A key mechanic in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the ability to "rewind time" and try again if you screw something up. Today, Ubisoft announced that it is bringing some of that magic into the real world: The long-awaited Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake has apparently whiffed so badly that developer Ubisoft Montreal is starting over from scratch.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake was announced in 2020 and slated for release in 2021, but that didn't work out. Since then it's been delayed multiple times and even switched studios, moving from Ubisoft's Pune and Mumbai offices to Montreal; Ubisoft has insisted throughout that the project isn't cancelled, but fans started to wonder when existing preorders were all cancelled and refunded in November 2022.
Ubisoft announced again today that the project hasn't been cancelled, but it has effectively been scrapped: producer Jean-Francois Naud said in an update that the remake is now "in conception," which includes "looking at feedback from the community and finding our own way of delivering the game."
"We're building up the team, defining the priorities, putting prototypes together, testing elements, and looking at how we can include community feedback in the development as well," Naud said. "It’s still in an early stage, and players should not expect to hear more about the game this year, but rest assured that we’re all putting our strengths and heart into this project."
Game director Michael McIntyre explained that this project is a full remake, not a remaster: The word is literally in the title but it's a point he may have felt worth emphasizing given how much trouble Ubisoft seems to be having getting it finished.
"One of the gameplay cornerstones of the original game is how the Prince moves around. And yes, there is technology that lets us execute that better—but there are also expectations from players, in terms of other modern games, of what it means to actually control a character," McIntyre said. "Ubisoft Montreal has developed a strong expertise in that, and we are looking at how we take those lessons and apply them to the spirit of a game like Prince of Persia. That kind of thing is more than just technology; it really is us as game makers having evolved, and understanding that for players, simply picking up a polished version of the original would not meet their expectations.
"That refinement is actually kind of across the board. I think part of remake-versus-remaster is that there really is some degree of refinement in every aspect. The movement is a big one for us, but combat will get a similar treatment, because of how movement is evolving. And when we as a team look at some of the things that need to be refined, even the story—the story will remain true to itself. But the way it's delivered, we have new ways that stories have been told in games over the past 20 years, and it allows us to be a bit more nuanced and refined in the way we execute the story."
It's fair to say that nobody wants a half-assed game, but this has to be immensely frustrating for Ubisoft, which has been struggling to get things done. Skull and Bones and Beyond Good and Evil 2 are the most high-profile other examples of repeatedly-delayed games, but Ubisoft also recently cancelled a trio of unannounced projects in order to focus on its existing brands and live services. Starting over may be the right move in this case, but one wonders for how long Ubisoft can keep grinding its gears without putting out games.
Ubisoft also confirmed today, understandably given the reset, that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake will not be seen at the upcoming Ubisoft Forward online event, which is set to take place on June 12. For those keeping track, neither will Skull and Bones.