Updated: Feb 19
This is not even the "edgiest" thing he says...
Available On: PS2, Xbox, Gamecube
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: Platform, Adventure, Hack and Slash
Release: 30th November 2004
Do you like rough edges to go with your edgy-ness? A dish to go with your serving of cold hard revenge? How do you like your eggs? Hard boiled? Ya so did the Warrior Within which should probably be renamed to "The Tonal Dissonance Within" given the stylistic jump this sequel got. Booting up this game directly after coming out of Sands of Time was probably the greatest sense of video-game whiplash I've felt since finishing Links Awakening and going straight into a replay of The Last of Us, and they are not even on the same console! The funny thing about this title is I absolutely loved it on it's release. It hit all the right angsty spots amongst my KoRn, Linkin Park and Metallicas St.Anger (judge me by my size do you?) compilation CD's. I had all the teenage angst you could shake a stick at and then some so this sepia toned sequel hit right when it needed too.
When I look back on it now, given the benefit of hindsight though, I wonder why Ubisoft made such a radical decision with only it's second installment in this newly reinvigorated Prince. Sands of Time sold well, was received well too by both fans and critics yet there was this need to "shake things up" to keep the Prince fresh. Warrior Within has a darkly oppressive atmosphere at times, and the Prince (as you see above) is now a far more bitter and angry character. A complete 180 on what came before, which kind of unnecessarily ignores what made the Prince so endearing in the first place.
You Want it Darker...I guess?
The prince (inexplicably recast as Robert Atkin Downes from MGS 5 fame) is being hunted by the Dahaka, a demonic being constantly dogging his heels after escaping his pre-ordained death in the first game. To be rid of this monster, the prince decides what better way to save himself than prevent the sands of time from ever being created and therefore, the Dahaka. What could go wrong right? What ensues is a lot of backtracking through the temple of time (or something ominous like that, time island maybe?) but a conceit that is also cleverly incorporated into the environmental design so as to keep things fresh. While you will be backtracking through each area, having to go between the past where everything is intact and the crumbling world of the "present" the Prince inhabits means that navigating the same area requires a different approach and staves off that feeling of deja vu. That handhold that was just in reach in the past might now be a gaping chasm that means going a longer way around, the ruined gardens with blocked doors and paths mean traveling back in time to release the waters, opening up the path you need in the present. Lateral thinking at its finest.
Gone were the shambling silent sand boys from before, replaced with more hellish (and weirdly sexually aggressive) enemies that taunted and mocked the prince at every turn. I guess trying to establish a "hell of his own making" motif to complement its already more brutal environmental design and gothy music (yes it's on spotify, no I don't know why) was essential. You know, in case you didn't notice all the grit that was the opening cinematic. Now, I am being a bit facetious here, despite the tonal shift feeling very forced, it is still a very solid game that introduces some clever environmental design that keeps the time altering shenanigans theme going strong. A sequel can be as much a blessing as well as a curse and that is particularly true of these games. Ubisoft made a decision and by god did they go for it.
Combat is much more enjoyable in Warrior Within, something that the devs clearly took to heart as it was an early criticism in the first entry. It also might explain the grittier (there's that word again) tone we see, as you really do tear through enemies quite viciously that again sharply contrasts Sands of Time whimsical nature. In any case, for years, I gave this game slack for being what it was and somewhat unfairly. I don't think it's better than the first entry but I now think it has a lot of its own style going for it and I commend the team for just going for it, hell for leather. But there's that persistent feeling at every turn that it just misses the mark and for my money, this marked the beginning of the end for the franchise as we know it.
Gifs used are taken from recorded game-play and uploaded/edited by me here
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