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Prince of Persia The Lost Crown casts off the prince for a superhero

Our Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview finds the spirit of Jordan Mechner’s 2D platformer alive and well in this modern Metroidvania.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview: Sargon slays Jahandar, the fearsome manticore that serves as the first major boss in the platform game.

It’s fair to say that Prince of Persia has had its fair share of identity crises over the years, as Ubisoft continuously attempts to reboot the series until it sticks the landing. While the Sands of Time Remake hits a vaguely “important internal milestone” over at Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Montpellier prepares to debut the first new entry in the series after 13 years. Prince of Persia The Lost Crown is a 2.5D Metroidvania that harks back to the series’ roots. It’s also the first time in the series that we don’t assume the role of the titular prince.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview: The Immortals gather around a fallen soldier as they enter Mount Qaf for the first time.

Sargon is a decorated hero, but he’s no prince – at least, not yet. Instead, our young protagonist assumes the title of ‘The Rashabar,’ one of seven Immortals that could easily star in their spinoff show. This eclectic band of would-be superheroes serves as Persia’s frontline defense against the Kushan forces, capable of cutting through whole armies with ease. In a delightful twist, the actual prince that appears in Prince of Persia The Lost Crown assumes the role of the damsel in distress in earlier entries of the platform game series, and it’s up to Sargon and company to save him.

The Prince of Persia experience is generally a lone-wolf affair – discounting the occasional alliance with a beautiful woman, of course – and it would be very easy for this supporting cast of characters to slip into superfluity. However, I find myself quickly endeared by their bold personalities, and while I still spend the bulk of my exploration alone, I delight in their occasional appearance during heated battles or at key locations. They also afford Sargon an actual personality; while he remains as soft-spoken and polite as our Persian prince of yore, Sargon’s relationships with the likes of Anahita and Vahram speak to his youthful naivete, and his one-liners are themselves cocky without being overbearing. All this to say: I like Sargon. I think I might like him more than the prince himself.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview: Sargon parkours his way up an enormous ornate statue in Mount Qaf.

The Immortals’ pursuit of Prince Ghassan’s kidnappers takes me to Mount Qaf: a mythical location in Arabic tradition that separates the physical world from the spiritual. The Lost Crown is by no means a faithful adaptation of any part of Persian history; instead, it’s a fantastical reinterpretation that affords chance encounters with mythological beasts and divine gods. Mount Qaf’s numerous environments are all rich with detail and visually distinct, from the crumbling vistas of the Old Royal Road to the dank and pestilent tunnels of The Depths, and it’s a joy to strike out into that great unknown.

Sargon is as agile as his princely predecessors, able to run, slide, and of course, parkour his way around the map, avoiding the spike walls, swinging axes, and spinning blades that attempt to cut my progress short. My copious exploration is rewarded with optional side quests and bosses that I’m free to tackle at my leisure. I help a lost deserter locate his fellow soldier in the Hyrcanian Forest, then take a wrong turn in the Sacred Archives and catch a premature death at the hands of, er, an evil Sargon? These secret quests and incidental confrontations are the bread-and-butter of Metroidvanias, and while I’m restricted by the time limit of my preview slot, I often give in to the urge to disregard my main objective in favor of seeing them to their conclusion.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview: Sargon surveys an environmental puzzle comprised of poles, cogs, and other elements that can be manipulated during traversal.

In typical Metroidvania fashion, I encounter my fair share of dead ends and inaccessible platforms, and while I’m free to fill my map with nondescript pins to mark their locations, I can also expend a Memory Shard to attach a screenshot. This feature is a godsend if you struggle with map memorization to any degree, allowing me to backtrack with purpose once I gain the requisite traversal abilities. Environmental navigational is also present, as gusts of golden wind shepherd me to nearby checkpoints that I’d overwise miss. It’s a feature I appreciated in Ghost of Tsushima, and I appreciate it here in The Lost Crown, where an overextension of exploration can lead to a hefty backtrack upon death.

Mount Qaf is also replete with environmental puzzles that should be old hat to anyone even slightly versed in platformers. I manipulate switches and water spouts to open doors and hit bell timers with my sword to activate platforms, and it’s comforting in its familiarity. However, I do get a brief taste of complexity during my ascension through the Citadel, which requires me to manipulate an enormous mechanical contraption. The sheer number of moving parts forces me to utilize all the platforming skills I’ve mastered so far, and while it still doesn’t give me much pause, it’s still satisfying once I finally reach the Upper City’s ramparts.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview: Sargon twirls up above an enemy's head and strikes out with his sword in an extended parry sequence.

Of course, to reach these high heights necessitates copious victories against all manner of creatures, from the shambling undead to supernatural beasties. Sargon’s primary weapons are his twin swords, Qays and Layla, and their effectiveness in close quarters encourages a hack-and-slash approach. I punctuate the flow of combat with Sargon’s responsive parry; successfully landing it triggers a seamless transition into a flashy cinematic sequence that’s well worth the effort. However, if you’d rather not trouble yourself with parry timings, don’t despair. The Lost Crown is not a soulslike game, and there are plenty of multi-combo techniques to fall back on instead. I’m particularly partial to an upward sweep that tosses smaller enemies into the air, as well as a charged forward thrust with devastating reach.

Sargon can also harness Athra, the spiritual energy that resides within him, to unleash abilities that can turn the tide of battle back in my favor. The default Athra Surge is Verethragna’s Smite, a powerful finisher that propels Sargon forward in a burst of blue flame, which I quickly discover is indispensable against bosses. Later, I unlock Bahman’s Breath, which generates a healing zone that’s a literal lifesaver once my potions are expended. Naturally, an Athra Surge requires Sargon to expend a burst of energy, represented by a gauge that’s replenished by landing regular attacks. It’s tempting to keep Athra on the backburner ‘just in case,’ but calling upon it liberally makes for an undeniably cool combat experience.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview: Sargon charges at a foe using an Athra Surge ability.

Sargon’s abilities aside, it certainly helps that there’s plenty of enemy variety in The Lost Crown that forces me to switch up my approach. While the likes of spearmen and shieldmen are par for the course in action-adventure games, later enemies come with more complex movesets that keep me on my toes. I’m particularly enamored with the blind prison guards in the Sacred Archives, who chase me down as soon as I’m within earshot and transport me to a locked prison cell in another section of the map.

Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview: Sargon dodges around a poison pool as Jahandar the manticore boss unleashes poison darts and a purple orb.

These minor skirmishes pale in comparison to some of the colossal bosses I face off against during The Lost Crown’s opening hours. A cinematic showdown against Jahandar, an imposing manticore with a whip-fast scorpion tail and a bad temper, is the standout encounter, and I’m surprised to find it takes me a few attempts to slay the beast. Instead of mindlessly hacking and slashing away, I’m encouraged to remain reactive to Jahandar’s relentless barrage of poison darts, floating orbs, copious plunging attacks, and more. Overcoming this fearsome foe is a strikingly cinematic affair, punctuated by dynamic cutscenes that deftly raise the stakes without disrupting the flow of the fight, and I can’t deny the rush I get once Sargon cuts it to ribbons in one final flourish.

As my Prince of Persia The Lost Crown preview comes to a close with a cliffhanger cutscene tinged with blood and betrayal, I come to a sudden realization: for the first time in over a decade, I’m excited for the future of Prince of Persia. The Lost Crown hasn’t broken new ground as far as Metroidvanias go, but it’s certainly a welcome breath of fresh air as far as the series is concerned.

Prince of Persa The Lost Crown preview: Sargon surveys an esoteric temple, its walls carved with hieroglyphs.

My one lingering disappointment lies in Ubisoft Montpellier’s preference to cherrypick notable names in Persian history and disperse them through The Lost Crown’s story, rather than make an honest bid for historical accuracy alongside the mythology. Perhaps I’m asking for too much, but I’d have liked to see the Prince of Persia series take the time to explore Persian history as much as its prince. That said, a merry band of Super Saiyans never repelled the Kushan Empire at any point in history, so I suppose I should just let that go.

If the Prince of Persia The Lost Crown release date is a firm fixture on your calendar, be sure to check out Ubisoft Forward’s Prince of Persia The Lost Crown gameplay deep dive, which showcases the time powers available beyond our preview. We’ve also got a Prince of Persia Sands of Time Remake progress update courtesy of Ubisoft. Finally, check out more upcoming PC games to pick up once you close the book on this latest chapter in the Prince of Persia series.