I wanted to love Mooncrash. I genuinely, really wanted to absolutely adore it. But I think that want is what led me to hate it.
That’s not how I thought I’d be starting this thing out, honestly. And I’m unhappy that I have to, especially given the fact that Prey became one of my favorite games. So how did I arrive here?
Well, first I want to say that this is less me saying that the DLC is bad, and more me saying I hate it. Those are two different things. Objectively speaking, I think that the team did a fantastic job crafting the DLC they wanted to craft. It’s fairly competently executed, and although my primary gripe with it is that it cuts against what Prey was all about, it’s at least well done.
Prey is about exploration. I mean, it’s about a lot of things, there’s a lot of depth to the game, but I feel one of the biggest things they emphasize in that game is exploration. In fact, I learned, you’re actually punished for not exploring. It’s one of my favorite aspects. And it feeds very nicely into the other two most important aspects of the game: the story and the world.
The team behind Prey did a fantastic job crafting both the plot and the world of the game. Both were beautiful. Especially the world. Good lord. The aesthetic of Talos Station is just fantastic. I could go on and on for it. But anyway, something that’s been going on for technically a long time now but definitely seems to be more popular over the past decade or so is environmental storytelling. Basically, finding little side stories that expand the world in the form of audio logs, text logs, hell, just stuff spray-painted on the walls. This happened a lot in Dead Space and the game was so much better for it. Prey excels at this.
So here is where the problem comes in.
Mooncrash has a timer.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me describe the plot, because the timer is plot-related. If you haven’t played Prey already, you should ignore this and immediately go play and beat Prey. It’s fucking amazing.
So, Mooncrash takes place…I think sometime shortly after Prey? It’s unclear, due to certain elements of Prey’s overall universe. The thing I guess that’s tripping me up the most is [SPOILERS], although I’ll minimize them as much as I can, the end of Prey suggests an apocalyptic situation, and what’s happening in Mooncrash feels like it wouldn’t be happening during the apocalypse, because it would lose all relevance. Although the problem there is that we have basically almost no idea the extent of the apocalyptic situation in the Prey universe.
Anyway. In Mooncrash, you play a hacker (I think) who is living in a tiny capsule orbiting the moon, hired by a company that is competing with TranStar, the main company in Prey. The plot itself is really weird. Basically, someone managed to get brain-scans of five employees from a TranStar lunar-based facility where another alien outbreak occurred and through these memories, they managed to create a rough working virtual simulation, and from what I’ve gathered, the hacker’s job is to complete the simulation repeatedly and dig up company secrets this way. It’s really weird and I might not even be getting that right, that was just what I got from what I played.
So 99% of the game is in this virtual world. Basically, for each iteration of the simulation, you have to ‘escape’ the facility with each of the five people whose memories were scanned, also while completing various objectives. All of this would have actually been fine with me, but the problem lies in the ‘corruption level’. Essentially, after the first run-through, the simulation begins to corrupt, and from there on, there is a slowly increasing timer. There are, I think, 5 levels of corruption, and each level makes the game harder. If you reach the end of Level 5 Corruption, the simulation crashes and you have to reset. (Although for the sake of accuracy, I will point out that some things do carry over between simulation runs. And this is on two different levels. Each simulated run is basically a persistent world. Creatures you kill, doors you unlock, they stay that way during each ‘run’ with the 5 characters, and you can also pass items along between characters. However, when a run completely resets, you can still pass along certain skills you’ve learned via NeuroMods, so you don’t COMPLETELY reset each time.)
ANYWAY, with that no doubt awful explanation out of the way, let me get on to my problem.
I hate the fucking timer. While YES, there is technically a way to largely get around the timer (there is an in-game item that allows you to bring the meter back down each time you use it), I honestly found that I don’t care. As I mentioned above, I feel that the timer goes against one of the initial founding pillars of the Prey game: exploration.
Mooncrash is basically the opposite of that. It hinders exploration, and almost actively punishes it. It creates an unhappy tension that made the DLC such a chore for me, that I literally gave up on it. I tried pushing through it several times, and probably put about 7 or 8 hours into it, but eventually realized that I just hated it, and asked myself: So why am I playing this? The answer was: Because I loved Prey so much, I just wanted more, but that just led me to hate it even more, because I wanted to love it so badly that the fact that I couldn’t stung even worse.
This is why I feel that a timer is antithetical to Prey.
Now, I want to be clear: I am not saying that timers are bad design and have no place in games. I am saying that I hate them. I always have and always will. (Timed missions just make me miserable and pissed off, in literally any game I play.) But I’m aware of the clear distinction between “I hate this” and “This is bad”. The point I’m trying to make here is that I hate this timer, and I feel it wasn’t the correct choice for Prey, but I also am probably in the minority, since a lot of people seemed to like it. Which actually makes me happy.
Despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy it, I don’t regret purchasing the Mooncrash DLC. The reason for this is because I still love the Prey universe, and I want to support it, and desperately want Prey 2. Realistically, the only way that’s going to happen is if the games make money.
So basically, I hated Mooncrash because I wanted to love it, and maybe you should give it a try, because you might love it. Literally the only thing that drove me insane about it was that fucking timer. Otherwise, it had all the same beauty of the original game. It seemed like a very well-crafted DLC, and gives me hope for Prey’s future.