Version tested: Xbox 360
On the surface, this optional final chapter for Prince of Persia seems to offer most of what people expect from DLC. It extends the gameplay by a couple of hours, its price (800 MSP on Live, eight quid on PSN) fits snugly into the "Hmm, go on then" impulse purchase bracket, and it enables fans to do a little bit more of what they enjoyed. Scratch the surface, however, and you realise that, actually, Epilogue manages to miss the good points of its parent game and instead focuses to detrimental effect on the clumsier aspects of the original experience.
The story picks up immediately after the rather effective conclusion to the game, so those still wall-running their way through the Prince's adventure should probably be wary of spoilers. Gone? Good.
So, the Prince has revived Elika, but released the dark god Ahriman in the process. This is pretty annoying, given that you just spent the span of the entire game trying to imprison him, but the cliffhanger would be easier to swallow if this DLC gave some weight to the Prince's selfish choice. Sadly, it's not to be. Oh, Elika is in a right huff with him - and rightly so - but the story doesn't go to much effort to disguise the fact that Ahriman's release was brought about by practical necessity rather than narrative coherence. Games need baddies, and if that means undoing everything you've worked for then so be it.
Fleeing from the now-very-pissed-off Ahriman, the Prince and Elika take refuge in a large underground palace. Straight away, this setting robs the game of one of its best features - the gorgeous panoramic views. You're no longer scrambling and skittering around dizzying pinnacles, the world laid out before you, as far as the eye can see. You're confined and constrained in a blue netherworld from beginning to end, so the urge to see what new environments lie ahead soon dwindles.
The corruption is back, and gameplay soon settles into a repetitive rhythm in which you spend a lot of time dodging oozing black blobs as they slowly shuffle along their fixed paths. The moments when you're really able to let fly with the Prince's acrobatics are relatively few, but those who felt that the original game was too easy will be pleased to discover that the strings of death-defying moves you're expected to pull off now have longer gaps between the safety of solid ground. This also amplifies the trial-and-error factor, however, and can be frustrating when you reach the end of an epic run, only to be killed off by missing a ring obscured by the camera, or an assist throw from Elika that sends you sailing past your target.
There is a new plate power for Elika to use - Energize - but it works in much the same way as the others. You tap Y on the plate, and Elika hurls you to an unreachable area once again. This new power removes corruption from certain glowing areas to enable safe passage but it's ultimately a cosmetic change rather than a gameplay one. You don't have to adjust your play to accommodate this new ability, so they could have used the existing Hands of Ormazd power and the result would be much the same.
It's combat where this DLC really falls flat. Fighting was hardly the strong point of the main game, so the decision to repeat the same boss fights you'll already have endured many times over before is disappointing. There is, technically speaking, one new enemy but since the Shapeshifter merely switches between the Warrior and Hunter forms you'll already be familiar with, it's yet another feature heralded as new in the pre-download blurb that feels remixed rather than fresh in reality. He can only be damaged in the Hunter form, and only changes when you topple the Warrior form over a precipice, which means a lot of tiresome grinding to get through each encounter. That this fight is reused four or five times in this fairly short adventure makes the repetition even harder to stomach.
You'll also fight Elika's corrupted father four or five times more, as well as tackle a handful of the same old spawning soldier enemies you've seen dozens of times. Elika attempts to explain this laziness away, saying that Ahriman is weak and therefore conjuring familiar forms, but that's an obviously rubbish excuse. Given the game did a pretty good job of making the eventual deaths of these boss enemies meaningful and poignant, it feels very cheap to bring them back in this manner. It's like bringing Darth Vader back at the end of Return of the Jedi, so Luke can fight him another ten times, one after another.
What you end up with is a rather stiff experience, in which awkward acrobatic sections are constantly interrupted by the same fight scenes. There's no freedom to explore, and no real narrative drive to get to the end, other than the innate desire for completion that comes with any game. There are some frescos to find for your Trophy/Achievement needs but since there's no map and no backtracking if you miss any you'll have to play through the whole DLC again to find them.
Epilogue doesn't even have the grace to live up to its literary title. There's no closure here, just a finite story extended by transparent and clumsy means. The conclusion, when it comes, so blatantly leaves you hanging for Prince of Persia 2 that you wonder why the game itself couldn't have ended this way. There's certainly entertainment to be had along the way, but by abandoning much of what made the original game soar and replacing it with reheated battles and uninspired platform sections this offering feels largely superfluous.
5 / 10