When I finished Prey last year I was absolutely smitten with the experience. I knew I’d wanted to return to it, as there was so many ways to play and finish the game, but never got around to it. Following a rather surprising showing at E3 last month, Prey was at the forefront of my mind again and I was ready to jump in again. Before I jump into the story once more, I was keen to try out Mooncrash. Procedurally generated elements in games never really grab me, but somehow Mooncrash makes it all work.
I won’t bore you with the details but Mooncrash tells the story of six characters. Five of them exist within a simulation of the Pytheas Moon Base. Something has transpired on the planet and each of the characters must tie up loose ends before escaping from the base. Outside of the simulation, you play as a hacker named Peter who must explore the final moments of these characters to discover what happened on the base.While I won’t go into the story too much for Mooncrash, I think it’s important to highlight the fact that there is one. The reveal trailer was super high energy and featured some fantastic use of Dead Or Alive’s music, but almost sold it a little bit short as being a bit of a repetitive and soulless expansion. The opposite is true of Mooncrash. It has its own story, and its own characters each with their own demons to face. If they die, you’ll keep their skills and abilities for their next run too.
While some aspects of the game are randomly generated, a lot is constant. The base itself has the same general layout, and key story moments still all take place at the same spot too. Instead, items and enemy placements are shaken up each time you reboot the simulation. You get one shot to escape with each of the five characters. If they die, the remaining characters can pillage their corpses for their belongings and try their own hand. If everyone dies, the simulation restarts completely. So, things are randomised, but remain constant for as long as you keep your crew alive.To keep things interesting, the simulation also “corrupts” as you spend time inside of it. This leads enemies to become more aggressive, stronger enemies to begin appearing or even higher security protocols on hackable devices. In essence – Mooncrash rewards those who play efficiently and quickly. As you complete more and more objectives, the simulation introduces more variables.
A section of the base might be powerless, which can either be routed from another section of the base or you can craft power modules to power everything instead. Some sections might be riddled with radioactive fallout, others might have low oxygen supply. Some might be blocked off entirely and need another route found to them.
The freedom to do things whatever way you want in a meaningful way is what I have really missed about Prey, and is what really makes Mooncrash work so well. The randomised elements can change the course of your playthrough at any moment, but the systems that Prey and Mooncrash are built upon are so strong that any on-the-fly changes you must make to your plans are achievable.We’re coming up to a very quiet period before the onslaught of new releases that usually hit us in the final months of the year, but if you gave Prey a miss last year I’d urge you to give it a go and pick it up while it’s on the cheap. The main game itself is a sublime amalgamation of fantastic, flexible gameplay with well-realised visual homages to the 60s and 80s; but Mooncrash focuses everything phenomenal about Prey into an incredibly gratifying little package.