It’s been ten years since Prince of Persia’s last mainline game released, and cries for the series to come back have only grown louder as more time has passed. Now, finally, Ubisoft are giving in to demands, with a full-fledged remake of The Sands of Time on the way. As one of the most beloved and highly regarded games of its generations, its remake will have a lot to live up to, but the developers certainly seem to be up to the task. Recently, we reached out to The Sands of Time Remake’s development team at Ubisoft India to talk about their first major AAA project and what improvements they’re making to this timeless classic. Our questions below were answered by managing director Syed Abbas, production director Sashi Menon, game director Pierre-Sylvain Gires, and senior producer Annu Koul.
"We have remained faithful to the original version but made improvements to modernise the game."
Prince of Persia is a fan-favourite series that people have been asking for the return of for quite some time now. What prompted the decision to remake The Sands of Time rather than attempt an all-new entry?
Syed Abbas (Deputy Managing Director): The game holds a special place for us and was also one of the most highly rated games during its time. The story narration, puzzle & the iconic rewind powers of the prince provided a very nice gameplay experience. We wanted to bring back this game from the past as it is a beloved title for many fans and also let us re-imagine and remake this game for the current generation using the increased hardware prowess for a visually delightful experience.
Given how beloved The Sands of Time is, how closely are you going to stick to the original in the remake? What kinds of changes to the story or gameplay can players expect, if any?
Pierre-Sylvain Gires (Game Director): We stuck to the plot and storyline of original game. However, we made changes to the gameplay and reworked on all the cinematics. When it comes to gameplay, we focussed on the 3 Cs – Camera, controls and combat. We reworked on the camera system and enhanced it. We improved the combat by introducing the multi targeting system. We also added more acrobatic moves to the Prince. To sum it up, we have remained faithful to the original version but made improvements to modernise the game.
The Sands of Time is a widely beloved game, but it is also almost two decades old by now. How did the development team approach balancing modernising it while staying true to the spirit of the original?
Annu Koul (Senior Producer): Yes, it has been almost decades now, but it has been one of the fan favourites. The players wanted this game. The team wanted to bring a feeling of nostalgia with a modern twist. Hence, we selected Anvil Engine used in Assassin’s Creed Origins to give that modern twist.
The team also wanted to ensure we strike the right balance so that not only the fans of the original game enjoy it, but also new players. The narrative in the original game is beautiful and we wanted to leave that unchanged. As mentioned earlier, we enhanced the 3 Cs to ensure new players also enjoy the game. Accessibility options are also added, something which wasn’t available back then.
"The players wanted this game. The team wanted to bring a feeling of nostalgia with a modern twist. Hence, we selected Anvil Engine used in Assassin’s Creed Origins to give that modern twist."
The Sands of Time was good at many things, but one of its weaknesses was the combat. Future Prince of Persia games addressed that deficiency. Will this remake be taking cues from the combat in Warrior Within and Two Thrones, or are you sticking closer to The Sands of Times’ take on it?
Gires: We did not take cues from the other Prince of Persia games. But as mentioned earlier, we revisited and improved the combat not only with the multi targeting system but also by improving the responsiveness of the combat, the adjustment of the UI and with some additional moves.
One concern that players might have could be the presence of microtransactions in this remake. Are there going to be any?
Sashi Menon (Production Director): There will be no microtransactions in the game.
You recently mentioned that the Anvil Engine, which is primarily an open world engine, is not suited for things such as the rewinding mechanic, slow-mo, and other things that The Sands of Time relies on. What, then, prompted the decision to build the remake in this engine, and how much work was necessary to customize it to the game’s requirements?
Abbas: Before we started working on this project, we thoroughly evaluated all the different engines Ubisoft possess. We realised, for the game we wanted to make, the Anvil Engine was best suited to meet our requirements. While it wasn’t a tailor-made option, it was the best option to achieve parkour, character movements and combat.
There has been fan criticism regarding the visuals of the game. How do you plan to address this issue?
Gires: Sands of Time is a fantasy adventure, the story line and the environment are based on the 1001-night tale. We wanted players to be immersed in this beautiful narrative by adopting graphism that reflect this fantasy.
We also wanted to be different than the other games and provide a unique visual identity.
We choose this direction to enhance the fantasy and magic feeling as per intended in the original game! The trailer was made from WIP footages and not the final representation of the game.
"It’s an honour to work on a title which comes from the beloved Prince of Persia franchise. At the same time, we are very excited to be working on this project."
This is going to be Ubisoft Pune and Mumbai’s first major console project that you lead development on. How did you feel taking on such a beloved game as your first AAA project?
Menon: It’s an honour to work on a title which comes from the beloved Prince of Persia franchise. At the same time, we are very excited to be working on this project. We are bringing in our expertise formed with experience of over 10 years.
The remake will eventually be playable on PS5 and Xbox Series X later this year through backwards compatibility. Will the game have any sort of enhancements for the new consoles?
Abbas: The game is made for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Since it will be coming through backwards compatibility to the next generation of consoles, there are no enhancements.