The Prey franchise has a troubled history, to say the least. The first game was in the works for a little over the decade, the second was right around the corner before it got canned. And the upcoming one is Prey, but it also isn’t. Developed by Arcane Studios of Dishonored fame, it definitely takes a more horror-like tone than its predecessor.
The point is, it’s complicated, so let’s untangle the threads and see what kind of dish the new Prey is going to be.
Prey’s story is a nice case of an alternative timeline, neatly presented in an official video.
To sum up for those unable or unwilling to watch the vid: in the late 50s Soviets discovered an alien life form during a repair of the malfunctioning satellite. Unable to fully contain the aliens, later on codenamed Typhon (after a mythological monster) they sought help from the US. The alliance led not only to containment of the threat, but also to a joint research program and development of a new space station.
After the assassination of JFK failed in this world, he took control of the program and boosted the station’s development. Several decades passed, but the program ultimately closed down in 1998 after some incidents caused by the Typhon. And then year 2030 came about, when the TranStar corporation took hold of the station…
Prey’s plot begins in 2032, and its main character is Morgan Yu, an exceptionally talented scientist living in a posh apartment, so you know it’s science fiction. Since the name “Morgan” can apply to either male or female, the players will get to choose whether their Yu is a man or a woman. It is reportedly going to have little to no impact on the gameplay itself, but may be subtly referenced in story or environment (for instance different shoes in Yu’s apartment).
Yu is said to have some repressed abilities and undergoes tests meant to force him/her to bring them forward. But, of course, things don’t go exactly as planned and the Typhon appear as a major problem for you and the staff.
Who are you?
Depending on the choices the player will make during gameplay, numerous things may change, not the least of which the essence of who Yu is. Over the course of the game Yu’ll be able to acquire alien abilities, but having too many alien traits (like powers) will bring many complications. Similarly, the relations with other people will make an impact, although its full extent remains to be seen, since it’s obviously in plot-and-spoiler territory.
…and the gameplay
Prey will feel slightly familiar to those who played Arcane’s last two games. The power wheel is back, and unsurprisingly it doesn’t look too different from what we remember about the same feature in Dishonored 1 and 2. Of course there will be powers, but, as mentioned before, they don’t come without a cost, unlike Outsider’s powers that change the gameplay, but not the story.
Although Prey’ll take place mostly in confined spaces, the players will have access to every location they’ve previously seen. Discovering secrets, notes, and crafting resources will not be barred behind specific missions, as was the case in Dishonored. Especially the crafting will require the freedom, since Yu cannot carry the matter converter around and will have to use the one in his/her office instead.
One of the new things in Prey is the GLOO cannon, a very handy device that may join other gimmick weapons like the portal gun and the gravity gun. What does GLOO cannon do? It shoots rapidly hardening foam, and it’s far more useful than it sounds.
It’ll be very efficient against the Mimic variation of the Typhon, since it will prevent them from transforming into inanimate objects and hiding from you. Moreover, the hardened foam platforms will grant Yu access to areas previously unreachable. You’ll be creating your own staircases in a way. And lastly, GLOO will be able to block some environmental hazards like overloaded fuse boxes etc.
It remains to be seen whether the cannon will become as iconic as both of Valve’s creations, or even Dishonored’s Blink, but there is some hope.
The Typhon mentioned throughout this preview are kind of weird. They look like a mix between smoke and tar and come in several sizes, from no larger than a small dog to human-sized and even some huge variants.
One of the types, called Mimic, is exactly what D&D and Dark Souls players already know to fear: a monster capable of looking like an inanimate object. Prey’s mimics can take the form of any item of vaguely comparable size, although there’ll be subtle clues that something is amiss if you are perceptive enough.
Other varieties of Typhon will display other characteristics and powers, making fighting each of them a unique experience. There will also be a special, nemesis-like foe that will tie into the story much more than the others.
Although it may not be the game fans of 2006 Prey were waiting for, but it remains a very interesting proposition to check out when it comes out on May this year. An interesting science fiction story with psychological undertones, open level structure, and potentially very fun to use GLOO cannon may make it one of the best titles of mid-Q2.
Although the preorder traditionally comes with a unique item, this time it’s Yu family heirloom shotgun and some items for an easier start. So nothing particularly unbalancing the game, at worst it will slightly skew early progression.
Prey launches on May 5, 2017. Will you join Morgan Yu in his/her efforts to figure out what is going on?