This game is quite a departure in art style from previous Prince of Persia games, the developers choosing caricature style visuals over realism. Although it visually looks quite different than it's predecessors, the return of two main characters that interact with each other is more reminiscent of the first game The Sands of Time. This opens up more options in the story-telling side of the game.
The background tale is mythological in nature, telling of an ancient feud between Ahriman, the god of darkness and Ormazd, the god of light. Ormazd imprisons Ahriman in the Tree of Life then leaves his people, the Ahura to guard it. This works well for 1000 years until people start doubting the story is anything but a myth. The playable part of the game begins with our footloose Prince meeting Elika, an Ahura princess with some unique talents who will become your AI partner. Suffice to say, Ahriman is loosed and proceeds to bring corruption into the world, which must be stopped.
The game allows you to skip the dialogue between the Prince and Elika, however, if you want the full experience you should listen to it. It never quite crosses over into a romance, but certainly a bond is formed between the pair. It also explores their different viewpoints on what is happening and if you pick up on the nuances, the Prince's end decision will not contradict his previous actions or beliefs. That is if you choose to persevere through the endlessly scrolling credits in order to get to a playable alternate ending.
Unfortunately, part way into the game, I had a feeling it was going to be fairly repetitive as all the missions were starting to look pretty similar and I was right. However, it's the platforming that's really the star of the game. There's lots of that to get to where you need to be to fight each area boss and heal that portion of the kingdom. Most of the game is then rinse and repeat. Its saving grace is that it's very pretty and new platforming techniques gained along the way make the journey more interesting. The mechanics are far more polished than in previous Prince of Persia games.
Platforming gets a little trickier as you go on, with some longer sequences that require different moves. Some of them are best left to the game in terms of the camera as the Prince will jump in the right direction automatically. However, some don't do this, so it's trial and error. Some long jumps require Elika's help to boost you. Finishing areas, which end with Elika cleansing that portion will make light seeds appear for collection. Once a certain number is reached, you must return to the Temple to gain access to new areas and new Temple powers. There are 4 in total, which are manifested by completing a challenge to activate corresponding colored plates in the maps. They allow you to reach previously unreachable areas and grant different types of platforming abilities such as running up walls and flying.
Combat, although it includes various combos, is scripted in a certain way. It's not like previous games where the player can choose which method works best to beat the enemy. Here, you will meet the very same bosses several times throughout the game. As you progress, these bosses also gain abilities to periodically change their state. This requires specific combos to counteract their attacks while they are in each state and tossing it up doesn't work. It's very repetitive, although not particularly a cakewalk. The more troubling news is that you will not actually kill these bosses until the end, so they keep reappearing and you have to repeat the same procedure several times. Also, you cannot die in this game as Elika will always save your life. If she has to intervene, the enemy regains some health and sometimes it seems scripted to do that very thing to extend the fight.
Once an area is healed, you can fast travel between healed areas. You cannot fast travel from corrupt areas to healed areas. In order to collect all 1001 light seeds, you will need to revisit areas once you have unlocked all the temple powers as many of these are unreachable until then. You need to do this before entering the temple after the final boss as you won't be able to do it after this.
The game plays fine with the keyboard and mouse, however, as in some other games that are originally developed for controller input, there is a sequence where the camera is locked that requires diagonal control. This always manages to severely tick me off as suddenly keyboard controls become a hindrance for that segment. Fortunately, it is not too long and you can persevere through it, although it will probably take a few tries. This is not the first time that Prince of Persia games have pulled that trick.
Although the game is visually quite beautiful and the return to two characters welcome, it falls down in its repetitive nature. It uses the Assassin's Creed Engine and there is definitely a crossover of mechanics and concepts. AC's biggest criticism was it's repetitive side missions, but Prince of Persia goes a step further by having the main goals and bosses follow exactly the same pattern in every segment. However, the platforming is top-notch as usual.