Rewording: A review of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown – a new realm of gaming awaits to be explored.
High above the entrance to Mount Qaf stands a massive statue, frozen in the midst of its destruction. The remnants of a granite head are suspended in mid-fall, shattered into pieces. Inside the castle’s complex maze of trap-filled corridors, you will encounter individuals who have not aged a day in a century, while others who arrived mere hours before you have already succumbed to old age. Time does not follow conventional laws within the cursed walls of the fortress, and it would be wise to learn this lesson quickly if you hope to successfully complete Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.
These anomalies in time are fitting for a video game that combines multiple iterations of a series dating back to 1989. The original Prince of Persia, created by developer Jordan Mechner, was a 2D platformer where players navigated a castle filled with false floors, guillotines, and sword-wielding guards in order to defeat the Grand Vizier. In later reimaginings of the series by Ubisoft, the protagonist gained the ability to manipulate time, using it to solve puzzles and avoid traps in a 3D world. In The Lost Crown, Ubisoft returns to the side-scrolling perspective of the earlier games while incorporating the time-manipulating element from the later titles, resulting in a vast and intricate world filled with enemies and obstacles to conquer.
You assume the role of Sargon, a renowned defender from Persia, as he sets out to track down Prince Ghassan and his captors. The pursuit leads you to Mount Qaf, where the kidnappers intend to convince the prince to give up his throne. Your task is to reach him before they do. Sargon’s agility allows him to navigate through the levels of Qaf by jumping over pits, swinging from poles, and scaling tight shafts. However, these abilities only grant access to a small portion of the fortress, as there are often gaps too wide to jump, ledges too high to reach, and locked doors that are out of sword’s reach. Through defeating bosses and uncovering secrets of the mountain, Sargon gains the ability to dash through the air, double jump, and teleport to previously anchored points. By combining these powers, he can perform impressive mid-air stunts and discover new areas of Qaf to explore.
The Lost Crown is Prince of Persia reforged as Metroidvania, and the series feels at home in that genre of ever-widening worlds. You will return and return and return to the same areas of the map, discovering new secrets in old rooms thanks to the powers you have acquired. Chests that were out of reach before fall within your grasp, locked doors now swing open before you, and bosses that were too fast or too strong are now vulnerable to your strikes.
However, it should be noted that The Lost Crown has a steep learning curve. In the later stages, the platforming sections and bosses require you to remember and master difficult attack patterns, as well as develop quick reflexes to execute complex sequences of jumps, dodges, and parries. Hitting a skill wall can be quite frustrating, especially in a game where the satisfaction comes from smoothly chaining together acrobatic moves and attacks.
When faced with a frustrating obstacle, you can often explore different areas of Qaf to find new powers. These powers can open up opportunities all over the mountain, not just in one specific area. Additionally, you have the option to upgrade Sargon’s weapons for more power, purchase upgrades for his health potions, or change his amulet configuration. These unlockable items allow you to enhance your hero’s abilities, such as increasing strength when low on health or reducing damage from poison attacks. If you encounter a boss that seems unbeatable, you can make the fight easier by swapping out amulets before going into battle.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is not a continuation or a prequel to any previous games, but rather a fresh adventure for the series. It confidently takes its first step forward, incorporating notable elements from different versions of the series, such as its setting, traps, time powers, and combat, into a cohesive new form. Not only does it fit seamlessly into its chosen genre, but it also stands out as one of the best games in that category, on par with titles like Metroid Dread and Hollow Knight rather than simply imitating them. It has been 13 years since the release of a completely original Prince of Persia game, and if this is the direction the series is heading in, it is exciting to see where it will take us.