Prince of Persia returns to its 2D roots, with an action platformer that gets what makes this “Metroidvania” genre so damned good. You are Sargon, a member of the Immortals, the fiercest warriors in all of Persia. Double-crosses abound, time is broken, and you’ll have to fight destiny itself to try and save the kingdom. It’s a solid premise, supported by good looks, incredible music, and sublime gameplay. Most important of all though is a damned near-perfect power ramp. I have a few minor issues we’ll get into, but for now, let’s break down why Prince of Persia The Lost Crown has gotten 2024 off to a stupendous start.
Princes in Peril
Your first impression is an incredible piece of music in the game’s main menu. It sets the tone for what is to come as the opening level is an epic feeling, though subdued gameplay-wise, romp as you and your fellow Immortals put an end to a war by murdering everyone in your path. Despite the name, you are all humans, though incredibly powerful. As Sargon, you are the newest member of the group. Things go awry during your celebration back home and you’ll have to head to Mount Qaf to try and save the day once again.
I’ll try to keep things as vague as possible, as I think the story is best experienced as cold as possible. Mount Qaf is, or well was, the home to the Simurgh. In this game, they are seen as a God of Space and Time, and bestow a blessing upon the ruler of Persia but have been missing for the last 30 years. What happened, why you’ve been brought to this massive mountain, betrayals, weirdness, and terrible truths will be yours to uncover over 15-20 hours. I rolled credits at 13 hours but I had played the opening 3 hours already during a preview session.
Mount Qaf itself is immense, full of various biomes and all the classic Metroidvania trappings. One of the first areas has a chest you can see but not reach. It wasn’t until over 7 hours in that I finally had the ability that let me get it. It is an impeccably designed playground full of gorgeous sites and occasionally brutally difficult platforming. Whenever you’re following the main quest path things are tough but fair. Diverge off and the difficulty ramps up on the optional content. I can’t show or fully explain why, as the embargo asked us not to spoil any mid to late-game abilities, but trust that it’s Super Meat Boy levels of difficulty at times.
Things start out feeling good, but basic. I played most of the time on a Series X and split the rest on a Legion Go and PC. The game will support 120fps on Series X at launch, though the Day One patch for it wasn’t live when I played. It did bug out and go to 120fps for my colleague Nick and he remarked on how noticeably improved it felt. At medium settings and 1200p, I was getting over 100fps on the Legion Go and a locked 4k 120 on PC and no matter where I was the game feels incredible.
You have a few basic abilities to start. X is your main attack and things can be combo’d up with various holds of X or by pressing up/down on the left analog stick. You will quickly unlock a Bow/Chakram combo with the Y button, and various movement abilities on the rest of your buttons over time. One key ability is your Athra Surge. The is a super meter you’ll build up, and you can have 2 active, out of a pool of 10, at a time. Parry is on your left trigger and Dodge is on the right trigger. Combat, early on at least, is pretty basic. You can do a three-combo attack, when enemies attack you have a decently generous window for parrying, and large red flashes mean you need to dodge. When enemies flash yellow that means you can pull off a slick-looking attack with a well-timed parry, and these are extremely important on bosses. They look fantastic and deal massive damage.
I cannot overstate how damned good the combat becomes as you unlock your six various time abilities. Without spoiling what they do I’ll just say that things become far more intense. There are dozens of enemies, over sixty by my count, and they’re always fun to fight outside of a few late-game ones that love freezing you in place. As you unlock abilities enemies become more aggressive, forcing you to use your entire toolset, though there are several powerful difficulty and accessibility options to help out.
Difficulty Settings: Rookie, Warrior, Hero, Immortal, & Custom. These each change the following settings.
- Enemy Damage
- Environmental Damage
- Enemy Health
- Parry Difficulty
- Dodge Window
- Athra Depletion Rate (Super Meter)
- Athra Gain
- Athra Loss Rate from damage
- Vibration Level
- Disable Screen Shake
- Aim Assist Strength (for ranged weaponry)
- Melee Targeting Assist
- Platforming Assist (Create portals to skip challenges)
- Auto Unfreeze
- Visible Interactions (All interactable’s glow)
- Use Alternative Font (for subtitles)
- HUD Scale
- High Contrast Mode
I kept things on normal or slightly turned up difficulty-wise. My brother was able to customize things to better suit his skill ceiling after having some health issues last year. Sik, our Editor-in-Chief, liked it more difficult like I did, and Nick of course put everything on easy. It’s a great selection of choices to allow you to make the game as hard or easy as you want.
This is good because the mid to late-game platforming is insane. When I mentioned Super Meat Boy earlier I wasn’t joking. Some of the platforming sections, especially the optional ones, feature minute-long “the floor is lava” segments where you’ll swing, dash, and use various abilities to avoid wall spikes and more environmental hazards. Your last touched piece of solid ground acts as a checkpoint and some of the harder platforming segments had only one or two of them for the entire section.
There are a few incredibly difficult ability-focused death rooms where you’ll have to constantly avoid murderous spinning saws and I swear one of them was nearly two minutes long. Beating it felt incredible but I’m glad it was optional. Rewards for these vary from items that can increase your hp, empower your weaponry, or add to your available amulet slots (more on that in a few). Key to it all is how responsive the game feels. Instead of having momentum or being locked into animations, you can always turn on a dime. The higher the framerate the better the response time, and I found myself using the game’s cloud upload system to hop over to PC as things got more difficult.
Tools of the Trade
Whenever you defeat an enemy you’ll get time crystals. You’ll combine these with a few other currency types to upgrade your swords, bow, and a ton of different amulets. Those amulets are how you customize your build. Extra hp, poison damage resistance, setting your arrows on fire, seeing enemy hp and about 30 other game-altering passive bonuses are yours to fit into a small number of slots. The stronger the effect the more slots it will take, between one and three pips. You’ll start with only three slots available, and I had 8 by the time I rolled credits. It’s a fun system that doesn’t require any heavy grinding while offering a variety of build choices.
Weapon upgrades felt a bit dark souls-like in their power, though the special item needed for them was by far the hardest to find. I had my swords at +3 and bow at +2 by the time cleared things. You’ll quickly unlock a potion slot, and pressing up on the D-pad can heal you. I had 4 potions that did the majority of my 9 pips of health, and you can replenish both your potions and arrows by visiting a Waka Waka tree.
These are your in-game checkpoints and the only place you can change your equipped amulets and super moves. Fast travel is available, though again only at specific statues that you will unlock as you explore each zone. It works in forcing you to explore the map the first time through each area, though I did wish there were a few more by the time I was in map cleanup mode. You have to run to the nearest statue to travel as well. You can never just travel from the map itself, which was a bit of a bummer.
Stunning Sites & Sounds
Prince of Persia The Lost Crown is a very pretty game. While it may not be technically stunning the art direction is on point, and full of killer style. Gorgeous animations are complimented by a vivid color palette. Visually the game looks damn good early on and opens up into some stunning locations later on. It’s so hard to talk about without spoiling but one section in particular had my jaw on the floor when I first saw it. As I ran across a floor that shouldn’t be I had a stupid grin on my face, and then a few minutes later Sik dm’ed me about how he had just seen it and gushed over how cool it was.
Animations are fantastic, especially because of how quickly the game will cut them off to make sure you’re always in control. Conversations feature well-drawn artwork on the sides as your character’s 3d models hang out in the foreground. Conversations are well written, taking advantage of the crazy scenarios that the characters will find themselves in. Competent voice acting is carried by an incredible original soundtrack. The credits had a large number of people who worked on them, including Gareth Coker, one of my favorites. It is epic, elevating every single part of the game in a way that only the best music can.
The Lost Crown is nicely polished as well. I had zero major bugs on console or PC. Using their cloud save system through my Ubisoft Connect account I was able to hop between platforms with no issues. One time after dying to a boss the next encounter had no music. It came back after winning the fight and I honestly can’t remember another time I had an issue.
Wrapping Things Up
Prince of Persia The Lost Crown is an instant classic. Full of reverie for the series it takes it to new heights with a damned near-perfect mix of action platforming goodness. It’s the best type of Metroidvania. One that knows how to pace out the power-ups and I hope this is the start of a series of similar titles for the franchise.
Prince of Persia The Lost Crown
Xbox Series X (Primary) & PC
- Looks Great
- Incredible Soundtrack
- Tight, Responsive Controls
- Perfect Length
- Some Annoying Enemy Types