Prince of Persia: Warrior Within – Excellent sequel, needles makeover

By NICK McCOY

Tiger Media Network

A while back, I talked about “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” a 2003 action-adventure title which, by all accounts, I consider a near masterpiece and an amazing title in the genre. From its entertaining story, memorable protagonist, and phenomenal gameplay, it is a game that truly stands the test of time. 


With the success of “The Sands of Time” and the revival of the “Prince of Persia” series as a whole, Ubisoft inevitably created a sequel, coming out with “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” just one year later. This entry saw a major change in direction, sporting a darker, grittier tone and a more brooding Prince. While still highly acclaimed and considered by many fans the best entry in the trilogy, its incredibly gritty tone was a source of contention for many. 

As for my thoughts, “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” is a phenomenal follow-up to a classic game, building on the foundations of “The Sands of Time” and even drastically improving in some areas. However, its change from a light-hearted action adventure to a mature, edgy title is not something I entirely jive with. While there are changes I do quite enjoy, for the most part, I find the new aesthetic completely needless and a true time capsule of its era. 

Release: 

  • Released for PCs, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Gamecube in November of 2004
  • A PlayStation Portable version, titled “Prince of Persia: Revelations,” released in December of 2005
  • Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, and published by Ubisoft
  • Featured a much darker tone compared to its predecessor, complete with a much higher level of violence 
  • Followed by “Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones” in 2005

“Warrior Within” once again follows the eponymous Prince in Ancient Persia, seven years after the events of “The Sands of Time.” The Prince, haunted by his experiences and the loss of his love Farah, is being pursued by the Dahaka, a relentless, malevolent entity who seeks to kill the Prince for opening the sands of time. Fearful of his inevitable death and seeking a way to change his fate, the Prince travels to the Island of Time, the birthplace of the Sands. There, he seeks to stop the Empress of Time from creating the sands in the first place, thus appeasing the Dahaka and preventing his death. This sees him exploring the Island, going between the past and present, defeating enemies and making use of several time-altering powers granted to him by the sands. 

While I do have issues with the new direction of “Warrior Within” (Something I’ll go into more detail later), it has nothing to do with the story. The Prince’s journey to the island and his attempts to escape his fate kept me hooked throughout and proved to be both thrilling and tense. While I’m mixed on the Prince’s characterization overall, he is made exceptionally more endearing by the voice work of Robin Atkin Downes, replacing Yuri Lowenthal from the previous game. Giving a gritter, more brooding and somber version, he brings so much depth and character to this version of the Prince, and propels the new personality for me. The Dahaka, meanwhile, is a genuinely menacing villain throughout the story, and one I imagine gave plenty of young players nightmares when they first picked it up. The Prince’s relationship with the empress is also interesting to watch unfold. All in all, the story here is definitely one of the game’s strongest aspects, despite my issues. 

Gameplay is where “Warrior Within” truly shines, however, and is a big reason why the game is so beloved. “Warrior Within” brings more of the same excellent platforming and parkour moves that “Sands of Time” had, as players traverse through various dangerous terrains, making large jumps while dodging various traps. There are a couple things that “Warrior Within” does differently, however; The first being in combat. This is the one singular praise that is pretty much unanimous when discussing this game, and it is the one thing I can say is an objective improvement over its predecessor. 

In “Sands of Time”, combat was very limited and quite clunky, and while I did enjoy it overall, there’s no denying it was one of the game’s weakest links. In “Warrior Within”, however, the combat is substantially improved, being much deeper and much more fun. The Prince has a lot of his moves intact, such as vaulting over enemies, jumping off walls and swinging along columns. But now, the Prince can wield two weapons at once, and has access to various combos he can use against enemies. Combat also feels much more fluid this time around, making for more thrilling fights that are so much more enjoyable to play through. Once again, the Prince has access to various time-warping abilities, such as slowing down time and freezing time. He also gains some new powers, including power sand-based abilities. Of course, the Prince also retains his ability to rewind time, enabling players to retry tricky jumps or correct mistakes in combat. 

Any way it differs from the first game is in its level design. “The Sands of Time” was a mostly linear series of levels, with the only exploration present being finding hidden fountains that increase the Prince’s health. In “Warrior Within”, the levels are much more open-ended and nonlinear. A major aspect of the game is traveling between the Island’s past and present, accessing areas that would otherwise be unpassable in one time period. The player will also find themselves returning to various places they’ve already visited at different points. Thorough exploration also directly ties to the game’s ending; By exploring the Island’s location, players can find hidden rooms that can contain life upgrades, gradually increasing the Prince’s life bar. By finding all of these life upgrades, the Prince can acquire the Water Sword, which is required to achieve the game’s canonical ending. There was clearly a lot of time and care put into the game’s levels, and it absolutely rewards thorough exploration and a keen eye. 

Now, we get into the aspect which I have the most problems with, the radical shift in tone. “The Sands of Time” was a very light-hearted, colorful adventure very reminiscent of old swashbuckling movies. “Warrior Within”, on the other hand, is a much darker, grimmer story which takes itself way more seriously. If “Sands of Time” can be compared to “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Warrior Within” is much more akin to “Temple of Doom”. This is present in everything from the age rating, going from Teen to Mature, to even the loading screen, where streams of blood form the game’s symbol. The game is much more violent than its predecessor as well, with the Prince being able to pull off gory finishing moves.

 Speaking of the Prince, he goes from a charismatic, roguish but good hearted protagonist to a darker, more brooding anti-hero who taunts his enemies. I could certainly see an argument that it’s a logical progression following “Sands of Time”, and Downes’ performance does a lot to make The Prince more enjoyable. That being said, there are also numerous times where the Prince is trying way too hard to be brooding and edgy, which can be a bit groan-inducing. Really my biggest issue is that the tone takes away from the timelessness of it; Despite some jankiness present, “The Sands of Time” is a truly timeless game which really doesn’t feel like a game released in 2003. “Warrior Within”, on the other hand? It is absolutely a game that was made in the mid-2000s. 

Other criticisms

  • Camera can be still be cumbersome
  • Levels can sometimes be confusing 

Really the only way I can say the new darker tone proved worthwhile was with its soundtrack. In contrast to the mystic, “Arabian Nights”-esque theme to a hard-hitting, heavy metal song with a Middle Eastern edge. I can’t deny that the music here is absolutely brilliant, and I found myself headbanging to the main menu theme on more than one occasion. On top of that, hearing the chords to “I Stand Alone” by Godsmack as the Prince runs away from the Dahaka in certain sections is probably one of the best musical choices I’ve ever heard. So, of all the radical changes Ubisoft made to the general tone and atmosphere, the music is something I can totally get behind. 

Even though “The Sands of Time” is still my personal favorite, “Warrior Within” is still an absolutely fantastic game that is more than worthy of the praise it gets from fans. Its story is as memorable and riveting as ever, the soundtrack is a lot of fun to listen to, and the gameplay provides an excellent experience that expands and even improves on its predecessor. While I still think the makeover was rather unnecessary, the weaknesses do greatly outweigh the strengths “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within”, and it is still an excellent game to this day. It just might take you a moment to get used to the insane amount of edge. 

Nick McCoy is a senior at Fort Hays State University, studying digital media and journalism. An avid gamer and music listener, he reviews video games and songs and hosts the radio show “The Understanding of Nick” for KFHS.

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