Monday, May 16, 2016

The sands of gaming bucket

A review for Prince of Persia (the 2008 spin off ) by Karan Trichal.

Recently, amid throes of joblessness, I booted up the old Prince Of Persia game onto my laptop. Just to be clear, this is the 2008-released, unnamed-beyond-the-standard-’Prince of Persia’-label game I’m talking about.  Released for PC, PS3 and XBox, this is an action-adventure, freeroam game based in ancient Persia.  

So envisage this: a sandstorm, in the thick of a desert. Singing winds carrying the sand everywhere. Seemingly random, Jim Morrison-esque philosophical narration in the background. And in the midst of all this, a silhouette, crying out for ‘Farahhhh’. Eventually comes into spotlight our.. ‘Prince’, haggard, gaunt, seemingly impoverished and painfully removed from any notion of royalty though he seems. His calls are interrupted by- Poof!- a beautiful, half-clothed, sharp-tongued girl falling onto him. Quite unlike any chivalrous man on a first date, though, our fella chooses to follow her openly around.
Respect level for the ‘Prince’: Decreased. There are some things you just don’t do on your first meeting with any lady. In any era. Brazenly stalking her is right up there.
He has good reason for following her, though, as heavily-armed guards dog her footsteps. After a bit of moving about, you get into the more savage parts the PoP series throws at you- the fights. You learn to hack, slash, throw enemies around like rag dolls, and dodge. Catchy enough.
Respect level for the ‘Prince’: Increased. This is cool stuff, by any standards of coolness.
Once you’re done with fighting, you get to the more important questions- who IS Farah? In the words of the prince himself, ‘My girlfriend? No, Farah’s my donkey.’ Don’t worry, the girl- Elika, the princess of the land, as you’ll learn soon enough- WILL mirror your disgust, both in her words and on her face.
Respect level for the ‘Prince’: Decreased. Horribly. That you’ll put in the next few days, or hours, gaming around for the sake of a donkey- it’s a bleak prospect, at best.
It’s only after this that the storyline actually moves forward in full earnest.

Tumultuous times are upon the kingdom of Persia. A series of events lead to the release of the evil Ahriman, the God of darkness- a psychopath bearing the mah-life-mah-rulz mentality- from his ingeniously designed prison; The Holy Tree, which is worshipped by all. The only way to incarcerate Ahriman again is to heal the ‘Fertile Grounds’ scattered around the kingdom to their erstwhile glory.
Off goes the mismatched duo of the Prince- extravagant, flirtatious, outspoken, yet possibly the most agile protagonist the series has ever seen- and princess Elika- cool, dripping royalty with every movement, and a magician, as it turns out. The prince is often an abomination, and a complete misfit for the story and the journey. However, Elika more than makes up for her companion, exuding enough charm for both of them. As you go along, it’ll be Elika’s past that you’ll be much more invested into, and who’ll gradually usurp the prince’s role as primary protagonist. This is mainly because she’s not a helpless bystander; She’s more than a match for the prince as far as brains, strength of character, agility and combat ability are concerned. And the unfurling of the relationship between the two is fascinating to watch, with Elika a staunch believer of preordained destinies, and the prince parading free will. There are great exchanges between the pair- made all the more enjoyable by the prince’s knack of irritating anyone within a five-mile radius and Elika’s caustic wit and retorts.

Much to the chagrin of dedicated PoP fans around the world, this game is a tad on the easy side. You cannot die. If you fall into corruption- inky black blobs of evil looking liquid, covering pretty much everything- Elika will pull you out of it in the nick of time. If an enemy means to deliver a death blow, Elika will stun him to give you time to recover. So it’s a highway ride to Ahriman’s doom(or so it seems; The climax to this game is ingeniously designed, and  worthy of appreciation). The enemies you face along the way will be basically Ahriman’s soldiers, spawning out of corruption, and as useless as lumps of evil sidekicks to some greater Evil can hope to get. Not really their fault, as there’s a certain sorceress who gifts you immortality every time you look into the impending face of death.There are four major bosses- Ahrimanians, you might call them, who sold their souls to Ahriman in exchange for favours paltry and mighty- who need to be beaten time and again. They are a good challenge, and their company ensures that you won’t get bored just looking to go from point A to point B. Once you beat them, you heal the Fertile Lands to their former, fecund glory. What follows is a bollywood-esque sequence; a walk in the orchard of Light, picking up Light Seeds- food that the lady needs to keep up her magical strength.
The combat, though not quite of the standards set by the predecessors, is mightily impressive to look at, with the Prince and Elika able to team up to perform some crazy combos, and the camera determined to treat you to visual effects rarely seen before, so that you appreciate each and every moment in the battle. Once you get your head out of the beast-mode though, there is PLENTY more to be admired in this game. The graphics are quite sharp and clear for a game released in the late 2000’s. The levels flow into one another almost organically, and the world of princess Elika is beautifully laid out for you to admire. Another feat the makers have accomplished is giving ‘substance’ to the characters. We’ve all seen games where two characters can latch onto a single hook, overlapping each in the process, and experienced how off-setting that is. Not so in this game. The prince and Elika have actual ‘weight’ and ‘substance’. To add feel to effect, the makers have added ingenious props which will immediately highlight this simple, yet pleasing fact- example, the prince has to completely ‘exchange’ positions with Elika while on a vertical groove. The soft Persian music in the background compliments the game like nothing else, and ensures authenticity(more so than the Prince, who talks and behaves more like an American more than a Persian).
The storyline unfolds, more like a trip down Elika’s memory lane than anything else. There’ll be periodic jousts of the prince with her father, in-line with the hilarious, bollywood theme the game sometimes seems to carry - who, inexplicably, is being consumed by ‘corruption’ too. I’ll leave the hows and whys for y’all to explore; After all, we’ve prided ourselves on not giving away spoilers, haven’t we? ;)
The prince offered up this time is a titular one, his royal status a mere mention. The combat is a bit of a disappointment, and you may resent the ease of the game a bit. However, there’s no denying that once you clear your head, the easygoing storyline and the beautiful environs will immerse you into a truly rich and rejuvenating gaming experience. Also, the best moments of the game- the healing of the Fertile Lands, conversations between the prince and Elika- are all heart-lifting, none of them destructive. The positive approach to the game’s storyline by the makers is something you’ll appreciate, what with almost all games these days involving you raining death upon your enemies!
Ushering in changes involves its own caveats; However, once you lose yourself in the easygoing joy of the game, you’re sure to forgive a smattering of flaws!
Regardless of the storyline that becomes a bit too linear sometimes, the ending is enticingly well-crafted, and you’ve gone through enough of the story by now that your heart too, shall surely be moved as the Gods resolve the fate of the prince, Elika, her father and Ahriman, all entangled in a deadly dance of power, duty and love.
Do have a crack at this game if you’ve got nothing else to play. Actually, have a crack even if you DO have something to play, for the simple purity of the game will freshen you up in this era of complicated, bloodlust-inducing video games.