Although frustrating as heck, Prince of Persia The Sands of Time is one of my favourite games. I therefore bought the series. However, many of the things that made the first game so appealing are missing in this sequel. Although I still did enjoy Warrior Within for its theme and platforming aspects, gone is the romance and humour of the first game. This is a much darker story.
The tale picks up with our Prince being chased by some dark monster. It turns out that this is the agent of his death known as the Dahaka. The Prince was supposed to die in the last episode and now his fate is trying to catch up with him. A sage tells him of the existence of a time portal that if accessed will enable him to stop the Sands of Time being created and thus the circumstances that dictate his death. He deduces that this will defeat his destiny, although no one agrees with this. By re-visiting a time period before the sands were created by the Empress of Time, the Prince tries to undo what he views as his mistakes. However, the Empress of Time has also seen her fate - death at the hands of the Prince - and she sends her minions to stop him. The story is much darker than its predecessor and full of pathos.
Once the Prince reaches the time portal, he discovers that it can be re-configured to visit various locations in time-past or time-present. This translates into visiting the same areas more than once, although the surroundings will either be in ruins or flourishing as he alternates between the past and the present. As you open more of these areas, things can get a little confusing about where you need to go. I ended up getting lost a couple of times and had to check with walkthroughs. This is also complicated when getting to the two towers quests as you can chose which order to do them in. In watching videos, some people did them in different orders making the appropriate videos hard to find.
There are two main components to gameplay, combat and platforming. Speaking of combat first, in the beginning you are faced with a very tough boss. In fact, I died so many times and became so frustrated that I had to change my settings to easy mode. Even then, it was tough. Many people have complained about the hard combat in this game, but I never again found it this hard. I really don't know if this was a result of playing on easy, but in my opinion I found combat in Sands of Time much harder and more frustrating. I believe the combat system here is vastly improved and more enjoyable. You have a variety of moves that are quite easily accomplished through the mouse and a couple of other buttons similar to the Darksiders set-up. Once you learn them, it's quite fun. The Prince is much more intuitive in this game. At certain points, you will also receive new weapons and combat abilities that consist of a variety of combination moves.
Platforming has also been made a little easier although having said that, the camera lock can prove to be very aggravating at times. If you know what it's like to drive a car with uneven air in the tires and feel like your always fighting the wheel to keep the car going straight, you can get an idea of what happens in this game. You are often doing battle with the camera for control. This can prove problematic as where the camera is pointed determines which direction key to use for a jump. I ran into a particular area that had me pulling my hair out for awhile. This becomes much more frustrating because this game uses a checkpoint system like the first and when you die, it loads you way back in the game. Those areas that you previously beat will have to be played over and over again. I do believe the developers are sadistic. Dying, is often the result of this camera lock.
As with any sequel, one would expect an improvement in the graphics, but sadly this is not the case. The Sands of Time looks better than this game. One thing that seems consistent with both is the no forgiveness aspect. There is no margin for error in some sequences. The Dahaka chases are basically timed platforming runs and one mistake will get you killed. Since they are also blind runs, you will probably be doing these over and over again till you become familiar with the course, the proper moves, and the changes in camera angles. This is particularly hair pulling near the end in the Long Way Home chapter, as there are three separate chases before you can save. Allow lots of time, for although there are retry points between them, there are no saves and shutting down will mean starting over at the first chase again.
Another thing you should know is that collecting all the life upgrades changes the ending. If you miss any and have to go back, it can become quite confusing about where to go as there is no map. All upgrades are located in time past and I suggest you consult a guide as there may be a glitch where after a certain time you cannot go back to collect all nine. Some fun unlockable weapons are also available such as a Teddy Bear and a Pink Flamingo.
I have a love/hate relationship with these games that can swing between frustration and enjoyment, mainly because this is a console port where not enough attention is paid to making keyboard and mouse controls as efficient as using a controller. However, barring one or two problem areas, it's not a really serious problem with this particular game. Warrior Within is the second game of the trilogy and it ramps up the intensity.