essay, video games

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten… Story? — Part 3

[My ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ series continues over on Bitmob with Ganondorf. Tomorrow, I will write about another misunderstood Nintendo villain. You might like it.]

As with my other parts of this evergrowing series, I will be spoiling the story, as I understand it, in the game Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. If you do not want it ruined, you probably should not continuing reading. Otherwise, come with me for more italic goodness.

I beat the game a few hours ago. I was not impressed with the story.

I thought I would get that out of the way first. I had created separate story ideas and plans for things that might have been revealed in the other two posts. I thought the Prince might have to kill his brother (or at least agonize over it) and was right. I said I thought that Razia was of the Matrid (water Dijinn) and Ratash of the Ifrit (fire Djinn) and was right about those too — the game mentions two other tribes of Djinn without naming them. My thought about King Solomon using the Djinn as workers was correct. What I got wrong was their motives and how the plot would resolve.

Picking back up from where I left the story in Part 1:

Malik, after confronting Ratash and fighting with him, is thrown out of a window. The Prince then attacks Ratash and, despite being warned not to, engages in combat. Just as the Prince is about to deliver to the coup de grâce, Malik comes jumping back in and stabs Ratash. As the body of Ratash crumbles, Malik absorbs this sand as well before running off again.

It is my assumption that I was supposed to care about Malik both getting thrown out of a window and absorbing Ratash’s energy. However, I did not. I had no context in which to care about Malik (he’d been a jerk so far) and, as I will reveal next, basically becomes the main enemy for the rest of the game. The transition then goes from one large enemy with a sword (Ratash) to another (Ratash + Malik). No real change actually.

The Prince follows Malik for some time but cannot keep up with the speed at which Malik is moving and defeating enemies. The Prince discovers another portal to the Djinn world and goes to tell Razia about what has happened.

She reveals that Malik is most likely dead now, having become another body for Ratash after absorbing his energy. She then tells the Prince to seek out King Solomon’s tomb were a sword that will be able to defeat Ratash is kept. The Prince makes his way there.

It’s worth noting that despite the fact that Malik’s kingdom is pretty vast, it is a straight path from one point to another. I understand that I must suspend my disbelief on this point, but I find it remarkable that the Prince always find a path from point to point across a city without crossing the tops of the buildings. All of them, hallway to hallway and courtyard to courtyard connect to each other, something that very few urban environments have.

The Prince confronts Malik and he transforms into Ratash. They fight. The Prince loses but makes it, in his several story fall, to the entrance of King Solomon’s tomb. Razia meets him within it and gives him the power to recall (bring back) single parts of the buildings so that he can make his way to the sword kept within the tomb.

As the Prince makes his way deeper into the tomb, Razia mets him in each new area and reveals the history of the place. The Djinn Palace was once a glorious part of the greater city that was was built with teamwork from both the Djinn and King Solomon. Ratash did not like this though and gave over his power to the sands of the desert to raise an army to fight King Solomon, something profane for the Djinn to do.

This is, of course, a very weak motive for Ratash. He “did not like them working together”? Seriously? Make it about slavery! Make it about love or racial problems being healed! Having Ratash take an action that is profane for his kind means that his revolve on this issue was very strong, something more than just “he didn’t like it.”

It also seems very odd that Ratash giving his power away is “profane” yet Razia gives power to the Prince in two places so far, both times making him more powerful than normal mortals. Is the difference just a matter of time? Her powers are temporarily given while his action was permanent?

As part of the description of the place, Razia mentions that she is keeping the water pure and flowing in the Djinn part of the city. That, in turn, has kept the greater city alive in the desert for hundreds of years after Solomon’s death.

Finally, the Prince finds the sword he has been seeking also another portal to the Djinn world to talk to Razia. While there, Razia gives over all her power to the sword. The Prince sets out to find and defeat Ratash for the last time.

Here is another part that is confusing. Razia is there when the Prince finds the sword in the real world, yet she disappears again after. The Prince must then fight his way out alone and find yet another portal to the Djinn world. (The number of portals, by this point, is pretty ridiculous. Honestly, if I was Ratash, the first thing I would do would be to cut off communication between the worlds. I would have at a minimum put soldiers around them as guards too.)

Remember when I said that giving over your power was “profane” and a bad thing to do? Razia just did it. Although… I will accept the reason being that, as she says, one Djinn’s power is needed to stop another. She has to give her life in order to end Ratash’s attacks. (If giving power is profane, how bad is murder then? The solution last time was to lock him up. Was that not an option again? Is it just because no other Djinn are around now?)

The platforming immediately after this scene gets very hard and I was yelling quite a bit as I was making my way slowly through it. Since a Djinn-possessed sword pretty much kills all enemies with one blow — their attacks are frequent and numbers, well, numerous from this point on too — it is almost as if the game took the difficulty that was part of the fighting and grafted it into the platforming. Each battle is very easy and all timing parts are hard.

The Prince, after much climbing and battle, comes face to giant face with Ratash again. They fight. The Prince wins.

Once Ratash is killed, all platforms, which were moments ago floating high in the air, are put down — presumably gently — and all previous people who were turned to sand transform back to human. The Prince rushes over to Malik to see that his brother is indeed safe now.

They apologize to each other. The Prince sets out to return home.

While I thought the platforming right before the final aspect of the battle was interesting — jumping from item to item in a storm, each element showing up only moments before the Prince moves to it — the actual battle wasn’t much more than standard fair. It might have been just because I had the game on the ‘Easy’ difficulty, but I found it very simple. By far, the hardest boss in a Prince of Persia game is the end boss of The Two Thrones. That one still haunts me — and I beat it on ‘Hard’ too!

Malik lives. Yay? I don’t know. I still don’t understand his role in the game. It would have made just as much sense for Ratash to escape from other means, like the actions of the Prince himself. Of course, then that would have been a copy of the last game. Still, I don’t understand or even care for the character of Malik. He doesn’t really learn a lesson and the consequences of his actions get mostly erased — the people come back but the buildings stay ruined where Ratash broke them.

By far, the most interesting but ignored part of the story’s ending is that, now that Razia is dead too,  the water will probably stop flowing to the city. Wouldn’t this mean that the city is now doomed to dry out over time? Sure, getting rid of Ratash was a good idea, but now there is no water! I would have made a greater deal of that than just leaving my brother to his kingdom, returning the sword (thus resetting the Prince’s powers) and making my way home.

The post-credits montage points out that the Prince is on his way home with his donkey. Presumably, this is so that he can be part of the story of Warrior Within. Yet, he is not beaten down by the Dahaka chasing him and leaves Malik in a hopeful if not generally happy mood. It would seem better to fit in with Prince of Persia, the previous game’s beginning.

It would seem that the story in The Forgotten Sands is, well, forgettable.