The most satisfying moments in a gamer's life are when they play something that makes them forget its all about the money. Just a timeless, treasured expression, where, yes, you can firmly believe that the product was sneaked past the ad department, the cynical fat-cats, and the corporate yes-men like a vulnerable child. The game contains a sense of goodness and wonder that is so utterly alien to monthly targets or financial years.
Prince of Persia made many forget that it was all about the money, they stood in amazement that a comparative giant like Ubisoft could keep their figures in the black and realize modern fairy-tales; first Beyond Good & Evil, now this. Unfortunately, as with countless other titles that made gamers forget they were playing something which was mass-manufactured, Prince of Persia was too busy dazzling their senses to reach far enough into their wallets.
'Fans of the original only need to sample the opening section of Warrior Within to start uncomfortable speculation'
Fans of the original only need to sample the opening section of Warrior Within to start uncomfortable speculation about how such a product was formed. Concern sparked on message boards as the information slowly leaked out, despite PR forumites cooing words of reassurance, such as this just being a 'natural, new direction for the Prince' and 'we haven't forgotten what made POP great,' they couldn't disguise the feeling of focus-group which screamed from every pore of Warrior within.
Still, it couldn't be that bad surely. The plot was a promising one, and seemed to honour the original game.
After unleashing the sands then manipulating time so that the incident never actually occurred, the Prince avoided a catastrophe and got away scot-free, or so he thought. Problem is, he wasn't supposed to survive, and now for the past seven years an invincible Guardian of the timeline, a 'Dahaka', has been pursuing him day and night, seeking his untimely demise.
In one final, desperate scheme, he aims to travel to the island of time, return to the past, and prevent the sands from ever being created. Therefore preventing them from falling into the Maharaja's hands, and in the process causing a temporal paradox that would have Doc Brown frothing at the mouth.
So, how bad could it be?
Haunting, often beautiful, Arabian style music. Gone. Replaced now with a riffing Godsmack soundtrack, crunching electric guitars urging you into a bristly mindset. A rude, yet well-intentioned and good-hearted hero, someone charming but crass enough for us to relate to. Gone. Replaced now with a brooding, dual-wielding badass who curses and taunts his enemies. Soft-focus, lightly coloured, shimmering environments, full of Eastern flavour.
'What we have now is, technically, a very accomplished product, but it suffers from a painful lack of soul'
What we have now is, technically, a very accomplished product, ignoring for one moment the bugs present, but it suffers from a painful lack of soul. The majority of Warrior Within's environments are relentlessly gritty and dark affairs, inspiring as much a sense of lingering depression in the gamer as Prince of Persia did a lightness of mood. Time spent in the more fluid and alive levels such as the Clockwork tower, or colourful and organic vistas such as the Water Garden, only makes your sense of returning to dank hallways and yet another marathon of traps all the more oppressive.
Ubisoft have spent much time trumpeting the merits of their all-new combat system, yet it continues to stand as little more than a wedge between the player and the real heart of the Prince of Persia franchise; platforming.
Enemies will be avoided, more often that not, simply because even on the easiest mode they soak up too many hits and you can just leap to a higher point and leave them milling about aimlessly, still spouting one-liners. There are periods of enforced combat, and these become, unfortunately, more numerous as the game draws on, but at least Warrior Within has an option here which Prince of Persia so sorely lacked, with teleporting foes that could follow you anywhere.