The Rogue Prince of Persia Hands-on Preview – Prince Cells

Posted on April 11, 2024

Taking the Prince of Persia franchise and turning it into a roguelite feels like such common sense that it’s almost madness that we haven’t seen it done before. The IP itself experiencing a sort of resurrection, with Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown already proving that there is plenty of life left in it. Now, a new title, The Rogue Prince of Persia, looks to continue the upward trajectory of the series, with roguelite masters Evil Empire (from Dead Cells fame) taking the reigns on this new experience set in the same captivating universe.

We got to go hands-on with this new title ahead of its Early Access launch next month(!), and well, if what we’ve played so far is any indication, the talented developers at Evil Empire and the Prince of Persia lovers over at Ubisoft are on a bit of a hot streak.

As noted above, The Rogue Prince of Persia is a 2D Action-Platforming Roguelite, this time with another new protagonist. With his family and townsfolk being ripped apart by supernatural entities, he needs to utilise his parkour prowess and take down foes with a range of weapons and combat abilities.

Immediately apparent is that the team over at Ubisoft doesn’t mind giving up some creative liberties when it comes to the visual stylings of its titular Prince. The Rogue Prince of Persia looks almost painterly in its animation style like a Saturday morning cartoon coming to life with lots of deep and satisfying plays on colour. Even in my short time with the game, the various biomes I encountered all had their own unique style and personality, complete with a banging tune for each. Seriously, these catchy tunes as you’re slashing through enemies and exploring the world are brilliant, like modern bass remixes of the twangy guitars and atmosphere you’d expect from the setting.

“…Dead Cells had an addictive and compelling gameplay loop… a lot of those same vibes are replicated here with great success.”

As far as the gameplay loop goes, if you’ve dabbled in the genre before, you know what to expect. Progress as far as you can before you die and respawn, then give it another crack with hopefully some upgraded gear and abilities helping you get further and further each time. The Rogue Prince of Persia bakes in a justified narrative reason for the Prince to keep respawning, remembering what happened before while other characters remain in the same time loop. The core encampment you’ll revisit had already begun to fill with helpful yet mysterious allies that allow you to purchase upgrades with acquired loot from previous runs, which gave me fond memories of time spent with Dead Cells.

The Dead Cells DNA is unmistakable; Evil Empire apparently joked about how cool it would be to make a Prince of Persia game, and somehow, here we are with a result of that wonderful idea coming soon. Dead Cells, one of the trailblazers in indie roguelites from recent memory, managed to create an addictive and compelling gameplay loop as you upgraded your main character in the hub and progressed through its dangerous world, and a lot of those same vibes are replicated here with great success.

This is certainly no Dead Cells clone, however. While ideas and concepts might have carried across, there is more than enough Prince flourishes in this experience that it still absolutely feels like a Prince of Persia game. Notably, wall-running and the avoidance of traps play a massive part in The Rogue Prince of Persia, and those elements feel right at home in this style of game. Wall-running in particular is not just used to move between ledges; you can wall-run vertically as well, meaning more access to different areas without requiring you to find another path. This agility allows for a lot of secrets hidden just out of reach, and doors leading to side rooms with traps and platforming challenges offering tantalising loot rewards means they’re always worthwhile, and fun, to take on.

The Prince also can upgrade their equipment, and find different weapons for you to switch between. Everyone will likely find their favourites, but I enjoyed experimenting with the faster twin blades, before moving to the heftier axe that may be slower but packs a larger punch. You have a ranged weapon as well; while the bow and arrow are standard, I also came across another that operated more as a boomerang, damaging opponents on the way there and on the way back.

Enemies range from disposable grunts to larger, shielded variants and more, each with different attack patterns, ranged and melee. You can dodge over the top of them to get the advantage, or even knock them into one another to stun them. Even in our limited session, we found different biomes filled with different enemy types, and in some scenarios with a mix, we got overrun. Balancing your abilities and tactics will be key to progression; the boss we took on managed to stomp us into the dirt when we first came across him, and we’re keen for a rematch.

Other perks and buffs came across as useful, too. One, for example, causes an enemy to catch fire when they’re kicked back into any wall. Others impacted the effect of the weapons we were using to add an extra ripple. Needless to say, a roguelite experience needs a lot of variation and intriguing effects that alter each run, and The Rogue Prince of Persia seems to provide just that.

The combo of satisfying combat, wall-running all over the place and avoiding traps with a compelling gameplay loop works here; everything feels slick, something I’d expect from a team of this pedigree. Interestingly, the title is launching into Early Access on PC initially, rather than a full 1.0 release across multiple platforms. The team wants to dedicate a lot of time and community feedback into making the experience the best it can be; that said, they noted that what will come out soon will still feel polished and fun to play from the jump. They don’t want Early Access to be a bad experience, they just want it to allow the game to grow alongside the community.

With our Prince once again going in a new exciting direction, it won’t be long before we can really put him to the test in this new environment.

The Rogue Prince of Persia will be available in Early Access on Steam from May 14, 2024.