Just how do you forget sands in a desert?

I’ve been playing Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands lately. Or.. more accurately, I was playing it, for about a day, and then I stopped because I’d killed the final boss and the game ended. I was initially hesistant to pick it up because of Ubisoft’s recent brand of screw-the-customers DRM for us PC users and didn’t actually get it until I found a copy at reduced price. But, I have finally played it. And thus much rejoicing ensued.

I actually have a soft spot for the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series – I even have some degree of appreciation for the otherwise often much reviled Warrior Within, though I admit it was definitely the weakest of the lot. I really liked how they tied everything together so it felt like it came full circle in Two Thrones, and while the first generally was the best in terms of themes and visual design.. subsequent titles all did add their own improvements to the mix, whilst taking away from that.

Heck, I even rather liked the movie.

It’s a strange and almost twisted facination I seem to have for the series – I have a very strong fear of heights, and the Sands of Time series count to the limited list of games that actually tickle that fear (something that generally keeps me being the tank left on the home ship during the ICC Gunship Battle, for the record) – my most common response to figuring out where I’m supposed to go in a puzzle from midgame and up can often be summarized as “..you’ve got to be kidding me..”. Yet in spite of that, I keep going back to it. In a way, I suppose it’s the way I go back to the Thief series every so often, in spite of my still remarking the Haunts as the most terrifying game enemies I’ve ever faced with. Those rattling chains.. brrr…

It may come as no surprise, then, that I in general tend to think of the Sands of Time series as one of my main inspirations for envisioning both Nhani Moonfall and Hani Foonmall fighting – though the stances, weapons and other details may be different.. the whole interoperating agility, mobility and acrobatics really struck a chord with me, and seemed highly fitting. There’s an interesting irony that in spite of having spent those hours playing a somewhat stuck-up but still noble human prince, the experience actually helped me feel closer to ‘ol Moonfall, in a sense.

Of course, I’m not going to show Hani running on walls anytime soon, nor emote Nhani doing any of the same, but it stands as a running source of inspiration for just the sort of combatant I tend to envision them as. And I admit, I tend to like the visual of running/leaping/climbing up on a much larger foe in order to strike them down. While in-game, we just stand at the feet of larger enemies and hack away at their shins or ankles (depending on size).. in games like the Sands of Time series – Two Thrones did this especially well – you get to leap onto them, scale them while in motion to hit them where it hurts. The first boss in Two Thrones stands out particularely well, even if it’s effectively a timed platform puzzle combined with a quick time event.

And then we have the prince, whom I rather like as a character – he’s a tad arrogant, a bit of a smart arse and sometimes highly indignant.. also noble and yet flawed. He’ll complain to himself when bad things happen, rant about people or events out loud when no one is around and show he definitely has his own issues to deal with.. and still when push comes to shove, he’ll take responsibility and do the right thing.. with some nudging. He still has the same voice he’s maintained through all of the series save for Warrior Within, and it still suits him as this young, indignant blue blood who in the end has to take on responsibility.

The lack of Farah is felt – much of what made the first Sands of Time such a great game was the interaction and banter between them, and the water spirit he interacts with in Forgotten Sands lacks the same presence.. or effect. Still, it’s enough for the prince to indignantly ask himself why keeps finding himself ordered about by women in these kinds of situations, which I admit got me to laugh. Still, there’s his whole interaction and development with his older brother Malik, which was a rather nice touch – especially when he tries to rationalize how Malik knows best as he starts to question whether it’s true.

The whole running, jumping, climbing business is all still there, and by now it feels it’s part second nature – I can’t say whether it’s the puzzles being easier to understand, the telltales being more clear to spot or simply experience, but it feels the more I play these games, the less I get stuck trying to figure out where to go in them. New for this entry is the ability to temporarily freeze water, providing walls, bars and columns for the prince to ply his acrobatics on. It adds an interesting element, and gets taken to its natural extreme towards the end where puzzles have you run up and jump off one waterfall, unfreeze and jump through a second only to be able to jump off a third, or any combination of thereof. Or water faucets that alternate so you leap off one bar or column, unfreeze and then wait for the next to materialize before freezing that.

It is at this point that I sometimes start questioning the sanity, or benevolence, of the level design team. And why is it that so many times.. you have to climb a tower on the outside? My fear of heights! Aaah!

It’s a spectacle, and a big one. The ability to rewind time comes a little out of nowhere as it has nothing to do with the actual titular Sands of Time this time about, but is rather provided through different means, and while Sands are involved.. they are different sands, that create different sand monsters. Still, it’s a journey that takes you into the middle of a whirling sandstorm. For me it was a fun journey to make, and I’m glad to have made it – it’s one of those game series I like to return to every so often.. much like I’ll generally replay Legacy of Kain: Defiance once a year.


6 Responses to “Just how do you forget sands in a desert?”

  1. 1 Moltrazahn
    August 24, 2010 at 22:53

    Legacy of Kain, oh how i miss thou Raziel, just the mindboggleing strings that tie time together in that game, or -if you think about it- how many duplicate souls of raziel must craze within that entity of the blade (its a paradox really >.<). In the end, playing stories you know, is for my behalf, worth every penny, if its a good story. Legacy of Kain, and planescape torment, are two that will allways be with me, simply becauss the story is greater then the game could ever be.

    • 2 Nhani
      August 25, 2010 at 10:16

      The funniest thing with Legacy of Kain as a series is really that it wasn’t planned out in advance; Soul Reaver was intended to end with Raziel killing Kain and eradicating the vampires – they just didn’t have time to complete it, so it ended with Kain fleeing into the past instead. There’s a whole lot of cut content that can be accessed either through codes or old demo builds.

      Then Soul Reaver 2 came along, and didn’t have time to finish up either, and also left a whole lot of cut content.. and then finally we ended with Defiance, who rescued a fair bit of cut bits and put its own spin on it and.. well.. finally got around to giving some semblance of an end to the Soul Reaver arc.

      It’s really interesting how it works in spite of (and, to a point, because of) all the tricks they had to pull to keep it all together. What really sells the series, of course, is the facial expressions, the writing, and the excellent voice acting – there’s some pretty heavy names in its lineup, and they throw a heck of a performance.

      Oh and as a final note, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, there’s a webpage called The Lost Worlds that holds all kinds of cut and altered material from the various titles of the Legacy of Kain series. It’s quite interesting to see and take it all in.

  2. 3 Aldrius
    August 25, 2010 at 06:43

    I always liked Warrior Within.

    Not for it’s ambience or locales or anything. I just liked the story I guess. I thought Kaileena was a really cool villainess (the ruined her in Two Thrones. Sheesh.), and the Dahaka was a really intimidating force of nature.

    Could have done without the fanservice-y female armor, or all the annoying foul language, but I thought it had some nice plot-flow and some good twists.

    So really, the biggest disappointment for me with Forgotten Sands, is the lack of Dahaka. Bah! The Dahaka was awesome.

    • 4 Nhani
      August 25, 2010 at 10:05

      The irony is that one of the reasons Warrior Within is actually the story – or rather, the presentation of thereof. It’s not that it’s horrible by action game standards, but more that it really didn’t live up to the maturity and adulthood of Sands of Time.

      Just think about it – Warrior Within has the prince go to the Island of Time to enter the Fortress of Time to defeat the Empress of Time to prevent the creation of the Sands of Time.. and they’re basically all named like that! It’s a minor miracle that Dahaka wasn’t just called the Monster of Time.

      I do think that Warrior Within got much better after the halfway mark when it stopped stomping around with a potty mouth and got around to start to tell the story it had been brewing on. I think many simply tired of it long before they reach that far, though, because compared to Sands of Time.. that first half is pretty grueling.

      That said, for me it was definitely the weakest title of the four, and the one where the prince is the least likable.

      • 5 Aldrius
        August 25, 2010 at 23:19

        I think the prince is definitely really unlikable in Warrior Within. But I like all the other characters. Especially Kaileena. And I just like the hopelessness of the Dahaka.

        I think my least favourite personally is Two Thrones.

        They made Kaileena into a wimp, and I think the Vizier in that game is lame. But Farah’s a lot more likable and so is the prince. And the overall plot is structured a lot better, and yeah the presentation is much better done.

        (By the way do you have an IM service or something like that? You seem like an interesting person to talk to. 🙂 I understand if you don’t want to share that.)

  3. 6 Meng
    August 27, 2010 at 11:18

    Well Warrior Within was my favorite, but it may have something with my personal view, i was so hopeless IRL at the same time i played it, it was so fitting.. The prince having surrendered himself at a point and finding mask at the darkest hour.. From the ashes he was reborn. It felt so good that i think i really liked that feeling, more than the game itself. Still i miss it’s combat system (my combos with fyling around whirling killing things). Other than that, i suppose you are commenting more about the storyline and character development rather than game all around so i respect your opinions about it being a weak member of the series. [i lack the proper story knowledge to comment on these]

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