Arkane Studios' new production is a little bit weird, and that even before we start to look at the plot and gameplay. But let's keep things nice and tidy, because this year's Prey is going to be a fair competition to the already pretty strong game releases of the year. It deserves being described in a roughly structured form.
What's with the title?
Prey bears the same title, as the 2006 first-person shooter featuring aliens, spaceships, cool portals and weird weapons. But it isn't a remake nor reboot. There was supposed to be sequel to the original Prey, Prey 2, but Arkane's Prey isn't that either (to an unending dismay of many, because the trailer was spectacular).
So what is this Prey? It's a brand new IP that happens to bear a familiar title, because legal reasons of some sort or another. Having dealt with that, we can go take a look at what kind of first-person creative experience Arkane Studios is going to give us this time.
Yu's on first
Obvious terrible joke aside, what kind of protagonist and story can expect? The fine details remain unknown, of course, because the game is going to have many twists and will be quite eager to pull the rug from under the player's feet, which works best on an unsuspecting victim. But what is known paints a pretty interesting picture.
It might be worth noting that although Prey's events take place in near future of 2032, the creators decided to go a couple steps further and designed an alternative timeline. The Soviets discovered alien lifeforms on one of their satellites, JFK survived the assassination, and the space race was much more fruitful. But, of course, the alien lifeforms, nicknamed "Typhon" after a mythological monster, provided too difficult to contain for long.
The player character in Prey will be Morgan Yu, a scientist whose sex is up to the player thanks to an ambiguous name. Morgan lives in a posh apartment, has a wealthy CEO of a brother, and is regularly participating is some sort of tests, meant to measure his/her talents. But of course things take a weird turn and Morgan has to juggle ongoing survival, figuring out what is going on and why, and fighting against inexplicably free-roaming aliens that don't appear to be friendly.
The story is said to have multiple endings, based on decisions the player will be able to make. Interactions with other people will be one deciding factor, while the other is connected very strongly to progression and gameplay and thus will be briefly discussed further on.
To make things even more interesting, Prey's writing team has Chris Avellone on board. If the name doesn't ring a bell, some of the titles we worked on as a lead writer or designer may change that. Avellone worked on Planescape: Torment, Pillars of Eternity, Fallout 2, Wasteland 2, and recently: Torment: Tides of Numenera.
Arkane Studios has a history of making games that give players a set of problems, a bunch of tools, and stepping back to let the players play as they wish. Prey isn't going to be much different, even if it aims for a more horror-like vibe than the studio's previous achievements.
Thanks to handy Neuromod devices able to instantly give you abilities, Yu will have access to a large selection of various upgrades both human ones and tied to aliens. On the human side there will be stuff like engineering, hacking or repair, also certain physical ability boosts. A pretty typical stuff.
The alien skill list, however, is another matter entirely. After studying enough aliens during your missions you will have access to their abilities. So you'll get to turn into an object after you scan enough Mimics, or emit a kinetic blast, or lift enemies in a zero gravity zone... Every kind of Typhon will have a different ability for Yu to learn.
The price for that? The more alien abilities unlocked and acquired, the less human Yu's DNA will look to the automated defense systems . Having to fight not only aliens, but also turrets and alarms may prove to be quite a challenge, so being careful with these sweet, creative...awesome powers might be wise.
Thankfully the human and alien skills won't be the only things standing between you and an untimely demise. There will be many tools available, but likely none as versatile as the GLOO cannon.
What does it do? It shoots blobs of fast-hardening foam. If it sounds boring and useless, consider that it can freeze smaller enemies in place for a good while, patch valves to block steam or fire, or create traversable platforms. We don't know how tall Yu will be, but with the GLOO cannon no shelf will be too high.
Other tools will also be interesting, like a nerf crossbow you can use to lure enemies and flick remote switches. Or a recycler grenade, which first sucks everything (EVERYTHING!) around it into a tiny black hole. After that some science things happen and you get a bunch of crafting materials out of anything that got caught in the radius.
Finding the way
In a true Arkane fashion, any given problem will be possible to solve in several different ways. You could turn into a cup and roll/stumble through the bars. Or you could shoot a nerf crossbow at a switch to open the door. Or build enough GLOO platforms to access a ventilation shaft and go through there.
The developers boast about preparing the game in a way that will prevent any broken world states despite all the tools and main and side missions.
Given that unlike Dishonored Prey won't have discrete levels but rather an open, freely explorable world structure, the boast will be most probably heavily tested by players after the launch.
Prey definitely isn't what the fans of the original were waiting for, for which they have sympathies. But, and it's a big 'but', Prey by Arkane Studios looks incredible. Fascinating setup, claustrophobic atmosphere, interesting interplay between story and gameplay. Prey might turn out to be the next Dishonored, and yet another great title in Arkane Studios' portfolio.
Prey launches on May 5 this year, so, basically in just a couple of days. Will you help Yu uncover the mysteries of the Typhon?