Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, released in 2010, is the last installment in the series so far, and with Ubisoft focusing on the Assasin’s Creed series, a new Prince of Persia does not seem very likely at this point.

Prince of Persia: Забытые Пески – Коллекционное Издание

As with every previous game in the Ubisoft‘s Prince of Persia series, Akella has released a fully localized Russian version (known as Prince of Persia: Забытые пески –  the series name was left in English this time). Three editions were released – the regular one (game only, single DVD in jewel case), a “special edition” (in a DVD Digipak inside a slipcase with a Russian manual, bonus DVD and a set of postcards), and a “collector’s edition” which was like the special edition, except it came in a big-box and included a functional miniature hourglass done in the style of the game.

The game DVD is identical in all three versions; the Digipak, slipcase, printed manual and bonus DVD are the same in both “special” editions. The jewel case includes no physical booklet, but the manual is included on the disk itself (under Support).

No copy protection / DRM is present on the disks, but the game itself is tied to Ubisoft‘s Uplay service, which is pretty bad – you must be online, have a Uplay account, install the Uplay client and have it running in the background at all times to play the game. It comes with all the “wonderful” side-effects of online DRM:

  1. Having to manually update the client because the version on the DVD is too old; if you are running an outdated version of Windows, such as XP, the latest Uplay client will not work, but it seems that an older one (version 23) can be installed and is at least functional as of early year 2020.
  2. Permanently tying the activation key to your account. It appears that Ubisoft has no supported method for transferring keys between accounts, so good luck buying/selling second hand.
  3. The most unpleasant surprise – the activation keys for the extra content (skins and new survival arena) did not work for me at all – the Uplay client claimed they were invalid, and attempting to activate them from within the game failed, complaining about the server being unavailable.

Driven by a combination of curiosity and mild annoyance, I approached Ubisoft support with the above problem, and after about 3 weeks of going back and forth, the case was finally escalated, and resolved – although the original keys could not be made to work, I received an alternate key for Uplay which unlocked all the content. Far from the best customer experience, and not one I would wish on anyone who considers buying the Russian “Special Edition”, but I still have to put a good word for Ubisoft resolving it in the end.

From everything I read, the problem is due to the peculiarities of the Russian release – originally released without Uplay support (there is no Uplay menu in the game even) due to technical difficulties, it was eventually integrated properly into Uplay after multiple client updates; although the main game keys were ported to the new system, apparently the extra keys were not, and the original in-game activation method was retired some time ago. It is not even clear whether it’s Ubisoft or Akella is more at fault here, but the latter has been out of business for some time now, so contacting their support was obviously not an option.

It’s sad and funny at the same time how legitimate buyers of games often have more trouble that those who opt to “pirate” – since Skidrow-cracked versions of The Forgotten Sands just work, require no internet connectivity,  and have patches that unlock all the extras with no hassle. I guess one can view it as another case study on the negative effects of DRM.

Anyways, on to the goodies. The bonus DVD is a mixed DVD-data/video disk. Running it in a PC gives access to an installable screensaver and a few wallpapers, whereas running it in a DVD player (or using DVD player software) gives access to a couple of trailer videos, 11 ‘concept art’ illustrations, and the game’s soundtrack, with 12 songs. Overall it’s reasonable bonus content, although I would much prefer if the songs could be extracted as audio-only for playing them in a CD drive / portable music player, and ‘concept art’ is something that previous games in the series had included in-game, without the need for any ‘special editions’. BTW, unlike the game interface and manual, none of the bonus content has been translated into Russian.

Off to the extra goodies – the 4 postcards included with the slipcase-only version are standard cardboard, depicting the Prince in varying environments. Nothing particularly remarkable about them, but they are nice. The ones in the ‘big box’ version are more interesting: although only 3 are included (the one with the Prince drawing his sword was omitted), they were done in lenticular printing, giving the images an illusion of depth (but also making them somewhat darker and more blurry). I felt that I really only liked the stereoscopic version of the Prince running along the wall; for the others, I prefer the regular postcards.

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The final item is the hourglass, included only in the big-box version (inside a small cardboard box of its own). It is a real, fully functional time measurement device (counting 10 minutes, ±10%, which is acceptable for a basic one). The glass is encased in a protective layer of plastic, and the bases are metal. The characters attached to the bases are presumably the Prince himself and Razia, queen of the Djinn.

Akella‘s translation of the game is of high quality, as in the previous chapters; both collector’s editions are nicely done, but the Uplay DRM is annoying, and the broken extra content activation codes are very disappointing (even though I got it resolved in the end, there is no guarantee the same would work for anyone buying this Russian version). The big-box edition is the more complete of the two, but the compact DVD-case version gives better value for the money (unless you really like the hourglass or the stereo postcards).

Special Edition (DVD Keep-Case)

Overall: 7/10, Value: 8/10

Collector’s Edition (Big Box)

Overall: 8/10, Value: 7/10

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