A screenshot of a new Prince of Persia title was posted on Ubisoftís forums yesterday afternoon and some eyebrows are bound to be raised as it pictures what looks like to be the new protagonist as well as the new setting.
The man in question has dark skin rather than light, and is muscular and stocky in form. He seems to be wearing garments made of cloth or bandages as well as some beaded accessories and armor on his arms and shoulders. The weapon he has on his waist appears to be a sword of some kind in its sheath but is smaller in size that in other titles. He looks very, VERY different from any of the previous Prince of Persia protagonists and his surroundings donít necessarily scream Arabian village either. Straw roofs, stone buildings, and citizens dressed in headdresses and sparse cloth bottoms suggest that the game no longer takes place in Persia or its modern day equivalent, the Islamic Republic of Iran. It doesnít even look like it has anything to do with Persia or Iran at all. At first glance, my initial impression is that the setting was reminiscent of Jerusalem in the first Assassinís Creed title which was based on the city as it was during the Third Crusade. However, some reports suggest that this new title (codenamed POP Zero 2, if the text at the bottom of the screen is to be believed) is to be set in Egypt. Although seemingly unrelated, there is a connection here.
Egypt has been under Persian rule three times in its history. The first two times happened before Christ but the third time occurred while Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire and immediately preceded the Muslim invasion, which led it to what Persia is now, Iran. The Roman Empire had already been split into two halves, the Western Roman Empire and the East Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, and internal conflicts made the Egyptian portion of the Byzantine Empire vulnerable. The Persian ruler, or Shah, at the time, Khosrau II, took advantage of this and conquered Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and, eventually, Egypt. Egypt remained under Persian rule for 10 years before agreeing to leave. Speculation is all I can really do but I suspect that the game will take place during this time period. Seeing as how not only is Egypt and Persia involved in this conflict but also the Roman empire and its various other provinces, if it is in fact set during this time at this place, this title could provide some truly beautiful and varied environments and serve as a great trek through an interesting and informative period in history.
However, this also presents a problem. As I mentioned before, the new setting brought to mind Assassinís Creed. The setting alone did not bring this to mind however. Some news reports have suggested that Ubisoftís history themed open world title was an inspiration for this new title. Prince of Persia has always been a linear platformer with inventive parkour inspired acrobatics pushing the design opportunities of the levels and obstacles. Even the original had various kinds of jumps and movements that while not parkour inspired were much more sophisticated than platformers at the time like Mario. While Assassinís Creed was obviously inspired in its gameplay by the Prince of Persiaís Sand trilogy, that series has gone on and created its own unique identity. While history isnít a farfetched idea to incorporate into a Prince of Persia game, it isnít as prominent as it is in Assassinís Creed. Bottom line, a Prince of Persia title thatís open world and history oriented has the potential of not being a brave new direction for the series and instead being an Assassinís Creed rip-off.
However, maybe that inspiration is only in tone and perhaps premise. A NeoGAF poster noted that this title couldíve been originally intended to be completely unrelated to the Prince of Persia franchise and be a new IP for the next generation of consoles. Furthermore, the game was pitched to be an amalgamation of the God of War franchise with the PlayStation 2 sleeper classic Shadow of the Colossus. Incorporating elements of God of War makes me believe that the swordplay that was in previous titles would serve a more important role in this new game. Sure, Arabian swordplay is appropriate and necessary in games like this but the series isnít well known or regarded for its swordplay. Not that it was bad in its early titles or during the sands trilogy or even in the 2008 reboot Ė it was just sort of there, that functioned well if not superbly. A focus on combat would definitely make the game much more action oriented, ironically enough the polar opposite of the last reboot attempt in the series. As for the Shadow of the Colossus-esque concept, I feel that was already done in a sense. Shadow of the Colossus had an overwhelming sense of loneliness and emptiness as there was only you, your horse and the colossi. The 2008 title was similarly empty, with there being only you, Elika and the corrupted. Both enemies were sparse when it came to encounters and both worlds ingrains weariness and hopelessness as both felt to be after a lost battle. Youíre saving the world or a girl in a realm already lost to evil. Also, if the screenshot is any indication, I see people, buildings and at least the illusion of a social and political structure. Therefore, bareness and bleak this is not.
Ubisoft has not commented on this screenshot to confirm or deny that this is where the series is moving towards. The screenshot does show a game clearly not done as the people are levitating off the ground and there are debug codes everywhere. The PoP Zero 2 codename seems official though as a previous project codenamed Prince of Persia Zero was canceled and was conceived as a modern day reboot of the series. Furthermore, right before E3 2012, these photos were revealed and have yet to be explained. The most telling photo shows a man walking though what looks like a Middle Eastern village equipped with a bow and arrow.
I do hope my predictions are correct as it would be a very intriguing game to play and seeing as it would most likely be for the next generation of consoles, it would look even more detailed and graphically impressive than in the screenshot. Speculation aside, as a fan of the Prince of Persia series, Iím excited to see this series return, even if it isnít a continuation of the amazing Sands trilogy or the artistically sublime 2008 title.
Have your own interpretation of what this potential new Prince of Persia game could be? Comment below!