Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Review – Who Needs The Sands of Time?

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Review – Who Needs The Sands of Time?

The Prince of Persia franchise is one of the longest-running gaming franchises ever, but even a series as storied had some trouble finding its stride in the previous console generation. The development of the Sands of Time remake, which was supposed to launch three years ago, was eventually rebooted, with Ubisoft Montreal now handling the project. With no other major new entry in the series in the pipeline, it seemed like the series would stay away from the spotlight for a few more years.

Thankfully, that was not to be the case. Last year, Ubisoft announced Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, a new entry in the series that looked extremely good right from the start. Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, the studio behind the two latest entries in the Rayman series, the game brings the series back to its roots, featuring a Metroidvania experience (which the very first entry in the franchise helped establish back in 1989) that is extremely well-crafted, despite a lack of originality.

In Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, the Kingdom of Persia is under the protection of a group of powerful warriors called the Immortals, led by Vahram. For a long time, the seven warriors have defended the kingdom in the name of Thomyris, the Queen of Persia, but even they couldn’t prevent the abduction of Prince Ghassan, who was brought by his kidnappers to Mount Qaf and its Ancient City, the home of the God of Time and Knowledge Simurgh. Set on rescuing the prince, the gifted warrior Sargon travels to Mount Qaf alongside his companions, not knowing how he will get to face a destiny far greater than being a simple warrior, obtaining the powers of time granted by Simourgh and eventually changing the kingdom of Persia forever.

While straightforward for the most part, there’s no doubt that the story in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is engaging. Characters don’t get a huge amount of development, save for Sargon, Varham, and a few others, but things generally flow well, including some interesting twists towards the end that may not be all that surprising but still manage to have an impact.

Being a Metroidvania, the story is obviously not the main focus of the Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown experience, as platforming and combat are more central to the game. In these regards, the game undoubtedly delivers, providing an extremely engaging experience.

Like other similar games, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown features a massive map to explore in sidescrolling fashion featuring 13 different biomes, all coming with unique gimmicks that spice up exploration and platforming. Not all of them can be explored from the get-go, as certain abilities are required to access certain areas, as is tradition for the genre. Throughout the game, by acquiring the Feathers of Simourgh, Sargon will learn how to dash in the air, perform a double job, turn back time, and so on, allowing him to access new areas where he will be able to learn more new abilities to continue exploring Mount Qaf further and reach Prince Ghassan and his kidnappers.

Mount Qaf and The Ancient City are also very well-designed. Right from the start, the game offers multiple paths to the main quests’ goals as well as plenty of side locations that feature a variety of items to collect, including materials to upgrade Sargon’s equipment, Crystals and Xerses coins used to purchase other upgrades and items, lore items which provide more information on the game’s world, history and extremely important figures, such as King Darius, and Talismans, special accessories which can be equipped at any save point to customize Sargon’s abilities. These accessories grant a lot of different buffs, ranging from simple health and damage upgrades to new abilities, such as additional hits for the basic ground combo and a temporary slowdown effect after parrying an enemy attack. These abilities may not sound like much on paper, but they do influence Sargon’s abilities quite a bit, allowing for slightly different playstyles focused on specific tools in the character’s skillset.

Exploration in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is also made rewarding by the wealth of side quests available, which span the entire adventure and often involve exploring areas of the Ancient City that are not part of the main quests. These sidequests not only provide some nice upgrades for Sargon but also further develop the game’s world and lore, so they do not just pad the game’s length but actually make the adventure more enjoyable.

While exploration in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is standard fare for the genre, many are the elements that make it high quality. For starters, movement is extremely smooth, as Sargon is a very agile warrior who can dodge and leap with ease, providing players with the best tools needed to explore the massive world right from the bat. Interestingly enough, even the most basic abilities gain new uses over time, thanks to the excellent design of the traversal challenges. Having developed the latest Rayman games, Ubisoft Montpellier is clearly no stranger to them, but in their latest game, the studio brought everything up to eleven, creating a variety of challenges that are generally not too difficult to overcome but often require using multiple abilities to clear. If a player finds them too difficult, however, it is possible to skip them using a specific accessibility setting. One excellent mechanic that more Metroidvania games should implement in the future is the ability to take screenshots of any locations and pin them on the map. The inclusion of this feature is extremely welcome, as there are so many branching paths in Mount Qaf that it would be difficult to keep track of them all without some help.

Combat is another big part of the Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown experience and it is just as well designed as the exploration and traversal mechanic, with a hint of character action mechanics that elevate it further.

In a lot of ways, the Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown combat system is similar to that of some combat-focused Metroidvanias, such as the Guacamelee series. To defeat the many enemies that will bar his way, Sargon can unleash a variety of ground attacks, a few launchers, and a basic air combo which can be somewhat looped with additional abilities. Sargon also has a few ranged options at his disposal, such as a charged shockwave, a simple bow attack, and a chakram which can be parried to bounce back toward the enemy. Sargon has plenty of defensive abilities as well, such as the aforementioned parry and a dodge maneuver that can be canceled into yet another launcher. The Athra Surges, special attacks that can be unleashed once the Athra gauge has been filled, are additional offensive and defensive options that spice up combat considerably together with some of the Simourgh powers, which have both combat and traversal applications.

Weaving all these techniques together is satisfying enough, but what elevates the game’s combat is the excellent enemy design for both regular enemies and bosses. The former come in a lot of different types and with different patterns and weaknesses, so players will need to be on their toes to break their defenses and start their offense. The latter bring the regular enemy design quirks of the game up a notch, making for some extremely intense battles that wouldn’t look amiss in a full-on character action game. The best thing about the game’s combat and enemy design is that new scenarios are introduced constantly, allowing the adventure to stay fresh for almost its entire duration.

Even though Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown does its very best to keep its around 20-hour-long adventure engaging from beginning to end, I have to admit that it’s impossible not to feel a little fatigued towards its end. While the complex design of Mount Qaf is extremely welcome at the start of the game, the huge amount of alternate paths and optional areas start to become a little detrimental, especially when rewards are ultimately not all that worth the hassle. Keeping the adventure shorter would have benefited the game a little, but it’s really a minor complaint, as the vast majority of the 22 hours it took me to complete the game were enjoyable. Also, it’s impossible not to notice how, while well put together, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown isn’t a particularly innovative game, as the vast majority of its features were seen in other recent Metroidvanias.

One more feature that sets Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown apart from other Metroidvania are its cartoonish, stylized visuals that give the game a distinct visual identity, even within the context of the series. The colorful yet relatively simple visuals made it possible for the game to run at 1080p, 60 frames per second even on Nintendo Switch, so any PC from the past ten years or so should be able to run the game smoothly. During my benchmark session throughout multiple biomes, my PC (i7-13700F, RTX 4080, 32 GB RAM) ran the game at an average of 352 frames per second, 164 1% low, at 4K resolution and max settings. While the average and 1% low framerates were high, the experience wasn’t 100% smooth, as the game does suffer from some minor stuttering. It is nothing major, however, and you kind of have to look for it to notice, so the experience is not majorly impacted by this issue. When it comes to graphics settings, however, the game is really limited, as it is only possible to change resolution, a generic quality preset, enable V-Sync, set the frame rate limit, and change antialiasing. Not that it really needed them, but Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown also doesn’t support any upscaler.

Worth mentioning are also the amazing accessibility options included in the game. Alongside the ability to skip certain platforming sequences, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown features customizable difficulty, aim and melee targeting assist options, visible interactions, and high contrast mode. These options allow further tailoring of the experience, making it possible for all sorts of players to enjoy it, regardless of their skill level and condition.

Minor issues aside, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a thoroughly enjoyable Metroidvania that is not only among the best since Metroid Dread but also one of the best entries in the Prince of Persia series, bringing the franchise back to its platforming roots in the best way possible. If the long hiatus of the series was the price to pay for such a nicely crafted adventure, then it was a price worth paying.

PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.

Products mentioned in this post

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown couldn’t have brought back the series after its more than a decade-long hiatus in a better way. With an engaging story, well-crafted Metroidvania mechanics, and a touch of character-action games features in its combat system, Sargon’s adventure will be remembered by fans for a long time, even with its minor issues.

  • Engaging story
  • Excellent traversal and exploration mechanics
  • Solid combat system with tons of options
  • Great enemy design
  • Excellent stylized visuals
  • Nice selection of accessibility options
  • The experience drags a bit towards the end
  • Lack of innovation

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