I had this moment early on in Mooncrash where I was on low health with no healing items and saw a bunch of sinks in a room, then remembered that in Prey, you could scum sinks to slowly replenish full health without any items. Then I realized that now, every second I spent doing that ticked towards a massive shift in difficulty and risk I likely couldn’t walk back, and even being on low health that’s likely not a risk worth taking, but it might be? And that was the moment i went “oh shit, oh shit, this might be real shit, huh??”
But hey, that’s just some risk vs reward design 101 stuff, right? Here’s the kicker: that same Corruption Level mechanic resets & shifts everything outside of the currently-loaded area you’re in, so if you’re in a mostly cleared area when there’s an uptick in Corruption Level, it’s suddenly safest area on the whole map at that moment, and you don’t know what’s outside that safety zone now, even if you’re backtracking, but you know it’s gonna be more daunting than anything up to that point in the run. Adding to that all the increasingly dynamic per-run factors means the tension & dread people praised Prey for on release never goes away, no matter how experienced you are.
I really hope Mooncrash finds a cult following with designers and theorists writing about it like Danielle has, because it’s absurdly elegant and worthy of close long-term observation.
Bless it for still having written beats, semi-controlled pacing and a comprehensive beginning/middle/end structure, too, that’s remarkable restraint for such an experimental roguelite-inspired thing. Plus a bunch of systems here could be read as tying into the themes of a dehumanizing accelerationist gig economy, so that’s neat too.
…Also it’s like, low-key the fullest realization of Warren Spector’s dream game ethos of a constantly evolving small space to come out of the whole immersive sim subgenre to date, but I won’t get too into that, it’s just kinda rad as hell to think about.