The teaser trailer for the new Prince of Persia game was one of the highlights of this year's UbiDays press conference. It introduced us to his new sidekick, Elika, and revealed a little more of the game's unique visual style. Unfortunately it was all we got to see of the game in action, as nothing else was shown during the event.
However, Eurogamer did get the chance to sit down with producer Ben Mattes. Read on to find out more about Elika, the balance of combat versus exploration why Mattes believes controversial decisions will pay off.
Eurogamer: Can you just clarify the name of this game?
Ben Mattes: Prince of Persia. That's it.
Eurogamer: Why have decided not to stick a subtitle in there?
Ben Mattes: It's surprising how difficult the decision regarding the title was. We considered many options. Ultimately we decided we're really starting fresh, starting over. We're trying to rejuvenate the franchise, to take ownership of the genre and establish ourselves as the number one action adventure game. We also want to differentiate ourselves from the Sands of Time trilogy and the Disney movie, because we're not connected with them.
It seemed like saying the game title was Prince of Persia was a bold statement, and that's what we're about with this game. We're doing things people think are controversial, but when it sinks in it's that much better. The title, I feel, is part of that.
Eurogamer: How concerned are you that fans of the previous games will react negatively to those decisions?
Ben Mattes: Yes, there's a risk. We're sort of betting our jobs on the fact this is still going to feel like a Prince of Persia game. Maybe not directly - we wouldn't get fired if people didn't passionately love every decision we make.
But we're taking risks we think are going to pay off, and we're very respectful and truthful to the brand DNA. What made the previous Prince of Persia trilogy special? Was it the fact there were Sands of Time powers? I don't think so. Was it the fact you played a particular prince? I also don't think so.
Eurogamer: So what was it?
Ben Mattes: You controlled a young, powerful, acrobatic hero who saved the world in collaboration with a beautiful girl. There was a balanced mix of combat, acrobatics, and puzzles, with a great story and great characters. That's the brand DNA, that's what Prince of Persia is.
So as long as when you're doing acrobatics it has amazing flow, and when you're fighting enemies it looks super-cool, and there's a great story about the hero and the world and the supporting character... As long as we're truthful to all of that, I think we can paint the walls whatever colour we want.
To people who aren't convinced by that, I would say this game is more true to the magic of Sands of Time than either Warrior Within or The Two Thrones. And I was the producer on Two Thrones. It was my intention to bring the trilogy back in the direction of Sands of Time, which was just spectacular. For this game, we're doing that even more.
So yes, it's bold. Yes, it's risky. But I'm pretty confident that when people see all of these claims in action they're going to say, 'Okay, I get it, and he's right.'
Eurogamer: So the balance of gameplay has shifted further away from combat?
Ben Mattes: Yes, it has. It has shifted towards acrobatics and exploration. There's certainly more exploration than any previous Prince of Persia game, because it's not linear. You're looking for different paths, and you can travel through the world how you want, in the order you want.
But you have to drive all the corruption out of this world systematically, so there will be a lot of platforming back and forth in areas you've already been through once. So you might travel through a level to complete an objective, then come back through the same level. We have all these gameplay mechanisms in place to make sure that level feels different, that it's not exactly the same acrobatic or visual experience, that it has evolved and feels new.
Because you revisit certain areas multiple times, the balance certainly favours acrobatics and exploration over combat. Fans who don't want a lot of combat, and only want to fight the boss when they have to - they can make the ratio 80 to 20 or something like that. A lot of time can be spent doing acrobatics and exploration, if that's what you want.