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We aren’t saying anything revolutionary here, but the internet can be a cruel place at times.
Sometimes you can put all your heart and soul into something, but when you share it with the rest of the world online, they can be absolutely brutal at tearing it down. It doesn’t even have to be anything particularly bad, either – sometimes it can be perfectly fine but people will find a reason to turn on it.
This is a sentiment that we have no doubt is shared by Ubisoft Montpellier, especially after the first trailer for its upcoming Prince of Persia game was shown during the Summer Game Fest showcase in June 2023.
The trailer gave the first glimpse of the series’ return to tradition, opting for a 2.5D viewpoint that made it look more like the original Prince of Persia games rather than the 3D titles of the 21st century, such as The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, The Two Thrones and The Forgotten Sands.
Our initial reaction to the trailer was a positive one. The action looked fast-paced, some of the bosses were enormous, the protagonist appeared to have a wide range of moves, the platforming looked like it might put up a real challenge at times, and the addition or other nifty tools like a grapple and a glowing bow and arrow meant combat promised to be varied. In all, we were happy and excited to see more of the game ahead of its January 18 release.
Then, the following day, we checked online and were stunned by the response. The amount of negativity directed at the game would be overkill for something that looked sub-par, let alone a game that actually looked like it promised plenty of action. And yet, the trailer’s likes to dislikes ratio on Ubisoft’s own YouTube channel was overwhelmingly negative, with only 20% of positive responses.
Some of the criticism levelled at the game was understandable, if somewhat unfair. A number of players complained that this wasn’t the Prince of Persia they wanted, because in their eyes the series consisted of 3D platformers and they hadn’t waited all these years for a game that didn’t update the Sands of Time style of gameplay. This argument appeared to ignore the fact that the series began in 2D in the first place.
Others said they hated the trailer itself rather than the game, choosing to criticise the inclusion of a rap song. The argument was that it didn’t fit with the tone of the game, even though trailers have for years been using more energetic, licensed music with the widespread understanding that they wouldn’t be in the finished game or movie.
Indeed, a more recent trailer released just weeks ago had nothing but orchestral music far more fitting with the Prince of Persia vibe, and still received a wide number of dislikes, so that argument doesn’t appeal to hold water. And of course, let’s not forget that Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, one of the more well-loved games in the series, literally played music from the rock band Godsmack during some in-game action scenes.
Of course, there’s another potential reason for the backlash and it’s an uncomfortable one. A large number of the comments under the YouTube trailers make comments on the protagonist’s appearance, with some dancing around it by questioning his hairstyle, or saying he doesn’t look quite how they expected, and others flat out making discriminatory comments because of his darker skin tone.
From comments referring to him as “The Fresh Prince of Persia” to others that aren’t worth amplifying, there’s a sinister undercurrent to some (not all) of the criticism surrounding this game. Even as new trailers continue to appear, showing even more gameplay from what appears to be a perfectly solid game, the likes/dislikes continue to split at best, negative at worst.
To its credit, Ubisoft has refused to bow to pressure and doesn’t appear to be interested in doing a Sonic movie and changing the protagonist’s appearance, or any other aspect of the game at that. This is the game its team wanted to make and so far it appears that it’s been allowed to continue doing so without any outside criticism affecting the plan.
“This is the game its team wanted to make and so far it appears that it’s been allowed to continue doing so without any outside criticism affecting the plan.”
That the game continues to stick to its January 11 release date with no sign of that getting put back – an achievement in itself following the constant delays we’ve been seeing throughout the industry in recent years – is a testament to Ubisoft Montpellier’s commitment to delivering the game it showed back at Summer Game Fest, and to hell with the doubters.
Naturally, the game won’t get a free pass for this. Everything we’ve seen from the game suggests that it will deliver plenty of action and may well be the first game of 2024 to find its Metacritic score placed atop a green square. As is always the case, however, trailers can only tell so much of the story, and being overly positive based purely on what Ubisoft shows us is, in some way, no less misguided than being overly negative.
All eyes now rest on the sands of time, as we find out in just a matter of weeks whether The Lost Crown truly is a game worthy of the Prince of Persia title.