Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Ubisoft returns to the 2D space to put a fresh (classic) spin on the Prince of Persia series, but is it enough to start the year strong for the French company or does it fall flat?

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When Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown was announced during Summer Game Fest last year, I was initially a little sceptical about the game. I wasn't sure about the art direction and the recent woes of the series also played on my mind too. But then a few days later, I had the chance to play the game for the first time and most of my concerns were quashed. Since that warm summer day, I've had a few different chances to experience The Lost Crown, and each time I've become a little more intrigued by the game and the variety of mechanics it brings to the table. But the big question is does this 2D Metroidvania manage to entertain for its full duration?

The answer to that question is simple. Yes, yes it does. But it's not a complete and uninhibited win for Ubisoft. First of all, I'd like to state that the 2D style works effortlessly here and the way the gameplay is presented is top-notch. This is a fluid, fast-paced, thrilling adventure that keeps you on your toes from minute one until the credits roll, through its tricky platforming and challenging enemies. In this way, it's Prince of Persia through and through. Plus, the Metroidvania elements are fairly well presented. You will hit walls and won't be able to progress or explore further without the right ability or tool, and this is about as predictable and familiar as any other Metroidvania over the years. The new screenshot mechanic that allows you to take a picture of a place you have visited to remind you why you should/need to return there helps with progression, of course. The point is, it works at a fundamental level, but Ubisoft's main problem is how it ties together the Metroidvania approach and the overarching narrative of this game.


If you were unaware, The Lost Crown is not actually about the Prince of Persia. Rather you take control of a warrior known as Sargon, as he is tasked with saving the young Prince from his abductors. Soon after, you uncover a plot that throws Sargon's beliefs and understanding of the world on its head, and this leads the hero on a journey through time to discover the motive behind the true antagonist and likewise how to defeat them. The narrative takes Sargon all over the location of Mount Qaf, a legendary place where time no longer operates in a linear sense, and this is where the Metroidvania elements creep back in, because you will need to visit unique biomes, complete tasks, talk with characters, acquire new abilities and gear, all on the path to a destructive final battle. The idea is a fine and reasonable one, but in practice, it comes across as more of a series of hoops that Sargon must jump through to reach his ultimate destination.

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It lacks finesse in how it conveys its narrative, and likewise with a large portion of the story being told through pop-up dialogue windows, it doesn't feature the same gravity as other action-adventure games. The other characters, while present, don't exactly stand out, and if it wasn't for hectic and crazy battles with many of them, the majority would likely be forgettable. But, fortunately, where this game lacks in a narrative sense, it does excel in many other areas.

Prince of Persia: The Lost CrownPrince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Take the platforming for example. The Lost Crown has been built with the Nintendo Switch in mind from day one, meaning on all platforms this game plays incredibly smoothly and usually at or above 60 FPS (I have noticed a few dips below at times on Nintendo's device). There are sections of varying difficulty, but every part of the game allows you to flaunt your understanding of the mechanics as you see fit, and this is fantastic because so many of the abilities do slightly different things and allow Sargon to overcome challenges set out in front of him in a multitude of ways. Between using time reversal systems to teleportation, to air dashes and double jumping, wall climbing and leaping, plus grapples, slides, and more, there are a whole slew of movement techniques that are applicable to most places around Mount Qaf. They are also very useful when it comes to combat, meaning the core hack n' slashing systems are enhanced with a creative suit of abilities and weapons that make Sargon a versatile and thrilling character to operate.

The combat has great depth and that's a necessary system because of the speed and ferocity that the regular enemies and more importantly the boss level foes attack with. As you would expect for a Metroidvania, The Lost Crown isn't always an easy game to conquer, and you will need to practice and perfect parry and dodge timings, and learn the attack patterns of foes to overcome them. For bosses, this usually means also figuring out how to avoid devastating cinematic attacks or abilities that take up the entire battlefield if you intend to remain standing by the time their meaty health bars are diminished.

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Ubisoft has also handled the progression in a rather fulfilling way. You get meaningful and significant upgrades at an engaging rate, and can then enhance and improve your favourite items by spending the currency that is earned by defeating foes. Sometimes you will also need rarer resources to purchase an upgrade, but generally speaking if you keep an eye out around the map and explore as you work through the main narrative, you'll have plenty of resources to play around with throughout the main quest line. Then there are the amulets too. These are essentially perks that you can fit (and upgrade) that will add benefits to Sargon and his abilities. It could be more sword damage, an extra health chunk, protection from a death blow once per save point, and so on, and you can outfit them as you see fit, assuming you have the slots to actually equip them, slots that you will acquire more through exploration and looting chests.

Talking about exploration, Mount Qaf is designed in such a way where there are tons of challenges and additional side content to explore and find, but this is also not a massive and overwhelming world. It's manageable to explore, and likewise, the secrets are usually offered in such a way where you won't be bashing your head against the wall in search of answers. Ubisoft has struck a pleasant balance between challenge and ease of access in an exploration sense.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
Prince of Persia: The Lost CrownPrince of Persia: The Lost CrownPrince of Persia: The Lost Crown

Where I mentioned earlier that the main narrative wasn't exactly tied into the Metroidvania side of things in all too compelling of a manner, and by extension this often left the main storyline with a little to be desired, the same can be said of the side quests. A large portion of these revolve around finding and completing collectibles quests around Mount Qaf, and others are minor stories that never really succeed in intriguing. It's clear that when you look at the main and side quests, Ubisoft has struggled in a narrative sense for this game, as while it's often completely fine and serviceable, compared to the gameplay, level design, combat, exploration, and even the art style (which thrives when exploring and then often becomes a bit of an eyesore when in close-up cutscenes) it does lack.

And to me this perfectly sums up Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. For a multitude of reasons this game is an absolute blast. I've had a huge amount of fun exploring the world and taking on all manner of dangerous beasts and beings from myth and legend, so much so that I can see myself starting a new save file and facing the challenge on a harder difficulty. But just because it has its strengths doesn't mean that The Lost Crown is a home run. There is room for improvement for this game and the way it is fundamentally designed, specifically in how the tale is weaved together in a narrative sense. With this game now in the books, Ubisoft has a brilliant platform to build upon for the future, and I do hope that they decide to do so, because it's clear that between this game and fantastic titles like Rayman Legends in the past, Ubisoft has an affinity for exciting 2D action-adventure or Metroidvania titles.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Great platforming and combat suite. Excellent performance on all platforms. Solid pacing. Compelling world to explore. Broad enemy and boss variety.
Narrative often leaves a little to be desired. Side quests and challenges fall flat.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Ubisoft returns to the 2D space to put a fresh (classic) spin on the Prince of Persia series, but is it enough to start the year strong for the French company or does it fall flat?

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