Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Review

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Review Image

To say Ubisoft has found somewhat of a formula when it comes to its bigger efforts is like telling your friend water is wet. Between its running and gunning Tom Clancy efforts and sneaky and stabbing open worlds of Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown then feels like a real breath of fresh air, a unique outing from a publisher that tends to stick close to what it knows (and what has proven successful).

Unlike previous outings in the series, you aren’t playing as the prince this time around but rather Sargon, a member of the legendary Immortals warrior group tasked with rescuing a kidnapped Prince Ghassan who has been taken to the cursed Mount Qaf. It’s here where you will spend the next 15 plus hours exploring Qaf’s many many threats and obstacles – be they monsters or environmental – slowly upgrading Sargon’s arsenal and abilities as you go and thus opening up new areas of what is a truly staggeringly-sized world. So, yes this is your Metroidvania-style adventure only this time with a Prince of Persia flavouring.

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The first thing that must be highlighted is how the game plays, Sargon effortlessly darting about the place like a circus performer on Red Bull. From his running to his leaping to his sword swinging, Sargon is an absolute pleasure to control, mirrored by the game’s excellent level design that continues to surprise and challenge the deeper you find yourself within Mount Qaf.

Being a Metroidvania you can expect plenty of back-and-forthing across the game’s sprawling world, newly unlocked abilities granting access to previously inaccessible areas and with-it further boosts to Sargon’s repertoire or getting you one step closer to completing your objective. Mount Qaf is dense with atmosphere, every biome ringing with an air of gloom in spite of their at times beauty. You’ll venture across deserts, temples and perhaps my favourite the sea frozen in time. In fact, time is something that comes into play not just from a gameplay standpoint (more on that in a moment) but the story too, adding some unexpected twists to the tale and Sargon even meeting other versions of himself on his journey.

You’ll find the expected mix of health boosts, offensive attacks and weapon upgrades on your travels but where things take a truly interesting turn those that affect Sargon’s movement. A double jump and air dash aren’t anything shockingly new for the genre, but when coupled with an ability to place a copy of Sargon at any point and zap him back at the press of a button, it creates platforming challenges with a welcome layer of puzzling involved too. You’ll find a bunch of these including the ability to reveal hidden platforms and suck enemies and objects into a space void, the latter of which can be fired again when called upon. All in all, these rewards are exciting to discover and with every new one uncovered you do start to feel Sargon slowly transforming from a weaker battler to an unstoppable warrior.

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Combat plays a rather large role in The Lost Crown, even throwaway minions capable of sending you to a game over screen should you let your guard down. Thankfully Sargon’s agility and simple but effective attacks are more than enough to turn you into a true warrior, your skills put to their limits during the game’s numerous epic boss battles. You’ll take on enemies several times your size, your encounters a marathon of memorising attacks, faster reflexes, and well-timed parries. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown manages to balance these behemoth fights perfectly between tough but never painfully so, a fresh boss often requiring a few attempts as you start to read tells and learn how to deal with attacks that initially seem impossible to avoid. As a cap to each section of your main quest, they’re wonderfully tense, rewarding and exhausting in equal measure.

Arguably Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’s best moments though are found when tackling its platforming-heavy sections, rooms and corridors surrounded by insta-kill spike pits that demand perfectly executed platforming and timing. Where initially these pose a decent enough challenge, as you continue to progress and thus unlock further abilities, you’ll be called upon to use all these together. A great example of this involved Sargon wall-jumping to avoid spinning blades passing back and forth. A feat only accomplishable by utilizing his double jump and air dash together to squeak by and to a wall on the other side. While boss battles can prove punishing in their difficulty, it’s here where I found myself feeling the most satisfied, like a parkour expert with every successfully traversed playground of poles, walls and blades.

Rarely did I ever find myself lost or stuck – a common occurrence with most Metroidvanias – largely thanks to the game’s decision to offer two modes of play, one relying on the player to navigate and the other having the game guide. A feature also worth mentioning (and something I hope to see in other games of this nature) is the ability to take pictures and place them on the map, a seemingly menial feature on the surface but one that made backtracking to tackle areas I previously couldn’t reach much more efficient and less reliant on guesswork.

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The game isn’t without its faults though, my playthrough being hit by a number of technical issues including the odd frame drop here and there and on more than one occasion Sargon falling through the world or getting stuck in place, my only solution being to reset the game. They aren’t game-ruining moments by any means and far infrequent enough their presence never invoked frustration or anger, but worth mentioning nonetheless. The game also does take a little while to truly get going, the opening hour or two far more restricted both from a gameplay and story perspective than the exciting twists and challenges that await further down the road. Still, these are minor grievances in an adventure that had me truly engaged from start to finish.

As the first major video game release of 2024, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown sets the bar high. Very high in fact. Not just an excellent Metroidvania but also a brilliantly refreshing new direction for Prince of Persia, one that surprises throughout its 15-plus hour adventure whilst remaining true to the series’ core elements.

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Ubisoft

Total Score
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