For the largest part of my childhood, when all of my friends wanted to be teachers or actors when they grew up, I really wanted to be a Space Engineer and design spaceships and/or go to space myself. This is a fact that has little bearing on the game review you’re about to read but it’s just something I felt like sharing with you all because we’re friends.
Okay, back to relevant things!
I always try my absolute best to stay up to date with the gaming world, but sometimes, despite my best intentions, I do need to go eat or sleep and in that split second that I’m away everything just seems to come out and I end up missing it. That was 100% the case when it came to Prey. Back when Prey was first announced I remember watching the trailer and being really excited to play it. When it did eventually launch I was just so busy with other games and life that after a while I sort of forgot about it (side note: this is the theme in my life and the main reason why I am a terrible plant owner). Flash to me being totally absorbed in all the E3 hype this year (which if you missed it you can find some of my favourites from the event here) and BAM! all of a sudden Prey was back on my radar. During Bethesda’s keynote (Bethesda is the company behind Prey) they announced a super sneaky Prey DLC, and not only did they announce it but they launched it on the spot and if anyone knows me, you know that I LOVE a surprise, especially if that surprise results in me having a new game to throw myself into. Best bit? This surprise let me make childhood Arielle happy and finally take her to space.
I was HYPED
Before we talk about the DLC, let’s just back peddle for a moment and have a quick talk about Prey, because surely I can’t be the only one who didn’t play it until now, right? Prey is a Single-Player Survival Horror/Role-Playing/Stealth/Shooter game played from the First-Person perspective (this means you don’t see your character on the screen and instead you play looking at the world through their eyes). You take on the role of Morgan Yu, a character whose gender and attributes are chosen by you. You’re a human in a space station that is currently orbiting around a moon and you are conducting research into an alien collective known only as the Typhon, things are okay at first and then, in an instant, things aren’t. If you’ve ever watched any Sci-Fi movie then you can probably already guess where this is going, the Typhon end up breaking free from their confinements and it’s now up to you to try to survive and escape the station. The story and gameplay itself is a lot more complex and a lot more fun than this explanation would lead you to believe. There are different ways to ‘build’ your character and the game has multiple endings depending on how you interact with the station and other surviving humans, but for the purpose of this review, it’ll do.
Hopefully you’re now caught up on Prey. Let’s move on to my latest addiction, the Mooncrash DLC (which might just be the best DLC I’ve ever played).
Let me just start off with saying that trying to explain the complexity of this DLC in just one post is literally an impossible task but I’m going to try my best, also, to get into the right frame of mind you should really watch the trailer before we continue:
Are you as hyped as I am now? Are you? Okay, let’s dive right in:
Mooncrash is a DLC for Prey and although it builds on the original setting, it’s almost a completely self-contained game. While you don’t have to play the original game in order to dive into the DLC I would definitely not recommend that. Mooncrash does NOT hold your hand, it assumes you’ve played through Prey and that you already have a relatively firm grasp on the mechanics and play styles required in order to not completely suck. While it is possible to just ‘figure it out as you play’, it’ll be sort of like entering a chess tournament without ever having learnt any of the rules of the game. You take on the role of a guy named Peter, a hacker who is on a satellite that’s currently orbiting the moon (sound familiar?). You are on a mission to figure out what happened to the Moon base that you’re currently orbiting and to do this you enter a VR simulation where you take the place of one of the five people who managed to survive the alien attack and escape.
This is where the game becomes really complex and interesting
There were five survivors and you will need to take control of each one of them while they are on the Moonbase, just as the attack broke out, and you need to make sure that they escape. After you escape with one, the next ‘survivor’ becomes controllable, and after you’ve gotten all five of them to escape you need to play once more, only this time you need to help each one of them to escape in one single play-through in order to complete the simulation and finish the game. The idea is that you need to figure out how each one of them managed to escape and which one of the 5 available escape routes each one took, each escape can only be used once and some of the routes require a specific survivor to be able to use it – so you’re constantly playing a game of who belongs where. If you die while playing any of the survivors the simulation you are in is instantly restarted to the beginning of that run and everything in the world, other than the layout of the level itself, becomes randomised. So each play-through will have different aliens to fight, different items to find and different challenges to overcome.
AND if all of that didn’t make for an interesting enough mental challenge for you, then don’t worry, we’re not done yet.
Any items that you pick up during a simulation that you complete can’t be picked up again by the next survivor. So basically, and I’m going to be using ammo as an example here but this applies to pretty much every resource, if you run around and pick up all the ammo on the map with survivor number 1 by the time you get to survivor 5 (the weakest one of the bunch by the way) you are pretty much screwed. You constantly need to question if you should really be taking that ammo/health pack/weapon or if you should leave it for those who come after you.
Then, if that still isn’t enough for you, there is a timer that runs from the moment you start playing each simulation. This is the ‘corruption level’ meaning the longer you take to escape in each simulation the harder the game becomes and the more alien life there is for you to have to try to survive through. Now the question becomes, do you speed run through the simulation, guns blazing so that you finish the simulation before the corruption level goes up BUT by doing so use all the ammo and make the game harder for yourself on your next play through? OR do you take a slower, more stealth-like approach now but end up having the game become harder and harder with each passing second that you hesitate?
This is a game that will make you doubt yourself and your decisions again and again and again, but somehow that’s the reason why I loved it as much as I did. The challenge isn’t so much a skill based one as it is a mental one. The best way I can think of to explain the feeling you get when playing Mooncrash is to compare it to a digital, gamified version of solving a Rubix cube.
It’s hard, it’s challenging, it’s frustrating and at times it can feel utterly impossible but then you start to get somewhere and you can see the end. You finally do the last move, you’ve solved it and even though it has no real bearing on your everyday life you can’t help but feel this massive rush of achievement. You feel like you could do anything in the world in that moment – and that is how I would explain the feeling when you are finally able to escape in Mooncrash.
I’ve played a LOT of DLCs in my time, and for the most part they always just feel like an extension of the base game, and Mooncrash is no different in that regard, but it’s also much more than that. Bethesda has managed to bring us a DLC that not only builds on the experience Prey created for us, but also creates something new, fresh and challenging that has an appeal that goes much further than just to fans of the original game. Prey Mooncrash is available on all the same platforms that the original is: PC; Xbox One and PS4. If you already own the base game you can pick up the DLC for roughly R300 or you can buy the bundle for about R600.
I didn’t come into this as an existing fan of Prey, but after finding myself spending many, many hours trying to just get at least more than one person to escape the Moon Base I’m definitely leaving as one.
Have you played Mooncrash yet? If so, what do you think about it? Lemme know in the comments below and let’s talk.
I'd love to chat to you some more.
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