New Prince of Persia goes open-world

Late last month, Ubisoft finally officially announced Prince of Persia for the current generation, and Edge magazine was said to have the juicy scoop in an upcoming issue. That issue has now arrived, and the first details are here.

As it was already known, the game is being worked on at Ubisoft Montreal, the same studio that created the Sands of Time trilogy (The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, The Two Thrones). While people are being brought in from other projects, the core team working on the new game has remained the same as it was with the trilogy, meaning the game is in experienced and very capable hands.

Prince of Persia is powered by Anvil, the same game engine used in Assassin’s Creed, however, the two games look quite a bit different. While Assassin’s Creed went for the realistic look, the visual style in POP is inspired by Japanese movies like Princess Mononoke, and games like Okami, and the new Street Fighter. “Fantasy, but credible,” as the game’s visual art director Mickael Labat puts it.

When it comes to any relations to the previous games, producer Ben Mattes doesn’t leave any room for speculation: “The Sands of Time are dead and gone,” saying that the new game is a new chapter with its own story, proved by the fact that the player won’t start off as a prince this time around, but instead as a drifter and adventurer, lost in the desert. “We’re starting afresh, in the same universe, and we wanted to bring something new while keeping what worked before,” creative director Jean-Christophe Guyot explains, “He’ll be confronted by a lot of fantasy settings.”

The game will throw the player into a conflict between two gods; the god of light, Ormazd, and his brother Ahriman, the god of darkness. And whenever the gods have a score to settle, it is of course the world of the mortals where any battles must take place. Ahriman has released an infection that is basically holding the world in an ever-intensifying choke grip, and it’s up to the good prince to save the day.

And how he goes about it is up to the player — the new POP is going to be (more of) an open-world game. While the game world won’t be free-roaming, Mattes says it will be “truly non-linear” and will allow the player to progress through the game in preferred order: “We really wanted to create a POP experience where the player has a much greater authorship over their global experience, so that it wasn’t a completely linear game where they played through it once, and that was it. At the same time, we recognized you will never get the POP experience we want — those long strings of choreographed acrobatics — from a true sandbox. We adopted an open-world structure where the player has the macro-level choice in how it unfolds, how the story unfolds, in terms of which regions to visit and which times, and which bosses they fight and when.”

Speaking of fighting, don’t expect the combat system to be anything like what we saw in Assassin’s Creed. The player will go against only one bad guy at a time – every fight in the game will be a duel. “Combat is a game in and of itself,” Mattes says, “We really want to play off the strategic advantages of the environments.”

“Every fight in the game should feel like a boss fight. The feeling of being against a very difficult adversary who’s every bit the swordsman as you are, and you have to use all your strategy and skill just to get past him; maybe you don’t kill him, just drive him off. That’ll happen often — you’ll drive an enemy away, then they’ll stalk you to return and fight again.”

It certainly sounds like the current generation incarnation of Prince of Persia will be considerably different from what we’ve seen in the previous games, all graphics-, story-, and gameplay-wise.

Ubisoft is also keeping a big secret under wraps for now, something that will apparently be fundamental to everything in the game — the puzzles, the fighting and the acrobatics. Let’s just hope it won’t be as ‘big’ as Assassin’s Creed‘s sci-fi ‘twist’.

Prince of Persia will be released for the PS3, 360 and PC, along with a “complementary” DS version which is “not a sequel, not a prequel and certainly not a port,” later this year.