While Sands of Time was a critical success, the game didn’t sell quite as well as Ubisoft had hoped. Furthermore, Warrior Within would also be the first game in the series with no involvement of creator Jordan Mechner whatsoever, which might have motivated the developers to put their own stamp on the series with an entirely new tone for the next game. At any rate, they decided to give Prince of Persia a darker, more mature edge in hopes of snagging more mainstream gamers. The Dreamworks-cartoon-reject Prince of the first game has become a dark, ferocious warrior, given that he’s constantly stalked by Death for screwing with fate in the The Sands of Time. His only chance for survival is to find the Empress of Time to make her lift the curse called upon him by fate. All the while, he’s stalked by a scantily glad figure called Shahdee, more affectionately known as “The Time Bitch” amongst webcomics like Penny Arcade. Along the way, the Prince further meets Kaileena, also scantily clad, who decides to give him a helping hand.
Although Warrior Within does lose some of the fairy tale charm (and cute romance) found in The Sands of Time, the darker approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many fans have lambasted this decision, claiming it’s “too angsty” and “filled with generic rage”, and accused UbiSoft of selling out to the masses. They’re not entirely wrong, but bor the most part, the changes in tone suit the game, although at times they go overboard with the bland heavy metal guitar riffs and cheesy battle taunts. (The changes did pay off, however – Warrior Within sold much better than Sands of Time.)
The biggest complaint with Sands of Time – the battle system – has been given an overhaul. In addition to your primary sword, you can pick up weapons from slain enemies or elsewhere, which can then be used in melee combat or thrown. The fighting is much deeper and allows for combos and some stilysh acrobatic tricks – you can jump off enemies, thrown them, or propel yourself off walls, cutting anything in your way. Attacks can be charged to do more damage, and the Prince learns powerful, Sands-fueled special attacks during the course of the game. In keeping with the tone, it’s also much bloodier. The pacing has been changed a little as well – instead of long encounters of continuously respawning enemies, you face more frequent but shorter battles. While the improvements are welcome, combat still feels a little sluggish and lacks a lot of the punch found in titles like Ninja Gaiden and Rygar.
The coolest parts come when you’re being chased by the Dahaka, the physical incarnation of Death. The screen goes black and white, and all you can do is run. If you lollygag or merely jump too late, the Dahaka will catch up and shove the unfortunate Prince into his gaping jaws of unpleasantness. It’s similar to the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3, although the concept is better executed here.
Warrior Within is also somewhat harder than the original, both in the battles and in the platforming. The jumping puzzles maintain the same genius as its predecessor, although the environments have been revamped to look even better. The Prince must climb his way through a mechanical tower and a garden environment, lending an atmosphere similar to Castlevania. The only real problem stems from the overwhelmingly confusing plot, which involves jumping back and forth in time through portals. There’s more exploration and backtracking compared to the linear Sands of Time, but your map is almost entirely useless, so it’s very easy to wander off in the wrong direction. Extensive backtracking is rewarded with silly weapons like a teddy bear, and also required to get most health upgrades. Only when beating the final boss with all of those, the “good”, canon ending is revealed.
The game is also somewhat buggy, filled with graphical glitches and other snafus, across all three initial platforms. The Xbox version contained additional time attack and survival modes for Xbox Live, before the old Xbox network has been shut off. The game was also released on the PSP under the title Prince of Persia: Revelations, which features a few new (quite tough) areas, but has lots of load times and even more bugs. Plus it doesn’t exactly control well with the PSP. The same goes for the iPhone/iPod touch port by Gameloft, only worse.
As long as you can look past the more superficial alterations in tone, Warrior Within as a whole is a more than competent sequel to an already great game.
The PC version is available DRM free at GOG.com.
The mobile version of Warrior Within follows the “big” game in its revised battle system. Now the acrobatic moves are all available from the beginning, but new combos, special moves and finishers are learned with each level. The aggravating wall jump is gone, in its place comes a lot of swinging on chains, which is much more fun.
In a nod to the original game, most traps are instant kills, but the game is very generous with chekpoints. Only towards the end the game demands a bit more precision as the platform warrants, just like the predecessor. For the first time on mobile phones the sands of time are there to stop enemy (and trap) movement, but it they are severely underused.
Warrior Within is the first game to bring some gore effects to your cell phone, and it marks also Gameloft’s return to form regarding the sexy, with several images of scantily clad women that appear quite out of context. The rest of the graphics are not so exciting, especially since almost all enemies look the same – no sight of the impressive Dahaka.