Prey: Mooncrash is a very clever and highly enjoyable melding of first-person shooting and exploration with Rogue-like death and replay. It manages to create an entirely fresh experience in the Prey universe. Moreover, it’s fantastically compelling.
You are tasked with entering a simulation and reliving the desperate escape of five individuals that are trapped on the lunar base with Typhon enemies. Much like the core game, the Typhon come in a variety of forms, including the Mimics which morph into different objects to deceive and scare the hell out of you, and bi-pedal forms known as Phantoms. Some additional, new forms are also present in Mooncrash, including a tentacle spewing egg and a terrifically named ‘moon shark’. Dealing with these enemies, either through combat with whatever weaponry you manage to find – melee and projectile – or through environmental hazard manipulation, sneaking, or your very own Typhon abilities and skills provided by implants, is the order of the day.
Indeed, there’s a wealth of options as to how you choose to engage, or avoid, conflict, and the same can be said for progressing through the moon base. Multiple paths are available with different obstacles to traverse, whether these are locked doors requiring pass cards, hacking skills, passwords gained by reading notes and emails or the computer terminals, let alone the environmental hazards and enemies. However, a big change with Mooncrash over the core game are the five characters you control.
To begin with you’re limited to a single character, but as you play his unique escape attempt you gradually unlock the additional characters. This can occur when you discover their corpse for the first time, or by achieving the specific story objective for a character. These objectives are present for each character and revolves around one of the five available escape methods, such as using the escape pod, flying out on a shuttle, etc. Meanwhile, additional objectives are also available for each character, should you feel the need to put yourself in great danger and uncover more of the plot.
With the Rogue-like addition of skills carrying over even after death, and the environment maintaining a persistent state for each cycle, after a dozen or so attempts you’ll have the whole cast ready to go, allowing you to use the abilities of different characters to help pave the way for the others. The ultimate goal is the have a perfect run; where all five characters manage to escape during a single, unbroken cycle. However, achieving this is anything but simple.
Determining which characters can do what is largely a case of trial and error and is discovered simply by using them. However, understanding the base layout and what activates what, takes some exploration, and the more you explore the more dangerous it becomes. This isn’t only because of the random spawning of enemies for each cycle but also because of an imposed time limit. The simulation technology you’re using is unstable, and the longer you remain in it, the more unstable it becomes. This instability is measured in levels, and as each level is reached, new enemies spawn and become more aggressive. It’s a clever mechanic that adds urgency and threat with an effective randomness; it’s Rogue-like at its best.
And indeed, it’s these Rogue-like elements that make this such an interesting experience. Items and enemies surprise you with different spawn locations each cycle, the environment also changes throwing unforeseeable obstacles at you, all the while your cast of characters are gradually getting stronger, your knowledge of the base is increasing, and those five escape plans and their order begin to reveal themselves. Pair this with Prey’s environmental storytelling, intense combat and terrifying enemies, and you’ve got a tremendously unique and engaging package.
Prey’s core mechanics of exploration, limited ammo and health, and horror would make figuring out how to achieve each characters’ escape frustrating due to the amount of times it causes your demise, but due to the Rogue-like qualities of skill retention and a semi-persistent environment, it makes this a unique and entertaining experience that’s hard to put down.
Thanks to Bethesda for supporting TiX