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The Rogue Prince of Persia screenshot

The Rogue Prince of Persia isn’t a Hades killer, but it sure is slick

Given that The Rogue Prince of Persia was slightly delayed exclusively because of of the existence of Hades II, it’s almost a given that the two are going to be compared. They’re both in early access, and they are both part of the roguelike genre. Thankfully, they’re both different enough that they should be able to exist — and thrive — side-by-side… even if one of them isn’t quite as good as the other one.

Indeed, I don’t think Supergiant Games has anything to worry about. Hades II’s place as everybody’s current favourite roguelike isn’t at risk with the release of The Rogue Prince of Persia, but that’s not to say that this new take on a decades-old franchise doesn’t have its place. Developed by Evil Empire, a team who has worked closely with Motion Twin in developing and expanding Dead Cells, it has some solid lineage behind it. And Dead Cells’ DNA is very clear to see in numerous ways.

The first thing you’ll notice when playing The Rogue Prince of Persia is how effortlessly slick it is. Controlling the titular prince is incredibly satisfying thanks to his huge repertoire of moves: he can run, wall run, dash across walls in the background and vault downwards. And that’s all just for the sake of traversal. When it comes to combat, his slickness can be utilised to dodge, dash and get the upper hand, but other moves, like a kick or a downwards hit, can also be used to deal damage.

The Rogue Prince of Persia screenshot
Image: Evil Empire/Ubisoft

The prince’s moveset isn’t just a gimmick, either. You’ll frequently be presented with platforming puzzles, for want of a better word, asking you to get past swathes of spikes and other dangers in order to reach some far-off treasures. You’ll have to chain together wall runs, jumps and more in order to reach your target: as frustrating as it is if you fail and end up landing on a bed of spikes, it feels incredible when you pull it off. And with practice, you’ll pull it off perfectly almost every time.

Related: The best roguelike games on Xbox Game Pass

What takes more practice, though, is nailing The Rogue Prince of Persia’s combat — especially its boss fights. This is a game that takes no prisoners. Currently, there are no difficulty options and no accessibility toggles to make things easier for you. And, taking cues from Dead Cells, there are no real permanent upgrades to unlock between each run. You can unlock new weapons and new perks to find in your run but, for the most part, you’re starting from scratch each time you jump in.

It can be a little disheartening, feeling like no progress has been made. Worse, currency that you’ve earned — which is used for those aforementioned weapon and perk unlocks — will be lost unless you’ve been able to cash it out at a specific point of a level. It’ll likely take you several runs before you’re able to unlock even one thing, and so for most people, progress is going to be slow-going.

The Rogue Prince of Persia screenshot
Image: Evil Empire/Ubisoft

What helps, however, is the narrative strand that runs through The Rogue Prince of Persia. Its levels aren’t quite linear, offering different routes through them. It pays to explore (even if it means facing off against more foes) as you may find characters to talk to which could open up new areas. You’ll eventually have two starting areas to choose from, and by exploring other areas you’ll find pathways through to new, additional areas. Running to the end of the level is fine, sure, and you’ll still make progress, but you may miss out on some cool story stuff.

Right now, I wouldn’t worry about it too much, though: since it’s in early access, The Rogue Prince of Persia is incomplete, so you’ll have to hang around to finish the story anyway. Still, there’s enough content here to make it worth jumping into if you’re itching to give it a try, and a lot more to come, such as new weapons, new enemies, expanded features and new story content. In the year or so it’s planned to be in early access, hopefully there’s a chance some of the stuff we aren’t so keen on — like the lack of real permanent progression — might get worked on, too.

In any case, there’s already a lot here to like, and I’m looking forward to seeing how The Rogue Prince of Persia shapes up in the next few months. It’s not going to set the roguelike genre on fire right now, but it’s a solid entry that steadfast genre fans will undoubtedly enjoy. If you’re not so hot on roguelikes, however, you might find repetition sets in a little too fast. But boy, the traversal is slick as heck.

The Rogue Prince of Persia is available on Steam via early access.

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