What has gone before must be resolved, what is to come must be spectacular - those are the rules of a trilogy's last chapter. You have to pull out the killer ace, you have to sucker-punch the player, and you have to make damned sure that you do it in style. Enter the Prince, then, as he embarks on the last stage of his quest to right the wrongs of so many years ago. Blood will spill, flesh will burn, but finally, the curse of the Sands of Time will be washed clean.
"The idea was always there to produce a Prince of Persia trilogy", Ben Mattes, producer of PoP 3 tells us. "There was always plenty of subject matter, but the story was always longer than what could be told in a single game. The growth of the Prince, from naive, to selfish, to finally epic hero couldn't be told in a single sitting. We've seen him as this young, guilt-ridden warrior attempting to put things right, we've watched him become consumed with anger and selfishness, and now we're going to see him emerge from the other side."
The key words here are 'hunted' and 'haunted'. The Prince is living through a waking hell, returning to Babylon to find it thick with mysterious occupying forces, all with a single intent - to kill the Prince. It's one man versus an army, a near-impossible challenge. But time is a strange master. Just as it can change the fabric of a city and alter the fate of nations, it can offer up the most unexpected, though hardly conventional ally. PoP 3's second playable character is, in fact, the Prince himself. It's a "buddy movie from Babylon" says creative director Jean-Christophe Guyot.
"Gameplay will play off the dichotomy of the Prince and the Sand Prince, a manifestation of the Prince which emerges when you become infected by the Sands of Time. The duality of these two princes is a major driving force for POP3. The 'light' Prince is one of learning. He's becoming more noble and selfless, while the Sand Prince is the physical embodiment of the Prince's weakest personality traits - all the selfishness, recklessness and masochism we saw in Warrior Within.
"Because the Sand Prince is essentially an infection, he can be let loose any time like a fit of coughing. The Prince has no control over it - it's an infection that spreads through his body, and this alter ego, this Mr Hyde figure, grows and devours him. When he emerges he brings an entirely new set of manoeuvres, styles, and modes of killing."
Ubisoft certainly hasn't slacked off when it comes to the hacking off of heads or severing of limbs - there's a five-storey ideas factory in Montreal packed with passionate POP-ites to make sure of that. It must have been tempting to just reintroduce the kills from the previous games, but several new methods of slaughter have been introduced. The Sand Prince packs a devastating chain-whip that serves just as well for swinging across rooftops as it does for using as a brutal makeshift noose on unsuspecting enemies. One yank and he's off his feet; a further yank and his head comes clean off.
Use the chain as a means to negotiate levels and perform stealth kills is important too. After all, Princey is hunted with terrible efficiency by a sinister army. If you thought the Dahaka was bad, wait till you meet Kindred Blades' elite squad of specially trained, super intelligent trackers.
"We're reworking the AI system from the ground up", Mattes tells us. "The action-adventure genre isn't really renowned for its use of AI and intelligent enemies, so we really want to change that this time around. The AI system is much more observant. Jump on a balcony containing pigeons, and the enemy will be aware of the startled birds. They can call for reinforcements or brace themselves for attack. This is not the course of action you particularly want to encourage, especially with so many enemies hunting you. That's why we've introduced the 'speed kill' system. PoP 3 isn't about sneaking and hiding, it's about thinking fast and identifying windows of opportunity in order to succeed. Act fast, use the Prince's acrobatic skills to turn the tide in his favour, and hopefully, by the slimmest of margins the player will be able to scrape through another potentially fatal encounter."