Lose the good, keep the bad and add more bad (POP 2 demo)

The Prince of Persia 2 demo is out. My impressions are not favourable.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was one of my favorite games from last year. It did nearly everything right – the controls were tight, the platforming was breathtaking, the setting was great, and the story was intriguing. Ok, the game was short and the fighting was repetitive and not very much fun. But, Ubisoft has fixed that in the sequel by adding more – lots more – fighting.

Wait. What?

If you loved Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, then the Warrior Within may be perfect for you. If you enjoyed the Sands of Time because it was Prince of Persia, you may want to turn back now, only heartache and disappointment lie ahead.

Upon booting the game, I was greeted with the title screen and a licenced rock song by some nu-metal group. All part of the Prince’s newer, darker image. I’ll get back to that more later.

Following a brief, yet nonsensical opening cutscene I began fighting zombies on a ship in the middle of a storm. This could be cool, I thought, maybe I’ll be able to run up the rigging, swing to the crow’s nest, and slide down the sail. Yeah, well, no, no I wasn’t able to do any of that. I simply proceeded along a flat, linear path swinging my swords at zombies. I did, however, get to watch the prince do stylish acrobatics around the ship during an in-game cutscene. Touche, Ubisoft, touche.

In fairness, the fighting is much improved over Sands of Time, but there is just so, so much of it. Every room just leads to more enemies to fight. The lack of platforming and environmental puzzles is disappointing.

The Prince is also on a much more mature adventure this time around. Mature, at least, as defined by a 13 year old. The demo includes an option to turn on Blood. And, yep, it sure does. Every swipe at an enemy lets loose with an arterial spray as you remove limbs, heads, and torsos.

Some of my favorite parts of Sands of Time were the Prince’s interactions with Farrah. I felt they were really well written and that went doubly so for his internal monologues and emotional conflict over his feelings for her. That attitude towards, however, wasn’t badass enough for this outing. A real badass of the Prince’s calibur would go toe-to-toe with a female warrior and call her a “Bitch.” Yes, he really does that.

Really, I have no idea what Ubisoft was trying to do with this game, but they’ve saved me $50 this winter.

Disappointing, but it’s not always wise to pass judgment on a whole game on the basis of one level in a demo. Granted, the devs would ideally give us a few levels that fully represent the game, but that’s not always true.

Is it really necessary to have anything but combat in the demo? If you played PoP:SoT, you already know what all the jumping puzzles are like. The only things that I expect to be different about PoP:WoD is the combat system, and the plot.

I certainly don’t want to see any plot spoilers and I don’t care to waste my time with pointless jumping puzzles when I already know what those are like. I just care about the combat system. That said, this seems like a perfect demo so far.

All the information that Ubisoft has released on the game so far is about the combat. I haven’t heard or read boo about any platforming elements. Perhaps, like you say, they feel it’s unecessary to comment on or show off that part of the game. But, it still makes me nervous. It’s definitely not the must buy I assumed it would be, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

I was very much under the impression that there would be just as much platforming as before. If that isn’t the case then this game can go straight to the hot place.

Yay for reviews, sometimes they actually serve a purpose!

Godsmack at the title screen = no yuo!

I too will be $50 richer this holiday season.

Don’t take it to heart.

Publishers often go wonky when trying to show off a specific feature of a sequel or game - focusing on it too much.

They were probably just trying to show off the combat.

Yeah, I’ve seen plenty of gameplay videos highlighting the platforming segments.

I’m curious how much of the proactive bewailing of how much PoP:WW is DOMED! is from folks who didn’t play the original Princes.

I liked Sands of Time, a lot–one of my favorite games this year. But the only part of Sands of Time that didn’t make me feel like I was playing Prince of Persia again was its complete lack of bloody death. The first time I ever stumbled into a spike trap, I was disappointed–because when you hit a trap in the original Prince of Persia and its sequel (never played the third due to word of mouth), you goddamn well knew you’d just hit a trap. Clever swordfighting could drive an enemy right back into one of those bisecting chompy razor doors, making him fall into pieces with ludicrous meat-on-the-cutting-board foley and blood all over.

For instance: there was a bit of a level in Prince of Persia 2 where you had to crawl under a swinging scything blade (and again, if you hit those things there, you didn’t just say “ouch!” and bounce back, you fell in two wet pieces in a pool of all your own blood), and the very second you stood up, you had to fight an enemy, and a single mistimed parry would throw you right back into said blade. If you pressured him immediately, though, you’d jostle around, and it was Mr. Scythe for him.

A fair amount of the PR focus WW has been getting seems to at least sound like that’s what they’re trying to get back into this iteration. Now, mind you, it very well may still be doomed, but since PoP1 and 2 are permanently burned into the nostalgia circuits of my brain, I can understand why they wanted to get more absoludicrous arterial spray into the mix.

FFS, FFS, and FFS.

I really liked the atmosphere of SoT; it was different from most of the other the other comparable games out there. But if it’s gonna be nu-metal and ‘mature’ I don’t care how good the gameplay might be, I won’t play it.

Oh my goodness, decapitate her, sure, but call her a bitch and it’s an outrage!!!

You guys should know better than to think the demo is designed to do anything more than appeal to the lowest common denominator. Until someone tells me otherwise, I’m going to assume the full game is of the same level of quality as the last game, with fancy combat.

So, enough with the screams of angst and betrayal. Do you like the combat, or not? Personally I think it’s a little too spammy, in that you can just hammer random buttons and kill everything very easily. But I haven’t gotten too far into it. It certainly is pretty.

The point being the lowest common denominator they’re trying to appeal to is apparently lower than anything the last game tried to appeal to. Hence the concern. Sands of Time is an utterly gorgeous game. My only complaint is that the required combat-o-rama sections slow the game down and aren’t particularly rewarding. Primarily due to combat being a bit clunky with multiple enemies. So in that sense, a combat upgrade in the sequel is welcome. Unless, of course, the people who made it decided to focus far more on combat, rather than keeping it at it’s same relative prominance and improving my ability to navigate it.

I’m sure there were folks who loved PoP:SoT for the combat and found all that jumping got in the way. IMO that’s missing the whole idea of PoP. But it’s at least worrisome when the designers spend their time focusing the demo on only the combat. Especially coupled with things which really trash the atmosphere as well, particularly in a “hip, edgy” direction. Because it points toward making the game more populous, which is probably exactly the opposite direction of the stuff I loved about the last one.

Final reviews will tell, though.