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The Rogue Prince Of Persia Preview – The Agile Dub Of Step

Kicking 2D parkour up a notch

What’s this now? A second 2D Prince of Persia in the year when we would expect to see The Sands of Time remake. Just months after the release of the critically acclaimed The Lost Crown, which saw the series go Metroidvania, Ubisoft has now partnered with Evil Empire for the upcoming Early Access rogue-lite, The Rogue Prince Of Persia

And you know what? It’s as tight and authentic a POP game as I could have expected, and I was wrong to not expect much.

After a brief half-hour of hands-on with this indie-adjacent reimagining of the parkour action series, I have come away convinced that players are going to immediately vibe with its unique take on the Prince’s agile movement. It’s all meshed into a randomly generated rogue-lite experience, complete with a slick soundtrack featuring remarkably catchy drum and bass infusions of traditional-sounding South Asian music. 

This interpretation of the oft-remixed POP story sees the titular prince scampering around a city as it is invaded by a force of Huns. With an intro cinematic that sees our characters painted in distinct hues of purple against a backdrop of golden yellow the Prince takes a volley of arrows to the back while trying to protect a young girl who has fallen in the streets. The Prince then rewinds time to a point before he dies due to a power tied to a bola necklace he’s had since birth.

Taking your first few sliding leaps into the unknown are thrilling

Players are warmly greeted by an impressively simple control scheme. Within seconds, I was able to clamber up and across any wall. As I faced off against little Hun fellas along my path, the game deftly introduced its simple combat system that emphasises quick and charged attacks as well as a handy dodge. The fundamentals of movement and combat felt easy to pick up but required quick input and keen sense to navigate the increasing hordes of varied enemies with shields and projectiles as well as the occasional spiked pit. There’s also a useful kick that will allow players to launch a group of unshielded enemies from ledges, wiped out by fall damage as their dropped gold hoovers its way through the air and into your pockets. 

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Being a rogue-lite from a team that has worked extensively on the Dead Cells expansions, this team understands the need for a varied arsenal and run-altering abilities. Whether twin daggers, spears, bows, or grappling hooks, everything lends itself to varying how the player handles the Prince’s weaving between combat and platforming. Health is precious and death means resetting your progress in the world, so the idea of building a ranged arsenal might appeal to players wanting to keep distance from foes. But with the levels often presenting multiple pathways, exploration is encouraged and usually rewards players with chests holding upgraded and new gear.  

I take my hat off to Evil Empire for flexing their kinetic growth on the back of their time with the similarly frenetic Dead Cells 

All of this is wonderfully altered by the boons which adjust how movement and weapons behave through powerful applied effects. In my time, I picked up various boons that would cast surfaces and enemies alight as I dodged through them or wall-run over them. All of a sudden, enemies are being taken care of simply by me stunting on them with my parkour skills.

This leads me to my favourite part of the experience, which is the movement. The risk posed with a platforming rogue-lite is that runs might not offer interesting enough platforming puzzles due to the somewhat random nature of how stages are composed. I was surprised to see instances of slippery slopes leading to pits, forcing me to quickly react by evaluating my surroundings within split seconds. Before hitting a potentially lethal pit, I would seek an opportunity to wall run to safety, only to find another trap which required me to then rapidly wall jump to another area being patrolled by archers taking shots at me. 

Platforming challenges sneak up on the player after standard bouts of dodging and slicing on flat surfaces and often come in sequences that have a few tricks up their sleeves. This made for an experience that felt far more agile than other fast-paced 2D rogue-lites I’ve played, and I take my hat off to Evil Empire for flexing their kinetic growth on the back of their time with the similarly frenetic Dead Cells. 

This first boss is a tough skill check on your movement fundamentals

While I was able to reach a boss fight in my preview time, it proved too formidable and messed my shit up twice over. I was relieved by this, as I was feeling almost too empowered in my short playtime and was worried the genre’s notable challenge might be lacking. It certainly was not, and the boss’ move set caused lethal spikes to protrude from the arena’s surfaces. I foolishly thought I could just dodge through these, but they come in such quick succession that mastery of chaining dodges, wall runs, and jumps need to be woven effortlessly together to survive. 

But death is not all. Before resetting the player to the start of the Hun invasion, they will visit The Oasis. This is a world-between-worlds that functions as a hub where players can spend some amount of carry-over currency as this area expands with vendors. I didn’t see how the Oasis would function in my time, but I can guess there will be options to improve the boons and loot drops that appear during runs. 

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Thirty minutes is too brief to see what this rogue-lite’s x-factor will be, but it is extremely comforting to see that the basics are this tight. This developer has the potential on display here to subvert player expectations of how this overly crowded genre can innovate. And hey, Early Access has proven a successful platform for growing these experiences. The team can see how players treat their runs and then implement ways to flip the script and keep things fresh. I am now convinced that Ubisoft has made a solid bet with their 2D POP renaissance, absent Sands of Time be damned.

The Rogue Prince of Persia launches on Steam in Early Access on May 14.

Previewed on PC // Preview code supplied by publisher

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Written By Nathan Hennessy


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