Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Preview

This Prince has great potential

By Paul Hunter

A couple of weeks ago, Ubisoft invited me to play a near-final build of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, the first 2.5D Metrodvania entry in the franchise's 34-year history. The game was announced during Summer Game Fest and while it looked promising, I can't say I was exactly blown away by the footage. But that's all changed now that I've played a lengthy four-hour demo: I walked away thoroughly impressed with everything The Lost Crown has to offer.

With just a month to go until the game's January 18, 2024, release date on all major platforms, here are my early impressions of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown.

Liked: Way More Story Than Expected

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown sets you in the role of Sargon, a member of the Immortals, an elite group of warriors who protect the Persian empire. Right from the get-go I was impressed to see the game features high-quality cutscenes and lots of character conversations among the members of the Immortals. Usually, Metroidvania games are all about exploration and platforming at the expense of rich storytelling, but that's absolutely not the case here.

The story itself also hooked me quickly as we see Sargon's mentor Anahita seemingly turn on the empire and kidnap the Prince of Persia, taking him to the chrono-disrupted land in Mount Qaf. Sargon and his squad head to the cursed and hostile land and that's when things really start to get weird. Upon entering Mount Qaf, the giant entrance door seals shut by an unknown magical force and Sargon quickly realizes time passes differently in here.

I can't stress enough how great the voice acting is, backed up by excellent hand-drawn character portraits that appear on-screen when members of the Immortals are speaking. From a storytelling perspective, this is among the highest production values I've seen in a Metroidvania title, easily rivalling the quality seen in the Metroid Prime series.

Another element that greatly intrigued me is The Lost Crown introduces players to Persian Gods, including the friendly Kaheva the Blacksmith who helps our protagonist. While I'm quite familiar with the Greek, Norse and Egypt gods, my knowledge of Persian gods is limited so I'm excited to hopefully meet more deities over this adventure.

Liked: Deep, Strategic Combat

Being a Prince of Persia game there's naturally a big focus on combat, but I didn't expect it to get so deep, so quickly. Sargon comes equipped with his signature twin swords named Qays & Layla, and while I quickly got used to their fast-paced normal strikes, I soon discovered you can do different types of strikes by pushing directions on the analog stick. Attacking while hitting up will fling smaller enemies into the air allowing you to string together punishing air combos. Meanwhile, holding down while striking does a low slash that can knock opponents off their feet, also enabling you to follow up with devastating combos.

The real gameplay excitement happens when you start learning how to chain all these moves together, effortlessly combining forward slashes, upward slashes, air juggles, downward strikes and leg sweeps all with a rhythmic dance feel. I also discovered that certain moves work better on specific enemy types, for example, air juggles rarely work against big, beefy foes and it's better to sweep them off their feet. Likewise, smaller enemies are better to air juggle if you want to seriously deplete their health fast.

Sliding in The Lost Crown is absolutely critical to success as you can slide right through most enemies and strike their unprotected backside. There are plenty of i-frames that occur when sliding, too, giving you a nice risk/reward sense if you can manage to slide through an enemy attack and then quickly punish them from behind.

Much like a lot of Soulslike games, The Lost Crown features a parrying system that you can unleash whenever an enemy's attack glows yellow. Parrying not only saves you from damage but often transitions into a cinematic counterstrike complete with flash effects and different camera angles. They were quite awesome to see, and it appears most enemies have their own unique parrying cinematic. Tougher enemies and bosses also have red attacks that cannot be parried and must be avoided altogether.

A couple of hours into my playthrough and I already unlocked new weapons, including a handy bow and arrow best used to kill the annoying flying enemies, like the numerous bats that linger around Mount Qaf's gigantic temple. The bow can also be used to shoot these mysterious time orbs that when hit reverses time and often leads to new areas you can explore. I also acquired magical Chakrams that can ricochet off walls, great for hitting hard-to-reach enemies or switches. Finally, after defeating a white-knuckle battle with a tough boss, I was given the ability to air dash which not only expands your battle strategies but also can be used to reach far-off platforms.

After attacking enemies and charging his Athra's Glow meter, Sargon can unleash powerful moves that can quickly turn the tide in battle. I began the game with a super-charged combo Athra ability and later could deploy a stationary healing aura right in the middle of battle. Athra's Glow moves vary in the amount of meter they consume, adding some nice strategy in battle. Do you nail the boss with your super-charged combo to whittle down its health, or do you cast a healing auro to recoup some of your own health? Split-second decisions like that were crucial to make in the heat of boss fights.

Liked: Boss After Boss

Within the first four hours, I had already battled and defeated a half dozen bosses. It's more than I'd expect to fight in a Metroidvania game that early on, so it's impressive how rapidly the game throws challenges at you. Most bosses were fairly tough, yet at the same time fair and beatable once you learn how to evade and counter their moves. I got pushed to my limit with some of the bosses and the rush of finally conquering them felt satisfying.

Without going into great detail, the boss variety was excellent. I battled a massive Chimera, a huge Undead Prisoner brute that swings a massive stone pillar, a hardened general riding an armoured horse and wielding a trident, among other memorable bosses. The sheer detail of the bosses was matched by their superb animations, resulting in breathtaking combat that looked as good as it played.

Liked: Secret-Laden Map

I was amazed at how natural Prince of Persia's platforming messes with Metroidvania-style interconnect maps and exploration. During my time with the game, I explored two of the biomes, including the Lower City temple filled with spike-trap pits and littered with skeletal foes, and the Autumnal Forest, a more organic environment with barbaric enemies.

The map is absolutely stuffed with blocked areas, far-off platforms and other secrets to discover. In true Metroidvania style, you'll need to revisit areas after you acquire new abilities, such as the air dash or bow and arrow. An innovative new feature in The Lost Crown is your ability to take screenshots of any room and pin them to your map—allowing you to easily remember unsolved puzzles and reminding you to return to the area later.

As you might expect, at a regular click you'll discover shortcuts to make traversing through zones easier and less dangerous. You can also find an NPC that'll sell you maps in exchange for green time crystals, the in-game currency dropped by enemies and found in items like pots. While I only got to see a small portion of the game, I can already tell the map will be massive and can't wait to explore every inch of it.

Final Thoughts

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown impressed me in every way possible from the combat and exploration to the graphics and the story. The game has become one of my most anticipated for 2024 and it's awesome that there's only one more month to wait. I'm eagerly awaiting the final release and can't wait to see how the story unfolds along with exploring every inch of the map. Prince of Persia and Metroidvania fans should definitely keep this game high on their radars.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action-adventure, Platformer, Metroidvania
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

A key was provided by the publisher.