Producer Talks "Prince of Persia"

In 2003, Ubisoft launched a bold new chapter in a beloved franchise when they released "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." While keeping the spirit of the original 1989 platformer, "Sands of Time" featured more dynamic combat and acrobatic gameplay, as well as the ability to control time. The game was well received by both critics and fans, and went on to spawn two successful sequels: "Warrior Within" and "The Two Thrones."

Ubisoft began another chapter in the franchise, as "Prince of Persia" is shipped on this week for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. The game will introduce fans to a new Prince, a new world, and a new partner.

CBR News was able to catch up with Ben Mattes, the game's producer, to discuss the new direction for the franchise as well as get a few tips about "Prince of Persia's" new combat system.

CBR: What is the basic storyline behind the new "Prince of Persia," and how does it relate to previous installments in the series?

Ben Mattes: With Ubisoft's new "Prince of Persia" video game, we are opening a new chapter in the Prince of Persia universe with a new story and a new Prince. Having played the previous episodes isn't necessary to understand the storyline.

Transported to a land of myth and legend, our hero finds himself caught up in an epic battle between the primal forces of light and darkness: the God of Light, Ormazd, versus his brother Ahriman, the God of Darkness. Our hero arrives just in time to witness the destruction of the legendary Tree of Life - an act which threatens to plunge the entire world into eternal darkness. The Prince will have to stop the rise of the ancient destructive God, Ahriman.

This new epic storyline is close to Persian mythology (Zoroastrianism).

Driven by envy and hatred, Ahriman, the god of darkness, spreads darkness in the world, corrupting the hearts of men and unleashing a dark substance which physically contaminates the land and the skies: the Corruption. When Ormazd, the god of light, finally acted to stop his brother, he chose to destroy Ahriman's servants, the Corrupted, one by one. When at last only a few of Ahriman's puppets remained, Ormazd captured them and pulled them into the Tree of Life. With the remaining Corrupted sealed inside the tree, Ahriman found himself tethered to the trap unable to break his connection with his dark servants. Concentrating all his power, Ormazd forced what remained of his brother into the Tree, locking Ahriman inside for all eternity. Ormazd gave care of the Tree of Life to his chosen few, the Ahuras. Now, many years after the war, Ahriman is plotting a way to escape...

Storyline has always been an integral part of all PoP games. With the new "Prince of Persia" video game, we not only have an epic storyline, but we are letting the player choose how the story unfolds within the same story frame.

We can't talk about the new game without mentioning the art style. What was the reason for moving to a more stylized, cel-shaded look?

The new "Prince of Persia" game features a brand new art style never before seen that is very graphical and illustrative. We are lucky enough to have one of the most talented team of concept artists in the industry. Prince of Persia fans have always been very passionate about their work. So this time, we wanted to remain very close to their 2D concept arts, keeping the essence of their artwork in the 3D world. We didn't want to simply use their work as reference but really create exactly what we saw in their work.

Next-gen tools help us create a game which has a unique visual identity without sacrificing art to technology, which is often the case in video games. The Prince of Persia universe is so rich and special that it would be a shame to picture it in a photorealistic way. It calls for fantasy and almost poetry to be true to its Arabian Night origins. We wanted to make the game feel like a storybook and we had a lot of inspirations from many eastern oriental art style.

The Prince has a partner this time around in Elika, and much of the gameplay seems to be team-based. How will Elika compliment the Prince in the combat and puzzle-solving elements of the game?

The Prince is an adventurer with a lot of experience already - he is an acrobatic combat expert. He also found his gauntlet in a previous adventure which gives him lots of potential through moves like the wall-run, gripfall and other cool abilities. Elika, unlike the Prince, unleashes her new and mysterious magical power which is discovered at the beginning of the adventure. She has to learn her new skills by utilizing magical light seeds that gather power and enable her to exchange them as currency to unlock new special moves.

Elika is always a positive for the player. She interacts with the player in combat, acrobatics and puzzle-solving and always in a positive and helpful way. She enables special moves such as cooperative acrobatics, special combo attacks, save-me system and navigation. Additionally, all of her magical powers come into play when the player requests them. She can never be killed and will never force her will on the player.

The relation and the interaction in between both characters will evolve throughout their adventure to heal the world. At first they don't know each other and will somehow learn to work together. The evolution of their relation will be felt within many gameplay elements not only within the narrative but also through the interaction while moving and performing acrobatics in the world. For example in the beginning of the game, Elika will be standing further away from the Prince then towards the end of game, as she gains more confidence in him, she'll stand closer to him.

The on-demand-dialog is a main feature in our game as the player will be able to trigger a button and make the Prince talk to Elika anytime, anywhere in the world. This feature will let the player learn so much more about the diverse story elements and will let them understand more deeply how the relationship between the characters will evolve.

In addition to being more cooperative, how else has the combat system changed from previous Prince of Persia games?

Combat has evolved since the last games as our ambition is to add the reactivity and strategy typically found in fighting games into our new combat system. We have studied numerous fight games and learned what worked and what didn't work, and implemented the most absorbing moments into our gameplay. We want the dramatic attack sequences of the Prince to be complemented by the use of camera, sound and visual effects to create an overall combat sequence whose intensity rivals the most spectacular choreographed fight scenes in cinema. In addition, the enemies you fight will be more cunning then any ever seen in a Prince of Persia game before, strategically using the environment to gain the upper hand, forcing the player to use quick thinking and reflexes to succeed.

Using the Xbox 360 controller as an example, the combat controls look like this:

X: Sword attack

B: Grab attack

A: Acrobatics

Y: Elika

You can start a combo with any of the buttons listed above. Depending of the combination of buttons you choose to press, you can build some combos from 4 hits (X,X,B,X or Y,X,Y,X or X,Y,Y,Y....) to 14+ (that I won't list since there are many different ones!). Also, depending of the input of buttons you do, you will access different stances (normal stance, jump stance, aerial stance etc...). If you press (X,Y,X,B) you will access the lift stance and be able to continue your combo (X,Y,X...). From the lift stance, you can access other stances and push your combo even further.

Some combos are more effective in damage; some will be more effective in pushing back or reaching to hit your enemies to greater distances, etc. For example, Elika's basic attack has a longer reach than the Prince but does less damage. Depending of the enemy you fight and what happens during these fights, you will have to use your combo wisely. You won't be able to just go into every battle by mashing the buttons as there is strategy behind every fight you will encounter.

Try this combo out: X-X-X-Y-B-A-X-X

With all the new features in "Prince of Persia," what if any gameplay elements have you carried over from previous games in the series?

All the classic acrobatic moves like the wall-run, the vines, and cracks on the wall. The puzzles have also the same feeling, making the player use a big environment to solve those using levers, switches and their brain of course.

With players having the ability to tackle areas of the game in any order, how will they experience the narrative in a consistent way?

With the new open-world system, we could really push the acrobatic aspect and find new game play elements to add to the experience. Players will get to choose how they explore the world and how deeply they want to discover all of its parts. There are many possibilities in how the game will unfold depending on the path the player takes. There are many things to see and discover in the game in both corrupted and healed world. The corrupted parts of the world are intense and dangerous to move through as the player needs to make their way through traps, challenges, puzzles and fights. So the exploration is bit more tricky and dangerous in the corrupted state.

Once one of the areas in the world has been healed, the exploration of this area can be pushed to new limits as this is now a secured land since the enemies and all the Corruption has been pushed away. There are now new places in this healed area to explore which were previously blocked and dangerous to access due to the Corruption. There are Light Seeds that will appear in the healed areas. Collecting all the Light Seeds will require skill and exploration as our level designers have spent some time placing them in the world, challenging the player to use all of his abilities to find them. These Light Seeds are required to unlock Elika's special powers to access new regions. The power to unlock will of course be the choice of the player.

The game only has one ending. This ending is going to be something you will remember! Storyline has always been crucial to all PoP games. There were lot of thoughts and efforts to craft this particular story. We want all the players to live that story experience until the end of the game. The player will be able to explore the world in his own way and unfold different parts of the story, like a puzzle. Eventually, you will bring the pieces together. The global picture is the same. The new on-demand dialog feature will also affect a lot how the player lives the story. This feature is accessible anywhere, anytime in the game depending on the player's choice to use it or not and will give access to more story elements that complement the main skeleton of the story. This feature is presented in a way that the Prince and Elika will talk together about related aspects of their present location or action.

The guys from "Penny Arcade" have been putting out a "Prince of Persia" webcomic leading up to the game's release. How does the comic's story tie-in to the game?

The comic is a [prelude] to the game and will explain some of the back-story leading to the present adventure.

With this game establishing a new chapter in the Prince of Persia universe, are there plans for future games with these characters?

There are no official plans to make another Prince of Persia game at the present moment, so we will only see what the future sets out for us.

Our thanks to Ubisoft and Ben Mattes for answering our questions about "Prince of Persia." To find out more about the game and check out the webcomic, head over to http://prince-of-persia.us.ubi.com. Ubisoft also released a new video feature about the game this week, which you can view by clicking on the player below.

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