Reviews > Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
April 4, 2005
When one plays a sequel, it is sometimes difficult not to compare the game to its predecessor. With Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, although the game stands well on its own merits, making a critical comparison of this nature can leave the gamer feeling somewhat disappointed. Warrior Within falls short of The Sands of Time in nearly every way, but when one thinks about the benchmark set by SoT, falling short is not that monumental of a failure.
Warrior Within sees the Prince always running from the Dahaka, a monster that is bent on eliminating him, in order to restore the plotted course of time and fate. It is much like the movie Final Destination in that sense. This theme, as well as the overall presentation of the game makes for a much darker experience.
Ubi Soft responded to the criticism of the first PoP game when they were developing Warrior Within - specifically the combat. In a Tony hawk -esque move, they have created the "free-form fighting system," which is based on various button combinations.
The Prince can carry two weapons at any time, the off-hand weapon being something picked up from a defeated foe or off of a weapon rack, which are both encountered quite often throughout the game. This translates to the controller as a button for each hand. Then there is the obvious jump button, and a "grab" button, both of which play a part in combat.
The Prince has some new moves at his disposal, with each pre-determined button combination resulting in a different decapitation or torso-severing animation. Also, the role of the environment is more prevalent in combat this time around. Now the Prince can swing around poles with his sword slashing in 360 degrees, or backflip off of a wall and over an enemy, delivering a satisfying death blow. With each finisher, you get a bullet-time effect, where time is slowed to capture the action.
While this new fighting system sounds great on paper, in execution it is sometimes frustrating and can end up turning into a button mash-fest. Also, no secondary weapon can really take the place of the Dagger of Time. After playing Warrior Within, I returned to SoT, and found the old combat wholly more enjoyable.
This may be due, in part, to the difference in pacing and level design between the games. While SoT was organized into its standard acrobatic platforming, with interspersed 'fight scenes,' Warrior Within oftentimes attempts to mingle the two. This results in having enemies thrown into the works where they don't really belong, and breaking the continuity of the game's core gameplay dynamic.
All in all the level design in Warrior Within is good, but not as good as one would hope. There is still plenty of jumping, wall-running, and swinging, as well as a couple of new feats like sliding down long tapestries, but the cleverness and natural feel of SoT is replaced by a more forced and uninspired experience. There are times when it will be unclear as to where to go next, and this is because of the shortcomings in level design.
One of the biggest gripes with Warrior Within lies in the extensive amount of backtracking that must be done to achieve your goals - and the totally arbitrary map doesn't really help. The Prince travels through time between the present and a time long past, so there are some differences between the environments, but in the end, it feels like you are just going back and forth in the same place. Unlike a game such as Metroid Prime: Echoes, or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, there is simply not enough of a distinction between the two times. You may even find yourself forgetting whether you are in the past or the present.
The visuals of Warrior Within are very different from SoT. The game is dark - very dark. In an age of gaming where the mainstream is pushing for more "mature" games, this sounds like an interesting turn for the series, but it actually is a turn for the worse. Gone is the magical feeling of The Sands of Time, and the lack of vibrancy (in other words, dullness) makes it more difficult to be absorbed into the game. On a few occasions the darkness makes it a bit difficult to make out features in your surroundings.
The style fits the game, however, with a fiercer and more desperate hero, fighting for his life. The darker appearance of the world, with its gritty surface and pessimistic air encapsulates the protagonist's situation. The animations and effects are also very good. All of the Prince's moves are fluid and well-executed, and wherever you go, there are dust particles and good light effects. Textures are a mixed bag. Some are very good, and others are pretty unimpressive.
Artistically, the style is very nice, from character models to environmental features. Enemies are quite interestingly designed, and certain areas of the castle are very nicely put together.
The game suffers from a few technical issues worth mentioning, with quite a bit of clipping, and some graphical glitches in a few of the effects. They don't detract from the game, however, and if you're not looking for them, they can even go unnoticed.
The soundtrack in Warrior Within is not the best. It is mostly heavy guitar riffs repeated over and over. Sometimes, an Arabian flare is added to the music, but it still is not enough to make any significant improvement. Voice acting is good, except for the lines the Prince spits at his opponents during combat, which are too bad-ass for their own good.
Something that is sorely missed is the storytelling of The Sands of Time. No longer does the Prince voice-over the game as a narrator, and gone are the conversations with himself that were such a nice touch in SoT. Again, this leaves the game with a more bland and unpolished feel.
Overall, if this game is approached as a brand new experience, and not a sequel to one of the best the Gamecube has to offer, it is a solid and enjoyable piece of software. But comparisons will be made, and the inferior presentation and lesser polish, despite the updates, make Prince of Persia: Warrior Within a good, but unfortunately disappointing title.
Game Design - 8
Visuals - 8
Audio - 5.5
Control - 8
Story - 8
Fun - 8
Value - 7
Style - 7
Overall: 7.6 (Great)*Eddie R Inzauto - Senior Editor, GameWad.com
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