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Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Review - A superb modern metroidvania refresh

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Review - A superb modern metroidvania refresh

A refreshing take on the legendary franchise

2024 has barely gotten out of bed and Ubisoft has already given us a brilliant game. One of the best metroidvanias in recent years, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a triumphant game that sticks to the series’ roots, while injecting it with modern, frenetic gameplay and combat to truly usher in a new age for the franchise.

More recent entries in the Prince of Persia series have taken the gameplay into a 3D space with mixed results. Sands of Time from 2003, perhaps the series' strong point was a standout due to its simple platforming which hid a greater depth, along with some time travelling nonsense we all love. It’s fitting, then, that the 2D The Lost Crown pulls heavily from that game while drawing inspiration from modern platformers like Celeste and Hollow Knight.

Take a look at the wonderful Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown below

In this modern outing, the titular prince has been kidnapped and it’s up to us, playing as Sargon, a warrior from a group called the Immortals, to rescue him. He’s been taken to Mount Qaf, a place where an ancient spirit dwells and a curse has fallen. The curse is messing with time and space, leaving many of the areas either repeating time over or frozen completely. What occurs from here is a tale of loyalty, betrayal, and pride.

The first of only a few small problems with The Lost Crown comes from the cast. Despite each of the Immortals being superbly designed from a visual standpoint, the voice acting often feels disjointed, or as if the actor was mimicking a famous voice and not quite nailing it. This is a little jarring, especially when the team looks so damn good. It is, however, easily solved by switching to the Persian voicework which adds a layer of authenticity anyway.

It’s clear that Ubisoft was inspired by their past, but also successes outside of their own titles. The squad of Immortals, for example, is a lovely combination of Fenyx Rising, with a cartoony feel, mixed with nods to culture and heritage that we see in The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The former, a criminally underrated gem, bleeds through in both character and level design with broad thematic elements that simply conjure a sense of place. There’s even a flair of Final Fantasy within some of the boss fights, with larger than life villains.

This idea of simplicity runs through the opening hours of the game. While this is a metroidvania that eventually sprawls wildly, it starts out rather condensed while you’re learning. You’ll run past gates that can’t be opened, or glowing, crumbling walls that can’t yet be destroyed, noting everything you know you’ll be coming back to. Thankfully there’s a very handy feature that allows you to take screenshots of these locked areas and pin them to your map. As someone who struggles to remember things at the best of times, this feature is a genius move; you can check back and easily be reminded of why you couldn’t access a treasure the first time around.

This is just one of the amazing accessibility options, though this one is baked directly into the game. When you explore the menus, you’ll find a wealth of supportive options. If you want the standard gameplay cranked up to a strenuous difficulty, you can do that. If, however, you want a more sedate experience, that’s fine too. On this point, it’s worth noting you can tweak everything from enemy health to their damage output, as well as changing environmental damage and opening or closing the parry window for more dynamic combat.

Ubisoft has seemingly thought of everything. Athra, a substance gained by fighting and taking damage, which is used to pull off fancy special attacks, can also be adapted to your preferred enjoyment, giving you more or less. Perhaps one of the most helpful options, for those who aren’t confident in their platforming skills, is an assist mode that can whisk you through any platforming section, acting like a portal network.

To be honest, this is a great option for saving time if you’ve already conquered a tricky section, because the game is huge. It seems Mount Qaf is hiding a great variety of environments; poison-dripping dungeons are dingy and dangerous; the ice-capped peaks feature enemies that can freeze you in place; and the archives are a place where staircases shift position and scholars openly attack you.

Each location is exquisitely designed, ensuring they each look and feel unique. Of course, these areas introduce new abilities, most of which centre on movement or puzzle-solving. It’s tricky to discuss some of these abilities for fear of stealing away the magic of those first moments. For example, the first ability is an air dash which allows you to jump, and then dash through the air horizontally to reach far-off platforms. While this is a simple tool for platforming, it’s an instant release of dopamine as the world excitingly opens up further.

Given the environment and the wibbly wobbly effects of time, it’s fitting that Sargon slowly begins to wield the powers of time himself. Each of these feels wholly original and exciting while forcing you to rethink the layers of possible puzzles. Each power feels as if it reinvents the game on the fly, and it happens constantly. One moment you’ll have a grasp of what’s possible, then an hour later you’re tasked with rethinking this as another new ability is revealed.

By the halfway point of the game - which lasts between 15-25 hours depending on the difficulty you choose - you’ll have a few skills under your belt that make you feel Godlike. At points, you’ll be chaining together a handful of skills seeing Sargon leaping through the air, twirling on poles, skipping across gaps or over spiked platforms. While many of these feel comfortable and simple, there are more challenging sections that will delightfully test your patience and skills.

After you make it through those early hours, The Lost Crown never lets up. Throwing sublime platforming sections at you in between small skirmishes with a variety of enemies, all of which can provide a challenge as you adapt to their unique attack patterns. Parrying, as well as dodging by sliding or using movement skills, are paramount to survival. The parry mechanic is telegraphed with a golden glint from the enemy and, when timed just right, it offers a glorious cutscene showcasing the ass-kicking you dish out.

When it comes to boss battles, I’m happy to report these moments are some of the most enjoyable I’ve had with an action game for a while. Each fight is vast, over the top, bursting with energy and bright colours. Entire fights feel like a set piece to showcase animation and sound design, while challenging you with enemies who can dish out a ridiculous number of attacks that will constantly keep you moving through the environment. While I won’t reveal anything, the final boss fight is going to remain a highlight for me throughout all of 2024.

The Lost Crown does a lot by the book; the idea of a metroidvania isn’t original by any stretch, but it’s how everything has been thought of that makes this one of the best the genre has to offer. Everything the game delivers is a team of people achieving the very best they can. It’s lavish, grandiose, and consistently theatrical in style. If there was a fear that this game couldn’t revitalise or respect a well-loved series, you’ll be pleased to know that everything is in safe hands.

This is a marvellous achievement for Ubisoft, a company that thrives on its franchises, they’ve managed to create something that honours the past while feeling entirely fresh. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is, by turns, thrilling, bombastic, and extravagant. A welcome entry into the genre, a welcome return of a legend and a brilliant good time.

Pros: Wonderful world building, sublime acrobatic platforming and thrilling boss battles.

Cons: Weak voice acting

For fans of: Celeste, Hollow Knight and Prince of Persia

9/10: Exceptional

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is due to be released on Nintendo Switch (version tested), Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5 and Steam on 15 January. A review code was provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft

Topics: Prince Of Persia, Ubisoft