what you know about the Prince of Persia series. Let go the Sands of Time. Release your Warrior Within. Ubisoft Montreal has created a new Prince, in a new world, with a new female companion and a very different design philosophy. The longer you hold on to the style of last generation's Prince of Persia, the harder it will be to master the new one. Embrace the change and you're likely to fall in love with the new Prince (or at least his lovely companion).
When we meet the new Prince, he hardly seems princely at all. Little more than a smooth-talking thief, the Prince gets lost in a sandstorm while searching for his donkey, Farah. Of course, this is no ordinary sandstorm. This mystical phenomenon transports the Prince to another land, one seemingly made more of myth than reality. It's here where he fatefully runs into Elika, a beautiful barefoot descendant of a clan sworn to guard the prison of the evil god Ahriman. As bad luck would have it, the two meet just in time to witness Ahriman's release from his prison inside the Tree of Life. His escape releases corruption across the four areas of the world. This corruption will spread further unless the Prince and Elika can heal the infected lands. And so begins your adventure.
This is a story about love. Not the love between the Prince and Elika, but between you and Elika. She is your constant guide, able to cast a spell at any time to show you the path to your goal. Come across a gap too great for the Prince to leap? Elika can assist with a double-jump move. Want some help in combat? Elika patrols the arena, ready to attack at your command. Miss a ledge and about to fall to your death? No sweat. Elika will always save you. Elika teaches you about corruption and the battle between Ahriman and Ormazd, about the history of the four infected areas and the tragic tales of all four bosses you must battle. She's your greatest asset and far more likeable than the boorish Prince. If Elika were just a little bit more real or I was just a tad more insane, I'd marry her.
With Fable II, Peter Molyneux attempted to make us care so greatly for our dog that we would sacrifice everything to protect him. He didn't fully succeed. But Ubisoft Montreal got it right. Elika is so significant to the story and gameplay that I found myself caring far more for her safety than that of my own character, the Prince. And the real genius is that Elika is as easy to control as pressing a single button. That's all it takes. Double jumps, combat moves and magic with Elika are all assigned to one button. Her AI is perfectly designed so that she never takes the lead and never gets in the way. And that's saying something, considering how quickly the Prince moves about the world.
In truth, Elika is really just a manifestation of actions we've been performing in games for years. We've all seen a double jump before and heroes who mix in magic with their swordplay. All Ubisoft did was take these very standard gameplay elements and give them a physical form. It's because Elika is such a natural extension of the gameplay that it's easy to care for her.
The rest of the Prince's actions are just as simple as commanding Elika. Each is assigned to its own button. There's one for acrobatics, your sword and your gauntlet. These work both while free running about the world and in combat. So when you are battling the Warrior -- a massive creature made of stone -- you instinctively know that if you want to slide between his legs, you're going to use the acrobatic button. Ease of use is a primary focus of the Prince's design. In fact, it's so easy, some may subconsciously overcomplicate things.
When you're running about the world, performing acrobatic sequences, it's difficult at first to shake off years of training in action platformers. But Prince is actually simpler (and in many ways better) than previous iterations of the series or other action games. You never need to hold down a button -- there is no pre-loading your jumps. That's because you can jump off a wall at any time. So if you jump to a wall and then hold down jump as you are landing, you aren't preloading the next jump, you're actually going to jump again.