The Rogue Prince of Persia review - the prince with two daggers jumping from a wall

The Rogue Prince of Persia Early Access Review – Clearing the Sands of Time

Time to get all roguelike again.

The Rogue Prince of Persia Early Access on PC

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The Prince of Persia series is definitely back with a vengeance. After the recent 2D take on the franchise, The Lost Crown, and while we are still waiting for the infamous Sands of Time remake, Ubisoft has given free rein to an entirely different dev team for their unique take.

The result is a different vibe and atmosphere, plus a style of gameplay claimed right in the title, The Rogue Prince of Persia. Would you want to dive into this new take on the franchise, or better stick to its classic roots?

The prince overlooking the destruction of his homeland
Image source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

We catch up with the Prince as his kingdom is about to be invaded by the Huns. He puts together a plan of attack, but his father rejects it, claiming the young warrior is too inexperienced to go alone against the invaders. But the Prince doesn’t listen, goes in and gets sadly murdered by Hun King Nogai.

But this is the Prince they are dealing with, a warrior first and time traveller second, so he’s brought back in time, ready to try again. What will be his plan now? Will he be able to make peace with his mother and the other characters?

The Rogue Prince of Persia is a 2D action platformer, featuring classic moves from the series such as wall climbing and sliding. Strangely enough, there is no dodging, by pressing B you can only vault over enemies or execute a kind of fast-forward movement.

Combat is a combination of kicking, vaulting and two main attacks. Your main weapon varies from spears to daggers and swords, plus a different attack which needs energy to be used. The secondary weapons often make quite the difference in combat, like the Stealth Assault which propels the prince towards the enemy, dealing damage and getting him to safety, or the Grappling Hook which stuns an enemy while pulling it towards the prince.

Prince meeting his mother Feriel
Image source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

Overall, a single enemy is not usually a threat, but don’t let them gang up on you. Especially because in cramped fighting spaces, it seems the combat system struggles to keep things working smoothly. Kicking an enemy towards an obstacle or another enemy will stun them, but that seems to not always work when there is a crowd. It quickly becomes a confusion of stunned and non-stunned enemies, and being hit feels like it’s not entirely your fault. Enemy AI is also a bit lacking at the moment, as they will often quite happily walk into spikes or traps (which for them is insta-death, but isn’t for the prince, luckily).

Trinkets can make all the difference. They are amulets that the prince can wear up to four of, and when combined provide useful powers. Like throwing daggers when vaulting over enemies, gaining gold (used to buy more weapons and trinkets during the run) when killing enemies and, most importantly, being brought back to life immediately after dying.

As for narrative here, there are some bits and pieces spread throughout, but nothing seemed to really be unique or interesting, the lack of voice acting also not really helping.

The prince jumping from one stick towards a lever
Image source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

As the name itself implies, the main feature of this new take on the series is all about “roguelite”. The prince cannot rewind time here but, as in Hades or Hollow Knight, he will be brought back to the oasis each time he bites the big one.

Dying does not allow for upgrading the prince’s stats, just spending points to unlock more weapons and trinkets, which gives you an opportunity to find them in the next run. Regardless of how many experience points he brings back, the prince will always start with the same dagger plus bow combo. Unlocking everything should not take too much time, since collecting spirit glimmers, the experience points in Rogue Prince of Persia, can be done almost right away.

While exploring levels, it is possible to find puzzle rooms, hidden behind doors, that when solved will provide new trinkets or weapons. They are definitely the highlight of the game, as they will test your puzzle platforming skills. It’s just a shame that there are not many of them at the moment.

The difficulty, right now, does feel a tad unbalanced. Not because enemies or bosses are too tough, but rather because the entire fate of the run seems to hinge on which weapons and trinkets can be found. The first boss, a huge minotaur, will require a specific combination of weapons, namely the Stealth Assault (to avoid its attacks easily) and Double Daggers for quick attacks. Also, the Immortal trinket that brings you back to life is quite helpful. Any other combination, like trinkets which reward shield breaking or slow down enemies with resin when kicked, will leave the prince at a clear disadvantage. Think more like Balatro, and less like Hades.

The Prince facing a huge minotaur-like boss
Image source: Ubisoft via Twinfinite

The developers, Evil Empire, decided to release the game in early access, promising to work around players’ feedback and that content will double from early access to the full release. Right now, we have six different biomes (stages where the procedurally generated levels take place), two boss encounters, eight weapons, and about ten to fifteen hours of gameplay.

In its current early access state, the Rogue Prince of Persia is a fine action platformer with a unique graphical style and a solid gameplay loop, which does need a bit more polishing and content to be entirely recommended, especially to casual fans of the genre who have been spoiled lately. A less confusing combat system, better enemy AI, and more balanced difficulty might make this a great game in the future. For now, this is one for the hardcore roguelite and Prince of Persia fans.

The Rogue Prince of Persia
In its current early access state, the Rogue Prince of Persia is a fine action platformer with a unique graphical style and a solid gameplay loop, which does need a bit more polishing and content to be entirely recommended, especially to casual fans of the genre who have been spoiled lately.
Pros
  • Solid 2D graphics with a unique look
  • Engaging puzzle gameplay
Cons
  • Combat feels a bit too confusing at times
  • Difficulty a tad unbalanced
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC.

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Author
Damiano Gerli
Damiano Gerli is a gaming historian and freelance journalist, born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. He has been writing about games for 20+ years, with articles on gaming history published on Kotaku, PC Gamer, PcGamesN and Retro Gamer magazine. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).