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Prey is the new game from Arkane Studios, the developers of the widely successful Dishonored series. Dubbed a spiritual successor to System Shock, and featuring writing from Chris Avellone (who is known for his work on such popular RPG franchises as Fallout and Baldur’s Gate), this was a game I was thoroughly interested in.

In it, you play as (either a male or female) Morgan Yu. With no memory of who you are, you find yourself on a colossal orbiting space station known as the Talos 1 after the outbreak of a mysterious and extremely hostile alien species known as the “Typhon”. Acquiring weapons and abilities as you explore, you must learn who you are and what exactly is going on and try to survive the outbreak.

Marketed as a reboot of Human Head Studio’s 2006 game of the same name, the 2017 Prey features no real crossover at all; other than it’s science fiction/alien invaders themes the title itself. Right off the bat, this raised a few eyebrows, and was an odd decision as I’m sure that Arkane Studios’ name post-Dishonored and the involvement of such a prestigious name as Chris Avellone, could have sold this as a 100% original franchise.

Later enemies in the game grow in size and strength, and if you aim to take them on, you’ll need your own arsenal of weapons which can either be found around the station or crafted using Prey’s interesting fabrication machines. Almost anything you pick up in the game can be broken down or recycled into various base materials which can then be used (providing you’ve obtained the prerequisite plans) to craft anything from ammo, to health packs, to “neuromods” which are used to unlock various special skills or powers.

 

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Featuring gameplay similar to Bioshock and Deus Ex, as you explore the Talos 1 space station, you will be steadily introduced to newer, tougher, deadlier enemies each with their own powers and weaknesses. Perhaps the most interesting of all being the very first you encounter, the mimics: a headcrab-like creature with the ability to impersonate almost any item in the environment to avoid detection until the player is right up next to it and then attack. See 2 garbage cans sitting next to each other, and one very well may have a surprise waiting for you.

Later enemies in the game grow in size and strength, and if you aim to take them on, you’ll need your own arsenal of weapons which can either be found around the station or crafted using Prey’s interesting fabrication machines. Almost anything you pick up in the game can be broken down or recycled into various base materials which can then be used (providing you’ve obtained the prerequisite plans) to craft anything from ammo, to health packs, to “neuromods” which are used to unlock various special skills or powers.

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Say you’ve come across an elevator with a locked keypad — you can look around, and maybe, find the code written down or recorded somewhere. Or you could hack the system if your hacking skill is up to the task, you could look for another pathway all together or you could make your own makeshift staircase and climb the elevator shaft with the help of your GLOO gun, a nifty tool used for incapacitating enemies or solving environmental hazards.

This type of freedom of gameplay is something which has been lacking from many recent games. There’s a certain satisfaction in figuring out your own personal way around a problem, and Prey allows you to indulge in that.

However, for an “open world” game, it does have the tendency to bottleneck or force you down certain paths out of necessity sometimes. Say you’re told door number 1 continues the main quest, while door number 2 leads to side missions; it’s only to find that upon attempting to access door number 1, you’re told: “Sorry, it’s locked. You must go through door 2 anyway”.

This is an understandable requirement of the game, but it still does ruin the sense of freedom every now and then.

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Another irritation is the decision to have enemies spawn based on your location in a map rather than by any other means. It’s established early on that the Typhon is a self-multiplying entity, so it’s not a problem returning to a once-cleared room only to find it overrun again. Albeit, at times, you may notice you have totally cleared an entire environment of enemies only to walk into an office and see multiple enemies pop up out of nowhere. It’s a real basic “video game moment” that is highlighted by the otherwise exemplary level design.

A more cynical gamer may consider Prey a game which doesn’t do a whole lot which we haven’t seen before in other games. This may be true on some level, but more importantly, is how well it does these things. While it does share some similarities with other RPGs, there is plenty here to allow Prey to stand on its own feet as one of the best games to come out of 2017 so far.

Written by Kyle McGrath

 

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