Game Reviews

The Rogue Prince of Persia early access review

Travelling back in time

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Hold onto your turbans, Ubisoft finally delivered a revival that doesn't feel like a copy-and-paste job from their other franchises.  Both 2024's releases ditch the Ubisoft-ification we've seen for years, offering something fresh and exciting. It's a perfect mix of nostalgia and new tricks, a one-two punch that'll have you feeling like a kid again while keeping things interesting.

Earlier in Jan, we reviewed the Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown made by the talented folks at Ubisoft Montpellier. The folks at the Montpellier studio are behind the Rayman franchise, and you can see that background carving The Lost Crown into an artistically distinct Metroidvania game from any other PoP or Ubisoft game before it. The Rogue Prince of Persia sets another tone for the franchise by handing the reigns to the developers of Dead Cells — Evil Empire. This bold move means that Ubisoft’s prior experiences have not affected the game’s development and this is turning into an even bigger videogame surprise this year, especially for fans of roguelite games.

I’ve been playing the game for almost a month on various PC devices and it’s evidently still in early access, but so was Dead Cells when it launched in 2017. The Rogue Prince of Persia is taking the same route with limited biomes, weapons and narrative structure in the start and then progressively adding and updating throughout the year with more levels, weapons, features, enemies, bosses, story acts and meta progression before the full launch.

The Rogue Prince of Persia: Gameplay

The Rogue Prince of Persia is a 2D fast-paced action-platforming roguelite game. You move through the procedurally generated map of each biome while uncovering story-beat elements along the way. At the time of writing, there are four biomes (with one more added after the Ubisoft Forward 2024 announcement), each with a very distinct colour palette, gorgeous art, platforming sections, enemy variety and, most importantly, music!

Unlike The Lost Crown where you were in control of the Prince’s royal guard, Rogue has you playing as the crowned prince himself and this time, the Persian empire is under attack from the savage Huns.

Things get messy – the Hun King knocks you flat, but your old mentor swoops in for the save, whisking you away to a secret desert hideout. Here's the twist: you have to keep busting out of this Oasis to save the capital. Why? Because you’re the prince and also because of a magical time-travelling bola (a fancy necklace with a round jewel) that keeps zapping you back after every defeat. Talk about a frustrating alarm clock! This sets the stage for the game's rogue-like twist – each time you die, the world rearranges itself, keeping you on your toes.

Story dialogues also unlock and progress as you unlock important (and permanent) information from exploring and interacting within biomes.

The Rogue Prince of Persia: Combat

The fluid combat feels extremely snappy and satisfying. Once you die, you’ll be tempted to start the next round immediately because of the compelling combat and platforming. Wall running is back and this time you can climb any wall in any direction. The prince can grab poles, walls and ledges and jump over enemies with the acrobatic flair of a gymnast. We reckon the Prince would win American Ninja Warrior in a single attempt. 

Double daggers, a royal sword, an axe, a broadsword, a javelin, a spear, claws and falcata are the choice of weapons for stopping the Hun's invasion and you also get a secondary weapon for range attacks. Bows are the best at getting the job done but if you want a bit more flavour from your combat, Stealth Assault lets you move towards enemies in a blink, and maybe using a grappling hook might bring them close to you for an Irani chai… or death! There’s also a Chakram and Spiked chakram for more damage but with some consequences. The weapons and combat in the game are very well-balanced and all of them feel different but effective.

Higher-level weapons can either be found in chests, with merchants or can be upgraded at the Blacksmith. Beyond this, you also get Medallions which grant boons and buffs to certain actions. For example, kicking enemies might spread resin which will slow them, or doing a shoulder vault over enemies might deploy throwing knives or if an enemy crashes into another enemy, it releases a poison gas, or how about doing a dive attack to start a fire? Medallions, if used properly will let you melt enemies in a matter of seconds.

Spirit glimmers collected from dead enemies are used for permanent unlock for weapons and medallions for future runs. After the Ubisoft Forward update, the game has become slightly easier and more forgiving with Spirit glimmers. Although the new update has randomized the sections a lot better than before. The earlier version of the game was lacking the randomness of its biome structure, that’s improved since the Ubi Forward 2024 update and we hope in the coming months it gets better.

The Rogue Prince of Persia: Graphics

The bright colours with sharp contrast in the game are something that will immediately appeal to everyone. Between The Lost Crown and The Rogue, it’s hard to pick a favourite. Both are so artistically distinct and fresh that every other Ubisoft game feels drab. Each Biome not only feels visually different but also challenging with environmental hazards that keep our gymnast on his toes. 

The sliding sections of the Aqueduct can flush you into a nest of spikes if you’re not careful, the carnivores vines of the garden biome will leave a hickey if you don’t time your jump on time whereas the trap-infested temple of fire biome can either be a showcase of your platforming prowess or a gut-wrenching reminder to get good at it.

The Rogue Prince of Persia: Initial Verdict

It's early access fun, with gorgeous hand-drawn art and a world that rearranges itself every time you die. The combat's tight, with wall-running making a glorious return, and there's a healthy arsenal of weapons to choose from, including double daggers, a royal sword, and even a grappling hook. The game throws different biomes at you, each with its challenges – from spike-filled hazards in the Aqueduct to carnivorous vines in the Garden biome.

Is it perfect? Not quite yet – it's still in early access, and the randomness of the levels could use some work along with rewarding exploration, something similar to the branching stories in Hades maybe? That said, with its stunning art style, fluid combat, and a killer roguelite twist, The Rogue Prince of Persia is shaping up to be a must-play for any fan of the franchise (or roguelikes in general).

Oh, and please go listen to the game’s OST, it’s an absolute treat for the ears. Asadi, the Persian-American artist, has done a fantastic job of recreating the medieval tone through the use of Persian string instruments and fusing them with modern-day electronic beats for this fast-paced game.