Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
There are some people who are just always unlucky. First, our beloved Prince of Persia accindentally contaminated hundreds of castle servants with The Sands of Time, then he had to kill his also contaminated father and afterwards he chased the gorgeous maiden Fahrah during the entire game and she still didn’t wind up in his bed! Nope, no kinky fantasies with Fahrah and the rest of the Persian harem for him… And if that wasn’t bad enough, he now finds himself pursued by the Dahaka, an immortal creature that kills anyone who evaded his/her fate. The reason for this is that the Prince should have died when he opened the Sands of Time. Life can be difficult sometimes…
To outsmart the Dahaka, the Prince decides to sail to the island where the Sands were created. However his ship is attacked by pirates under the command of a mysterious woman. Your first task is to defend it against the unwanted guests. This cleverly disguised tutorial introduces you to improved single-handed combat system. There are now a lot of new combo’s to annihilate your enemies. You can decapitate them, use them as a shield or just cut them in half, both vertically and horizontally. This is a big improvement, but the real innovation lies in the new double-handed combat. It’s finally possible to steal weapons from your opponents and use them to show even more deadly moves. Your moves even depend on the type of secondary weapon you’re holding (you always carry an upgradeable sword). You can choose to slice and dice your adversaries using two swords, deliver quick blows with a dagger or deal heavy damage with maces and axes. Be warned though, those weapons are rather fragile which means you’ll have to replace them quite often. The nicest move I’ve seen so far is when the Prince runs up a wall, jumps, draws his swords and cuts off the heads of two opponents while in flight. Pretty gruesome, but horrifyingly cool!
Don’t panic though, this isn’t a second The Suffering, because all the blood you see is mixed with a nice dose of sand. Nevertheless it’s clear that Warrior Within has a much darker atmosphere than The Sands of Time. The clearly adult-oriented changes to both the hero and the setting will probably lead to better sales. However I still prefer the story-like look of The Sands of Time. Don’t ask why, but it just had this special, attractive, totally unique feel to it. This is also one of the main reason why I think the first game is better. TSOT was a short, but very intense game, one that kept you glued to your telly for hours on end. WW doesn’t do that, but it on the other hand, it nearly doubles the short lifespan of its predecessor (8 hours). Unfortunately, the game feels artificially stretched, because you’ll be visiting all levels several times, both in the past and in the present. This form of backtracking is actually quite irritating, because it never occurred in the previous instalment. Also, some cool features aren’t included anymore, such as the Visions you saw before a puzzle. You now have to find the solution yourself, using trial & error, kind of annoying at times.
Luckily the marvellous symbiosis of puzzles and leveldesign has returned in this instalment. They’re still as well thought out as ever, which means you’ll be doing a lot of swinging, climbing, running and evading traps to continue your quest for survival. These platforming elements, combined with the new fighting system, truly make a great game. New are the Dahaka chases, in which you’ll have to complete a set path as fast possible. There is no room for mistakes, as the Dahaka will enjoy ripping you to shreds if you’re too slow. If you do happen to make a mistake, the time is nigh to turn back time (feel the Shakespeare vibe!). Just use Recall and go back 10 seconds to have another go. You can also slow down time to gain an advantage in battle or you can use the very deadly Ravages of Time or Cyclone of Fate to wipe out pretty much everything that stands in your way. They all cost an amount of sand, which can be regained by killing enemies.
When it comes to visuals Warrior Within joins the select group of visually outstanding games. The wonderful blend of colours (words cannot describe it), the subtle lighting and the amazing leveldesign-craftsmanship make this just about the best the action-adventure genre has to offer. And then there are the sand effects and the amazingly animated creatures (the hulking giants in particular). Also the sound has been improved since TSOT. The loud metal and rock tracks fit the game and the nice background noises (howling winds, water dripping,…) are as good as in the first game. The Prince’s voice is noticeably darker, well done! And for the ones that care: a new female character appears and yes, she really is hot!
My conclusion is as follows: Prince of Persia: Warrior Within deserves to be recommended to all gamers that have an interest in action-adventures or platformers. It improves the first game (actually the fourth) technically and also has a longer lifespan. Unfortunately it just isn’t as epic as The Sands of Time was. That one kept you busy from the word go, until the ending credits rolled, but WW can be rather dull from time to time.