After a very long wait for all the Prince of Persia fans, Ubisoft presented a gameplay trailer of the new Game "The Forgotten Sands" finally:
The gameplay looks good, it seems like the game will reach the quality of their first game again. But still, I have my bugs with the game.
I think I will give a little retrospective of my relationship with the Prince of Persia franchise first before to start. Feel free to skip this.
I don't deny I have been an ambivalent relationship with Prince of Persia. When it was out in the Snes at my age of 5, I practically died over 10000 times and did only manage to finish the game after 2 weeks. I never hated a game so much before, even worse than any Sega-games you can think of. I'd rather played the big Nintendo Classics than lookingup at that game again.
Actually, my relationship with the franchise was quite dead when I reached 6 and stayed dead until my 13th year, when Sands of Time was released. Because it was reborn, like a phoenix raised from it's ashes. I fell in love with the game, but I guess don't need to point out why.
After SoT I started playing the old PoP-Classcis, for example Shadows of the Flame under a DOS-Emulator. It was certainly easier to play them for me since I learned alot how the games do work. The Snes adaption is even easier to play with the Snes emulator "ZNES". However, my real obsession with the franchise started with the controverse and underated sequel Warrior Within.
I don't want to go into too much detail or my love with this game-franchise, but short to say they opened for me the fascinating clouded world of the Persians. I was a top A history student and we took Greek history and was introduced into the Persian wars.I remember when I shot up my face with glee when "Persian" came for the first time into our course. Anyway, I was disappointed that Persian history took so little notice, not even Cyrush or Dariush were mentioned. We only did learned about the battle of Salamis and later on the somewhat propagandistic presentation of Alexander the Great taking over Persian and eradicating any literature of the Achaemedic period, including destroying Persepolis completely. I am still amazed that not even one history teacher I met gave even a critical glimpse about this course of action(except one I really respect, but he can be counted out as an "oddball"). It's rather the whole opposite, they idealize Alexanderand don't give any reflexion about it. I was left alone about finding out more about the Persian, and it was a true mammuth work. Why? Because here at Germany, the focus of interest is settled on Greek and Roman history and literature rather then exploring a different culture which was a huge influence on our Western zivilisation. Most books which were more or less introducing me into the Persian world costed over 50 bucks each, and most of the Medival literature have not been translated or reprinted. 1/3 of Rumi's poems cost over 100€ here, because the interest about Persian poetry is so low, so low like the IRI's love for Pre-Islamic Iran. It took me 7 years to be self-educated about the literature, art, and the philosophy of Persia, on all 3 (Oldiranian,Zoroastrian and Islamic) period, and I guess it costed me over 8000€ to learn as much about the Persians as possible.
Anyway, back to the games. Back then at 2005 I was watching the first trailer of the epic finale, Kindred Blades. I remember it. Ubisoft was starting a fan community called "Swordsmen" to attract fans to communicate with each other, discuss about the new release and win prices. I actually was one of the the winners: I stand in the credits of the new game. It was the happiest thing what happened to my nerdery. Kindred Blades was supposed to a finale to the ambivalent franchise. The finale. The best thing I hoped for a free open world for the Gamer to explore Babylon. The ancient city guarded by the god Marduk, where the epic of Gilgamesh and the tower of Babel was erected. Actually a dream for every Assyrologe and Summerian student.
But unfortunately, it never happened. Somehow the higher ups decided to withdrew all elements which were supposed to charistize Kindred Blades, and redesigned everything in less than one month in the somewhat low quality and rushed game we know as Two Thrones. I was really disappointed when the game was released, the game was less than 4 hours long and really linear,much shorter than SoT, and none of the feature and storyline presented(the original storyline of KB is still on Amazon!) were executed and turned into some kind of cut off, finishing the franchise once and for all. This is what happens if someone listens to the fans because there were a group of SoT-fanatics which bashed the game's developement before it was even released and threatened Ubisoft a total boycott...it's a shame really. If someone has still interest,here're the materials to the "Beta"-version
Certainly, after Ubisoft's flop with the new Prince of Persia (Which I think was just a filler for 2008), I was really loosing hope that Ubisot gave the franchise a better treatment like their other games, for instance Assassin's Creed. But now we have a new game, a game which goes back to it's roots of success. But while it appraised the one half, Ubisoft shows disregard with the other, and this is what truly bugs me.
While the Prince uses the armor of WW(which became in later franchsies his trademark),the developers avoided to use any of the gameplay elements of the darker sequel, for instance the successful combat system the "Free-Form-Fighting-System", which allows gamers to develope an independend free fighting styleunlike other games. Instead the game, which takes place between Sands of Time and Warrior Within storywise, will introduce a different combat system mixed (what I may fear) the more repetitive battle system of Sands of Time.
In Forgotten Sands, the player will be able to use the Sands of Time to manipulate the physics of each environment to use it for plattforming and combat. As presented in the video, you will be able to freeze water into ice for a period of time to use them as a wand to run over, or as a pole for climbing. The developers stated that you will be able to manipulate 4 elements:
Earth, Water, Fire and Wind.
Not really that original, but the combat and the plattforming should be improved at a critical acclaim. The player will also be able to upgrade his combat feature along devestating nature attacks to overcome the huge numbers of enemies. While the FFF-system will be left out, the challange in combat will be more adrelarine kicking than ever before. Instead of challenging a little group of foes, you will face a whole army of enemies. Thanks to the anvil engine, you wil fight 50 enemies at one! Now this sounds like MADNESS!
But this(!) is(!) Persia(!!!!) we are talking about...or wait, isn't the game settled in Arabia(?!) ? I am really uncertain about that honestly, because the game gives me the impression the game won't have anything to do with Persia at all. The Prince has a brother who reigns his own kingdom, but carries the name Malik. Malik, that's an Arabian name, isn't it? I doubt a royal Persian ever gave his/her successors ever any non-Persian names , especially Arabian, in history. Also, the Prince ,being the damsel in distress like in every game, will be supported by a female Dshinn named Razia. Wait a minute. A dshinn? Isn't that an Arabian mythological figure? And isn't Razia an Arabian name aswel?
My point is, there would have been absolutely no reason for a Persian king, or someone in the royal family, to have an Arabian name. Also, I can tell you as a fact that not a single person in the royal family (pre-Islamic) had an Arabian name.
I know, maybe I was thinking too much into it. After all, it's just a game. This is just a game, 300 is just a movie, etc etc. I've heard enough. Its through these games and movies where the average people "learn" history. They play this game, they see the Persian brother's name is Malik. Then they assume Malik is a Persian name, and associated Arab people named Malik this day to Persians's. My issue with this game is it's continuing the tradition of European "Orientalism" where everything Persian and Arabian gets thrown into one bowl without disinguishing both cultures. I know Ubisoft is lead by French...
I'm very disappointed in Ubisoft. PoP(08) was excellent(despite the low gameplay quality and the terrible writing), since nearly everything about it was Persian, from the story which was based on Persian and Zoroastrian legends, to names. Even the "magical" lines that Elika said was Persian and I could understand it. Both Malik and Razia are Arab names, and they are not even used as names in Iran. Considering "Malik" is the Prince's brother, and "Razia" is his helper, then they should just change the name to Prince of Arabia, and continue the real Prince of Persia where PoP08 left off.
Warrior Within was excellent in it's own course as well. The former producer Yannis Mallat(now CEO-President of Ubisoft) took a critical distance of the 1001-theme of SoT and turned into a more darker, more ancient artistic direction. The music, while using hardcore rock at it's finest, was using ancient instruments as guider, and the background music were mostly Persian only music. The environment was based on the ruins,temples and forgotten island of the classic Prince of Persia "Shadow of the Flame" and lived on the theme of it's ancestor, which reminded me on the old Babylonian chambers, the Persian gardens and the renmants of Persepolis, adding with the option for the player to travel through time and see the world of Warrior Within in the past and present. The names of the weapons were based on the Avesta, the opponent of Warrior Within , the Dahaka, is based on Zurvanism of the Sassassid period, adding with a name of Firdausi's Kingsbook, even the female counterparts Shahdee and Kaileena were invented names from Persian vocabularies. And it was bloody gory like the original PoP (don't deny that).
Even the designs of the enemies were intruiging, for example the Prince's armor, which like I said became his trademark armor, or the way the horns of the Dahaka were twisted into an infinity sign.
But now we have a game, which will be released at the same time as the blockbuster adaption, practically Ubisoft's new trumping card to become a serious game developer, challenging other more respected companies like Valve and Sony.
While I appreciate both being released, there are many stones set on the road for the game franchise. For instance the issue I mention the total disregard of Warrior Within and of course the continuity of Western idealising Orientalism. And the last, the horrible face texture. Seriously, it needs a real workover.
But the bigger problem the Prince will face are not hostile invadors or other mythical creatures, it's coming right from the creators.
About the begin of 2010, Ubisoft started an anti-piracy campaign by developing a new DRM(Digital rights management) for new PC-Releases for instance Assassin's Creed 2 and Splinter Cell COnviction. Even our poor Prince will suffer under it terribly. Other companies developed aswel and they all except failed terribly except Steam(Valve).
EA which was the main supporter of DRM went almost bankrupt because they invested so much money into the DRM and scared of many of their honest customers. They learned their lesson and only released DRM-less games afterwards.
Ubisoft seems to be lobotomized and somewhat fanatic about the matter, because the DRM is the most Draconian over the top in history. The game requires you having an account of the Ubisoft servers to log in and install your games.
This isn't much of a big matter, but the DRM requires permanent internet connection. Meaning you can't play the game even with the slightest rumble of your internet connection, because if that happens, you will be thrown into the menu and your unsaved progress have been lost.
Everyone in the gaming community still fears the end of Ubisoft's PC market, which drives slower and slower to it's climax. There is a vast theory around that Ubisoft plans to stall the PC-marketing by creating a DRM ad absurdum to force honest customers to switch to console games which are more profitable. Ubisoft showed a disregard for the PC-fans for long, for instance not patching their bugged and glitched games, or deny releasing special feature, for example a remake of the classic PoP by Jordan Mechner, for the PC. Even a DLC(additional special content) which continues the storyline of the new PoP, was not released for PC due "business issues". It brought the fans to an outrage, and the community manager even mocked some of their outbursts.
But Karma does hunt the evil. In less than 24 hours Assassin's Creed 2 was being cracked after it's release, but Ubisoft propagandize that the game is "incomplete". They say incomplete because the game lacks for DRM.
To make it even more grotesque, the DRM-servers are down due overloading them by the number of the customers registering and playing their games. And Ubisoft excuses itself on a twitter note that the servers are "attacked by hackers". These hackers turn out to be the customers who were registering their (one install-limited) copies. While you are reading it, the hilarity of Ubisoft's anti-piracy campaign surely continues and embarrassing itself to the public each second, the games suffer heavily under it though.
I hope that this campaign does stop soon and the DRM will be removed forever, because I want to play Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, right after it's release both on the PC and the Wii. But until now, I will refuse to buy any Ubisoft product.
Well, maybe the Iranian game companies will be a lot more different than our horrible western publishers. But that will be discussed in a different blog entry.
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