Published on January 12th, 2024 | by Nathan Misa
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown PS5 Review
Summary: Fun 2.5D platforming, combo-based combat and clever puzzles wrapped in a highly polished, content-filled package. A must-play adventure.
Barely two weeks into 2024, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown has leapt out of nowhere to take the crown for my (potential) biggest surprise hit of the year.
With so many great video games set to launch in the next 12 months, I feel a little guilty to admit I nearly missed the first game in the Prince of Persia franchise in over a decade – or that I’ve never finished the previous titles.
While I can’t say whether The Lost Crown will live up to long-time fan scrutiny, it has swiftly created a new super-fan in me with its excellent side-scrolling platforming gameplay, deep combat systems, fun puzzles and a wonderfully realised mythological characters and story.
For those unfamiliar, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is not a remake, but a new original game that puts players in the role of Sargon, a warrior of the elite Immortals honoured by the titular Prince for his role in stopping an invasion of Persepolis. However, when the Prince is later kidnapped and taken to the Mountain of Qaf, a cursed place that traps everyone within space and time itself your goal as Sargon is to venture through the ancient city and rescue Prince Ghassan, while piecing together clues on what is happening in Mount Qaf, and why he was kidnapped.
The story of The Lost Crown, as someone who has not played the previous games, balances a serious tone with humorous character moments, and the result is an entertaining adventure greatly elevated by superb presentation and pacing. The game wastes no time in setting up the plot and its players, and delivers consistent surprises with its colourful cast of characters, evocative voice-acting performances and intriguing character beats. Main cutscenes shift away from the 2.5D perspective into up-close and personal, lavishly animated set-pieces that rival bigger-budget titles, while secondary story moments use lively character portraits to inject personality in every interaction, which reminded me of Persona. It helps that our hero Sargon is a proud and honourable Persian fighter with a strong moral compass that is hard not to like, and his fellow Immortals, such as Artaban and Vahram, are seamlessly established as enigmatic bad-asses in their own right.
While the main plot moves briskly with minimal meandering, I appreciated that there is plenty of additional lore about Mount Qaf, its trapped inhabitants and Sargon’s fellow Immortals to engage with via environmental storytelling, hidden collectibles, optional dialogue and item descriptions – for those, like me, who seek it. In fact, the other Immortals wander off into their own intriguing adventures, and you’ll encounter them and other compelling characters, many based on Persian mythology, as you venture forth. There’s even some fun meta-commentary from Artaban on how questionable it is for such an elite unit to split up in such a dangerous place. Of course, we wouldn’t have our adventure then, would we?
Sargon himself is an acrobatic and talented swordsman capable of great platforming feats, which is handy given the escalating level of dangerous enemies and obstacles you face, and The Lost Crown’s 2.5D side-scrolling platformer gameplay proves to be nothing short of excellent, with every dash, slide, wall-jump and leap over endless pits, threatening spikes and deviously concocted traps meticulously animated, intuitive to perform, and satisfying to execute. There are also several enemies in your path, ranging from undead soldiers and Persian assassins to mythological creatures like harpies and manticores, who can be taken down using Sargon’s dual swords, and the game provides an array of combos and parries that allow for flashy, coordinated attack strings and encourage experimentation in combat, with Artaban the Immortal acting as a trainer to help you practice in between exploration.
Sargon also has several unlockable time-based powers that keep things interesting as you progress, such as an instant dash and ability to teleport to a marked point in time. For those who need a hand in the game’s combat or are more story-inclined, you can just hack away or jump over some enemies, should you prefer, using the game’s highly customizable difficulty and accessibility settings, of which there are several.
Sargon’s ‘Athra’ magic energy, meanwhile, can be sparingly used to unleash devastating special attacks and turn the tide of battle, particularly for the many tough-as-nails boss fights with giant beings (serpents, manticores, crabs) and fellow supernatural warriors that are located at the end of most map zones, each with their own considerable health bar and unpredictable move-sets to dodge and conquer. These Athra abilities and parries, when timed perfectly, zoom into the action for a brief moment to show off a adrenaline-pumping animation of Sargon absolutely destroying the enemy.
Speaking of progression, The Lost Crown nails the feeling of wonder and the thrill of discovery with a majestic interconnected world map filled with rewards for thorough exploration. This is a Metroidvania in every sense of the term, with clever puzzles, hidden shortcuts, and hard-to-reach collectibles, made all the more fun to conquer thanks to attention to environmental detail, clever platforming opportunities and stunning, scenic backdrops ranging from majestic palaces to shadowy catacombs to enchanted forests, with my favourites being the Depths and Upper City.
There are many areas where you will have to return once new abilities are unlocked to progress, but the backtracking never feels dull due to Sargon’s fast movement, and the considered availability of limited fast travel statuses. You can also capture memories that save a screenshot of an area and pin them to your map, so you can return to a pesky locked off door or end-game area of the map with a visual aid in mind. And if you’re a fan of having a lot of story to back up your Metroidvania exploration, The Lost Crown offers a decent amount of side-quests in addition to the main story that you can activate by speaking to NPCs, which help fill out the mysterious world and situation.
It’s worth it to explore every nook and cranny in Mount Qaf, because some of the harder-to-reach optional areas contain the best unlockable Athra abilities, additional health bars, cosmetic character skins, upgrade resources, lore collectibles and amulets. The latter is an item category that you can equip to Sargon to unlock new variable benefits based on your gameplay preferences; some amulets allow for an extra health bar or better resistance to poison, while others are more creative, such as one which lets you deal greater damage to enemies at the cost of lower overall health.
You can only equip a certain number of amulets, and some cost more points than others, so it’s a juggling act to find the best combination for your playstyle. Combined with the scattered NPC vendors in the main hub area and secret locations that sell rarer amulets and upgrades for them and your weapons, The Lost Crown integrates light role-playing game (RPG) mechanics quite well.
Visually, I am convinced Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown deserves considerable praise for its sheer level of technical quality and graphical fidelity. Ubisoft announced ahead of its launch that the game would run at native 1080p resolution and 60 fps on last generation (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One) consoles, and at 4K and up to 120 fps on current generation consoles (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S) and PC – and in my review playtime, such boasts are fully justified. On PS5, I found the game’s fast and frantic combat and platforming to be as smooth and responsive as promised, and its comic-book and manga-inspired art-style and colourful depictions of Persian mythology is displayed in all its intended glory, thanks to minimal compromises in resolution or texture quality. It’s magic!
In all seriousness, it’s easy to be cynical these days with so many video games being released unfinished with technical issues or compromises, and (sometimes) fixed later with patches, but The Lost Crown is a welcome and surprising change, being both a considerable looker and technical achievement right out of the gate. It’s rare to review an unpatched version of the game without any major bugs or visual oddities (save for one side-quest with a certain NPC that awkwardly froze between dialogue exchanges) that put a damper on immersion, so Ubisoft Montpellier have outdone themselves here.
The Final Verdict
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is an incredibly fun, well-polished, and must-play action-adventure game with satisfying platforming segments, considered combat systems and an entertaining, mystery-filled story elevated by its content-filled map and use of Metroidvania elements. More importantly, the game is paced very well, has plenty of great puzzles and rewarding unlockables, and looks and plays better than many bigger-budget titles in the market.
While this review comes from the perspective of a new fan to the series, it’s not hard to think of The Lost Crown as a worthy return to the long-running franchise that will hopefully win over new players and long-time fans alike. Highly recommended.
Primary Format – Games – Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One
Game Genre – Action-adventure platforming
Rating – M15+
Game Developer – Ubisoft Montpellier
Game Publisher – Ubisoft