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The Rogue Prince of Persia

The Rogue Prince of Persia: A Solid Foundation for a Princely Parkour Platformer

If I had a nickel for every Prince of Persia game that released in the first half of 2024, I'd have two nickels, which isn't a lot, but it's strange it happened twice.

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After a delay to avoid the behemoth roguelike that is Hades II, The Rogue Prince of Persia has finally made his debut in Early Access. Promising plenty of the fast-paced parkour and combat we'd expect with a Prince of Persia title, Evil Empire has presented a solid foundation that still needs work in some places.

As you can probably guess from the title, we are the rogue prince of Persia, who went off to fight the Hun king after his army showed up on the Persian border. Safe to say, that didn't go so well for us, and after recovering in an oasis for a few days, we set off to track down the Huns and take them out before they can wreak too much havoc on our home. Going behind enemy lines, we'll have to hop, skip, jump, and wall climb over all sorts of obstacles as well as stick plenty of enemies with the pointy end of our daggers. If we fail, that's no obstacle, as our Bola returns us to the oasis to recover.

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After a very quick tutorial, you're free to do as you please in the game's first biome, where I was immediately charmed by the striking visuals and thumping soundtrack. Each of the biomes that you run through are full of character and feel truly distinct from one another, even if in principle your goal is the same in all of them. Run to the other end without dying. The animations are fluid and alive, without sacrificing the somewhat cartoonish style of the overall look.

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Apart from the soundtrack and the sound effects of your character getting hit and striking back, there's not much else to listen to in The Rogue Prince of Persia, and so it helps that the music in the game is very, very good. The twangs of an instrument I'm not going to try and guess the name of that come in just before the drop as you dash through Zagros Village make me feel like I want to start wall-running, even though I would very likely break my legs.

The Rogue Prince of Persia

Speaking of parkour, as you'd hope in The Rogue Prince of Persia it works very well. It's fluid, responsive, and makes you feel like a superhuman athlete as you clamber up a pole to run along a wall before taking a leap of faith to avoid a pit of spikes below. If you really want to put your parkour skills to the test, there are Traversal Rooms, each with their own unique challenges and rewards for you to grab once you've completed them. Unlike many other roguelikes, your path is not a straight line, nor does it place the focus on you killing everything you see. You'll come across various Wells of Dreams in each area, which can be fast-travelled to if you want to go back to a certain point in a biome. Say if you built up enough money to return to the shop and buy a new weapon or medallion, for example, you can just step into the well and come out on the other side.

Combat is quick and fun, if a little basic. You have access to various weapons that each have their own limited combos, as well as a secondary ranged tool alongside a kick that can stun enemies if they hit an obstacle or one of their comrades. The enemy variety is decent in terms of their looks but most of them do the same if not similar things. Either a wind-up melee attack or a ranged one, which can be (mostly) dodged with a vault. I say mostly because the vault isn't always a sure-fire way to get out of danger, and there are times where I was caught with an attack while behind an enemy, or in the middle of a vault.

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The Rogue Prince of Persia

This leads me to my major problem with The Rogue Prince of Persia, which is inconsistency. The foundations for this game are very good, which leads me to believe this is just an Early Access problem, but it's one that needs addressing all the same. If we look at combat, for example, and the fact that a vault is your only proper defensive tool, even though it can be caught out, it has me longing for something that can effectively get me out of a bad situation. Now, the initial reaction might just be to jump and parkour away, but it seems that the parkour and combat don't mix too well, especially in a stressful situation. That old Assassin's Creed error is back, where you find yourself clinging to a ledge or running up a wall into danger instead of away from it.

This problem becomes further pronounced as enemies hit you really hard. You can only take a few hits before you're either dead or drinking the one healing potion you get in a biome. Of course, the greater your confidence and skill grows the less this will become a problem, but it does feel like combat is lacking that one extra defensive mechanic to give you something else besides desperate vaulting.

The Rogue Prince of Persia

The biggest point of contention here, at least for me, is the lack of persistent progress you make. In Hades, once you return to your hub, you can spend all your resources on getting permanent upgrades for your character, weapons, and more. In The Rogue Prince of Persia, you do get to spend the Spirit Glimmers you bank from fallen foes at the oasis, unlocking weapons and medallions, but you can't then equip them to start your run with them. You're only buying the chance to run into them. I spent multiple runs saving up enough Glimmers to buy a medallion that would supposedly stop me from dying once, but I have not encountered it since. It's the same with weapons. I like the double daggers, but perhaps I'd like to start with the sword or tabard for once.

You will likely swap out your weapons on a run, which is fine because they don't really change the playstyle that much, but I'd like to highlight likely as the key word here, as you're not guaranteed to find upgraded weapons. This means I've faced bosses with the wimpy level one daggers despite exploring much of a given area and opening equipment chests.

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Unlike Hades II, which is the freshest example I can come up with, you also don't necessarily feel very strong with each run you do. You can get some decent upgrades along the way, like creating a poison cloud whenever you kick enemies into one another, but there was nothing which made me think the game would be broken if I could have equipped it in the starting loadout.

Apart from that large section of whinging, though, The Rogue Prince of Persia is a fun time. It's worth noting that this feels very much like an Early Access version of a game, though, an unfinished product much more so than the other big roguelike that launched this month. Nevertheless, it's a good foundation, and I hope that with time and community help it can be polished into an overall experience that's as great as the look and sound.

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