In this Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown review, we’re going to be taking a deep dive into the latest installment to the Prince of Persia franchise, a 34 year long series that has not seen any new games since Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which released in 2010 with negative reception. So does this latest Ubisoft Original bring back the glory days of the Prince of Persia series? Let’s find out!
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Review
- Genre: Metroidvania
- Developed by: Ubisoft Montpellier
- Published by: Ubisoft
- Release date: January 18, 2024 (January 15th, 2024 with early access)
- Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation?5, PlayStation?4, Luna, Nintendo Switch
- Price at time of review: $49.99 – Standard Edition
Prince of Persia: TLC Review – Story and Setting
The most critically acclaimed game within the series was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, averaging a 92 on Metacritic. It was this 2003 title that introduced the concept of rewinding time and tied it to the hourglass concept. Subsequent games started to deviate from this theme, but Prince Of Persia: The Lost Crown is finally bringing it back, albeit in a different form.
The story takes place in the Kingdom of Persia, and centers around a group of 7 warriors named “The Immortals”. Led by Varham, the 7 live and die for the Kingdom under the rule of the Queen of Persia, Thomyris. The game sets off at an amazing pace with a masterfully animated opening cutscene, that introduces the main character of the game, Sargon, a prodigy warrior and the youngest of the Immortals as he successfully fights off an invading army.
After the introduction, we find that the Queen’s son Prince Ghaasan has been abducted by Sargon’s mentor. The Immortals are sent to find and rescue him, but soon find themselves in a temporal anomaly: here, time does not follow a natural flow, with intertwining timelines all existing at once.
While the setting is intriguing and the plot should provide opportunities for twists and turns, it is unfortunate that the subsequent story has a barebones structure with very little to offer to engage the player. Characters and NPCs seem to exist just for the player’s convenience, and most play little to no role in the story at all. Whereas the main characters, the ones that do progress the story, see no believable character development as the story unfolds.
The last third of the game does pick back up with some unexpected happenings, but due to the poor character development and clumsy storytelling by this point I felt no sort of attachment nor care for the characters in the world and was “immune” to any attempts to pull at the heart strings.
Setting & World
The Lost Crown makes a valiant effort at worldbuilding through tablets and lore items that you can find in Mount Qaf. These collectibles detail accounts of Persia’s history and the stories of unnamed characters that traverse Mount Qaf, as well fill in an intriguing prophecy that you can slowly reveal as your progress through the game. These tidbits of information are intermingled with real world mythology and a sprinkle of historical fact, but the overall tone of the game didn’t lend itself as well to this style of storytelling.
Overall, the story of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is enough to move you along for the sake of gameplay, but lacks any significant intrigue and is altogether forgettable. If you were hoping for deeper storytelling or to get the Sands of Time experience, you’ll likely be disappointed. The gameplay, however, is definitely worth your time.
Whereas the narrative felt rushed and disjointed, the gameplay of The Lost Crown can be best described as both passionate and skillfully designed. Ubisoft utilizes the known formula for Metroidvania games that we have seen in the likes of Hollow Knight or Blasphemous, and adds their own creative spin on it to make the game feel fresh and unique.
Level Design & Exploration
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a semi-open world game which divides the different locations into sub areas, like Hollow Knight. The basic gameplay structure of the game is to follow a main quest into a new location, explore the area, activate checkpoints named Wak Wak Trees, get a power up from the main quest, go back to the hub and upgrade your gear, then repeat.
Every location will contain passages or areas that seem impossible to traverse through upon first glance, until you acquire certain Time Powers which add new methods of traversal, such as dashing or teleportation. Backtracking through different locations to investigate these areas later in the game usually awards you with special items which can be used to strengthen Sargon, but sometimes you would just obtain the main currency of the game, which was slightly disappointing.
The theme of backtracking with new powers is very common in Metroidvanias, but The Lost Crown does add its own flavor by improving the explorations through a “Visions” feature, which can be used to screenshot areas that you can’t traverse through yet, and pin it on your map so you don’t forget that they exist.
Each location within Mount Qaf has its own distinct environments, level design and enemies. The first area’s environment is that of a ruined city, with various spike traps and poles to swing off of, and as you get further into the game, more and more level design concepts are added to this simplistic recipe to create more complex areas.
For example, a lush forest with activatable mushroom platforms and explosive plants, or a magical archive with staircases and traps that change direction based on if the character is moving left or right. With the level of complexity in platforming that is added from the Time Powers, some platforming in the late game can be extremely challenging. I’m not sure if it can top Path of Pain difficulty from Hollow Knight, but it will definitely test the average player’s platforming skills.
Apart from platforming, the exploration of The Lost Crown also includes various collectible items and hidden secrets. Within each zone are jars which contain a piece of a prophecy that details the past and future of the events in the main story, which I found to be intriguing. Other collectibles include lore items detailing accounts of the deceased and Xerxes Coins, an alternate currency which requires the player to do a platforming puzzle to retrieve. There are also real puzzles in the game which require you to use Time Powers that you have acquired, which are great brain teasers to take a break from the high octane action of the incredible combat.
The combat of The Lost Crown is, in my opinion, some of the best combat I have ever seen in a Metroidvania. It’s not meant to be about overcoming enemies with careful and strategic methods, but rather executing stylish combos to obliterate them in the most efficient way possible. The basic combat offers verticality with uppercuts and mid air juggling, as well as ranged choices and different attack patterns using directional inputs. Weapons you can use include Dual Swords, and a Bow/Chakram which can be used in tandem with your dual swords to create new combos.
When enemies attack you, you can parry them to create an opening that you can attack them from, unless they glow red, in which case parrying is ineffective. If they glow yellow and you successfully parry, a unique animation is played showing off a fatality against the enemy, instantly killing them unless they are a boss.
As you progress through the game, the combat delivers more and more options, allowing you to choose how you would like to play and expanding the variety of builds that you can create. My absolute favorite aspect was the Chakram, a weapon you unlock about 2 hours into the game that functions like a boomerang which can be parried to bounce off of you and into enemies. The only gripe I have for combat is that sometimes the input of an analogue stick lacks precision for directional attacks, so sideways attacks were misinput as downwards attacks. This was a rare occurrence, but when it did happen it was quite frustrating.
Progression in The Lost Crown includes the expected upgrade systems such as a health pot upgrade and a blacksmith to upgrade items, but further layers of depth are introduced to both the Combat and Exploration by obtaining items and abilities throughout Sargon’s journey.
One of these items are Amulets. These are special items that you can equip to enhance Sargon’s combat capabilities, or add utility features such as collecting currency from a distance. Most amulets provide benefits that are passive and thus not that exciting, but some can add whole new features to the combat such as increasing the number of hits in the default combo from 3 strikes to 4, or making the chakram into a multi-hit tempest. I found that finding and using these special amulets was one of the best parts of progression, as they would fundamentally change how I approached combat and shook up the usual combos that I was executing.
Alongside amulets are Athra Surges. These abilities can only be activated by attacking and parrying enemies without taking any damage. In doing so, you can accumulate Athra, which can be expended to perform a special Athra Surge ability. Early in the game, these were very satisfying abilities that would almost guarantee an instant kill while being quickly acquired as they all cost 1 bar. However, later on when you begin replacing the 1 bar Athra Surges with the 3 bar Athra Surges, it felt like it took a millennia to charge the bar all the way to 3 just to use a special ability. That’s not to say that the level 3 abilities were not satisfying though, as they did have great animations that made you really feel the impact of the ability.
In terms of enemies, there are a total of 65+ unique enemies in the game, all with different attack patterns and behaviors, as well as beings of different species; there are humans, birds, giant boars, shamans, monsters etc. Certain attacks can be very effective against specific enemies, such as the tap hold attack pattern breaking the shields of enemies in the first area, so learning to adapt to and overcome new enemy types in a location is a big part of the game.
The Bosses in The Lost Crown are similarly very well done. The key bosses in the game are excellently designed and quite memorable, with satisfying combat as well as awesome cutscene animations when you get hit by a dangerous attack or when you parry their yellow attacks.
Unfortunately, even with all the positive aspects of the gameplay, there are a few bugs within the game that can potentially harm the experience. In my 30 hour playthrough, I experienced a few, such as getting stuck in a wall and not being able to jump. Both of these were thankfully resolved by randomly mashing a bunch of inputs until something worked, however if I had not gotten out of the bug then I would lose about 20 minutes of progress since the game will only save when you rest at a Wak-Wak Tree.
Prince of Persia: TLC – Design, Visual & Audio
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown incorporates a unique design that deviates from most other Metroidvanias through utilizing 3D models and textures rather than 2D.
Graphically, the game looks great when you are in the game and side scrolling. You can see numerous minute details in every environment you come across, and the art style is masterfully blended into the combat to give us some amazing animated fighting cutscenes and effects. However, outside of battle, the design behind the characters begins to collapse once you can see them close up during the cutscenes of the story. They don’t look terrible, but they don’t look great either.
Performance-wise I have run into no issues at all during my 30 hour playthrough, save the bugs mentioned earlier. The FPS was consistent throughout with minimal loading times, and I could reach up to 200FPS on max settings with an AMD Ryzen 9 5950x and an RTX 3090.
Audio wise the game has great SFX for combat and battle cutscenes, paired with an adequate but forgettable main soundtrack. However, the choice of voice for certain characters was at some points questionable, such as an old lady sounding 20, or a strange being using a text to speech voice.
Pricepoint, Game Length & Replayability
Priced at $49.99, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown stands out as notably more expensive than the majority of the most popular Metroidvanias released in the past decade, which are known for being quite affordable. While the game does introduce unique elements such as a combat system allowing directional combos, distinctive Time Powers, and an ambitious 3D Model-Led Artstyle, the overall duration of the game is only about 30-40 hours long, and there are several weak points within the game that make it far from a masterpiece.
If you were to consider the outstanding quality and affordability of the absolute best Metroidvanias in the genre such as Hollow Knight, Salt and Sanctuary, Blasphemous or Ori and the Will of the Wisps, all of which are priced at least $20 less, the asking price of $49.99 seems somewhat steep for a game that evidently falls short in comparison to these established titles.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is an intriguing game that pulls you in for the combat, and leads you on with the progression system. The journey of Sargan and his evolving abilities as he conquers Mount Qaf is both captivating and addicting, and when mixed with the rewarding exploration and puzzles, it is a great title that has successfully managed to revive the Prince of Persia series, even if it cannot reach the heights of it’s past glory.
However, it’s mediocre storytelling and characters, coupled with its rather high price point for a game in this genre make it difficult to recommend this to players at full price. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is definitely worth a playthrough for fans of the franchise and those who enjoy Metroidvania type games, but probably not for 49.99USD.
While Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown suffers from a rushed and disjointed storyline which lacks character depth, the gameplay more than makes up for it with skillfully designed Metroidvania elements, offering passionate combat, challenging platforming, and a great progression system. Fans of Prince of Persia and those who enjoy Metroidvania games should definitely play it, but I’m not sure I can recommend it at full price.