Zobuz wrote at length about the Prince of Persia games, originally created by Jordan Mechner. In particular, We focused on the Sands of Time trilogy, which features an unnamed Persian Prince who tries to fight against fate.
Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands
The first installment in that series was set in the ninth century AD, but took heavy inspiration from the Persian epic as well as the tales of the Arabian Nights. The followup, Warrior Within, was more bloody and loud, and set entirely in a fantasy world, the “Island of Time”. The third installment, The Two Thrones, seemed to take a step back in time and introduced elements from the ancient world: Roman-style arenas, Scythian, and even chariots.
These three games were released one after the other from 2003 to 2005. After a short brake, a new game in the series was released in 2008 entitled simply Prince of Persia. This entry was designed to be the start of a brand new series of games, outside of the Sands of Time continuity. While the game was well received critically, it didn’t do well commercially, which is why UBISOFT returned to the Sands of Time series once more in 2010 with The Forgotten Sands.
2008’s Prince of Persia, also referred to unofficially as Prince of Persia Zero, starts with the Prince (if he is indeed royalty?) wandering the desert in search of his donkey, named Farah as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Prince’s companion character in The Sands of Time. We later find out that the Prince has been robbing tombs and that his donkey ran off during a sandstorm, taking all of the treasure it was carrying with it.
While looking for the animal, the protagonist runs into a princess called Elika, who’s fleeing some guards. The Prince follows her, in a false sense of wanting to rescue the damsel in distress, only to find out that there’s more to her than at first appeared. A meeting with her father at a temple takes a turn for the worse when the king cuts down a tree that kept Ahriman, the embodiment of all that is evil, safely locked away. Ahriman escapes and darkness descends on the world.
The Prince and Elika combined in an effort to tackle Ahriman. Elika explains that they have to venture into the ruins of the nearby city to fight each of Ahriman’s four lieutenants in order to heal the “Fertile Grounds”. Just which area of the city you investigate first is up to you: the game’s fairly open in that regard. You’ll head into an area, fight and defeat the boss of that area, after which Elika restores the Fertile Grounds. When she does so, the bleak environment turns green and pleasant, and a large number of “light seeds” spawn. These light seeds are used to unlock abilities at the temple that give access to new areas of the map, and the cycle continues in this way until you beat the game.
Prince of Persia features the fantastically large and intricate architecture that we’ve come to expect from the Sands of Time games. There are cuneiform inscriptions on some walls and the game borrows heavily from Zoroastrianism, giving the impression it’s set at some point in the (later) ancient world, perhaps around the time of the Sassanids? Ahriman is the Zoroastrian embodiment of evil, opposed by Ahuramazda (who’s also known as Ormazd, the name used in the game). Elika herself belongs to a people known as the “Ahura” (a reference to Ahuramazda), most of whom left long ago.
The temple is located at the base of a gigantic tree, and in order to free Ahriman, Elika’s father cut down a smaller tree inside the temple’s inner sanctum. In the art and myth of the ancient Near East, the “Tree of Life” is a well-known motif, and something that the developers clearly drew a lot of inspiration from. But they also didn’t completely ignore the series’ origins. For example, some of the architecture still features Islamic traits and there’s a reference to the Arabian Nights in the game’s achievements: one of them is unlocked when you collect 1001 light seeds.
In previous games, you could rewind time if you happened to fall to your death. In this game, your constant companion Elika will rescue you if you happen to miss a jump. She’ll return you to the last safe platform you were on before you fell. This doesn’t mean you’ll never fail: it simply means that you’ll never have to sit through a game over screen and wait for the game to reload. It’s an elegant system that removes nothing of the challenge of getting through a particularly difficult gauntlet of obstacles.