Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is the first major game in Ubisoft's beloved series in a very long time, so we have to give the publisher some kudos for not playing it safe. While a straightforward remake of The Sands of Time is also on the way, this entry is a side-scrolling action platformer with a Metroidvania structure. It simultaneously calls back to the franchise's past and takes it in an interesting new direction, and fortunately, the formula works a treat.
You play as Sargon, a young warrior and the latest member of the Immortals, an elite group protecting Persia from invading forces. When the titular prince Ghassan is abducted, you're ordered to bring him back safe and sound. However, the perpetrators lead you to Mount Qaf which, unbeknown to the Immortals or the enemy, is cursed; time's linear path is fractured, leading to all sorts of bizarre, paradoxical situations. It's a neat setup that makes for a fun narrative through-line.
The story is decent and intriguing enough to see through to the end, but this is a game all about how it feels to move, and fight, through its intricate world. Ubisoft Montpellier is best known for the Rayman series, and its strengths in side-scrolling design really show up here. Sargon moves super smoothly with snappy animations and tight, responsive controls. Similarly, combat is slick, deadly, and surprisingly technical once you have all your abilities. It all feels fantastic, no doubt helped by the unshakeable technical performance and stylish visuals. Speaking of which, we rather like how the game looks, but it does occasionally appear somewhat dated when you see characters close up.
Anyway, it's a good thing it's so satisfying, because you'll be playing it for a while. Depending on how much you explore the huge, interconnected map, you're looking at anything between 20 and 30 hours, more if you want to see and do everything. As mentioned, this is a Metroidvania; by design, you'll be wandering through its dozens of rooms, in search of both the path forward and hidden secrets. The map gradually opens up to you as Sargon is outfitted with more time-manipulating powers, meaning lots of backtracking to discover new areas branching from old territory.
There's lots of variety in the map's design and in each location. While much of the setting takes place inside an ornate citadel, you'll also be taken to spooky catacombs, a forest full of ruins, an icy tower, and plenty more. There are some great environments in The Lost Crown, each one full of hidden areas, challenges, and secrets. One downside to a map of this size is that the backtracking inherent to Metroidvanias can feel exacerbated. There are numerous fast travel points, but some areas still take a while to get back to — and the paths that take you there aren't always a walk in the park.
Still, it's a great fit for Prince of Persia, a series that has a history in deadly platforming gauntlets in particular. Eventually you'll gain abilities like a double jump, an air dash, the power to warp to the exact stance and location of a past point, and more. All of these will trivialise earlier platforming paths, but from the beginning your skills are regularly tested as you swing from poles, wall jump through spikes, and dodge whirring death machines.
Combat gradually grows more complex, too. Not only is there a wide variety of enemies to fight, each bringing something new to the table, but Sargon can utilise some of his abilities to get the better of baddies. You can set down a projection and use it to warp behind an enemy, for example, or get one up in the air and use the air dash to continue your combo before you touch the ground. While you have a lot of options, combat is no joke, and even basic bad guys can knock you down if you're not paying attention. Parrying hits is often key to success here, and the timing can be tricky.
You can supplement Sargon's array of abilities by equipping amulets to his necklace. These provide a variety of passive bonuses, like decreasing incoming damage, or restoring health with successful parries. You'll be able to equip more and more of them as you progress, and there are lots to choose from, so it's worth experimenting to find what works best. It isn't too long before you find a shopkeeper, who sells additional health potions and more, and a smith, who can upgrade amulets, as well as Sargon's main weapons.
It's worth popping back to The Haven, a sort-of central hub, regularly to see what you can invest in, because you'll need all the help you can get. Basic enemies shouldn't be underestimated, but there are bigger opponents to face throughout the journey. Boss fights punctuate the adventure, with many on the main path and a handful of optional bouts. These can be tough encounters, but never took us more than a few tries. You're rewarded for playing these battles smartly — looking for opportunities to parry, making use of all Sargon's abilities, and firing off a powerful Athra Surge when the time is right. In this sense, these are successful bosses — tests of your skills and pushing you to use all your options.
As mentioned, some of these fights are optional, which leads us onto the game's variety of side missions and collectibles. The map is large and complex, and every corner of it has something to offer — whether that's a bunch of time crystals (your currency for upgrades), a treasure chest containing a new amulet, or an interesting character with a task for you. Some side quests will span the whole game, while others are quicker. Most are worth it, though, rewarding you with resources, max health boosts, and more besides. They also lead to some of The Lost Crown's toughest fights and platforming challenges.
There's a lot in this game, and ultimately that's great, because the majority of it is super fun and satisfying to discover. However, given the overall length, we couldn't help but feel our enthusiasm lull a little towards the end. Once or twice, it feels as though it ramps up to the story's climax before giving you a new power and sending you off on another quest. Again, much of the game is fantastic and worth experiencing, but this is a big Metroidvania — especially if you want to do absolutely everything.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown puts its best foot forward with rewarding and satisfying gameplay at its core. Combining the series' 2D past with the time-bending powers from later games, this Metroidvania is a brilliant blend that brings the franchise back in a fresh new way. While it can sometimes look a little underwhelming, and the sheer size of the game threatens to slow its own momentum, the fluid, challenging platforming and combat are so fun that any shortcomings fade into the background. This is an overall great action adventure with a lot to offer.