Friday, November 20, 2009

Prince of Persia - Plot

Most of the time I can see pretty early where a game is headed story-wise, and it'll be abundantly clear whether I'm going to like the plot or not. But occasionally a game will surprise me. Prince of Persia is one of those games.

PoP establishes a rudimentary plot right from the word go. Within the first hour you (as the titular character) meet a mysterious woman (Elika), save her from some bad guys, observe as her father opens the seal to a dark God in an ancient temple (why do people do never ends well), and escape with your lives. The rest of the game involves hunting down a bunch of McGuffins, in this case Light Seeds, and healing the various sections of the land to prevent the reincarnation of the dark god.

My first thought: LAME.

Sorry Ubisoft, but we've been down this road many times before. Preventing the re-emergence of an evil being of terrible power is a REALLY common video game trope. And in this case we get very little backstory to make the task more interesting. Where is this strange land? Why does the Prince, a wandering tomb thief, care about this? Who is this dark god threatening, and why? How does Elika fit into all of this?

But no, the game just throws you into the adventure and says "Get to work" without a bit of explanation. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

Here's the thing though - I was totally wrong. The game isn't about all that "save the world from the dark god" crap at all. I mean it is, but only in the sense of having a reason to run around, explore the environments, and get in the occasional dust-up with an enemy. The REAL story is the burgeoning relationship between Elika and the Prince. Yep, PoP is a love story!

Don't believe me? Check out the two main characters. The Prince is your typical bad-boy with a heart of a gold. He makes his way by stealing valuables, but only from the tombs of dead rich people. He's a little rough around the edges, but it's largely a macho front designed to keep people at a distance because he's been through a past trauma. He constantly talks about only looking out for himself because it's the only person he can trust. Of course, that doesn't stop him from dropping everything going in his life to risk his neck repeatedly for a mysterious female stranger. He's wandered throughout the world on a number of adventures, but it's always been ALONE.

As for Elika, she's a princess who has spent her life carrying a terrible burden for her people. She has magical powers that protect her people from the dark god, but because of that she must live in protected isolation, never leaving the bounds of the palace. Plus she has her own emotional baggage, with a mother who died while she was young, a father who suffered depression since, and no friends to help her along the way. She's tough and proud, but mostly just to hide the fact that she's lonely and has never seen the world.

Now, I'm no expert on romance novels (that's my wife's territory), but are these two not straight out of central casting? He's the dark, wandering hero who the Princess can find frustrating and yet intriguing at the same time. And she's the proud, beautiful woman who needs his help and just might be able mend his (nominally) wicked ways.

The crazy thing is that their romance is completely optional, because they only really interact if you press the L Trigger to keep their conversation going. You can just ignore it (much like the Z-button scenes in Tales of Symphonia), but you'd really be missing out on one of the best parts of the game. The interactions between Elika and the Prince feel realistic and make the story a lot more interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Equating the Z buttong to the L Trigger is to say that in Tales they had interesting conversations. I think we all remember that that wasn't the case... Anytime I've been near during an L Trigger moment in PoP it actually has been interesting!

    Now, those characters you described...let me just see which Laura Kinsale novel matches them... :) And I'm no expert! I get all my info from the Smart Bitches of course.