'Mooncrash' Is Everything That's Great About 'Prey'


#1

I have been playing Prey’s ambitious Mooncrash DLC obsessively lately. Oh, sure, I know I am the target audience here, as the world’s number one Prey fan. Along with Rob, I called Prey my Game of the Year last year. It beat out stiff competition for its ambitious storytelling, impressive level design, and truly deep approach to immersive sim mechanics.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/ev8dv4/prey-mooncrash-review

#2

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.


#3

I was playing as the security officer Vijay Bhatia and was trying to escape the base via the mass driver. This involves stocking a storage container with food,water, and an anti-rad item. I had scrounged enough food and water for the journey, but I could not find the anti-rad anywhere. I began scouring the base searching for an anti-rad as the corruption grew higher and higher. In a last act of desperation I abandoned the mass driver plan and made a mad dash for the escape shuttle, John Wick-ing my way with the trusty shotgun past the hordes of typhon at corruption level 5. I passed the security checkpoint. The shuttle bridge was clear of typhon. Just 5 more seconds and I’m out…and the simulation collapsed, kicking me back out to start again.

Mooncrash is extremely good.


#4

There’s a lot to love about this game:
An extra layer of arcadeyness layered on the Prey system, a little message on your hud ChaChinging you some Simpoints every time you kill typhon or find a cool item.
Trying to figure your way around obstacles and realizing the game makers have actually put multiple solutions in place (like the original Prey) . Example: the Typhon Gates, which become more and more a problem as the game goes on either a moon shark is on your ass or you have enough typhon material in your body to not pass. The game tells you early on that the gates are weak to electricity, so you figure out all the ways to get some electric on those gates. Including weapons with the new electric attributes, which actually work on the gates! Or just go to a junction box and cut power to the whole area to shut the gates down, which comes with its own problems…
All the little things which are a joy to discover, and the interwoven narrative bits, some of which revealed game mechanics I hadn’t realized like what the heck those “typhon towers” were for
Or, figuring out that you can put hats on your mimic pets! Skins on your floating treasure box friends! Speaking of, any items you put in them can be accessed by the other characters in a run!


#5

Why y’all got to make me want this so bad when I already have ALL THE GAMES to play?!


#6

lol same. I’ve barely started base Prey and now they put out this amazing thing. FML (but not really!)


#7

I seriously put in 15+ hours, finished it, and didn’t even know about that last thing.


#8

I’ve seen Prey on sale a handful of times over the past year, thinking, yeah, I should probably pick it up, immersive sims have always been my jam…and then I don’t. But this is going to get me to pull the trigger. The next time Prey is on sale, I’m diving in.


#9

It says something that Mooncrash can be a successful horror/thriller and also be compared to tightly structured action films. I mean, shit, The Raid on the podcast and John Wick here? The one other ImSim that pulls that off consistently for me is Heat Signature, which is only slightly more criminally slept on than Mooncrash.

I also had a rad experience with escaping as Vijay Bhatia that… I think might have been anticipated by clever level designers? Because, while I was lucky enough to have the resources to escape in the Mass Driver, the initiation sequence sets a pretty short timer to run all the way from the top of the area to the bottom, and there’s a gap in the bridge that takes you from the control area to a winding staircase down to the Driver itself. While being careful and circumventing it is relatively simple, I didn’t want to risk the time loss, so i jumped through the gap with trust in my jetpack breaking my fall at the last second… but initiating it takes a second of holding the jump button, and my muscle memory was attuned to the lighter gravity from the outside.

Vijay’s legs broke on impact, big red status effect i didn’t even know existed and no items to fix it. The Mass Driver was just a few feet away from that landing spot, but it still looked pretty fuckin distant when i needed to crawl to it on a short timer. I managed to get there, and that plus the very good escape animation made for a really incredible end to a successful run.

Looking back, the placement of the gap above the driver, the strange verticality of that area, the timer and even the gravity all seem designed with an expectation of this happening for some people… but that’s fantastic! It felt so organic while still coming from some source of authorial delicacy. It ties into the surprising sense that Mooncrash’s devs saw the procgen & systems as tools in the storytelling toolbox, rather than algorithms to be worshipped/deferred to for everything always…

…and the not-as-surprising sense that Arkane’s recent output continues to have the best level design in class by a mile.


#10

I seriously broke my leg for the first time…with Vijay…on the run I described…at that same jump. Though my mistake was attempting the jump without the jetpack and missing.

Speaking of which, can I just say that the added status effects, oxygen meter, and weapon degradation are awesome additions that increase tension and help temper the player empowerment in fun ways? I am not always a big survival game guy, but I am considering playing through the main game again with the survival mechanics.

Oh, and one more bit of praise, that gap in the bridge you mentioned? It isn’t always there. The fact that the environment changes between runs while still maintaining great design and feeling hand crafted is just yet another way in which I think Mooncrash is something special.


#11

tenor

and yes the survival mechanics port over to the main game real well from what I’ve played, and you can turn off individual elements if you don’t end up liking any one of them. A combination of that and being able to turn off individual HUD elements like detection meters/enemy tags means this whole DLC enriched the main game almost as a side-effect.

Same, and between this and Danielle liking Mooncrash’s permadeath mechanic after utterly despising all permadeath even in games she’s loved before… boy they’ve done something real special here, huh.


#12

Does Mooncrash still have the eye needle stuff? Literally the one reason I will never play Prey.


#13

unfortunately it has one instance of it, yeah. there’s a specific neuromod you need to install to get one of the endings, and installing that triggers the needle cutscene. sorryyy. :frowning:


#14

Bummer, but thanks for letting me know. Sorry Danielle if you’re reading this!


#15

Yeah even if you look away & mute the audio/throw off headphones for like, ~10 seconds when you get your first upgrade, there’s still technically a player character design on the character select screen with a visual implication they’ve had a whole lot of neuromods, and the main game defos has visual references to it that’d squick you out too.


#16

In both Mooncrash and the main game, the animation plays a maximum of one time (the first usage, which can be avoided in the main game). If you’ve seen it in trailers, that’s the extent of its presence.


#17

Everything I’ve heard and read about this game makes me want to play it really bad. I loved most all of Prey, and the idea of a dynamically shifting version of it excites me a lot. My biggest concern, actually, is that I might just have trouble running it and fitting it on my computer. My computer isn’t particularly strong and I’ve been meaning to build a rig, but I was able to play Prey on Low settings with manageable performance. I can’t wait to get into it!

There was an article Kirk McKeand put out on VG247 that actually gives me a lot of excitement; I am absolutely a save-scummer and get myself into weird patterns in immersive sims. Which has always frustrated me immensely, because one of my favorite parts of these games is the wide range of systemic agency they provide… I just can’t help myself. I’ve been thinking a lot that a Rogue-lite or Souls-like system of death would help me be more creative and get into those toy boxes. I also think the character/class system will keep me from wanting to spread out my points and become a jack of all trades but master of none. Can’t wait to play this.

Also, will Danielle be streaming this at some point? I would love to see her play! :smiley:


#18

So I started playing Mooncrash after just finishing Prey, and my goodness do I agree with that article. I also played the main game cautiously, save-scumming my way through, re-loading a lot of situations that went sideways (particularly in the early game, when you just don’t have the resources to deal with the Typhon).

And Mooncrash solves that so well. I had a run last night playing as the engineer, trying to get to the escape shuttle. For that, you have to find an item that gives you the skills to pilot the shuttle, then find a neuromod to implant those skills. After finding the skill in one area of the base, I had to go back to where the shuttle was and go down a lift to get to where there was a recycler and a fabricator. Unfortunately, as I was about to go down the lift, the corruption level rose to 3, and there was a thermal phantom and two thermal mimics waiting for me.

In Prey, I would have likely re-loading, prepped myself better knowing that there were some nasty enemies down there, and approached it more stealthily. But that wasn’t an option. I took some damage, came close to dying, but was able to shotgun the mimics, throw a nullwave at the phantom, and took it down with my last shotgun shells. I had almost no health left, and no more medkits. The spring to the fabricator, to using the new neuromod, to sprinting back up to the shuttle was a tense adrenaline rush that I don’t think I ever felt during the main game.

So in conclusion, Mooncrash just might be the best thing I’ve played this year.