For this month's GameTrip the topic is the Prince of Persia series. As such, I've been playing the games in the franchise just to get reaquainted with them and to have a more fleshed out opinion on the games. I've played Sands of Time too many times to count and The Two Thrones is a fun finale. Warrior Within gets a review and quite a bit of my time because I was too young to play it when it came out (it was M rated and I was 12) and also because it is such an anomaly in the series. Not only does it stick out from the trilogy it's apart of, it sticks out from the entire franchise because it is such a complete 180 from the rest of the series.
If you never played Warrior Within here's a little context. The game came out in 2004. It was eagerly anticipated after it's predecessor The Sands of Time won over the hearts of gamers and critics alike. With Warrior Within was announced many expected it to continue in the same vein of the previous entry. What they got was a game that beared little resemblence to the ones before it.
The story of the game is simple. After releasing the Sands of Time in the first game, The Prince is hunted by a creature because whoever releases the sands must die. Throughout the game he chases a woman who is a servant to the empress of time. The whole game involves The Prince trying to defeat the woman and reverse his fate to survive.
The game takes on a dark, dingy look. The gray's and crimson reds contrasting with the bright, vibrant colors of the first one. Whereas the Prince was a charming adventurer in the first game, in this one he takes on the persona of a battle scarred man, his charm replaced with gruff machismo. This is understandable given that he's been hunted for the last seven years but it's still a jarring shift from how the last game ended. The last game ended with a sweet moment between him and Farah. This game starts with him calling a woman a bitch.
The music is also a deviation from the franchise. Instead of the middle-eastern inspired, orchestral scores of the first and third game, this one features a soundtrack by Godsmack. It's odd. This complete 180 would have made sense if it was reboot or if the prior game got a muted reaction but it's not the case.
The combat is mechanically the same as it was in Sands of Time but it's infused with brutality that wasn't there before. I wondered if God of War was an influence on this game but I found that GoW wouldn't come out for another year after this game was released.
So, while the game is very, very different from it's predecessor it's actually good. If you take out it's relation to Sands of Time it's a solid game in it's own right. The platforming is fun and well paced. The combat is still fun, almost a stepping stone to what the Arkham series would achieve. Graphically, the game still looks solid on PC. The textures and animations are good and the frame rate is fluid.
The game does have it's flaws, sometimes the acrobactics are a little too floaty. You'll find yourself trying to flip off an enemy only to fling yourself across the room far too often. This is less problematic later in the game when you unlock the time manipulation but early on it can lead to more than a few deaths. The narrative and dialogue try too hard to be edgy, often times feeling like what a 12 year old would think is "hardcore". Additionally, the drab colors can make the game look a bit boring and devoid of personality.
Overall though, I can get past the tonal problems and enjoy the game for what it is. What amazes me most is that 10-11 years later, these games still hold up. The gameplay is still fun, the combat, unlike some games of these era, actually feels modern and enjoyable. The platforming elements are solid and feel like a precursor to the Assassin's Creed series. If you haven't played the Sands of Time series I highly suggest checking it out. You can find the games on Steam or get the HD remasters on PS3. If you didn't like Warrior Within the first go around, try it again and see if time has made you any kinder to the game. It's the stangest game in the franchise but it's still worth playing