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Review: Prey: Mooncrash Changes the Formula, Remains Fun

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

Prey: Mooncrash was a surprise. It was announced and released during this year’s E3 and it’s for a game that hasn’t been making many splashes since its release over a year ago (check out our review of Prey here: it was the first full game review to appear on Third Coast Review!) and it has since sort of drifted into obscurity, overshadowed by bigger Bethesda franchises and announcements. That’s what made Mooncrash feel like it came out of left field for me, but it got me to revisit a game I had thought about properly in months.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

Prey: Mooncrash isn’t just a mission set in the Prey universe. Instead of retreading the same formula as the main installment, Mooncrash went a completely different direction and opted to feature rogue-lite elements. It’s probably not what anyone expected, but it turned out to be a pretty genius move. It’s a variation on the Prey formula done in an extremely effective and fun way. If you’re looking for more Prey, you might be disappointed, as though Mooncrash does retain some of the base game’s stealth, exploration and looting, it’s presented in a completely different form factor.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

The premise of Mooncrash is interesting: you’re working for a company that is in direct competition with the Transtar corportation called Rasma. Your goal is to use a simulation to navigate the Transtar lunar base—a sort of sister facility to Prey’s Talos 1. The lunar base is having the same problems as Talos 1—the Typhon have escaped containment and most personnel are dead.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

In Mooncrash your objective is relatively simple: escape from the moon. How you choose to do that is largely up to you—sort of. You start with one character, and as you explore around the moon base you will not only discover the fate of the test subjects and personnel, you will unlock different items via fabrication plans, gain points to spend on later runs, and find different characters to unlock, with there being five playable characters total.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

Eventually, as you unlock more characters, more abilities will open which will allow more exploration of the facility.  Using Neuromods on a character unlocks that ability permanently, so even after a successful escape—or an untimely death due to the Typhon threat—you will keep your abilities once you reset the simulation. Until the simulation is reset, though, you can continue to move your characters who are not dead, or who have not escaped through it . The facility itself doesn’t reset after a run, either, unless you specifically tell it to. That means that anything your character has repaired, looted, etc. will remain in that state until the simulation is reset.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

You don’t have unlimited time with each character to explore the facility, though. From the moment you enter the simulation, you’re battling a timer in the form of worsening corruption level. There are 5 levels of corruption, and once it gets too high you are kicked out of the simulation and it resets. Corruption doesn’t only act as a timer, it also acts as a difficulty modifier: the higher the corruption level, the harder the enemies get. Not only that, but changing from one corruption level to another will respawn enemies that were previously defeated.  There is an item that you can loot, buy, or create that reduces your corruption level, though, so you aren’t entirely beholden to the timer if you plan well enough.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

Planning for a run is half the fun I had in Mooncrash—whether it was outfitting my character before running them through the moon base, or planning on who I was going to utilize for what purpose and what exit they will ultimately be taking. Mooncrash allows for a fair amount of optimization when it comes to how to approach an escape run, but there’s a catch: each simulation reset means the lunar base may be slightly different from your previous run: some entry doors will be broken, stairs that were previously broken may be usable, etc. There are also a series of environmental hazards that can afflict an area like fire, radiation, or even lack of power or oxygen.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

The story in Prey: Mooncrash is compelling. In fact, it was my main motivating factor in completing all of the 27 objectives that you are expected to eventually perform once in the simulation. These range from escaping the moon, to scanning a certain number of Typhons, to eventually finding a way for all five of your crew members to get off the moon simultaneously. Completing more objectives gives you access to more story outside of the moon base simulation.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

I found little I didn’t like about Prey: Mooncrash. It was definitely a surprise—and an addicting one that I had trouble putting down. If you ever played Prey or similar games and wondered what it would be like if you had put your ability points into hacking instead of repair, or into combat psionics instead of weapon proficiencies, Mooncrash allows you to play in multiple different ways, and even forces you to try different loadouts as each character you can play as has their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities available to them.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

The only thing I really wished Mooncrash had was the ability to set the simulation to exactly what you want it to be. The ability to manipulate variables to make the facility harder or easier to navigate, at say, the expense of being able to complete objectives, would be great for planning purposes. Also, I wish the moonbase was a little larger. As it is right now, there are three major departments—Moonworks, Pytheas Labs, and Crew Annex—which are all centered around a reduced gravity moon crater. Any additional size probably adds a ton of variables to anyone trying to find the best run through the moon base, but I just like the world of Prey so much I just want more.  Also, the story, despite how compelling it was, didn’t pay off as much as I was hoping, and only gives us the slightest peek into the greater Prey universe.

Screenshot: Prey: Mooncrash

If you liked Prey but aren’t considering Mooncrash because it’s too much of a variation on the main formula, you should reconsider. Mooncrash is an extremely fun, tight experience that can easily add hours and hours of playtime on top of the already meaty Prey.

Prey: Mooncrash is available now as downloadable content to the base game.

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