Skip to main content

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is big enough to justify its price tag

When I played an hour of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown earlier this summer, I thought I had a good handle on what to expect. I figured it would be a standard eight-hour Metroidvania that went heavier on combat and exploration than storytelling. I figured it would be a smaller release for Ubisoft, giving us a reprieve from its massive open-world games.

Boy, was I wrong.

Based on demoing the first four hours of the game, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a lot more expansive than I realized. During my time with it, I’d meet a wide cast of characters, explore a ton of biomes, and complete a host of sidequests that had me taking down some tough optional bosses. With the final game estimated to last 20 to 25 hours, don’t expect a breezy side game to sneak in between early 2024’s RPG rush as it’s a surprisingly massive beast in and of itself.

A great, big 2D world

While my demo earlier this summer would throw me a few hours in with several upgrades unlocked, this time I  got to start right from the top. I expected that I’d begin with a very limited tool set that I’d need to build up over time, but that wasn’t the case. Right out the gate, Sargon (the adventure’s hero) has a full range of attacks that instantly make for one of the most complex combat systems I’ve seen in the genre. I can juggle enemies into the air, perform a range of aerial combos, and even dash into them to knock them back with a kick. It’s fast and furious right out the gate, allowing for lots of player self-expression.

I’d get to take that system to its limits in a handful of boss fights, some of which thoroughly kicked my butt. One battle against a rampaging pig had me dodging under its legs to avoid its poison spit and then getting a few slashes in before it tried to kick me with its hind legs. Evasion and blocking are key in boss battles, bringing it very close to Metroid Dread in feel. During that fight, I’d play a game of chicken with the hog as it dashed toward me. I hit my block at the last second to parry its charge, giving me a supremely badass animation of Sargon tossing it aside.

Sargon dashes forwards in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.
Ubisoft

The first hour or so does a lot of narrative table-setting. I’d take part in a heroic siege alongside a cast of companions before my kingdom’s prince is kidnapped and I’m dropped into the wider 2D world. Throughout my first four hours, I’d meet even more characters that would upgrade my weapons, sell me items, and pass out heaps of sidequests. One had me hunting down a special amulet, though I’d have to dodge a room full of spinning blades to nab it. Another had me fighting a shadow version of Sargon — and it’s a fight I could have easily missed if I hadn’t gone off the beaten path.

The Lost Crown’s world seems massive so far and full of things to collect. In that sense, it’s very much a traditional Ubisoft game, but distilled into a 2D platformer. I’d hunt down collectible pieces of lore, find amulets that I could equip to give Sargon buffs, smash well-hidden pots to complete an overarching sidequest, and snag extra Athra abilities that gave me more powerful special attacks. For genre veterans who fancy themselves completionists, it’ll be very easy to lose hours poking around the various biomes for secrets.

It helps that it’s just so pleasurable to actually play. While I only got a few permanent powers, the platforming is a smooth callback to Prince of Persia’s 2D roots while peppering in more complex movements you’d expect from a game like Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Some puzzle rooms would have me thinking fast as I wall jumped between spikes, grabbed hold of a bar, swung off it, and did a midair dash over some deadly blades. Even early in the game, I’m already hitting some tough platforming challenges that yield a useful reward.

Sargon dashed through obstacles in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.
Ubisoft

All of this gives The Lost Crown the ingredients it needs to be a genre classic, though my demo left me with one hesitation. Twenty-five hours can be a tall order for a game like this, especially one that requires a lot of backtracking. I’d only unlock a handful of fast travel points during my session, all of which were spaced fairly far apart. I’d need to physically go to one to travel to another, which meant that I spent a lot of time trekking to a warp point so I could jump to one vaguely close to where I needed to be. I’d leave a lot of avenues unexplored during my session as I couldn’t find an easy way to get back to certain biomes without making a five-minute trip full of frequent pauses to check my map. My hope is that I just missed a few well-hidden ones and traversal will be a little more convenient in the full game.

Seemingly aware of how that could be a pain, Ubisoft does include one small genre innovation that could go a long way. As is traditional in Metroidvanias, I often hit rooms featuring obstacles I couldn’t quite tackle yet as I didn’t have the right power-up. When I did find one, I could press a button on my D-pad to snap a picture of that room, which is stored on my map. That means I’m never left forgetting what’s tucked away in some far-off room. I can easily check instead of backtracking. That’s an excellent little feature that even the Metroid series could desperately use.

With its release date only a month away, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is in very strong shape already. It nails everything that a good Metroidvania needs to succeed and goes even further with more story and gameplay systems. If you’re the kind of person who found yourself angry when you learned it would cost a full $60, trust me: There’s enough adventure here to earn that price tag.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown launches on January 15 for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
Everything announced at Summer Game Fest kickoff 2023
Key art for Mortal Kombat 1 shows Liu Kang.

Geoff Keighley returned today with his third Summer Game Fest kickoff showcase. This showcase featured titles big and small from all corners of the video game industry. We got new looks at games like Mortal Kombat 1, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and Alan Wake 2, trailers for the new seasons of Fortnite and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and even the announcement of games like Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown and Sonic Superstars.

Like previous Summer Game Fest kickoff showcases, this live stream was quite dense, with lots of games to keep track of. Don't worry if you think you missed some featured games, though, as we've rounded up every announcement made during the Summer Game Fest kickoff showcase.
Prince of Persia returns with The Lost Crown next January
Prince of Persia The Lost Crown - Reveal Gameplay Trailer

Read more
Ubisoft delays Prince of Persia remake’s release window
prince of persia fiscal year release sands time remake screenshot

Ubisoft recently announced that the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Remake switched developer teams from Ubisoft Mumbai to Ubisoft Montreal. After reaching out to the company on why the switch took place, Ubisoft confirmed to Digital Trends that it's no longer targeting its previously announced fiscal year 2023 release date.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake - Official Trailer | PS4

Read more
The Prince of Persia remake has shifted developers
Main character from Prince of Persia running on a wall.

While some may have forgotten that a Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time remake is still being developed, Ubisoft announced a switch in its development team. The very long-awaited and indefinitely delayed game is now being developed by Ubisoft Montreal after being worked on by Ubisoft Pune and Ubisoft Mumbai.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake - Official Trailer | PS4

Read more