In Prey, I don’t know who to trust or what path to take, but I’m loving the process of trying to work it all out. Arkane Studios’ 2017 sci-fi adventure brilliantly throws you right in at the deep end on the Talos 1 space station as protagonist Morgan Yu. In what is one of the best openings I’ve seen in a long time, Prey quickly established that nothing is as it seems. The apartment you first find yourself in isn’t as it first appears, and the space station you’re on has been overrun by hostile aliens known as Typhons that can camouflage themselves as everyday objects.
Since Morgan has lost their memory, you don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on or what’s going to happen next. All you really have to go on is the guidance of a facsimile known as January, your brother Alex, and a mysterious figure called December. The trouble is, each one is telling you to do something different and it’s difficult to know whose advice you should be taking. I feel like I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of Prey, but the uncertainty I bear is what keeps me coming back for more. I don’t know if anyone is really on my side or if what I’m doing will lead to the best outcome, but I’m completely hooked as a result. I find myself greatly driven to get to the bottom of the mysteries of Talos and get some answers to all of the burning questions I have about Morgan.
Some early spoilers for Prey lie ahead.
Revisiting Dragon Age and Mass Effect reminds me that you never really move on from the games you love
Despite my great fondness for sci-fi games set in space, Prey somehow passed me by. I think this is partially because I don’t handle jump scares all that well, and I was sure that the nature of the aliens you encounter aboard Talos would give me a good fright. It’s certainly not an unwarranted apprehension when you consider that Typhon lifeforms known as Mimics blend into the furniture. Once I got over my own trepidations, I’ve come to discover that they’re actually part of what makes Prey so fascinating. After all, when you can’t even be sure if a chair really is a chair and not some tentacled attacker, how can you begin to trust anything you’re seeing or hearing? The unusual ability of these hostile aliens is just one of the many mysteries I want to unravel as Arkane pulls me through one intriguing development to the next.
Time and again, though, the voices of those who act as guides or instructors to Morgan are what keep me questioning everything. As Morgan, I know very little about myself or what my motivations might have once been before I came to be in this mess. Thanks to the loss of Morgan’s memory, I become reliant on the small snippets of information peppered throughout emails and notes around the space station. The only thing that is clear is that some kind of experimentation was taking place and most of the crew appear to be dead.
When I begin to hear the voice of a mysterious figure known as January, who I soon learn is a facsimile operator created by Morgan, I at first find myself trusting them as a guide – I mean, surely I can believe my own words, right? Once January drops a bombshell of a proposal on me to blow up the space station (seemingly suggesting this would also mean I’d meet my own demise along with it), Morgan’s brother throws a spanner in the works. Alex chimes in to tell me that I must instead ensure nothing is destroyed, and to add to the confusion, another mysterious voice pops up with the instruction of getting off the station altogether by reaching an escape pod. Just what is going on here? It feels as though they’re pulling me in three different directions, with no clear sign of what outcome I should be striving for.
I have no way of knowing what their true intentions are. I can’t even really rely on the motivations of my own character that’s supposedly being channeled through January. Arkane brilliantly gives you snippets of information without revealing too much, and the setup of adventure means that you’re always second-guessing any decision you make. I love the way it plays around with the idea of the unreliable guide – in the early stages of the story, I find myself following my own instincts more often than not because you have no way of knowing who is trying to really help me.
It’s got me thinking about other instances where a game has truly gripped me because of the way it carries you through the story with a guide or narrator who may or may not be entirely transparent about their true motivations. BioShock is one of the most memorable examples of this, with you following Atlas’ guidance through Rapture only to find that you’re not exactly doing so of your own free will. Dragon Age 2 also stands out in this regard thanks to the way it tells Hawke’s story through the narration of Varric. The rogue dwarf’s words shape the entire game and certain moments will even reflect instances where he comically exaggerates about a character’s appearance or a certain event.
What I’ve been loving the most about Prey so far is the way just enough is hidden from you to keep you guessing, with decisions that aren’t always so easy to make or commit to. I’m still in the early stages of the game, but I’m already pleasantly surprised by just how absorbing the mystery surrounding Morgan and Talos 1 is in Arkane’s sci-fi adventure. I can’t wait to discover more about the unusual alien foes that are reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing, and see if and how my choices will shape the overall outcome. I’m still not entirely sure what direction I’m going to follow, but I’m looking forward to seeing what awaits me.
Ready to head for the stars? Here’s our pick of the best space games.