Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown Preview - A taste of narrative in this upcoming action platformer

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown doesn’t have long until it hits the shelves, and the action side-scroller continues to impress with its gameplay in the coming months before release. RPG Site already previewed The Lost Crown game at Summer Games Fest earlier this year, but Ubisoft invited us back again for one last look at the game before launch. 

In my hands-on with the game, I experienced the same praiseworthy action that James focused on in his preview. However, I also wanted to focus on the effort the team put into the storytelling, even without the wordiness of a typical role-playing game. We already talked about what Prince of Persia offers as an action game with RPG elements, but here’s what it offers in terms of its story-building.

As a newcomer to the series, I didn’t know much about Prince of Persia first-hand before looking further into the franchise. While most “Prince of Persia” titles have you play as the titular prince, The Lost Crown departs from that tradition as you instead take control of Sargon, a soldier from an elite Persian force called The Immortals. Prince Ghassan, the newest prince of Persia, still acts as a driving force in the plot, though. The Queen orders Sargon and the Immortals to rescue the prince after his kidnapping in the opening chapter, leading to their entrapment in the cursed Mount Qaf.

The story starts on a battlefield, where you quickly put your abilities to the test. Sargon moves like a well-oiled machine. He’s a fast, fluid fighter who wields an arsenal of weapons and abilities that you pick up throughout your traversal of Mount Qaf. Timing determines the difference between landing a counterattack and losing a chunk of your health bar. Dodge roll, jump, parry, and slash your way through the tutorial boss and to a short night of glory before the real deal. However, action is only part of the novelty.

Ubisoft weaves the story into the different sections of Mount Qaf for you to discover. A curse has corrupted the flow of time in the area. One Immortal might feel as if he’s been in there for days, while Sargon only remembers entering the maze a couple of hours ago. Sargon gains intel from fellow Immortals and meets mysterious NPCs like the Magi Emporium, focused on his mission of retrieving the kidnapped prince. His interactions make it so that there isn’t much of a wait between tidbits of the story, one area building off another with new information as the player progresses. Sure, you might need to slash your way through a couple of undead soldiers, but a talking head might be waiting for you in the next room. 

There are smaller stories woven into the environment with side quests and interactable objects, too. Etched into the stone relics near the first boss, I read a story about the manticore Jahandar and how it was subdued by King Darius. These relics warned players of the boss’ poisonous barbs. It’s a small hint at the kind of combat to expect, even if you dive in blind like me and find out about the poison firsthand. Said story also included some context about the curse affecting Mount Qaf, though there’s plenty more about the mystery to still be discovered. 

That’s not all. Following that encounter was a mythical library filled with crazed alchemists, complaining about crowding issues and prison guards. Paradoxes arise. How can you wield your friend Menolias’ bow while he’s using it, roaming Mount Qaf himself? A moon-obsessed researcher pops out from behind a bookshelf, asking you to help him with some kind of side quest. Mind you, this is only the first three hours of the game from a Prince of Persia novice’s hands.

In short, this latest installment of the Prince of Persia appealed to me as an RPG fan with its unique storytelling technique. However, if you want to know the story for yourself, you’ll have to endure the unforgiving platforming and boss battles to get to the meat of it. I died a lot. You can read more about the action and Metroidvania-like inspiration in our Summer Games Fest preview

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown launches on January 18, 2024, for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.