Actually, I don’t have much to talk about because Prey didn’t scratch my story itch. I’m hoping you’ll have a little more to share than I. So this is an invitation to spoil away in the comments, chat about what you liked, what you didn’t like and do your best to keep Matt W on topic.
Let me outline a few brief thoughts to get the ball rolling. Head for the spoiler-free escape pods now if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Prey isn’t scary. I’m not sure exactly why this is the case but here are some theories. (a) The station is rarely dark, it’s bright and colourful, even in spaaaace. (b) The Warning Orchestra. (c) Phantoms lunge at you at high speed, it leaves less time to be tense about an upcoming encounter. (d) In System Shock 2, you get to listen to the crew become part of The Many, hear them enjoy becoming something inhuman; in Prey, people just die and their flesh is used to make things which are not them. There are some nice nods to crewmembers being Phantoms but it’s not like they were converted to the cause. Dead Space has a similar thing, where the dead are converted into necromorphs, but Dead Space is violently gross whereas Prey seems clean aside from that whole member-down-the-throat thing.
Morgan Who? I felt this had been done before in Planescape: Torment and better. (Yes, I know Torment writer Chris Avellone was on the good ship Prey.) I couldn’t quite separate the different personalities and they all blurred into a single history. This may be due to Prey letting the player go their own way; information on different incarnations of Yu may not come together neatly. Maybe that is intentional. Then again, the ending suggests working all that out doesn’t really matter.
The Evil That Corporations Do. Prey reflects on the dangers of letting corporations create their own private island in space, where rules do not apply. But Transtar goes so batshit evil I couldn’t quite swallow it. They use criminals and political prisoners as an infinite supply of experimental guinea pigs. Worse still, they use them to create neuromods and, as far as I can tell, do not even bother rendering them unconscious during any of this. They choose to cover up the fact that neuromods cannot be removed without losing your memory (still not sure why Morgan was undergoing this neuromod install/remove loop, answers welcome). Somehow they’re going to sell neuromods to the population, which involves stabbing yourself in the eye, without an authority doing analysis of the contents such as, oh I don’t know, alien DNA? (This has always been the problem for me with games like Bioshock, where I can’t believe a society quickly turns pro-drugs, in which people shoot up regularly on ADOM or poke Typhon Tea in the eye.)
The Ending. Didn’t bother me that it wasn’t what actually happened. Not particularly exciting. That KILL THE SHITS or SHAKE YU HAND decision at the end feels cheap. By this point, it should be obvious what kind of creature you are. It should practically cutscene instead of asking you to make a choice. Putting aside the few weird flashes into “the real world” during Prey, there was a more subtle foreshadowing near the end – I think Alex says something which also seems to turn up verbatim in Morgan’s notes – a sort of déjà vu which is a glitch in the Matrix…
The Explosion. Something funny was going on with the explosion that precipitated the Typhon’s escape – it felt purposefully coordinated. Did anyone here work out what happened?
Mikhaila Ilyushin. I chatted a little about Mikhaila on Twitter but I was expecting something more when my Morgan let her know exactly who killed her dad. Her physical reactions seemed out of sync with the audio she was listening to. Also, she doesn’t need to sit down or anything – at learning the person she dated/loved murdered her dad for science – she just seems a bit pissed, so I’m going to walk around the office a bit more. And then later she accepts it wasn’t my Morgan at all, it was before-the-game Morgan who was a different person. While I’m not exactly in love with hysterics, the emotions seemed so muted.
Calvino. I just realised I don’t know why Calvino was acting weird. Can anyone enlighten me?
Blackbox Project. I cannot be the only person to have said, “Dang it, having some military operators to assist would have been sweet!” Ha ha, careful what you wish for…
That’s enough for now. Surprise me in the comments.