In a year full of surprisingly good games, I still somehow found myself floored when Prey was…surprisingly good. The first hour demo presented a game which asked players to use their wits in order to survive the many dangers of Talos I. It presented a game where rash decisions could, and would, end badly. It was certainly impressive, but the question remained: “would Prey be able to stay that kind of game?” At the time of this writing I am about 12 hours in, and I can say with no small measure of certainty that it absolutely can!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time with Prey it’s this: “hasty actions get you killed.” Another lesson would probably be: “there’s always another way to do this.” These are lessons one would do well to learn early because the game can and will punish those who don’t. No matter how upgraded the weaponry or how bountiful the inventory, blindly engaging any enemy is going to be costly. That’s not to say that open confrontations can’t be done. They most certainly can, and in some cases they’re even the best option. The important thing is to always have a plan, even if it’s not a good one.
Indeed, sometimes even best laid plans can quickly turn south in Prey. I recall an encounter in the opening hours of my time with the game. I was trying to access a newly-available room, but soon discovered that it was currently occupied by two enemies. I didn’t have enough firepower to take them on, so I resolved to eliminate them individually by using some nearby explosive canisters. It started-off well enough. I waited until the weaker of the two was in position, then BOOM! One down, one to go. I set up again, waited, then…oh crud. The other was only slightly damaged and had spotted me. I would be dead in another 30 seconds. After another 5 attempts or so and I’d finally done it, but only after leading my enemy on a merry chase through other rooms, enemies, and makeshift barriers in order to double-back and set up a series of explosive traps. Trial, error, and a touch of luck won the day here. Surely this would be the worst toughest encounter of the game I thought. Oh how naive 2-hours-in me was.
Fast-forward to about 10 hours later. I was in a new location with an inventory brimming with upgraded weapons and a mind-filled with lessons learned from many a mishap. I spot a new enemy type, learn its weaknesses, get into what I think is an advantageous position, devise a plan that I think will enable an easy victory, and…proceed to get wrecked. My upgraded weaponry wasn’t effective enough and the enemy response was unexpected. It ran away, recovered, then came back for revenge. My previously good position turned me into a sitting duck just waiting to be hit with a devastating attack. Victory was eventually achieved, but only after retooling my plan a few times.
Prey has provided me with several stories like these, and just as many wherein I achieve perfect victory. The basic level of challenge has been more or less constant, with my approach and attitude being the only real variables. Playing with caution and care is often rewarded with victory. However, those same enemies that were so easily overcome before become grave threats the second one throws caution to the wind. This dynamic is easily one of Prey’s greatest strengths, and one that’s kept the game feeling exciting and fresh for its entire run time so far.
Have you had a chance to play Prey yet? Have you played any other games that favor playing smart over all else?
Lede image captured by Hatm0nster