The Rogue Prince of Persia Early Access Review – Rewind Time

With tight combat, solid level design and a gorgeous presentation, The Rogue is a brave new take on the Prince of Persia.

Posted By | On 28th, May. 2024

The Rogue Prince of Persia Early Access Review – Rewind Time

The Rogue Prince of Persia, a side-scrolling rogue-lite action platformer from Evil Empire of Dead Cells fame, easily belongs to the list of some amazing platformers that have launched in previous years. Launching into Steam Early Access on May 27th, its art style is a gorgeous mix of 2D and 3D coupled animated cartoon aesthetic that belies its serious tone. Yet that same tone is intermixed with character and heart, whether in the supporting characters you meet or the Prince himself. It’s enough to forgive some rougher edges, which early access will doubtless polish.

The Rogue isn’t your typical Prince – for him, time is more than just the perfect weapon. Thanks to a magical bola that takes him back with each death, the world is a playground where bravado and danger go hand in hand. After attempting to attack the hostile Hun army, the Prince is captured, leading to the latter razing villages and slaying innocents. Once rescued by Sukhra, his mentor and a blacksmith, the Prince sets out to stop the Huns.

"The early access version currently offers six biomes and two bosses to fight, though progression isn’t entirely linear. You can interact with different NPCs and gather clues to unlock new biomes."

He fails, of course, but instead of going back to before the invasion, he awakens at the same point, several days later, at Sukhra’s oasis. How did this happen? Who else got caught up in this tragedy? It’s up to the Prince to make sense of everything, gathering clues, opening up new areas, fighting through hordes of enemies and the Generals, and ultimately stopping the Hun King Nogai.

The early access version currently offers six biomes and two bosses to fight, though progression isn’t entirely linear. You can interact with different NPCs and gather clues to unlock new biomes. The Mind Map also helps to stay on top of the information gathered. Upon hearing that someone from the Academy has been captured by one of the generals, Berude, you subsequently venture to the biome to find out who (and their connection to the Prince).

New dialogues and revelations open up with each run, resulting in sometimes hilarious interactions. When encountering Berude for the second time after learning of her trap, the Prince sarcastically comments on the same, slightly befuddling the general. It’s a simple yet appreciated touch, and as you progress further, new options open up. Start earning Glimmers that can be banked in the middle of runs and used to unlock new weapon drops, and eventually, other characters will show up to lend their services.

Each biome features multiple teleporters, doors containing chests, vendors and optional challenges, altars that grant Gold or higher level weapons in exchange for health, and, of course, traps. Zagros Village, with its burned-out remains and structures, is a solid introductory course to the game’s mechanics. Things quickly kick into high gear with the Aqueduct, where water slides (and a Journey-style pan out to go with the title drop) enter the mix.

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"The Prince isn’t confined to just sprinting, dashing, wall-climbing, clambering and vaulting through levels – he can also wall-run and vault off poles. This leads to much more varied traversal over Dead Cells."

Meanwhile, the Academy requires navigating buzzsaws, stationary and otherwise, to activate two elevators to open the way forward. It all feels meticulously crafted, with distinct visual styles – from the long shadows in the Aqueduct to the twilight of the Hun War Camp – and detailed backgrounds. The same goes for the character animation, which flows smoothly, even as enemy Huns somewhat awkwardly step up and down certain sections. Still, as gorgeous as the art can be, the soundtrack by artist Asadi ties it all together, with genres like electronic and trap backed by instruments like the Sitar and Daf. It’s unorthodox yet fits the atmosphere of each biome so well.

The Prince isn’t confined to just sprinting, dashing, wall-climbing, clambering and vaulting through levels – he can also wall-run and vault off poles. This leads to much more varied traversal over Dead Cells – accessing the higher recesses of a biome could require a series of wall runs, pole vaults, and wall climbs to reach, all while navigating traps. You can also hang on to walls, slowly descending to more carefully navigate traps. While the tried and true stomp for quick vertical descent remains, a measured approach may be better, especially when navigating the platforming challenge rooms.

Movement is fluid and smooth, though sometimes it can be a little too responsive. Don’t hit the jump button near a door when a buzzsaw is above – it could be a potential run-ender. Mastering the nuances can get a little tricky. After wall-running, you need to remember that you can only cling to or clamber up an adjacent wall instead of vertically running up. Did you wall run that time, though? Will you climb that adjacent wall and jump off or clamber it into the waiting spikes because you forgot? It can feel a bit frustrating at times, though such instances popped up sporadically.

The procedural generation makes each biome feel distinct on subsequent playthroughs, though some familiar sections crop up beyond the introductory parts. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but more random events, altars, chest types, and so on would be welcome in the future.

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"Enemy variety does incite some Dead Cells deja vu, right down to the archer who dashes away before aiming and the mage-like foe whose projectiles pierce through walls and floors, but they’re still solid overall."

Combat is the other pillar of the experience, and it’s also incredibly sleek, responsive and just a sheer joy to engage with. Armed with a primary weapon and “tool”, including bows, chakrams and a grappling hook, you can combo basic attacks or hold the button down for charged attacks, like slicing through multiple enemies in a line with the dual daggers or leaping forward with the Tabar in a heavy downward slice. While there’s a dash, enemies can be vaulted over, placing you behind them for a quick follow-up (though slashing mid-vault is also possible).

The Prince can also stomp down, perfect for breaking enemies with shields, or knock them off balance with kicks. The latter serves other purposes, from pushing enemies into traps and off ledges for quick kills or into each other. The latter can also be used to break shields but can provide some much-needed breathing room since it stuns them. Enemy variety does incite some Dead Cells deja vu, right down to the archer who dashes away before aiming and the mage-like foe whose projectiles pierce through walls and floors, but they’re still solid overall.

Each weapon has unique characteristics, such as the daggers stunning enemies below 50 percent health or the last hit of the Tabar’s combo stunning nearby foes. Tools offer slightly more variety, like the grappling hook pulling enemies close or the Jagged Saw offering more DPS than the chakram but with the potential to damage you on return.

Though the weapons feel like they could use a bit more, the Medallions are what really make up the build-crafting. They come with perks like regenerating energy (which tools require for use) on defeating enemies or regaining health by spending Gold. Some Medallions can upgrade their neighbors, unlocking new perks (like triggering a poison cloud when vaulting over enemies). It can lead to tough choices – a worthwhile Medallion may drop, but you also must consider where it can reap the most benefits.

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"Perhaps the most severe criticism I can think of is the initial difficulty. The opening hours can be rough between the traps, enemies who can chunk you for 200 HP on a single hit and a single potion charge."

Nevertheless, the approach lends to interesting combos, like pairing the dual daggers with a Medallion that increases damage dealt to an enemy’s back. You can combine Medallions that spread fire with Resin, which slows enemies knocked together, and maybe another that poisons on ranged attacks. There is a decent range of synergies currently, though, again, it can feel a bit limiting in the early going until you unlock more, courtesy of Paachi the Redeemer.

Perhaps the most severe criticism I can think of is the initial difficulty. The opening hours can be rough between the traps, enemies who can chunk you for 200 HP on a single hit and a single potion charge. Some enemies, like the spear-wielding brutes, also feel like they attack way too fast on top of hurting badly. Everything can click into place as you soar through levels, capable of disposing of foes at every turn while circumnavigating the most dangerous obstacles, yet a few hits are all it takes to humble you. It’s worth noting that health upgrades do exist, but some foes could use a balance pass.

In terms of polish, one bug saw the screen flashing too frequently upon slaying enemies. Other bugs exist, but they fortunately didn’t occur during multiple runs. There’s also the pet peeve of kicking tightly grouped enemies since your kicks don’t piece through them. It makes sense in non-2D platformer terms, but it can get annoying when you’re trying to send someone off a ledge or into a trap. Aside from the odd frame drops when transitioning between biomes, it’s a pretty polished experience.

The Rogue Prince of Persia is still a work in progress, though, and could use more in terms of weapons, Medallions, enemy types, level sections and so on. However, what it does offer in its current state is too good to pass up, whether you’re a hardcore Dead Cells fan or someone looking for a great action-platformer/rogue-lite. The difficulty may sour some people in its current state yet as an experience that combines the essence of Prince of Persia with a gorgeous aesthetic, incredible soundtrack, addictive combat and compelling narrative, The Rogue is well worth your time.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

The cartoon-like aesthetic is downright gorgeous, backed by fluid animation. Asadi's music is the perfect mix of traditional and contemporary, and enhances the mood of the entire experience. Sleek combat and movement. Biomes feel distinct with their enemy compositions and hazards. Intriguing build possibilities courtesy of the Medallion system.

THE BAD

Can feel overwhelming in the initial hours due to lack of certain upgrades and unlocks. Enemy design can feel a little reminiscent of Dead Cells. Biomes could use some more variety in terms of rooms, sections and points of interest. Certain enemies need a balance pass or two. Weapons feel like they need a bit more oomph.

Final Verdict:
GREAT
The Rogue Prince of Persia combines a non-linear narrative and rogue-like structure with the excellent combat and movement that Evil Empire is known for. Though some rough edges remain, it's a great start to early access.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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