prediction has not panned out.
Warrior Within is a sequel to The Sands of Time. We find out that after the events of the first game—you know, when the Prince wreaked havoc on the timeline—he is being pursued by a relentless avenging spirit called the Dahaka. Apparently, the Prince’s jaunt through time broke one of the fundamental laws of the universe, and the Dahaka is the instrument of cosmic justice sent to wipe him off the temporal map. Because he can’t just kill the varmint, the Prince hatches a plan to prevent the Sands of Time from ever being created, thus ensuring that he would never release them in the first game and making him entirely uninteresting to the Dahaka. Hopefully.
As far as the story goes, there are twists and turns enough to keep things fairly interesting, and this game is an essential narrative bridge from The Sands of Time to The Two Thrones. The real problem in this game’s story is that they’ve taken the optimistic and relatively light-hearted Prince from the first game and turned him into your generic blood-soaked bad-a**. I understand that he’s had a hard time of it since The Sands of Time, but any trace of the heroic Prince from that game is gone. This one’s all about crushing his enemies, seeing them driven before him, and hearing the lamentation of their women. I understand that Ubisoft were trying to reach a different target audience with this game, an audience probably aged and “matured” from the one that bought into The Sands of Time, but the difference in tone was quite shocking to me when I first played Warrior Within. Does that make it a bad game? Not necessarily, but I will say that my expectations were not fulfilled.
Graphically, the game is about on par with The Sands of Time, with maybe a few graphical improvements. But I can’t really gripe about the visuals. This game was produced before the current higher-tech generation of gaming, so the characters are understandably blocky and the textures understandably low resolution. As long as you go in expecting to play a last-gen game, you’ll be fine with what you see. What you see, however, is definitely on the M-rated side of things. Consider the long thong shot in the game’s opening scene or the almost non-existent clothing that Kaileena wears. It wasn’t a significant distraction, but I found it in fairly poor taste and aimed squarely at the older teenage crowd who would buy a game simply for the butts and boobs. Again, the game doesn’t revolve completely around these “features,” so it’s just a distraction rather than a deal-breaker. The real problem with this game’s visual presentation was the many graphical glitches that cropped up while I was playing it. At times, the environment completely disappeared, and in a game that’s primarily about 3D platforming, that can be a big issue. The camera also had its share of problems. When moving from one room to another (a distance of two or three virtual feet), the camera would often pan around suddenly, forcing you to quickly change the direction you were pressing on your controller or end up walking back into the same area you just tried to leave. No in-game camera is perfect, but I was astonished and often frustrated at the way Warrior Within‘s camera would jump around on me. Again, 3D platforming is all about seeing where you’re going from where you are, and this particular issue caused me a lot of irritation.
Another significant departure this game made from its predecessor was the soundtrack. The Sands of Time worked very hard to keep you in the setting of the game. Even during frantic battles, you were listing to music that tried to emulate some of the Arabian feel of the game. Warrior Within ditched that in favor of Godsmack. Yes, the band Godsmack allowed two of their actual songs to be included in this game, and most of the other music sounds like it was inspired by Godsmack. So much for that Arabian desert feel, huh? While this isn’t a deal-breaker for me (I actually like some Godsmack songs), it was still an area I wish the developers would have left alone. The voice acting in the game was pretty good, except that they picked a new actor for the Prince, one who sounds dark and angry and sometimes likes to taunt his enemies in kind of weird-sounding ways. (“It is an honor to die by my blade”? Seriously?) Meh. I wish they’d just left it alone, but the Prince from The Sands of Time wouldn’t have fit the darker storyline so I suppose I can understand where the developers are coming from on that one.
Mechanically, the game controls about as well as The Sands of Time did. The addition of available off-hand weapons, instant stealth kills, and combo moves was nice, and the Prince moves around about as fluidly as he ought to. The combo list is a little long, but it just boils down to tapping your off-hand attack button and your main attack button a certain number of times. It’s not really that difficult. You’ll probably find yourself discovering a particular tactic that works best for you and sticking with it. (Mine actually ended up being only having a weapon in my main hand and using the off-hand attack to throw people across the room. I’d use an off-hand weapon for a spin attack on enemies that I couldn’t grab, but figuring out my throw move really helped me in the latter portion of the game.)
Up to this point, I’ve hit upon a few of the frustrations and disappointments that hindered my enjoyment of the game. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? That’s because I haven’t gotten to any of the several game-ending glitches you can run into through the course of playing it. I suppose I should be grateful that I only had one of them hit me, but my anger is still on a low boil because the glitch I encountered made it entirely impossible for me to defeat the game’s final boss. Yep. I played through the entire game only to get boss-blocked because something tripped in the code and rendered the final doorway impassable. If I hadn’t been playing the last three hours of the game just to get it over with, I may have done and said unspeakable things to my game files. (As it was, I just deleted them and installed the next game in the series. 🙂 Such is my love for The Sands of Time that I would willingly submit myself to the final game in the trilogy just to see how the story ends.) And after a little bit of research, I found out that there are several other fatal bugs in the code that weren’t ironed out before release. Kind of disappointing, when Ubisoft usually puts out relatively high quality games.
In the end, though, it really comes down to whether this game is worth playing, and to that, I would say it probably is. It’s not exactly the Mona Lisa of gaming, but it will satisfy your action game itch. If nothing else, it continues the story from The Sands of Time and sets the stage for The Two Thrones. If you wouldn’t skip over Attack of the Clones, you probably wouldn’t want to miss Warrior Within. Yes, there are issues and a decent possibility that you won’t be able to actually finish the game, but it’s a ride worth taking—as long as you buy your ticket at a steep discount.