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Prince of Persia moves to 2.5-D, testing fans’ faith

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

There had been over a decade of anticipation for Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown when its first trailer was revealed last year. Fans have been hoping for the first major installment in the video game series since the 2010s. Prince of Persia, the forgotten sands would be another sumptuous 3D adventure, with cutting-edge graphics and boundary-pushing sword-and-sandal action.

Mounir Radi, the director of The Lost Crown, had carefully chosen a propulsive and energetic rap song written and recorded for the trailer by Joznez, 2WEI and Kataem. It was perhaps an odd choice for a high fantasy swashbuckler set in ancient Persia. But Radi, who works for French game developer Ubisoft Montpellier, felt it struck the right note, with surprising energy.

“I wanted to come in, bam bamwith a big surprise,” he said.

What was surprising was how much people hated it. Reactions to the trailer ranged from disappointed to hostile. Those waiting for a game in the mold of the famous Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, from 2003, were unhappy that The Lost Crown was a side-scrolling game. Others complained that the protagonist, Sargon, was a new character rather than the familiar prince.

More than anything, people hated this song. This seemed to embody the central problem: the game didn’t feel like Prince of Persia.

But this bold vision was an intentional choice.

Work on The Lost Crown, which releases Thursday on PC and all major consoles, began in 2019, when producer Abdelhak Elguess had the idea of ​​creating a new Prince of Persia in the style of the most famous franchise. Ubisoft Montpellier: the side-scrolling platform game Rayman.

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The 2.5-D format — in which character models and backgrounds appear in three dimensions but the action takes place on a 2D horizontal plane — was popularized by Nintendo titles like New Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and has been featured in many modern platform games, including Rayman Legends from Ubisoft Montpellier.

Elguess said that 2.5-D was a very early decision for The Lost Crown, noting that the format, which adds a sense of depth, is more conducive to “deep platforming and very strong combat and strategy.” (The style is also reminiscent of the original Prince of Persiareleased for the Apple II computer in 1989.)

Radi said his team was prepared to face some resistance, knowing that players wanted a 3D game. But it was important for the studio to move forward.

“We wanted to stick to our vision and our ambition,” he said. “We are Ubisoft Montpellier. We are capable of surprising players. We have a lot of confidence. And we have specific expertise.

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The original Prince of Persia was a side-scrolling game released for the Apple II computer in 1989.Credit…Jordan Mechner

This manifests itself in the game’s razor-sharp platforming and deep combat, as well as the intricate level design and intricate multi-layered structure. The acrobatic movement is lively and kinetic. The story, about the kidnapping of the Persian prince and the rescue efforts of his elite team of bodyguards, led by the ambitious Sargon, involves a surprising amount of character development and psychological nuance given the genre .

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Radi said he wanted The Lost Crown to be a Metroidvania – a style that relies on backtracking and exploration, like recent games. Guacamelee! And Hollow Knight – because “it’s the perfect genre to respect the player’s intelligence”. The team also introduced an original feature which was widely praised To enhance the Metroidvania experience: the ability to take in-game screenshots that can be pinned to locations on the map for future reference.

While not as expansive in scope as some of the series’ previous entries, The Lost Crown is beautifully realized, rich in lore, and full of interesting details drawn from Persian mythology, including boss fights with the legendary manticore and the mystical creature Azhdaha. More importantly, it feels a lot like Prince of Persia.

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In 2.5D video games, character models and backgrounds appear in three dimensions while the action takes place on a horizontal 2D plane.Credit…Ubisoft Montpellier

Critics come to the same conclusion. Phil Hornshaw, write for IGN, said that The Lost Crown “finally exposes what I loved about those classic Prince of Persia games”, using the Metroidvania setting in a way that “recalls the roots of the 1989 original”. Steve Watts, in a review for GameSpotsaid its “hard-hitting combat, silky-smooth platforming, and innovative exploration mechanics” make Prince of Persia “once again a leader in its category.”

Radi always expected people to come back eventually.

“We knew when they played that game they would change their minds,” he said. “When you pick up the controller, it’s instant love.”

For added security, Ubisoft Montpellier has made a free demo of The Lost Crown available.

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“This is something new for us,” Radi said with a laugh. “But it’s the kind of game you have to play to understand what we were trying to accomplish.”