I promise I will be back to games I am surprised by and/or ashamed of owning, soon, but first let me tell you about ‘Prey’ (the new one). ‘Prey’ is another very recent game I threw upon the top of the mountain just to take it off again and I did so with great pleasure.
I bought the game on the following info: first person perspective, space station. People seemed to like it. As with ‘What Remains of Edith Finch‘ I read that the game is best experienced without knowing too much about it beforehand and I now agree with that advice. If you thinking about playing ‘Prey’ and you get triggered by the same words as I do, you should probably stop reading and buy the game.
Still, it took me some time to warm up to the game. In the beginning it felt just like another Shock-game set in a space station. While the design in its over stylized form is pretty to look at, Talos 1 has nothing of the claustrophobic and ‘real’ feel of Alien Isolation’s Sevastopol space station. I much preferred the latter art style wise. Also I am a bit tired of the ‘Drive’ soundtrack. I missed little things like iron sights – I know the game is not a shooter, but I always feel it does a lot for immersion to aim with your gun. In hindsight it probably wasn’t a good idea to go with a conventional weapons build. My biggest gripe was the Alien design: black blobs, straight from the Great Guide on Boring Sci-Fi Tropes’. Nothing feels less satisfying than defeating a black blob. Yes, I learned to respect them because every single one of them posed a challenge (in the beginning) and that’s fantastic, but the whole ‘they are so far removed from humans it’s scary’-thing didn’t work for me – at all.
After a while more and more of the space station is available to you and that did a lot to make the game more interesting, especially since it’s a game that rewards exploring and experimenting. Finally the side quest came into play and ‘Prey’ is probably the first game that made me feel like the optional stuff actually has an impact on the story as a whole and isn’t just filler stuff to level my character. The more I progressed the more I caught myself thinking ‘wow, that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t saved/abandoned this particular NPC, etc.’. Speaking of NPCs – while I found some of their stories to be interesting, I didn’t feel a real connection to any of them. In the end, when I was getting impatient to get to the finale, it wasn’t a hard decision to doom them all to space death for convenience’s sake.
Another thing I appreciated was that the game didn’t treat me like fifteen-year-old with brain damage, like most triple A titles tend to do nowadays. There weren’t any brain wrenching puzzles (thank you!), but the game made you do enough to at least give you the illusion of accomplishment. It even taunts you with the typical ‘the key code for the safe is probably written down somewhere near the safe’-thing.
The feature which surprised me most, especially as a PC gamer, was that I didn’t experience a single bug in a game that is just weeks old. Isn’t there some publisher’s agreement to prevent such things? What’s next? Fairly priced DLC?
My playthrough took me about 19 hours, and apart from the beginning and some frustrating ‘oh come on, I just spent all my ammunition/gadgets/patience cleaning this section of black blobs – now there are even more?!’-respawn moments, the time went by flying. I chose the female protagonist, because after playing for three minutes as the male character, I remembered that in general women are more capable of defeating space monsters. It felt much more natural. I liked the game enough to have already planned a power hungry ‘I will put all the alien shit through my eye’-dude playthrough. The difficulty curve is a bit of a mess. It spikes really early and in the end I was just dancing around, jumping over, running away from any black blob I encountered. Those are minor gripes in an otherwise great space station exploration game with an entertaining story. I highly recommend playing ‘Prey’ if you can handle the ultimate boring alien design.
Info: ‘Prey’ was developed by Arcane Studios and released in May 2017. You can get it on Steam if you feel like clubbing some black mush into black mush.