The Rogue Prince of Persia feels like Dead Cells with a wall-run, and that’s great | Hands-on preview

by on April 10, 2024

The Rogue Prince of Persia might be a strange name for a game, but it’s probably better than calling it “Prince of Persia Dead Cells”. And that may seem incredibly reductive, but after playing it, after seeing the style, the animations, the movement, and the combat, it’s clear that while there may be many pretenders to the throne that wish they were as good as Dead Cells, it takes the people behind it to deliver that level of quality.

And it might even seem a bit strange that the developer of The Rogue Prince of Persia is Evil Empire, which is actually the team that made most of the DLC for Dead Cells, including the fantastic Castlevania content. But it’s very clear after going hands-on that, even down to the early access nature of the game, this is going to be very much in the wheelhouse of those who love Dead Cells.

The Rogue Prince of Persia

This version of the Prince is somehow even more agile than the one we played only a few months ago in The Lost Crown, and while I genuinely don’t like distilling games down to core components via comparisons, it really is a case of speaking clearly and saying: if you played Dead Cells but wondered what if it had a wall run button, this is the game for you.

Each run starts out in a safe area, and you traverse through locations that are definitely not the same each time, though I’m also not sure how deeply procedurally generated they are. I saw very similar locations, as though the tiles were shifting about each run, which is not a complaint, and more an observation. You’ll start with basic weapons, and find upgrades or entirely new ones along the way. You’ve a melee and a ranged (bow), and you can discover buffs that let you leave poison clouds, or say, kick someone into a wall and when they impact said wall, start a fire. These stack or upgrade, depending on how you choose to spec: there will definitely be builds for this one.

The dodge is something that feels slightly unfamiliar in that you jump over an enemy when close to them. You can hoof them into traps via the kick button, and some enemies will have shields you need to take down before you can damage them. The kick also stuns weaker enemies, which makes for a lot of fun when you have three or four grunts lined up and you’re hammering their stunned bodies. There are chests, the aforementioned buffs, lots of enemies, and teleporters that, once discovered, allow you to jump across the map at breakneck speed. Again, it’s hard to just pretend that Dead Cells doesn’t exist when listing off the features, and I’m almost impressed I managed to not name it for a few paragraphs, there.

The Rogue Prince of Persia

The Rogue Prince of Persia also has a game-changing feature with the wall run. It’s mapped to the left trigger, and basically allows you to wall run left to right, right to left, upwards, and so on. It’s absolutely great fun in the moment, and while it’s a little on the short side, even within my short play time I was finding secrets off the beaten track using it that I’m almost sure I wasn’t supposed to find on my first run.

Combining this ability with the sliding down waterfalls, spinning round poles, leaping everywhere, and the generally fast-paced nature of the combat, and it’s all a bit like a fever dream, mixing as it does with the visceral and vibrant colours on-screen. Because Evil Empire’s take on Prince of Persia also looks and sounds incredible. It’s a painterly art style that runs smoothly even at this pre-early access stage, and the soundtrack is absolutely brilliant. It’s loud and in your face, feeling like a contemporary take on what you’d expect to hear. It’s almost a little too loud, but you can absolutely tell the team knows how great it sounds.

The Rogue Prince of Persia

Coming away from going hands-on, I felt like I’d played a familiar game with new takes. It’s difficult to know how much game there is when a game like this hits early access, but I encountered one boss that handed my ass to me, and I suspect there’s more. There’s a story here, a hub that looks like it can either be upgraded, or affected somehow, but I just can’t know how long it is in the current form, simply because of the nature of the game, and requiring some more time to get to grips with it all.

The difficulty felt well balanced, it looks and sounds great, and I’m very interested to see what builds and ideas lurk beyond my short time playing it so far. Many have tried to come at the king and delivered something good, but not quite there, but if there’s anyone who can deliver an experience on par with the greats of this genre, it’s going to the team that worked on the game itself.

The Rogue Prince of Persia is hitting PC Steam early access on May 14th.