Prey is one of those games I was only sort of peripherally aware of before it launched, but I volunteered to play it for review because the boxart was nice and I’m a sci-fi nerd and, like, spaaaaace. I wasn’t expecting much, but oooh, I was instantly in love with its retrofuturistic aesthetic, provocative ideological themes, and consistently intriguing plot. I also learned an important lesson about (not) trusting coffee cups. More? Yes, please. And in a generation of questionable season passes, cynical cash-ins, and stuff that should probably have been in the game the first time but sold separately to maximise corporate bonuses, Prey’s new Mooncrash expansion is something else entirely.
The premise is simple enough – you must evacuate five crew members from a TranStar lunar facility, one at a time. Accomplishing this objective, however, is much more complicated. Each character has their own unique skills, and there are multiple mechanisms to improvise an emergency departure – but some of these are restricted to certain characters, or require the abilities of more than one character to access. When one of your guys gets out or is killed, you can swap to a new one. When they’re all dead (and they will be, sooner or later), the game resets and you start over. And when you think you know exactly what you’re doing, this time, things get… even more complicated.
Without dropping spoilers, there’s a clever narrative conceit to accommodate this eccentric setup, and despite its uncompromising terms, the difficulty is mitigated by some persistent aspects – you keep your unlocks between resets, including installed neuromods, fabrication plans, and chipsets, and other paraphernalia, so you can gear up before trying again. And you’ll try again a lot. Mooncrash is about repetition, failure, and – maybe – an occasional success. Like Prey, the expansion is also about solving problems, and much of its fun is working out inventive solutions. If you can’t hack through a locked door, for example, you can morph into a book and slide through the bars on the window instead. With the right character, anyway.
I’ve clocked almost 25 hours with this DLC. That’s about 20 hours more than I’d play most other games before becoming distracted with something else, and I’m still finding new stuff in it – new puzzles, new strategies, new ways for everything to go so very wrong, abruptly and spectacularly. My only issues with it are that, much like the base game, Mooncrash’s loading times are excessive, and the moon shark is an asshole. Mostly the moon shark, though.