Bethesda-published Prey is a curious game. It’s shaping up to be intriguing, thought-provoking and mechanically fresh …but also judging from most previews it feels like the entire game is one huge spoiler territory of “plot twist and sudden revelation” kind of way. It makes writing a proper preview, or review, when the time comes, rather… difficult. But let’s try anyway, because the launch day comes nearer and nearer with every passing day.
Our world, but not really
Prey’s story is a case of alternative timelines. In this case the point of divergence was the moment of JFK assassination. Or in the case of Prey, an assassination *attempt*, because JFK survived, which let him invest vast amounts of money into the space program. After some time an alien life form was discovered, codenamed Typhon, presumably after a monster of Greek mythology or an obscure acronym. You know, one of the two.
There was also a space station called Talos, because sticking to the mythology theme is important. The station was said to be effectively an R&D paradise, but that rarely works out fine in the long term in science fiction narratives. Fast forward to 2032, the year Prey’s actual story begins.
The player character
Prey’s protagonist is a scientist called Morgan Yu. Since the name can apply to either sex, we will be able to choose whether we want to play as a man or a woman. This is said to have little to no influence on the experience, barring the voiceover and possibly some little details of easter egg prominence. Yu is a clever one, and apparently has some repressed unique abilities.
Who are you?
When you meet Yu, you’ll be in Yu’s apartment and after some nosing around your place you depart to participate in some vague tests in which Yu is the lab rat. These tests hide a tutorial level, and do it well. Sadly, the tests are interrupted and we enter spoilery plotpoints cool enough to keep them hidden. Let’s just say that things take a slightly unexpected turn and Yu is given some serious wake-up call.
What *are* we doing, anyway?
Prey carries some of the trademark features of other games of its developer, Arkane Studios. Characters’ appearances look somewhat similar to Dishonoreds artstyle, there is a convenient power/equipment wheel, and the game doesn’t shy away from stealth. In other areas the game takes inspiration from BioShock, too. This is probably going to be a one-actor show for the most part, with Yu trying to piece together what is going on while amorphous Typhon aliens scuttle around and try to eliminate the last remnants of humanity in the area.
Shoot, splash, morph
Although there will be guns, most reviews prefer to put some emphasis on the GLOO gun, and with good reason. Although it may seem to be a gimmick gun, it’s going to be a great help during traversal, since it shoots hardened foam which you can use to build rudimentary platforms. It will also be very useful against a smaller Typhon variety, which tend to turn into inanimate objects to surprise their victim (Yu). Can’t change their form when covered in foam!
Yu will also have access to external progression accelerator (not an official name) in the form of a handy device with two spikes you shove into your eyeball. Apparently near future medicine doesn’t like non-invasive procedures. In any case, neuromods allow Yu to upgrade their skills, including the one allowing you to turn into an object, just like small Typhons. Yu will in general be able to learn many things, like hacking or various upgrades to their combat abilities (chair warfare is one of the finest aspects of using improvised weapons).
Structural integrity at 100%
The developers confirmed that Prey will not have an open world, exactly, but you’ll be able to get everywhere not barred behind unique missions. It could be called open world, but frankly it doesn’t seem fitting for a game taking place largely in corridors and rooms. Open structure? Seems fair. Not limiting exploration to missions (the way it was done in Dishonored) makes a lot of sense. The GLOO gun needs a lot of chances to really shine and the crafting system needs both resources (more or less… anything) and access to a matter converter you use to get basic materials and print items.
There isn’t much that can be said about Prey that isn’t spoilerific or raw description or estimation of gameplay mechanics. Nonetheless what can be seen is an uncomfortable atmosphere or a science-fiction thriller mixed with a little bit of Groundhog Day for good measure. Disturbingly amorphous enemies, uncertainty about what is real and what isn’t, powers that may be a bad idea to use… Developed by Arkane Studios and written by Chris Avellone of Planescape: Torment and Pillars of Eternity fame, Prey has some very talented people working on it on both gameplay and story.
Prey launches on May 5, 2017 which means there is still enough time to dig into other previews and check if you want to buy a pre order. Just do not wait too long…and check of your toaster isn’t a Typhon.