Mini-Review: Prince of Persia 3: The Two Thrones

Review written by Andrew Plotkin

After playing Warrior Within, with its painfully dumb dialog and pointless Prince character, I said to myself (and everyone else within earshot), "You know what they should do with the third game? Put the evil grunting Prince from the second game up against the fun snarky Prince from the first game."

Which goes to prove that a great idea is worth nothing without a great execution; because that's exactly what they did, and it still wasn't very good. There is some snark and some banter, and some of it was funny, but mostly it's the stuff you get out of the banter faucet. And the basic plot carries all the literary depth of "Goofus and Gallant". They're trying to bring back stuff from the first game, but it's obvious that nobody at Ubisoft understands what made the first game great. They're trying -- they're stealing tropes from many great games -- but they fail to make them work.

Once you get past the (lack of) plot, writing, and charm, you're left with the puzzle and fighting mechanics. These fare better. They kept most of the second game's engine intact, while changing just enough to keep the experience fresh. Mostly fresh. Okay -- just a bit tired. The best puzzles are as good as Warrior Within, but they didn't manage that level consistently.

(To be fair, the psychotic cleverness of Warrior Within was based on the premise of crossing and recrossing through the same area several times. Which was a flawed premise; it got repetitive, and you could get lost. Two Thrones drops the idea, and goes back to the on-rails model of Sands of Time. I can't blame them -- but I hope someday to play a game which fixes that premise.)

Then there's the endgame. Two Thrones has the classic "three-stage boss monster" mechanic that everyone hates. (I was going to type "loves to hate", but there ain't no "love" about it.) It's not that the stages weren't fun. They were fun. But replaying the first stage twelve times in order to practice dying in the second, and then replaying the first two stages some more in order to fail at the third, was not what we call "fun" around here. Just put in more checkpoints. They're not made out of kitten hearts. They don't cause cancer in a single species of laboratory mammal. Checkpoints. How hard could it be?

Oh, and the chariot races. Too hard and not enough checkpoints. (Or not enough rewinds, if you want to think of it that way.) A distraction from what virtues the game retains.

So, a lot of good puzzle, intervals of annoying joystick-steering, some great imagery (particularly the denoument), and a story which has nothing to offer but the creaking sound of designers straining to touch all their bases before the game runs out. The Two Thrones holds itself forth as the conclusion of its series. I hope they stick to that.

This series: Sands of Time, Warrior Within, The Two Thrones

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