Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Posted by: gremlin

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 12/19/03 07:58 PM

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Okay folks, this may not be a pure adventure game, but I think it's worth 5 minutes of my time to give it some coverage here.

Also, it is worth noting that I'm only about 10% (the save game system tells you how far through you are) of the way through this, after an evening's play. I think this could take me a little while!

What is it? Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (or PoP4 as it will be henceforth known), is an action-adventure, set in a cod-Arabian environment.

Yes, I know that means lots of complicated controls (there's about 12 keys and the mouse is used too) and doesn't fit into our usual point-and-click preference here on GB. But, this one is worth the effort, I think.

The highlights (to be described further, below) include some pretty acrobatic moves for our leading character, stunning graphics, and gameplay that Core Design would kill for!

Where does it come from?
Surely we all heard of Jordan Mechner by now? No? Well, he's the guy who wrote the original revolutionary, 2D, rotoscoped Prince of Persia. It had a simple plot: bad guy kidnaps princess, street kid (rather like Aladdin) has to rescue her, by exploring the castle, fighting the bad guys and solving the puzzles. By the way, he also wrote the Last Express - a title that's probably better known around here. smile

Prince of Persia 2 and 3 both took this idea and did it again... 2 was more platform-y, and 3 full 3D (quite a lot of fun, IMHO, but a bit clunky by today's standards).

Is there a plot?
Yes. And it's not the same as the previous three games. The Prince (yes, he's been promoted since the starting these adventures) has stolen a mysterious dagger and has been tricked by the Vizier (never a character to be trusted in an Arabian tale), into using it to release demons upon the land. Now it's his job to clean up the palace and save the kingdom.. and there's a pretty girl to chase, rescue, and (possibly) marry too. Ahh, what would life be without 'structure' to our games.

Having said that the story is somewhat clichéd, the story telling within the game is nicely presented in frequent short cutscenes giving you a preview of where you need to try to get to (some rooms need this preview to give some shape to how you approach them), and some rather nice flash-forwards that give hints of the acrobatics yet to come. This is something I think has been done well here, and other developers could learn from this!

How do you play?
As I've already mentioned, the controls for this game are reasonably complex (though less so that Outcast, IIRC). However, it's a case of one hand on the mouse, to control the camera (rotation about the Prince) and click to use the sword and do some moves (I'll come back to those in a moment laugh ), and one hand on a small area of keys (centered around W,A,S,D) for control of the Prince and his weapons. After a little practise, I found this worked fine, despite my usual preference for simpler controls.

Okay, those acrobatic moves. One word... WOW! The first time I saw the Prince do his wall-running stunt, I knew I was immediately back where I was when I first played Tomb Raider back in 1996. Our hero is a stunningly well animated guy, who does moves that would make Ang Lee proud - if you enjoyed the 'ballet' in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", then you'll love this!

Of course, this being a Prince of Persia game, there's fighting involved. Not all the time, certainly, but there are times when it gets a bit involved! There are always more that one opponent... but the Prince always manages to outclass them in the end!

Any other novelties?
There is one idea introduced in PoP4 that I've never seen before... a rewind function! Once you have the dagger of time in your grubby little hands, you can rewind up to 10 seconds of action at almost any time. So you missed that jump (after all, this is a platform game to a certain extent wink ), not to worry... rewind will take you back to the point just before you made it. Be warned, however, the dagger does not have infinite power.

The graphics so far (I'm only 10% in, remember) have been wonderful. Not a glitch anywhere! No pop-up polygons nor limbs vanishing into walls. Something else for Core to take notice of. The palace is nicely modelled and feels quite real. My only quibble is that Prince of Persia 3D actually managed to look beautifully decorated (if slow & jerky in places), whereas these environments are a bit more staid... so far, of course.

The bad guys are as well animated as the Prince, with a nice level of detail, and plenty of attention to visual effects and so on. They even come across as reasonably intelligent on occassion, except for their willingness to throw themselves at the Prince who's clearly a rather special chap! smile

I have a rather limited sound system, so although there are nice bits of voice-over commentary, and good sound effects, and music, I can't really say anything about any 5.1 or EAX issues. The sounds are well done, and keep the mood well. And the voice acting is so much better than many adventure games where the voices could be considered to be rather more important!

Ok, this is an adventure game, so what about the puzzles. Well, most of them are physical. There are places where the Prince has to jump between columns, climb walls (which he does rather more dynamically than Lara Croft ever did), creep along ledges, dodge things, etc. There are a few moving block and lever puzzles, and I'm hoping there are even more different kinds to come. in the remaining 90%. wink

What do you need to play it?
Win 98 SE/Win ME/Win 2K/Win XP
Pentium III 800Mhz or faster
256MB RAM or more
Geforce 3 or better (Geforce 4 MX is explicitly *not* supported)
DirectX 9.0b (on the CD, although the website claims 9a is sufficient!)

(I used Win XP, AMD 1300 Thunderbird, 384 MB RAM, ATI Radeon 9000 Pro 128 AGP)

Downsides: Limited saves... this game is more in the console style than a normal PC game. Non trivial hardware requirements.

Upsides: Novelties like rewind. The story telling. The graphics. The acrobatics! And the overall excitement. This is what Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness could and should have been, but is so far short of. frown

In fact, I found TR: AoD so dull and lifeless that I got no further than the bomb (people who've play AoD will know what I mean). So far, PoP4 has been so much more exciting, I fully expect this is one I'll finish. And, like PoP3D, it's one I'll come back to in the future.

Unfortunately, this game has received a rather muted and somewhat negative reception in the reviews I've seen thus far. The notable exception to this is JustAdventure's review which is nearly as positive as mine. And GameSpot ran a series on the final days of the PoP4 project.

Finally, I have to give this game an A!
Posted by: Becky

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 12/21/03 11:43 AM

Wow, thanks for the review. A very fun read! I've actually been eyeing this game in the stores because I'm a Jordan Mechner fan.

How would you rate the level of violence in this one? Does blood spurt, etc?
Posted by: gremlin

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 12/21/03 04:12 PM

Whilst this is a game where fighting does play a major part, there is not much blood. In fact, so far, the only blood I've seen is when the Prince makes mistakes around blade traps, and even then it is only a red marker of injury, rather than splurging gouts of blood, viz a viz Quake or Unreal.

I've moved on to 12% now, btw. smile

Posted by: burpee

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 12/21/03 04:33 PM

Thank you sooo much Gremlin, very nicely done smile I know that I can't play this yet but I will eventually! Hugs, Nancy
Posted by: gremlin

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 12/21/03 06:40 PM

Ta! laugh

Posted by: bkrytr

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 01/09/04 05:29 PM

A truly enjoyable game. The fighting wears me out cause some a dose sandies are hard ta kill, and saves are a bit too far apart, but the game is really cool!! And, if a 53 page wt is any indication, a loooong one. (My favorite kind)
Posted by: Glynn

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 01/10/04 06:55 AM

Thanks for the review Gremlin! If the game is anywhere near as good as "POP 3d" I gotta have it! Burpee..we gotta splurge and get new graphic cards!! :-) Glynn
Posted by: gremlin

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 01/10/04 07:01 AM

Oh it is! I enjoyed PoP 3D, but find the motion a bit jerky, whereas PoP 4 is much smoother and athletic... on my 1 year old ATI Radeon 9000 128 AGP smile

Posted by: gremlin

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 01/18/04 12:28 PM

Okay, some final thoughts, as I've now finished the game.

My general opinion of this game hasn't changed, but I feel the need to include some comments on stability and game progression.

As the game progresses, the Prince gets more moves.. rope swinging, and narrow wall-top walking, and his sword gets updated a few times. There are a couple of hidden sections where the Prince will improve his survivability - his hit points, if you like.

This game has been remarkably stable in these days of game patches being released the day after the game hits the shops! AFAIK, there is no patch. But then, in my experience, there is no need for one! The only crashes I experienced were during a period when the entire machine was being unreliable, due to a hardware fault.

So, overall, I rate this game highly. I've really enjoyed it, despite some frustrating periods with some of the more difficult timed sections (a major part of this game) and some of the later fights.

If you enjoy action, this is a definite winner, that's taken me a month (of 2-4 evenings per week) to complete!

Posted by: Renee63

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 02/03/04 04:59 PM

I don't know about reviews you have read but in our paper here in San Diego, they have every Monday a review of games for PC XBox etc and they game 4 stars to POP and raved about the game and whenever I had read about it, people thought it was great. It is the main reason I just bought a new Dell gamer since the requirements were so high. I knew I wanted to buy that game but needed a computer to play it. I didn't get it for Christmas since the price was a little stiff.
Posted by: gremlin

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 02/04/04 03:35 AM

It's strange, or maybe just bad luck on my part, but all the reviews I read before Christmas (and before getting PoP) were negative... now they're all really positive, rather like mine wink

Just the luck of the draw, I guess.

Posted by: PDL

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 04/28/06 04:59 AM

i just finished this game myself after a few days of playing [i don't have much of a life and get stubburn with games].

i agree that it is a great game, and that is saying a lot for me as it is a genre i normally don't like, and it was tons of rave reviews that got me to get it.

and the powers of the dagger of time was always the main issue of the praise.
takes awhile to get through, but fun overall.

yes the acrobatics are amazing, and this from one who has played various games since its release first.
what i like is that, though it has a fair bit of action for my liking and challenging fights at that, but they balance acrobatic progression adn fight progression well.

but aspects are certainly cliche yes, such as the baddie vizier.
also a few of the cutscenes between the prince and the feature female char are heavily cliche.

one example is what i like to call the 'you kill them, now you die' look. but such often appeals to pro-fight males, some females also but males more natorious for it.

though the second half of the final fight was a bit anti-climatic to me as it only took like 4-6 hits and they were dead without a defence. and this after a big preachy speech about do i have any last words before i die and such.

they could have just ended the game at the cut scene before that and left it alone.
however i admit i did smirk when i saw the prince use the dagger of time one last time in the cut scene.

though the reasons are badly cliche for the situation. however i won't speak on the storyline as said above, it is good overall.
Posted by: Becky

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 04/28/06 08:59 AM

Hey PDL -- interesting comments! Did you play this in anticipation of Tomb Raider Legends? smile
Posted by: jim112332

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 04/28/06 01:17 PM

I'm having a lot of trouble getting through the reception hall battle at the end of the "Booby-Trapped Courtyard". Does anyone have a saved game available for the end of this level? I would certainly appreciate it having spent the last five days and many retries on this battle.
Posted by: looney4labs

Re: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - 04/28/06 05:23 PM

Hi Jim, I was going to move this request to the Darkside, but I see it is there already. You'll have better luck over there with getting a save.

How are you liking the game so far?