The Rogue Prince of Persia Early Access Review in Progress
Released May. 31st, 2024

As a traditionally parkour-heavy series with a main character who often has a difficult time dying when it counts, a roguelike Prince of Persia game feels like a concept that was simply waiting for an execution. Pair that intuitive idea with Evil Empire, the developers behind Dead Cells, and you’ve got an ideal coupling for Ubisoft’s second sidescrolling Prince of Persia of 2024. But while The Rogue Prince of Persia has a lot of potential, at this stage in its Early Access life, there doesn’t seem to be quite enough to hang onto for this time loop adventure to really shine yet. I still have more to play before I put a final score on it, but what I’ve seen so far is a skeleton of a roguelite adventure that will entertain for a few hours, but already lacks the variety to motivate me beyond that.

The initial and easiest comparisons that can be made for The Rogue Prince of Persia are to assume it is either The Lost Crown with roguelite elements or Dead Cells with an emphasis on parkour movement, and neither of those descriptions wholly encompasses how it actually plays. Without losing its roguelite roots, this new go-round for the Prince puts more of an emphasis on the titular character’s fighting capabilities across a myriad of weapons. Enemies come in many shapes and forms, with both shielded and unshielded varieties, and require every technique at the Prince’s disposal to get through each fight unscathed. Every charge attack, drop attack, or vault over an enemy helps keep your health bar pristine until an inevitable boss fight.

The combat is so involved that it can end up feeling overwhelming at times. An unlucky fall into a group of enemies can be devastating to your life total, and even a good plan to destroy enemy shields can still fall apart when there are too many grouped up to discern between them. When two or three hits can completely decimate a run, it starts to feel like the platforming takes an unnecessary backseat to the combat.

The story, at the launch of Early Access, is edging on non-existent. The Prince wishes to save his kingdom from invading and seemingly magical Huns, so he takes off toward the castle with a magic bola in tow. The bola keeps returning him back in time to when he first set after the Huns, meaning that the Prince is afforded opportunity after opportunity to free his homeland. It also means he is forever stuck in a loop where he may never truly have enough time to make it there. It’s an intriguing setup that could be a great launching pad for more characters to steal the show, but there’s too little to grab onto currently.

At this point, the supporting cast has no variety and no depth.

A cast of characters supports the Prince along the way, but at this point, they have no variety and no depth. Azadeh, the leader of the village you set out from, only has dialogue that feels vaguely nonsensical at the moment, clearly waiting until she can either be updated or given more lines before they make sense. Other characters move to the Prince’s camp, which protects those individuals from losing their memory while rewinding time, but very little is made of or by this convenient contrivance. There is plenty of time and opportunity to expand all of this in future updates, but it is a bit of a bummer to start the adventure and feel very little motivation to do right by this merry troupe of one-dimensional misfits.

At least The Rogue Prince of Persia is lovely to look at, styled like a Sasanian era painting come to life. Smooth animations and bright colors meld into a satisfying aesthetic, even if things look best while in motion and a little awkward when standing still. The environments not only look pleasant, but read well with necessary immediacy as you sprint and fight, which is important considering not every background surface lets you run on it to your heart’s content. I am somewhat puzzled as to why every character has purple skin, but I assume that is more of a stylistic choice than a malicious one.

At this juncture, there is no voice acting to speak of for any of The Rogue Prince of Persia’s characters, including the Prince himself. This does not feel like a huge loss right now as there is very little story for actors to voice anyway. It doesn’t help the already flat characters feel any less paper-thin, though, and makes it that much easier to run past them without caring what they have to say.

The music is somewhat relaxed and in the background, never really taking focus away. It’s not bad, but it is a bit of a disappointment when held up against other Prince of Persia games. I can understand how anything bombastic might get tiring over repeated playthroughs, but I would still prefer some catchy tracks to go alongside running up walls and vaulting over enemy soldiers..

However, all of the good and bad of specifics like that is largely a wash under the criticism that there is simply not enough at The Rogue Prince of Persia’s Early Access launch to hold my attention very long. It does not take more than a few hours to get strong enough through crafting and leveling up gear – which lets you do stuff like create pools of oil to stymie enemies or slowly poison them with clouds of gas – to surmount the first major boss, and the encounters after that follow suit. I genuinely had a fun time getting through the areas and fights that are currently available, but it’s hard to recommend for anyone who does not care about watching this adventure take shape.

After 10 hours, I feel like I've more or less seen what it has to throw at me.

After about 10 hours, I feel like I have more or less seen what it has to throw at me. I expect the remainder of the Early Access period to introduce new areas, fights, items, and more, which is good because it definitely needs them. I am still pushing to get to the end of what’s here at launch before I give a final verdict, but I can already tell there is not enough variety – among encounters, among environments, among builds – to keep me entertained through the repeated runs this genre is supposed to be defined by.

It will undoubtedly be fascinating to watch The Rogue Prince of Persia fill out as time goes on, as it ultimately needs more than just new content: It needs the kind of variety that makes each run feel truly different. With a slick presentation and a strong combat system, all the right pieces are there for success, so I’m at least optimistic. The Rogue Prince of Persia could have what it takes to one day become the next major roguelite favorite, but it’s a bit far from that goal where it sits now.

-- Source: https://www.ign.com/articles/the-rogue-prince-of-persia-review-early-access