Branching Path: Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a Metroidvania that RPG fans should have their eyes on
Sometimes here at RPG Site we'll find a game that wowed us, impressed us enough - that even if it's not strictly an RPG, we think there's enough there for fans of the genre to keep it on their radar. We've done it in the past for metroidvanias, and Ubisoft's newly-announced crack at the genre in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown instantly became our game of the show at Summer Game Fest after we had the chance to get our hands on with the game for about an hour during this year's festivities.
From the word "go", we had the chance to control the new protagonist Sargon - a young soldier with acrobatic prowess and combat finesse in equal measures. Even at this early stage, Sargon is a dream to control, and the simple act of moving across the sidescrolling environments instantly reminds of the similarly fluid movement from 2021's Metroid Dread; an apt comparison, as the Nintendo Switch version that we had the chance to demo alongside a build of the game on PC was confirmed to be the lead platform, per a Ubisoft representative.
Sargon has access to a jump, a dash that can be held down to hit a sprint or even utilized in the air, a bow, a chakram, and a number of special abilities tied to a meter that will fill up the more that you damage enemies. Combat similarly feels great; animations are snappy, have an appropriate amount of weight to them, and players have the freedom to chain abilities in and out of combos - especially once they can grasp some of the intricacies of using Sargon's temporal ghost to return to a spot he had previously been in.
Visually, the game is artistically stunning - and it especially impressed us in handheld mode on the Switch. It ran at a locked 60FPS with a sharp resolution, and maintained essentially the same visual makeup that the game showcased on PC; while we're sure there are a fair share of technical drawbacks to the Switch version, most players would be hard-pressed to spot them without looking at both versions of the game side-by-side.
Interspersed throughout the environment were a number of platforming challenges that we had to complete with Sargonn to progress through the level, and chaining jumps across gaps, poles, and sliding down and across walls never felt like we were anything less than in full control of his abilities. Level design for the small slice of the game we got to try was excellent, and it was all capped off with an excellent boss fight that taxed Sargon's full suite of abilities - both platforming and combat alike.
For RPG fans, we spotted a number of features that - truthfully - feel like they might have been lifted straight from indie darling Hollow Knight. You can discover and equip accessories that will buff or change specific aspects of your moveset; you might be able to regenerate health after successfully parrying an attack, or turn your bow attacks into a spread of 3 arrows instead of the usual one. You can even extend your melee combo or change the other properties of some of your attacks. What especially stood out was the ability to reduce damage taken from poison; which we found at a shop almost directly outside the boss room at the end of the demo. The boss, of course, can poison you if you aren't careful to avoid some of its most potent attacks.
Between everything else, the ability to upgrade your weapons and the above-mentioned accessories, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown feels like the type of Metroidvania that might especially appeal to RPG fans; and it goes without saying that what we saw greatly impressed us, and if what we managed to play is representative of the rest of the game - we might be looking at the best Metroidvania since Hollow Knight and Metroid Dread when it launches on January 18, 2024 for PlayStation 4, 5, Xbox One, Series X|S, PC and Nintendo Switch. Don't sleep on this one, folks; Ubisoft has something special here.