An incredible victory in game design and a worthy chapter to close a story depicted through a flooring trio of titles
Trilogies are extremely tricky for producers to handle as they can show both the best and the worst turns that the very same concept can take due to poorly made decisions that despite being small in their scope, end up having major effects on the final product. Keeping each and every installment of such a long-running series fresh and interesting is also another major challenge, and, truth is, finding a trilogy that maintains a good level of quality throughout its run is a very daring challenge. Even though Warrior Within – due to its technical issues and bland art direction – came off as some sort of dud when compared to The Sands of Time, the third and final installment of the series is a very graceful return to form that catapults this Prince of Persia trilogy into the status of a gaming masterpiece.
Where Warrior Within was a pit of darkness that from time to time bordered on bland and generic, The Two Thrones is colorful, bright and extremely lighthearted: it is The Sands of Time reborn. With the return of a storybook presentation, the game is able to provide a final chapter that is both intriguing and dramatic on the delivery of its plot that nicely wraps up the Prince’s many struggles against destiny. Through its technically impressive cutscenes and solid voice acting, the character development in The Two Thrones is able to capture most gamers’ eyes in a way that was not seen on its predecessor and if great trilogies are usually closed with fantastic installments then this game does a great job in fitting that bill.
After the events on the Island of Time, the Prince finally returns to Babylon only to find out that the city has been taken by a massive army led by the evil vizier. After witnessing the pain that his reckless actions had brought to his own people the weary, the Prince decides to take matters into his own hands and rescue the city from the clutches of evil while trying to save his father. However, the hero will also have to fight an internal battle for he has been infected by a wound caused by the Sands of Time and now an evil personality lurks inside his heart waiting for the perfect opportunity to take over and use the Prince’s body to its advantage.
The Prince will now go through the ruins of his own city while using his many acrobatic abilities such as wall running, clinging onto ledges, balancing himself on top of thin poles, jumping, swinging on ropes, and others to find quick ways out of tough situations and to reach apparently unreachable spots. Veterans will recognize most of the character’s movements right away and will have no trouble adjusting to the controls. Newcomers will also feel quite comfortable since although the Prince has a wide set of movements most of those are extremely intuitive to be performed. Besides, there is also a quick tutorial in the form of text located at the bottom of the screen that instructs players on how to perform a move the first time it is needed, a nice feature that teaches without disturbing the game’s fantastic flow.
The Two Thrones also brings back the sand tanks introduced in the first game that allow the character to go back in time to reverse previous mistakes, such as falling into an endless pit, or slowing down time during a battle so that he can easily slash away many enemies without giving them an opportunity to strike back. Fortunately, those abilities are limited by the amount of sand players carry so the overall result is an extremely balanced game in both combat and platforming that offers great level of challenge despite the many forgiving abilities players have at their disposal.
Still, a sequel would not be good without a few nice additions that breathe fresh air into the series, and The Two Thrones has many of those, most of which are provided by the Prince’s new dark powers. During specific moments within the story, the Prince will transform into a dark creature that is equipped with two powerful chains. In these segments, his health will constantly decrease while the sand tanks will quickly fill up after being used. With his pair of chains, the character gains a whole new set of movements for both platforming and combat. Not only do those segments offer some nice variety, they are also the source of a lot of thrill, because players need to be fast in their reasoning in order to make it through platforms, traps and hordes of enemies before the character’s health reaches a very critical point.
Whether one is playing as the Prince or as his evil alter ego, the combat keeps the same structure first brought by Warrior Within where a vast amount of combos can be performed by pressing a certain order of buttons. Different combos can be better for different situations, so knowing a good number of moves from the combo list can be very important at times, especially if the game is being played at its highest difficulty level.
In addition, the Prince can now use stealth abilities to sneak up on enemies and kill them without further battling, using only a few blows instead. Most of the game’s scenarios are in fact set up so that players can come up with clever ways of quickly disposing of those evil soldiers without being noticed, an amazing display of level creation that will certainly mesmerize gamers and add a few minutes of reasoning to every single one of the game’s areas.
As he sneaks up on an enemy, a timely button press will trigger a slow-motion animation where the Prince will perform acrobatic moves to deliver ultra fast attacks on his enemy. During the animation, the character’s dagger will occasionally shine, and at those moments players must act quickly and press the B-button in order to successfully perform the fast kill. The performance and the result are so amusing and bloody that getting those stealth kills is bound to become an obsession to most players as they go through the title’s many scenarios, turning into an extra source of entertainment in addition to the spectacular platforming.
Artistically speaking, The Two Thrones absolutely trumps its predecessor. Instead of dark corridors, there is an immersive city in the middle of the desert, an impressive palace full of details, and even beautiful hanging gardens. The Prince’s many interactions with his suffering people give life to the gorgeous scenarios that the game sports.
His amusing exchanges with his troubled inner self, that range from humorous to dramatic, and his growing relationship with a friend from the past turn an otherwise lonely journey into an adventure that is full of laughter, drama, personality, and life. The soundtrack, which now features a good number of Arabic tunes instead of hard rock songs, fits very well with the overall theme of the game and instead of feeling like a dislocated element it now perfectly complements the visual feast that is The Two Thrones.
The Two Thrones only flaws are directly inherited from its predecessors. The game still suffers from poorly placed, inconsistent checkpoints. As a consequence, during most of the adventure, one will lose a good amount of progress whenever the hero meets death, and while it is not very annoying at first, in the long run it gets frustrating to go through a huge number of traps and jumps only to lose to a massive horde of enemies that will send you back to the very beginning of the platforming section. In its attempt to be punishing the game usually wanders into the realm of frustration.
However, there is not enough frustration in this world that could possibly tarnish the fact that The Two Thrones is possibly the best game in this stellar trilogy with its exciting gameplay novelties, fantastic visuals, twelve-hour adventure, great character development, and fantastic storyline. It is an incredible victory in game design and a worthy chapter to close a story and adventure depicted through a flooring trio of titles.