Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a third-person action adventure video game published by Ubisoft. It was released on November 6, 2003 and is a continuation of the landmark MS-DOS and Macintosh game series Prince of Persia, created by Jordan Mechner in 1989. The Sands of Time, developed internally at Ubisoft Montreal, successfully captures the mechanics of the original platformer and extends it to the 3D generation. An earlier attempt by The Learning Company to transfer the game to 3D (Prince of Persia 3D) was released in 1999, but failed to meet the standards set by the franchise. The Sands of Time was praised for its visual design, finely tuned game mechanics, and intriguing storyline, winning the game several awards.
Developed for the PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, and later a 2D version for the Game Boy Advance and mobile phones, The Sands of Time was a major hit. The success of The Sands of Time led to two sequels, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, set between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within was released in May of 2010 on PS3, XBOX 360, and PC systems.
Passing through India en route to Azad, King Sharaman and his son, the Prince of Persia, defeat the powerful Maharajah of India with the promise of honor and glory. After looting the city and capturing a giant hourglass full of sand, a mysterious dagger, and the Maharajah's daughter Farah along with other treasures, they continue to Azad. A dying Vizier, who had betrayed the Maharajah and aided King Shahraman in return for a share of the spoils, demands to have the dagger, as he was promised his choice of the Maharajah's treasures. But Shahraman refuses to take the dagger from his son, who captured it first. Denied also the hourglass itself, of which was to go to the sultan of Azad as a gift, the Vizier, who wishes to harness the power of the sands in the hourglass for himself, making him an immortal god and giving him control over time itself, tricks the Prince into opening the hourglass in Azad. When the Prince uses the dagger to unleash the Sands of Time from the hourglass, the Sands destroy the kingdom and turn all living beings into hideous Sand monsters. Only the Prince, the Vizier, and Princess Farah, the kidnapped daughter of the Maharajah, remain unchanged due to their possessions; the Prince's dagger, the Vizier's staff, and Farah's medallion (there are a handful of unimportant survivors, such as two people who escape with Farah and a guard who assists you during the Azad defence system puzzle, who is possessed after his part).
On a journey to repair the damage he has caused, the Prince teams with Farah to return the Sands of Time to the hourglass by using the Dagger of Time, which also gives the Prince limited control over the flow of time. Before they reach their destination, the Prince and Farah form a romantic relationship. However, the prince sees Farah steal the dagger of Time while viewing the future through a Sand Vortex. The Prince knows that Farah has every reason to hate him for conquering her people, and he suspects that Farah plans to steal the Dagger of Time from him. While the Prince sleeps, Farah does at a later time take the Dagger, as well as his sword, and attempts to return the Sands to the hourglass herself, leaving only her medallion behind with the Prince. When the Prince catches up with her, she is being attacked by sand creatures, and is knocked into the hourglass chamber through a hole in the floor. The prince tries to grab her hand, but only manages to grab the Dagger of Time by its blade, causing him severe pain. Farah, seeing that he won't let go of the Dagger chooses to do so herself and falls to her death.
Afterwards, the Prince uses the Dagger, to preform the Grand Rewind and return the Sands to the hourglass, and the timeline reverts to the point prior to the battle against the Maharajah. As a result, the relationship between Farah and himself is a memory that only he possesses. However, the Prince still has the Dagger in his possession, even in the past. He goes to find Farah, to warn her of the Vizier's treachery before the Sands are released, and to give her the Dagger of Time. At this point, it is revealed all of the Prince's narration in the menus and cut-scenes from the game were actually him recounting his adventures to Farah, in an attempt to warn her. But as the Prince shares his epic story with her, he is confronted by the evil Vizier, who still yearns for the Dagger, and eternal life. He plans to kills Farah and blame her murder on him.
After defeating the Vizier, and preventing the opening of the hourglass, the Prince offers the Dagger to Farah. She questions why he needed to invent such a fantastic story. After he responds with a coldly-received kiss, he rewinds time a moment and instead agrees with her, that it was just a story. As he leaves, she asks him his name, and is left dumbfounded when he tells her to call him "Kakolookiyam", the name of a fairy-tale hero that Farah's mother told her stories about as a child and that only she would know of. (In the previous timeline, Farah had explained the significance of this word to the Prince.)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time combines exploration and combat to create a unique synthesis. Both elements make use of the Prince's acrobatic capability and agility. Throughout much of the game, the player must attempt to traverse the palace by running across walls, ascending or descending chasms by jumping back and forth between walls, avoiding traps, making other types of well-timed leaps, solving puzzles, and using discovered objects to progress. The cultural setting of the game provides many linguistically interesting inscriptions to be found on walls.
During combat, many of the same moves vital to the player in other situations can be put to use to overpower enemies. Such an example is the ability of the Prince to rebound off walls in order to strike enemies decisively. You can also vault over the enemies backs and then finish them off in two hits. The player generally attacks enemies and blocks using a sword, although other objects/factors, such as the Dagger of Time and its time-control abilities eventually prove to be critical to victory.
A pivotal gameplay element is the Prince's Dagger of Time. It contains "charges" of the Sands of Time from the hourglass that allow the Prince to control time. The Prince has the ability to "reverse" time and travel up to ten seconds into the past. While using this ability, all sounds and previous action play backwards, and the play environment accurately resets to its previous state. For example, if the Prince was struck by an enemy attack during the rewind period, the health he lost will be given back to him, or a bridge that was destroyed a few seconds ago will repair itself. The Dagger also allows the prince to slow down time, and freeze his enemies, using it as a main-gauche to attack them directly.
The Dagger does not come with an unlimited number of uses. However, defeated enemies leave behind piles of the Sands of Time, which can be absorbed by the Dagger to replenish its stock. The stock can also be replenished by absorbing Sand clouds. This encourages the player to confront and vanquish enemies (as opposed to avoiding them) in order to replenish the power to manipulate time during the more tricky acrobatic sections of the game. It must, however be noted that if the player does not absorb the Sand from a fallen enemy in about five seconds, said enemy will come back to life. Extra Sand glasses can be gained by collecting eight Sand clouds, and extra Sand tanks (which are used for different powers than the Sand glasses) are gained by vanquishing sixteen enemies after having collected a new glass.
- "GameCube" (and "GBA"): Features the original Prince of Persia, and some of the "Making of" featurettes. If the player connects a Game Boy Advance with its own copy of The Sands of Time, the Prince's health will regenerate. Also, due to space constraints on the Gamecube disc format, all of the speech in the game is slightly compressed in order to fit it all in the game.
- "Xbox": The NTSC version features Prince of Persia, Prince of Persia 2, as well as all the "Making of" featurettes. The PAL version only features the original Prince of Persia.
- "PS2": Features the original Prince of Persia.
- "PC": Features neither of the original games.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was received with widespread critical acclaim. IGN gave the game a 9.6/10 rating, praising the game for its "intuitive control, stunning atmosphere and satisfyingly clever environmental puzzles," and stating it was one of "[their] favorite adventure offerings of all time." GameSpot gave The Sands of Time a score of 9.0/10 "recommend[ing it] wholeheartedly." In general, the game was most often praised for its lush, dreamy environment and graphics, the acrobatic combat and platforming, the forgiving and responsive controls, the excellent animation of the Prince, the story, and the time-manipulation abilities of the Dagger. The Sands of Time is also often noted for its flowing gameplay - particularly in relation to puzzle-solving, which has a tendency to hinder the action of other true 3D platform games considerably.
The game's average score on Metacritic and GameRankings is a 92%, making it one of the best reviewed games for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube.