Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is the final installment of the stunning Prince of Persia trilogy, and I am pleased to say that it continues to do what its predecessors have done and set a benchmark for other action-platformers to aspire to. As with the previous two games, you take control of the insanely agile prince as he runs, jumps, climbs and dodges his way through a multitude of picturesque yet puzzling landscapes and environments. And, of course, no Prince of Persia game would be complete without the opportunity to fight the odd sand creature here and there. Thankfully, Two Thrones uses the same improved combat style that we saw in Warrior Within which, coupled with the new moves the prince has in his inventory and the added little bonuses dotted throughout the game like the ability to speed kill, means you’re in for a treat.
The classic ‘what happens next moment’.
The first chapter in the trilogy, The Sands of Time told the story of a young prince fuelled by his eagerness to impress his father and his ambition to bring great honour to himself and his family. He rushes headlong into the unknown, steals the infamous dagger of time from its secret hiding place, but is then tricked by the evil Vizier into using the dagger to unleash the sands of time turning virtually everyone in the land into an evil sand creature in process. However, with help from the princess Farah, he is soon able to defeat the Vizier and return the sands to the hourglass, restoring peace and normality to the kingdom.
Warrior within continues the story of the prince a few years later, with him being chased by the Dahaka, a guardian of the sands who wishes to destroy the prince for his part in releasing the sands in the previous title. Consequently, the prince must elude the Dahaka and travel to the island of time, where he must seek out and destroy the empress of time Kaileena, thus preventing the creation of the sands and stopping the Dahaka’s endless pursuit.
All in a days work for our gallant prince.
The Two Thrones continues the story of our now battle hardened prince seven years after he originally released the sands. This game opens with the prince sailing from the island of time to his kingdom of Babylon with his new love, the empress Kaileena (yes, the very person he set out to destroy! This may be confusing for those people who did not see both endings in Warrior Within). Upon nearing the shore, they find that the kingdom is under attack from an army, lead by none other than the evil Vizier, but before they can land, the prince’s ship is destroyed and the prince and Kaileena are both washed ashore and separated. Unfortunately the empress is captured and soon killed by the Vizier, once again releasing the sands of time and turning the Vizier into an immortal sand creature hell bent on destroying, well, pretty much everything, as most bad guys are. Inevitably it becomes the task of the prince to bring an end to this tyrant once and for all and avenge the death of his beloved Kaileena.
This would be the prince’s new ‘dance on the bad guy’s head’ move.
But this time the prince is swept away as the sands are released and becomes tainted by them, creating inside of him an alter ego, ‘the dark prince’. As you would expect from the name, this split personality is altogether more sinister and evil, and the ongoing mental battle the prince has with his darker self adds an interesting twist to the story. In game terms the dark prince is much like the sand wraith in Warrior Within, except he does not have the privilege of unlimited sand tanks. He is however armed with an extremely powerful new weapon, the ‘Daggertail.’ The Daggertail is a chain like weapon fused to the prince’s arm when he is first touched by the sands which allows the dark prince to dispose of multiple enemies at once, decapitating them and even slicing them in half by swinging the chain or using it in a whip like fashion. The daggertail also adds another angle to the puzzle solving aspect of the game as, when jumping from rooftop to rooftop, the dark prince now has the extra ability to reach places that the normal prince can’t by throwing out the chain and swinging from objects, or grabbing hold of stone blocks and pulling them creating a ledge to stand on. Although the dark prince is a very powerful character, he does have a weakness. As with the sand wraith in Warrior Within, the dark prince’s health is constantly deteriorating, meaning you don’t have time to hang around and need to move quickly through your surroundings, figuring out the next piece of the puzzle as you go along.
Apparently Charlton Heston is available as an unlockable character.
Now on the flip side of the dark prince’s dashing from place to place without stopping for breath or worrying about how many sand creatures you alert, The Two Thrones introduces another, much more stealth like feature to the game in the form of the ‘speed kill’. The speed kill is especially useful in the early stages of the game when you are not very powerful and your enemies are extremely strong in comparison, but it also brings another welcome change to the leaping from roof to roof and diving headlong into battle with any number of enemies. With it you can sneak around a bit and act a little more subtle. It allows you to watch you enemies’ movements from afar (perhaps from a rooftop somewhere, or while hanging upside down on a rope above them) then, when their backs are turned, you can sneak up behind them (or dive onto them from above) and launch into a speed kill attack. This is done by tapping a button to begin the sequence then, at different intervals while the prince is performing acrobatic feats on your enemy, you are given a split second to tap another button to land a devastating blow. This sequence can last for between one and five successful blows, depending on how powerful your enemy is and the sequences are particularly violent and detailed. You’ll stab and slice your enemies from every angle; in the face, back, guts and neck to name but a few. Despite the excessive violence though, these attacks are actually quite fun to do, and are not too difficult that you waste all of your sand tanks constantly trying to rewind time and try again, but not too easy that it’s boring and you get it right every time. You also get to use the speed kill sequence when tackling some of the bosses and again this adds something different to the game for you to think about.
“Hey stop that, it tickles!”
Aside from the wall running, gap jumping, spike avoiding, sand monster decapitating routine you complete throughout the game, there are also two chariot ride sequences worth mentioning. These are a fairly easy distraction if you have a lot of sand tanks full as you can simply rewind any mistake. If you do make an error however it’s game over, so there’s no room for you to trip up, a lot of retrying may ensue and pads may be thrown. Overall though, The Two thrones seems to have been made with the same fluid game engine as the two previous games. While some people might think that there hasn’t been any progress since the original, I prefer, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ The game play is just as comfortable as its predecessors and as usual the camera angles never leave you in a situation where you can’t see what you’re doing. Thankfully the soundtrack has moved away from the heavy rock that we heard in Warrior Within (not that this is normally a bad idea for a game, it’s just that when the game has Persia in the title, you expect something different) and that’s what you get; a soundtrack in keeping with what appears on the screen that makes you think the prince might actually be in Persia. The storyline too is rounded up nicely at the end and will probably leave you saying to yourself “well, isn’t that clever.” And it is, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is a great game that does the series justice, and is a fitting conclusion to a remarkable trilogy.
Nine out of ten