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Prey: Mooncrash Review – AAA roguelike extraordinaire

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When Arkane Studios released Prey last year, we called it a must-play and one of the most “out there” games we’ve played in ages. The game just has such a brilliant atmosphere, coupled with a fantastic sci-fi story, enemies that will make you jump out of your seat, awesome guns and great survival / RPG elements thrown into the mix to create one otherworldly experience.

Bethesda then announced the Prey: Mooncrash DLC at their E3 Press Conference, but it wasn’t something I was expecting. You see, Prey: Mooncrash is a roguelike game and not just a normal expansion for the game. After playing the DLC for about 20 hours, one thing is certain. Prey: Mooncrash is the AAA roguelike experience I never knew I needed in my life, mixing everything that made Prey so great in the first place with brutally difficult, rewarding roguelike gameplay and more.

Of lab rats and men

Some might say that Prey: Mooncrash lacks in the story department a bit, but there is a lot more to the DLC than meets the eye. You play as an operator contracted by KASMA corp. orbiting the moon in a satellite. You are tasked with entering the simulation via what looks like a VR device to experience what happened to the crew members of the Pytheas Moonbase. Your goal: to escape will all five crew members.

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These crew members have their own stories and personalities, coupled with unlockable abilities that make them feel very unique. From a volunteer with psychic abilities to just wants to escape to see his son again, to Pytheas Moonbase director Riley Yu who happens to be related to the protagonist of the base game, and even a custodian.

Each one of these characters has their own story objectives, but all of them have one thing in common, they all feel like lab-rats in a giant, lunar maze filled with alien threats. Arkane did such an amazing job by not only relaying and meshing these characters’ stories together into a cohesive whole, but the story is also told via environmental objects, such as transcripts, computer terminals, notes and corpses you find scattered throughout the base.

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At one point, I found myself just spending a lot of time reading emails and taking note of the finer intricacies of the environment as the story was coming together in my head. Going into more detail about the story would be considered spoilers, so all I will say is that the game and the characters kept me hooked from start to finish and in the end, I felt a connection with them, but that might also be due to the extremely intense experience Prey: Mooncrash provides.

The Simulation Intensifies

Prey: Mooncrash is an extremely difficult DLC. If you played and finished the original Prey on its highest difficulties like I did, you will still find the DLC very challenging. First of all, there is no difficulty option, so don’t go in hoping to set it to easy. After about 20 hours with Prey: Mooncrash, I still found myself getting wrecked on a regular basis.

Every step you take could be your last and every decision you make with each of the characters can have an effect on the next one. Escaping by a specific means could mean the next character’s path is blocked, using some lures to sneak past an extremely strong enemy means that the next character might run into that enemy at a different spot where the lure was. It is all so connected in this roguelike experience that I had to sit back at times and take a few minutes to consider my next action.

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To make things even more intense, the game has quite a few new mechanics that you need to watch out for. You can get radiation poisoning, so you need to find some Rad Pills to counteract this.

You can and will break some bones during fights or simply by running into an object too quickly, so you need a Skeletal Repair Kit to remedy that situation. As the game takes place on the moon, you can also manoeuvre more freely due to zero-gravity, creating new ways to traverse environments.

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The simulation also intensifies with corruption levels which makes enemies even stronger and your weapons can degrade and even malfunction. Not to mention your inventory is more limited, so you have to decide which items are important when you go into a specific area. All this and then when your character dies, he or she is gone until the simulation ends.

However, you do still progress with every session, as you gain Sim Points to spend at the start of a new run on each character, creating Neuromods that stay with them, unlocking abilities, creating weapons and ammo and everything else your heart might desire.

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These Sim Points are earned by doing basically anything, from killing enemies to advancing in the story, to even just picking up a keycard or interacting with a corpse for some loot. You keep your abilities and Neuromods throughout the experience, but you have to buy new weapons, ammo and other items again when you die. Escaping with multiple crew members in one simulation also increases the points you earn and you have access to a range of tasks, called Kasma Orders, which you can complete for even more points.

The whole gameplay loop and continuing to push forward in this extremely hostile environment is just so addictive that I couldn’t stop myself from running more and more simulations and exploring the vast moonbase.

Weathering the Typhon

I think the best way to describe how good and how intense Prey: Mooncrash is, is to describe one gameplay session with one character, just so you can get a feeling of what you are getting yourself into when you purchase the DLC, so here we go:

With the engineering character, I set off in a place that I’ve seen many times before, the Pytheas Moonbase and specifically, the Crater starting area. Blasting through the air and enjoying the low gravity of the moon, I took out some Typhon enemies with relative ease, having stacked myself with ammunition and a couple of weapons during the start of the simulation. As the second employee that needed to escape, some groundwork was already done, with a clear path to the Research Lab.

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Making my way there was easy, but when I entered the Research Lab, things got a little tricky as I almost bumped into a frightening type of Typhon, a Telepath. Suddenly, mind-controlled Moonbase employees came running at me, dealing massive damage to my suit and causing some radiation in the process. Not expecting this type of enemy and not being ready for it at all, I ran as fast as I could into an area of the Research Lab I have not yet seen before: the volunteer showers.

I was thrown into the air and dropped back down again by a Poltergeist, as my leg cracked open and I couldn’t run anymore. Needing to find a Skeletal Repair Kit, I searched various sections of a research lab, all while I could hear the bones crack as I limped around. Unable to move as fast as I normally could and suffering from some mild radiation after a close encounter with a nest, I had only one viable option left: try to make it back to a safe space and easily-accessible space so another survivor could loot my beaten corpse and maybe, just maybe, escape this terrifying place.

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I opened up some hatches, repaired a few security operators along the way as I gave up any hope to find that elusive Skeletal Repair Kit. Just as I was about to open another section of the base, possibly a shortcut for the next employee, I saw a corpse and an item container. Having only three bullets left, I opted not to shoot the space rocks laying around.

Walking past the first and second one was a heart-pounding experience. So close now to a possible Skeletal Repair Kit, Fabrication plan and maybe even some Rad Pills, the last possible rock turned into a Volcanic Mimic and I lost my life.

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That’s a small part of one playthrough with one character and that is exactly what the game provides. An extremely difficult fight for survival with so many systems working together to deliver a roguelike experience with that AAA shine and polish.

My only real gripe with the DLC is that it still has those long loading times (even on my PS4 Pro) that can become a bit annoying, but how many times you see the loading screen will depend on how long you are able to survive, so I guess that’s another reason to give it your all.

The Verdict

If you enjoyed Prey at all, then Mooncrash is a DLC you will not want to miss out on and those who love roguelike experiences should consider picking up Prey and the Mooncrash DLC (or the Prey Deluxe Edition) right away. Prey: Mooncrash is a polished, extremely intense and deeply satisfying roguelike experience that simply feels brilliant to play.

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The DLC is difficult, to say the least, but I found that even progressing just a little bit each time felt so rewarding. The DLC tasks you with finding a way to escape the Pytheas Moonbase but I simply didn’t want to leave and even after putting in about 20 hours with the DLC, I was still having a blast. For those who might have never played a roguelike game before, keep in mind that things could feel a bit repetitive at times, but since the simulation is ever changing in Prey: Mooncrash, the repetitive moments feel few and far between.

This review was based on a digital code sent to us by Bethesda

Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 11 June 2018 | RRP: R319 

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"so many systems working together to deliver a roguelike experience with that AAA shine and polish"

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