The Rogue Prince of Persia, a new roguelike from the folks who made Dead Cells, is out in early access—and boy can that prince already schmoove

If you know me (statistically speaking, you don't) you'll remember that I like a good roguelike. I've recently had my entire existence absorbed by Hades 2 and, inevitably, a replay of the first game. If I didn't write about video games for a living, I might've given Rogue Prince of Persia a miss—and despite only just starting to get to grips with it, I'm sure glad I do write about games.

This isn't a conundrum that developer Evil Empire (a studio that spawned out of Motion Twin's desire to make more DLCs for Dead Cells) is unaware of—in fact, the game was delayed almost entirely because of Hades 2 earlier this month. Still, I'm here to make sure you at least set eyeballs on this thing, because it's already a strong showing.

The Rogue Prince of Persia is, from the short amount I've played so far, essentially "Dead Cells, but with more deliberate movement". Whereas Dead Cells combat is frenetic and hectic, The Rogue Prince of Persia wants you to feel the flow. You have a wall run, a charged attack, a ranged attack that costs energy, and a ground pound—but no dodge roll. Instead, the game gives you the ability to vault over enemies.

This is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because vaulting over enemies (who are typically slow to turn around) leaves their spines ripe for the stabbin'. It's a curse because, as you'll rapidly find out if you try to spam it, vaulting is a commitment that can be punished severely.

So what about groups of enemies? That's where your kick comes in. You can use this to punt creeps into each other, into walls, off cliffs, and into spikes. Armoured enemies throw a spanner into these works, being immune to kicking or any stagger your weapons might deal. They sort of fulfil the role of armoured enemies in Hades 2: Tougher variants on your usual fodder that force you to respect their movesets.

Being all gung-ho about your flips and tricks is going to get you either cartwheeling to an inglorious death at the hands of a saw blade, or kicked in the shins by a gaggle of huns. If that happens, though, don't worry—the prince has bolas that send him back to the past, a few days before his mortal enemies lay waste to Persia, every time he dies.

It's that deliberate movement that I think is going to rub some people the wrong way. If you don't respect the flow and try to spam your way through encounters ala Dead Cells, the game's gonna feel fiddly and annoying, especially during its occasional platforming gauntlets. But if you get to a rhythm, things start feeling silky-smooth right quick. It helps that the soundtrack wall-runs from banger to banger with finesse. 

Anyway: If you like roguelikes, and you like platformers, and you like flips and/or kicks—don't sleep on The Rogue Prince of Persia. Even in these early days it clearly deserves better, and I'm having a great time bar some funky performance issues and a very weird glitch in which my main menu saw the prince meditate through time and space. It's a good show for a work in progress, and I'm glad Evil Empire didn't have to burn anything down

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.