True to its name, Prince of Persia: Epilogue picks up where Prince of Persia left off, *spoilers* with the Prince and Elika on the run from the recently unleashed Ahriman. However, Ahriman is yet to reach his full power, so the Prince and Elika are able to escape and take refuge in the Underground Palace. Epilogue tasks you with working your way through the vast Underground Palace in order to reach the other side of the Palace and escape from Ahriman *spoilers end*. Available from XBLA for 800 MS Points, Epilogue comes with a pretty hefty price tag, so is it worth it? Short answer: no. For the long answer, read on...
Prince of Persia received generally positive reviews when it was released late last year (check out our review of Prince of Persia here). However, despite the generally positive reception it also received a fair amount of criticism. Perhaps one of the most common criticisms was that it wasn’t challenging enough, particularly when compared to previous outings. Presumably as a result of that particular criticism, Ubisoft have sought to mix up the game a bit with Epilogue to provide a greater level of challenge. And whilst they have been somewhat (but not wholly or convincingly) successful in achieving that aim, that success has come at a cost, and that cost is the removal of most of what made Prince of Persia a solid (and beautiful) game in the first place.
When it comes to gameplay there are a couple of minor changes. First of all, Elika now has a new power which temporarily rebuilds destroyed walls, allowing you to run across them. It’s more a cosmetic change than a gameplay one, because running across a powered wall is completely identical to running across a real one, it just looks different. There’s also a new combat move – a sprint attack which allows the Prince to charge at his opponent when he is at full health. This has the potential to drop your opponent to his knees for a few brief seconds. It doesn’t add much to combat at all – I rarely used it during my time with the Epilogue – and means that the combat is largely the same as it was in the main game. You fight the familiar corrupted grunts, Elika’s father returns for a few more semi-boss battles, and a ‘new’ enemy is introduced – the Shapeshifter – which rather pathetically amounts to nothing more than a boss that alternates between the Hunter and the Warrior. The developers even attempt to justify their laziness with the Shapeshifter as Ahriman being too weak to conjure up unique corrupted life-forms. Yeah, sure...
The platforming controls and movements are the same as in Prince of Persia, although the difficulty has been ramped up a bit (although it’s still not difficult, it’s certainly more challenging). Unfortunately the way in which this is achieved is perhaps not the way most critics envisaged when they asked for more difficult platforming. What we get with Epilogue is a black goo ball fest, except this time instead of being able to solely focus on clearing the first set of goo balls and then platforming smoothly on from there, now you can no longer rely on this being the case. It’s now quite common to successfully negotiate the first set of goo balls, only to find that the next set of goo balls engulf you. You now have to look ahead a good few steps in the platforming sequence when timing your jump. Warning - if you didn’t enjoy the goo balls the first time round then Epilogue probably isn’t for you because they’re the focus of most of the platforming puzzles.
However, in making the platforming more challenging (arguably in a pretty cheap way), Ubisoft have also removed a lot of the appeal of the main game. Whereas in Prince of Persia the world was wide open and you were free to platform from region to region at your own leisure, in Epilogue the world is wholly linear and there is almost no exploration. In Prince of Persia the platforming was pretty easy, granted, but it was also very free-flowing and fluid, allowing you to piece together a massive string of exhilarating moves. Now, in Epilogue, the excessive reliance on black goo balls breaks up a lot of the fluidity that was so appealing in the main game and replaces it with long segments where you’re basically negotiating the corruption and dabbling in frustrating trial and error.
You may have noticed from my description of the gameplay, and from these screenshots, that Epilogue is very dark and corruption-focussed. None of the areas in these screenshots take place on healed land, and that’s because there is no healed land in Epilogue. When VGChartz reviewed Prince of Persia we were glowing about the art style and beautiful watercolour vistas to be found in the game. But these beautiful and colourful vistas were your reward for healing the land. You don’t heal land in Epilogue, therefore the vibrant colour scheme is gone and the grand vistas are nowhere to be found. Instead what you get is a corrupted underground world, dominated by dark brooding colours and oppressive corridors. It’s such a disappointment that one of the best graphical features of the main game has been completely removed, replaced instead by some of the very worst parts of the main game.
The voice acting is as strong as it was in the main game, *spoilers* although Elika remains fundamentally pissed off with the Prince throughout the Epilogue because of his actions at the end of the main game, so they don’t have much to say to each other. The ending is also a bit disappointing, as it almost mirrors the ending of the main game, so the whole Epilogue is left feeling slightly redundant *spoilers end*.
For your 800 MS Points investment you get about two hours worth of gameplay, an extra batch of achievements, and two bonus prototype costumes. Other than for the achievements, there is no incentive to replay Epilogue; in fact I would much rather enjoy the beautiful sights of the main game whilst collecting light seeds instead. You’re essentially paying 800 MS Points for two hours of additional content set in a dull and dank corruption-infested dungeon, dominated by sometimes frustrating goo ball platforming segments that are broken up by the usual combat sections. So unless those were the parts of the main game you enjoyed the most then I would definitely not recommend Epilogue – treat yourself to an XBLA game instead.