essay, video games

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE FORGOTTEN… STORY? — PART 2

[I rarely use this space anymore but thought I would mention that I will be trying to put out a post both here and over on Bitmob everyday this week. My first post went up just a few minutes ago.]

In yesterday’s post, I used italics a great deal to explain what I thought was happening and not just what the game was telling me in The Forgotten Sands. I was supplying some notes from the research I had done to try to flesh out a story that I have found so far, if you will excuse the pun, forgettable. I thought I would continue this trend but now, instead of talking about the game as it stands, I want to suggest some changes that I think would improve it.

Cain and Able

One of the things I enjoyed at first but quickly grew to hate about Warrior Within was the burden that the Prince carried in that game. After the events of Sands of Time, the Prince had begun to be chased by The Dahaka, a beast who is trying to cleanse the timeline of anomalies. Having used the Time Dagger as part of the story of Sands of Time the Prince is left with the knowledge of an alternative timeline and the fate, as Warrior Within explains, as the catalyst if not the very the person to murder Kaileena, the source of the sands. After being hunted and with this knowledge of a future act of murder, the Prince has transformed from the reluctant hero in Sands to the angry and ragged hero of Warrior Within. I want some of that again.

What if, instead of Malik releasing the “forgotten sands”, the Prince did it? What if the Prince killed his brother in the act?

I’ve gotten tired of big existential problems in games like saving the world or the galaxy. What if it was much simpler and, in the case of The Forgotten Sands, the Prince must save just his own soul? What if, in the fight over to unleash the sands or not, the Prince kills his brother in an accident or just witnesses his murder? That crime, if perpetrated by the Prince, could be the event that triggers the sands in the first place. An act of evil unlocking more evil is a common enough trope.

The Two Thrones played some with this idea with having two versions of The Prince, the good side and the evil side given voice by touching the sands without the protection of the dagger. The Prince, through the space of the story, is trying to erase the murder of Kaileena at the very beginning of the game. Get rid of the anx of Warrior Within and anger of Two Thrones though and bring on the pathos.

When the family connection between Malik and the Prince was revealed, I wanted them to fight over using the sands. Having played it hours after that first introduction and seeing them yell at each other at each subsequent meeting, I thought it would be more powerful if the Prince used the power to rewind time, one of the pillars of the whole franchise, to erase some great sin, the death of his brother. I feel the game might be leading me that way, that the Prince may have to kill his brother in some final confrontation, but I have no context for their relationship other than them being brothers that might leave me with some remorse over the loss of the idiot who thought he could control an unstoppable army.

Prince of Primogeniture

Perhaps it has always been the fact that the main character of the Prince of Persia series goes by his title and not name that I assumed he was an only child. That’s the case in Sands of Time (and thus the whole trilogy) but probably not in Prince of Persia. (He tells Elika that his family is dead, and thus no longer matters to him.) Still, I assumed that having the title “Prince” meant that he was the one to get the throne next, that he was the next king in line.

It would make sense then that I was initially confused to learn he has an older brother in The Forgotten Sands. (The movie spin-off also has the Prince with brothers, step-brothers, which gives the story more ethos, supposedly, since he must then prove his worth to his family.) It would mean something very different for the main character of THE Prince to be a second or even third son.

In most cultures, especially during the time periods these games are to take place, the next king would be the oldest son. He was the one given over to ruling the family after the patriarch’s death. He was the one given the greatest inheritance. It would make sense then that Malik would have his own kingdom and guardianship of King Solomon’s tomb. Both are great honors and Malik, as oldest, would get them.

For the Prince to then come to his brother for both wisdom and most likely sanctuary would make sense on one level. The Prince, lacking even a name, is most likely seeking asylum with his brother having no honor or inheritance of his own. In which case, the story could bring up this animosity between the two. The younger son, the Prince, has little while his older brother has everything. Yet, this is not the case. The main problem the Prince seems to have with how Malik acts is in respect to his cold leadership and his disregard for his people, something both praised and wanted in totalitarian rulers of kingdoms.

Power bad

Something every one of the games in the Sands trilogy touched on was that having control over the sands of time inevitably leads you to make mistakes and devalue life. Once you had the seemingly infinite power to change the course of history, literally, then you could become as strong as you wanted. The Vizier from Sands and then again in Two Thrones seeks out the sands to take over the world. In both cases, the power transforms him, mutates both his mind in the first case and body in the second. Even Kaileena, the very source of the sands, does not value the life of her subordinates or even the Prince himself at first. Why doesn’t the axiom of power corrupting apply to the hero?

Something I pointed out in that first post was that the game was telling the Prince that absorbing the power of the army was a bad thing, but was telling me, via the Uplay points, that upgrades (the result of killing the army) was a good thing. Pick the former. It would make the game more interesting.

What if you had to choose between making the game easier for the player but story harder for the character? BioShock tried it. Whether it achieved that goal is debatable, but it definitely had the elements there. Choosing to kill Little Sisters, and harvesting their Adam, gave the player more power but left the character of Jack as more of a monster. What if the player had to make that choice for the Prince? Absorbing the power from the sands would make the game easier, more life and energy, yet make the Prince more and more evil.

I am doubtful that The Forgotten Sands has multiple endings, but it would be interesting for the Prince, once he had reached a threshold of absorbing power, to take over Malik’s kingdom by force. Ignoring that the game is leading me to consider the Prince good, what if all the control over the elements that Razia gives him hurts, mutates or even kills him? The case could be made that mortals are not supposed to have such power. What effect is it having on the Prince?

Meh

I’m not even convinced that Prince of Persia games actually need a story. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be trying to patch in ideas and research to make sense of character motivations and plot events in The Forgotten Sands. If the developers stopped peddling half-baked pathos and just settled for platforming, I think I might be happier. Of course, I’d probably complain about the even greater lack of story then too.