Three years after fans were originally meant to get the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Remake, a completely different Prince of Persia game is here instead. The Lost Crown is a brand-new idea based on a different genre and frankly, the most exciting thing to happen to the series since its reboot in 2003. A Metroidvania game in an unexplored world focused on a new story, new mechanics and all the things we love from the genre. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a perfect example of how great Ubisoft can be if the studio focused on single-player story-driven games instead of free-to-play live service trite. It simply excels on so many levels.
On the surface, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown might look like a reimagining of the original 1989 game. The flat camera angle and platforming approach might give this away. However, the game is far from it. What starts out as a relatively slow and limited experience, unwraps into a fast-paced platformer where exploration takes centre stage as I revisited locations to reach new areas, fought increasingly difficult bosses and overcame intense platforming puzzles that had me cursing at my TV way into the early hours of the morning.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown has the perfect recipe that makes Metroidvania games so addictive and enjoyable. There’s that ongoing excitement of discovering new areas, unlocking new abilities to overcome previously locked obstacles and in the end, piecing them all together as you weave the gameplay loop into one satisfying experience. Not to mention that each new area the game threw at me was beautifully designed with various hidden treasures to find and puzzles to overcome.
It is that sort of game where you say to yourself “Just one more room”. Yet three hours later I found myself well off the original path trying to dash through spinning spike traps to grab a Xerxes coin and carry it back to safety. It is that game where you climb every wall right to the top to see if there’s a chest on a ledge above you and smack every piece of wood in hopes there’s a hidden room behind the board.
But Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is more than just brilliant a metroidvania. There’s also a deep story going on here which dives into many of the elements the series is known for. There’s a bit of time travel here and there, a Prince, some betrayal and of course, lore plenty.
It follows Sargon as he ventures to Mount Qaf to save a kidnapped prince. Sargon is a member of the Immortals – super-powered humans (well most of them look human anyway) that are protectors of the kingdom. Things go south at Mount Qaf and Sargon finds himself wrapped up in a quest to recover strange powers from Feathers of the Simurgh. These feathers essentially unlock new abilities for Sargon which let him get around easier and reach places he could not before.
These Simurgh powers drive much of the parkour in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. By the end of the game, I felt like a real Immortal and no high platform or interdimensional wall could stand in my way. Of course, this means most of the game is spent leaving areas behind because I simply didn’t have the right upgrade at the time. There’s a double jump, air dash, grapple hook-like thing and even the ability to suck an object into a void, carry it with me and throw it out at any given time.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown makes backtracking to previous areas once I unlocked new abilities a lot more exciting than other Metroidvania games. Mainly thanks to a feature called Memory Shards. Pressing the down D-pad button at any time would take a snapshot of the location I was in and stamp a screenshot of it on the map. So at any time, I could hover over the screenshot and remember exactly what obstacle was in the way preventing me from getting to an unexplored part of the map.
I can’t emphasise how much time this saved me. It also helps that I could stamp icons down on the map too. So the combination of the screenshots and the icon stamps meant I could return to the right area at the right time instead of wasting time guessing why I left a certain place unexplored.
Returning to these areas was always rewarding. Not only did I often get an item or piece of lore (sometimes currency which kind of seemed like a waste of time) but the trek through these maps mostly always made use of new powers. It was always exciting to put these abilities to the test. Well, more to put my skills to the test by utilizing all these parkour abilities together.
Sargon starts out with a simple jump and a limited ground dash. Later on, he can grapple to hook points, place down a copy of himself and teleport back to it, double jump, dash through the air and even move through dimensions to interact with different blocks present in each. Combine that all together, and throw in brilliant level design, and you have yourself one of the best Metroidvania games I have played in a long time.
I did have some issues with some of the exploration in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. The checkpoint system is a bit unforgiving. For example, if I fast-travelled to an area and didn’t touch the nearby Wak-Wak Tree (these are shrines that refill your health), when I died I would revive at the last tree I touched. Often this was on the other side of the map. I was then forced to hunt down a Wak-Wak tree each time I used the teleporter to avoid reviving far off from my path.
I just think the teleporters should act as revive points. That or the game should automatically assign the nearest Wak-Wak tree as the revive point. There was guaranteed a tree at every teleporter so it makes sense. I was often so excited to get to where I needed to be I didn’t bother wasting my time going to the tree nearby anyway. Small issue but it happened more often than not.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown did take me through some wonderful biomes. There are some annoying areas, don’t get me wrong, such as the dank dungeons with poison that trickled my health away all the time. However, the majority of the game is well-imagined and these areas bring Mount Qaf to life with sprawling background vistas and highly detailed maps.
Enemies are also themed around these biomes and they put up a tough fight. Combat in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown relies on a combo system where Sargon can hit some enemies by kicking them into the air. He can then juggle them around with more attacks. As the game evolves, so do these combos. Air juggles become longer moves with a bow shot here and there, a dash and even the ability to copy an attack, make a clone of Sargon and repeat it over again.
The combat is incredibly satisfying to pull off. Enemies also pack a punch. I played on the toughest difficulty and it requires more attacks to defeat them. The higher difficulty also has much tighter block timings which I was so happy to see. I had to perfect time my blocks to benefit from the feature. The same goes for my parries which then trigger vengeful counters – cool-looking moves that deal high damage to bosses and essentially one-shot basic enemies.
Sargon can also be built into a certain playstyle. Although quite limited in range, the game’s amulet system let me equip certain jewellery that granted buffs. Some increased air combo damage while others helped reduce poison build-up, increase damage with low health and even create time bubbles when successfully parrying an attack. You can, in a way, create a playstyle that forces you to stick to a certain attack pattern. I kind of winged this with an assortment of amulets and I was still okay.
My favourite part of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown were definitely the boss fights. While the first few aren’t as exciting, the later-game fights are exhilarating. These boss fights combine intense move sets with perfectly timed parries, over-the-top animations and suitable soundtracks to back it all up. These fights truly showcase the best parts of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’s combat.
Yes, I died a lot. However, the joy of learning the boss’ attack patterns, how to combine them with my new abilities and when to jump in for a few whacks before retreating created some real on-the-edge-of-my-seat scenarios. I could not wait for the next fight to see where it went. Even when a boss got the better of me and I missed a parry opportunity, watching it throw Sargon into way into the sky and shoot a laser beam at him was terrifyingly enjoyable.
In the end, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown lasted 20 hours and I still have things I need to go back and collect. This is where that true Metroidvania moment comes in – when I can apply everything I learnt from the game and all the powers I obtained together to 100% the map. The journey to get here was incredibly fun.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown didn’t disappoint. In all honesty, I didn’t have very high expectations for the game in the first place given the state of the IP. However, it surprised me in so many ways and I was hooked within the first few hours. There’s a lot to love about it and it is a well-rounded adventure that delivers the genre’s best traits. Not only it is nice to see the series back in action but the gameplay is on point. Ubisoft just went the extra mile to sprinkle on a tonne of lore and a rather heartwrenching story too. No surprise here given the team behind the game worked on the Rayman series.
This Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown review is based on a PS5 code sent to us by Ubisoft. The game is available on 18 January for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC. You can pick it up starting at R949 at retail and R899 on various digital stores.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is an enjoyable and challenging Metroidvania game. Its refreshing setting combined with its intense combat make this journey through Mount Qaf worth the 20-hour trek. The boss fights are a real standout in the game delivering some unforgettable combat encounters.