It’s been well over a decade since we were last treated to a new Prince of Persia game on PC: 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. In true, time-twisting Prince of Persia style, however, it still somehow feels like only yesterday. But here we are in 2024, and the good people at Ubisoft Montpellier in France have delivered a triumphant new installment of the series, with Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. In the afterglow of the game’s launch and strong critical reception, Intel Gaming Access leapt across a few chasms to catch up with Abdelhak Elguess, producer at Ubisoft Montpellier, and find out more about what went into the series’ massively anticipated return.
“Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is about bringing back a legendary brand, and modernizing it,” says Abdelhak. “We wanted to create something unique, something new, but with the memory of what the brand was before.” Despite the weight of the franchise’s history, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is very much its own game. It fuses the side-on perspective of games from the early days of the 34-year-old series with the time-bending mechanics from later games, while dodging any specific place in the overarching narrative. The result is a kinetic and cleverly-executed Metroidvania-style experience that taps into the genre’s popularity and simultaneously delivers a thorough refresh of the franchise. Smart move.
“Our focus from the beginning was about understanding the legacy and building upon it, especially the first Prince of Persia game, and The Sands of Time,” explains Abdelhak. “We worked on the DNA, and built around its pillars, but we wanted to build something more modern in all aspects and push forward this DNA.” Regardless of what some legacy Prince of Persia fans may have been hoping for, the critical consensus seems to be that the team has succeeded in its goals, creating a game that is not only a worthwhile experience in its own right, but also an exciting jumping off point for future games.
Of course, looking only to games in the distant past for inspiration wasn’t enough. “One of the first questions was, how could we modernize the game? For that we needed to bring new influences, and try a harmonious mix and match,” says Abdelhak. “We had a lot of influences, like fighting games and Metroidvania games. And we looked for inspiration outside of the games industry, in comics and Japanese anime, for example.” One of the benefits of being based in France is the country’s deep love of comic books and anime, both home-grown and imported, which inevitably provided plenty of fuel for the team.
“We wanted a ‘super-hero in legendary Persia’ feel, so all the inspirations were about reinforcing the fact that we are doing a Prince of Persia game, while strengthening the core experience of fighting, platforming, puzzles and narration,” continues Abdelhak. “Players will be able to express themselves while playing as Sargon [the youngest member of the warrior elite known as The Immortals], and discover a lot of environments and creatures. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a great adventure.”
In addition to gameplay ambitions, the game’s creators kept technical performance firmly at the forefront of their minds. “The game is about the fluidity of the combat and animations, so frame-rate is key to deliver top-notch quality,” says Abdelhak. “Players will be able to play on any platform they want with a solid 60 fps, and even sometimes 120 fps, which is so exciting for combat and platforming sequences.”
Placing such technical demands on themselves came with its own challenges during development. “In order to be able to do a lot of precise iterations in level design and level art, we used some procedural tools for world building,” explains Abdelhak. “The drawback is that this has an impact on the game size and performance, because of geometry. We did a lot of work to reduce the size, and optimize the performance, to deliver 60 fps even on older configurations, and be able to have 4K and 120 fps on more recent setups.”
“Thanks to a great collaboration between programmers and artists, even a low configuration is able to run the game at 60 fps, which is an extraordinary experience on a laptop that supports it,” enthuses Abdelhak. “And for people who want to play it on a big screen in 4K at 120 fps, that’s possible too, so choose your way to play.”
As for what’s next, Abdelhak dodges the question in predictably Prince of Persia style. “I’ve just fallen into a time anomaly, so I can’t answer,” he jokes. “More seriously, we’re still focused on the launch and listening to players’ feedback.”