Recently we went hands-on with Ubisoft's upcoming Metroidvania, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. It's slashing its way onto PS5 and PS4 in January, bringing the series back to PlayStation for the first time since 2010. But after all this time, how is this latest adventure shaping up? And will it be worth that 14-year wait? Well, from our two hours with the game, we'd say fans of the series have a fun and vibrant adventure on their hands, and we personally are looking forward to jumping back into it.
You play as Sargon, one of the mighty Immortals, a band of protectors to the Persian empire. After a calamitous betrayal, the gang heads off to Mount Qaf in search of the titular Prince of Persia. However, Mount Qaf isn't quite what it seems, as the Immortals suddenly find themselves trapped within a time-warping labyrinth filled to the brim with all kinds of mythological creatures.
Narratively, we were quite impressed. The game's opening hours keep things simple but begin to expand the deeper you venture into Mount Qaf. We love a time-warping storyline, so this was right up our street, and we were immediately curious to know more about this eccentric band of warriors. In our travels we came across soldiers lost in time and the body of our future selves, which successfully drew us in and meant we were a little disappointed when our session ended. We went into the game with next to no expectations, so it was a pleasant surprise to be so invested in the story.
Those trails of narrative mystery are scattered across the game's map, amplifying the need for exploration. You'll constantly be taking mental notes of elements that aren't accessible quite yet, and the game's snapshot feature means there's a way to actually mark those areas for future reference. The only major issue is the amount of backtracking, which quickly becomes tedious.
The game does try to keep things fresh by littering its map with platforming challenges. During our preview, we never truly saw the full scope of these platform segments, but if what we did see was only the beginning, it's a great indicator of what's to come. Starting simple yet steadily introducing more challenges and obstacles, the platforming is a lot of fun, but might become rather annoying when you have to pass through them once again. Our Ubisoft demoist did confirm there's a fast travel system to unlock later in the game, but for our portion of the demo and as a game that rewards returning to certain areas, we felt its lack of presence. Although we will admit that this does come with the territory of a Metroidvania.
Fans of said genre will be pleased, as going off the beaten path proves the game's scale. Across a series of side missions and by defeating enemies that drop currency, you can expand the potential of Sargon. New abilities, weapons, and traversal options will open up as you explore the wider world, and beyond its story, it was these elements that meant our time with the game flew by. In many ways it's a by the numbers level-up experience, but the game's finesse meant that we were very much up for the challenge.
Across your exploration and platforming, there's plenty of exposure to the game's snappy and addictive combat system. Similar to the platforming, it starts simple with light and heavy attacks, along with timed parries and limited-use abilities. Put together, though, you have a progressively complex combat system that's surprisingly challenging at times, both in its boss battles and with its regular enemies. With a wide variety of enemy types, each with their own attack patterns, it's very easy to mistime a parry or misjudge their attacks. And with minimal health, combat can quickly become very intense. With the speedy and responsive controls, while nothing like it, it reminds us a lot of DOOM where our eyes are locked to the screen.
The combat is elevated even further thanks to the game's style. The Lost Crown has a youthful energy that permeates the visuals and the audio design. Finishers on regular enemies and the artistic flare to boss battles help it stand apart from the crowd, but it also feeds into that twitchy combat. Several times across our two-hour preview we were invested in the combat — and a few of the boss battles gave us chills. Bringing the music, visuals, and controls together result in an immensely entertaining package. The Lost Crown is a project with a confident vision, and Ubisoft knows exactly what it wants it to be.
From our initial impressions, then, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is shaping up to be a solid start to PlayStation's 2024. It doesn't break the mould in any sense, but everything it does, it does really well. For a side-scroller it has a visually pleasing world to explore, and despite some backtracking concerns, the content we found was both engaging and worthy of exploration. With a solid difficulty level — we were playing on hard — we're looking forward to unravelling the mystery of Mount Qaf on PS5.
Are you looking forward to Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown? Let us know down in the comments below.