Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones
Ostensibly The Best of the POP series, yet distinctly unlikely to be remembered in years to come with the same wide-eyed fervour as its progenitor The Sands Of Time, The Two Thrones remains a fun, solid foray into everything our kid the prince does best.
A purist like myself might argue that some of the 'hooks' to the game jar slightly - primarily the stealthy speed-kills and the frustrating chariot chases - but as far as fighting and puzzling goes, The Two Thrones outclasses the indomitable Lara Croft's Legend with ease.
The schizophrenic divide between the nice prince and the nasty, as ably displayed by the superb jaggedness and brutality of the Daggertail weapon, works really well too. However, the real joy comes through the sheer challenge and fluidity of the game.
Deep down, I'd rather you sample the narrative charm of SOT, but The Two Thrones is a far more proficient combat and adrenalin machine. The choice is yours.
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Special Edition Triple-Pack
THERE IS NO perfect Prince Of Persia game. But if all three could be melted, mixed together and served bubbling hot to gamers of high taste, the resulting fondue would be the template for the best third-person action-adventure ever. The story, setting and dialogue of The Sands Of Time rubbing shoulders with the intensity and action of Warrior Within and the stylish licks of The Two Thrones: a rare glimpse of perfection. Unfortunately though, this (well priced) compilation is the closest you'll get - and any idealist melding of the triptych will have to happen in the confines of your head.
I'm not saying any of these games are bad - my outspoken love of the series has reached worrying levels on many occasions - but only a fool would claim that each game doesn't have its own share of brickbats and bouquets.
For example, they say you can never go back, and with The Sands Of Time it's true. Since its release, whenever it's come up in conversation I've banged my fist on the table and declared my undying allegiance. I adore its structure, its characters, its clever dialogue, its wonderfully witty ending, that bit where it all goes dreamy and Farah is giggling and naked in a hot-tub - all of it. Apart from the combat - which unfortunately is where the 'never going back' bit comes in.
As each iteration of Nu-POP has emerged, improved combat and evermore involving puzzles have increased alongside the Prince's testosterone levels. It's an obvious thing to say, perhaps, but when all three games are laid alongside each other in a (cost-effective) triple-pack such as this, then one of my favourite games of all time starts feeling remarkably dated.
There are probably just as many rolling spiky log traps in Two Thrones as there are in The Sands Of Time, but by the time the third entry in the series rolled around, it just feels like the developers had picked up a few more tricks and situations to use them in. Likewise, having sliced a zombie in two in Warrior Within, it's hard to go back to the constant 'stand-next-to-wall' and 'do-spinny-attack-from-wair battle tactic of the Prince's first outing.
You see, by the time we hit 2004's Warrior Within, much of the essential goodness of our previously much-loved Prince had been stripped - along with the now bare bottoms of the various sexy goth chicks that he has to battle while presumably struggling with a fledgling erection. All of a sudden it's "You bitch!" and big-breasted vampires making sex noises as they bite your strapping neck to the loud rawk of Godsmack - not the Prince we fell in love with the first time round at all. He remains, however, a Prince with a much more dynamic and exhilarating fighting system and a far more exciting tang to his every move.
We continue on into The Two Thrones -an excellent game that covers a few bases in mixing the distinctive individual charms of its forbears, but loses a few marks in my book with its silly stealth kills, needless chariot racing and over-fed bosses. While certainly the most all-inclusive POP package of them all, it just isn't that ultimate POP game I've been praying for all these years - it's good, but gets no slow-motion time-twirling cigar.
I'm a picky one - I've just ground one of my favourite game series into fine powder and seem not to care a whit. But I do, I really do - the fact that I can pick apart these three games to such a degree and still hold a gigantic roman candle for them being perhaps the greatest triumph of all. What other third-person action series has garnered such emotional engagement? What else has made gamers gnash their teeth with its shifting directions and whine about the way they've changed stuff? The reinvention of Prince Of Persia has proved a great success, and the fact I complain about its minutiae to such an extent while disregarding such matters in your Tomb Raiders or your BloodRaynes is a resounding testament to that fact.
Should you buy this? Of course -but play through them in order, shut your eyes during the boob-ridden bits of Warrior Within and when Farah returns in The Two Thrones, do an impromptu jig around your desk. I know I did.
For many fans, the simple fact that the "rockin'" guitar riffs from last year's Warrior Within are gone is reason enough to consider The Two Thrones a superior game--but that's just the start of a long list of substantial refinements and additions. Thrones brings the current-gen Prince of Persia trilogy to a close beautifully, once again sending the titular hero through a puzzle-heavy, time-fiddling action-adventure. This story starts when the Prince returns home to a war-torn Babylon, where his quest for revenge becomes a mission of self-discovery. Amusing inner dialogue highlights a struggle with his devil-on-the-shoulder alter ego, which manifests as uncontrollable transformations into the hyperviolent Dark Prince. Warrior Within's angsty, badass Prince becomes much more endearing as he gradually figures out his true reasons for fighting. In fact, developer Ubisoft Montreal has addressed seemingly every misstep of last year's mostly grand adventure--too much backtracking, hit-or-miss boss battles--making Thrones the series' best-paced, least-frustrating entry (marred by only a few tedious puzzles). Getting through the constantly fresh environments requires some new techniques--including the ability to stab certain wall tiles, which greatly expands your cliff-scaling options--and combat gets a boost from the satisfying speed kills, which have you sneaking up on enemies and then hitting the attack button at designated instances during cinematic slayings (see side-bar). All these additions make for a near-perfect adventure; topped only by God of War, Thrones stands as one of 2005's best.
I'm with Greg and Crispin on Two Thrones' environments and storytelling--they're among the best in gaming. That last vertiginous level was awe-inspiring; I really felt like I'd scaled the Tower of Babel, one death-defying leap at a time. But I simply can't agree that this is an altogether triumphant end to the trilogy. Shouldn't they have figured out by now exactly where the saves and continues go? Yet Thrones features a tricky platforming sequence followed by a chariot race followed by a demanding boss battle without a single save point. I've lost count of how many times I replayed treacherous, trap-laden passages because I missed one stupid button press at the end--especially with the Dark Prince. He's got a great personality, but his gameplay sucks. Having to worry about his continuously depleting health often transformed what I like most about this series--the intellectually stimulating platforming--into a tedious exercise in timed button presses.
Two Thrones' returning first-game characters, sillier sensibilities, and trippy self-deprecating finale are like personal apologies from the developers for the last game's goth-kid growing pains. This sequel makes it fun to be the Prince again. It unspools cunningly designed levels that keep him on the move--and you in the wall-running, platform-leaping zone--even though the novelty of his greatest-of-ease acrobatics has worn off (more new moves, please). The game still makes missteps; it forgets about checkpoints during some tricky trap areas, the new one-button attacks become hard to pull off when the camera goes haywire, and the annoying final boss battle is as fun as leaping around a giant toilet howl in a snowstorm. Otherwise, it's nice to see a return of elegance to the series.
More of a thinker than a fighter? Two Thrones does away with the constant combat of the last game and intermingles puzzles into the battles. You'll encounter roomfuls of enemies you can clear out with the new timed-button stealth kills--but only if you figure out how to reach the first bad guy in the sequence, which often involves a climbing puzzle. Failure means facing the startled guards' reinforcements. Of course, if combat is your thing, you can just blunder on in with your blades, you brute.
It's a testament to this game's quality that so far, it's occupied a great deal of my attention, to the point that I've replayed certain sections of the game over multiple times. Featuring the same combat system from Warrior Within, and best of all, a completely new and inventive narrative, Prince Of Persia: The Two Thrones is a sequel worth playing.
The first and in my opinion the best improvement in this game is the speed kill mode, where you can sneak up behind an opponent and do them in with a series of context sensitive strikes that are wonderful. It isn't so much that they have a context combat system, but how they handle it. When you hit a context point, your dagger will flash. Hit square when it does, and you move onto the next part of your animation. This gameplay will extend all the way into boss fights, where it looks especially cool, and unlike other context systems, it allows you to focus on the gameplay you're watching, letting you drink in all of the awesome graphics.
Otherwise, combat is much the same, but you'll switch between Prince and Dark Prince occasionally with the Dark Prince equipped with a pretty awesome whip weapon. A combat system like this still has its drawbacks, however. You can finish off an opponent in just a few strikes one moment, and then hammer away at another opponent with thirty strikes and not kill them. Finally, the puzzle and trap systems are improved with new features like dagger hang points and shutters you can use to leap diagonally off of a wall run. All good there.
These graphics look good, but unfortunately suffer from the occasional framerate issue. Still, on the PS2, Two Thrones evokes the mood of a tan, dusky Bablyon, rich with combat and warfare. Also, you can look forward to good voice acting, like the rest of the series, and a nice wealth of background scripted events.
All in all, there're a few problems here, but this is definitely a game worth purchasing. If I could run the Xbox version on the Xbox 360, I might've picked it up to deal with the PS2 versions graphics, but this version still lives up.
Snapshots and Media
- Mount & Blade Warband
- Onimusha Blade Warriors
- Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
- Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
- James Cameron's Avatar: The Game
- Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow & The Flame
- Prince of Persia 3D
- Sonic Wild Fire
- A Way Out
- Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
- Assassin’s Creed: Unity
- Crysis 3
- Far Cry 4
- Mirror's Edge
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
- Shadow Of The Tomb Raider