The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 18th

rps-calendar-18

Are the presents already laid out under the tree? How many are there? Count them. Now, count them again. They seem to be…multiplying.

It’s Prey!

Alec: Probably my favourite game of the year? It feels like too safe a choice, too Mid-30s Gaming Man a choice, but what are you gonna do? I lost myself to Prey’s world of locked doors and hacked turrets and silenced pistols and wide-open yet claustrophobic spaces in a way I did to little else in 2017. What can I say, it just ticked all my boxes, to the extent that I was absolutely determined to uncover and visit every last square inch of its doomed space station, and in turn recycle everything I found in it into upgrades and ammo, despite knowing full well that my lizard brain was in charge.

A slow burn game if ever there was one, moving on from my raised eyebrow at its over-zealous attempts to be a mystery without doing the heavy lifting of making me care first, and into something where the mystery scarcely seemed to matter. All that mattered was making this labyrinthine, inter-connected ghost ship mine. I can take or leave the plot, which has some nice ideas but overly dour execution, but really is just skin around the mighty bones of this latter-day System Shock. I’m delighted we found our way back to this degree of sprawl and slow pace after the glitz and excess of Bioshock Infinite. Both games, I suspect, are bookends to certain schools of 21st century gaming blockbuster. I have no idea what comes next, but I’m so glad that I got Prey and its myriad locked doors.

Adam: I thought the mimics were going to be the stars of the show, clever little enemies that make you wary of the environment, but it’s actually the environment itself that marks Prey out as a monstrously ingenious game. It’s a perfect space to play in, thanks to all those alternate routes and tricksy locked doors, but it doesn’t feel overdesigned. I believe in it, as a place with purpose, and even though there’s no doubt a heck of a lot of subtle signposting and hand-holding, I always felt like I was making my own way.

36 Comments

  1. Blake Casimir says:

    Prey 2017 is a brilliant immersive sim. It does so many things right. Compelling world building, level design, character writing, use of its systems etc. Combat could have perhaps been a little more visceral and the post-credits ending can die in a fire, but the ~40 hours of my first play through were some of the very best gaming hours I’ve had in my life.

    So typical then that it sold and rated relatively poorly along with stablemate Dishonored 2, proving that art cannot trump low-hanging-fruit mainstream tastes. Feh.

    Bravo, Arkane. But let’s move on from Corvo and Dunwall, yes? It’s a done thing, now.

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      Grizzly says:

      As it stands the Dishonoured series has already moved on from Dunwall, Corvo, and even from the outsider himself. I really like Dishonored’s aesthetic and theme though, so I would love a return in that universe if not with the same characters.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Weird, I would’ve said that Prey was the more mainstream of the two (not that either of them are, particularly), but what do I know?

    • treat says:

      I bit the bullet on a new PC just yesterday. I’m looking forward to this being the first (Doom4 a close second) thing I boot up after the build and the upcoming steam sale. It’s one of the very few games I’m actually excited to play.

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      phuzz says:

      So typical then that it sold and rated relatively poorly along with stablemate Dishonored 2, proving that art cannot trump low-hanging-fruit mainstream tastes. Feh.

      I’m sorry, it’s on my list ok?!
      As are a bunch of other games from the advent calender, but I’m still catching up with games from previous years too. (and just got stuck back into XCOM2 rather than playing any of them).
      I understand that publishers will look at the lack of immediate sales and conclude that Prey was a waste of money, but I can’t just buy every game I like the look of as soon as it comes out. Hopefully there’ll be a long tail of people buying it.

  2. Godwhacker says:

    My game of the year too, Zelda, Divinity and Plunkbat be damned. One of the cleverest and most involving games I’ve ever played. Really glad this made the list, just disappointed it’s not number one.

    Has there been another version of Hexcells released or something?

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    subdog says:

    Easily my game of the year. It is the ultimate expression of the immersive-sim tradition, and that alone should be enough to put it into the RPS canon.

    It’s everything Bioshock could have been, with a commitment to non-linear level exploration, player choice, and satsifying but easy to learn systems.

  4. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Yep, one of my top games of the year too, apart from the ending. One of my favourite moments was finding an Ethical Dilemma about halfway through the story, (when you’re asked to set some turrets up, to try to describe it in a spoiler-free way,) but which wasn’t signposted as an Ethical Dilemma in any way by the game, it entirely came about from me understanding the systems of the game. Good stuff.

  5. Nolenthar says:

    Wow, surprised to see this so low in the list. I can understand spot number 1 to be reserved for DOS2 but I don’t see how this can be anywhere else than 1st or 2nd, it’s a GOTY for sure.

    • NiceBoo says:

      I do not think it’s a top. There is the best game of 2017, the rest is not in any particular order. Sorry for my bad english.

    • Vacuity729 says:

      In general, aside from the last day being the best of the year, the other games in RPS’ calendar are unranked relative to each other. They’re either in the calendar or they’re not; there’s no order (other than the absolute top spot).

  6. cpt_freakout says:

    After seeing RPS’ insistence I tried this game and got thoroughly engaged, never looking back. I don’t even remember what else I played earlier in the year, because Prey just occupied my mind for the couple months I spent exploring every nook and cranny. Definitely reminded me of why I love all those immersive sims so much. In fact, I even started Dishonored 2 immediately after, which I had postponed almost indefinitely, just to keep that feeling going.

    I was also genuinely scared more than a bunch of times. The first time a Nightmare appears is one of the most memorable images in gaming I’ve seen in a while.

  7. napoleonic says:

    Prey is easily the best game of the last year, probably longer.

  8. E_FD says:

    I just beat this one a couple weeks ago! Quite liked it, though at the same time, I can see why it drifted under the radar. It’s a very… familiar game, a refinement of ideas and design we’ve all seen before, and even though it’s arguably better-executed than most of its predecessors, I think the lack of any real distinctive hook of its own works against it.

  9. GlasWolf says:

    I’ve been hit by the level reset bug twice now, so I’m making a manual save every time I’m about to change area. The fact that I’m still determined to finish it and explore absolutely everywhere speaks volumes as to how fantastic the game is.

  10. spacedyemeerkat says:

    Really liked the game. Became completely absorbed.

    Also really liked the ending. Which puts me in a minority of about one. Ah, well.

  11. woodsey says:

    A criminally underrated (under-seen, maybe?) game.

    And while I agree the plot itself was a little ho-hum (though I appreciated that it actually built exploration time into the plot, something other open-world and open-world-ish games would do well to capture), I thought the largely-unspoken Yu family drama was really quite sweet and melancholic. Dishonored has wasted every celebrity voice actor it’s had (with the big exception of Michael Madsen as Daud), but Benedict Wong was fantastic.

  12. Mouse_of_Dunwall says:

    Prey is certainly game of the year for me, and my second favorite game of all time (after the first Dishonored and its DLC). The gameplay is quite different from Dishonored, but every bit as good, and the story and environments are among the best in gaming. A true masterpiece.

  13. Angel Dust says:

    I got myself a Switch this year and as such have played, and greatly enjoyed, both Zelda and Mario. Despite that Prey is still clearly my favourite game of the year – that space station is a fucking masterpiece of level design. I even liked the story too.

  14. onodera says:

    Bought it during the sale, but bounced right off. I don’t like games that don’t give you a gun to make you scared.

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      subdog says:

      I don’t think I’m parsing your complaint about the guns in Prey.

    • woodsey says:

      You get access to the pistol, shotgun, and GLOO gun within the first hour or two. Did you even bounce on?

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      Alikari says:

      Yeah I have to say I’m not sure about the source of your gun complaint, the game has plenty.

      But I’m with you on bounced right off. I played about 6 hours and then just never felt any desire to start it back up again. I’m not unhappy with that sort of playtime for the money, but I wouldn’t have thought to put in anywhere in a top 20 games list for the year. Hell I might have even forgotten it was released.

  15. Vandelay says:

    Won’t say it is the Game of the Year, as I haven’t played enough of the new games to be qualified enough to say it, but it has been one of my favourite games I’ve personally played during the year. I would have liked some more variety with the enemies, as well as some more side quests thrown in, but it was such a joy to explore the space station, unlocking as many nooks and crannies as I could.

    Only negative I can think of is that it wasn’t the Prey 2 that we saw at E3 many years ago. The use of the name is still kind of baffling to me.

    Alas, it sounds as if from the sales that we are unlikely to see any more immersive sims for a while. I’m not really sure what it is about these games that don’t attract people and it is a real shame they aren’t more successful.

  16. caff says:

    Cracking game. It really evoked a feel of the original Deus Ex and System Shocks. I explored every angle of the space station. It wasn’t a game without faults,
    i.e. 1) the way you are funneled towards airlocks, and 2) the ever-increasing number of enemies, which I ended up just running past.

    But it’s beautiful, ambitious and the world is built with a personal feel, a level of care and attention that I loved.

  17. Servicemaster says:

    YES, THANK YOU RPS!! Do yourselves a favor and read that faux-nazi Jim Sterling’s review of Prey. Make sure to bring some tissues along because you will cry and maybe sob that someone so involved in digital art could be so painfully blind.

    Prey is an incredibly deep empathy-simulator and I would strongly suggest any and all future A.I.’s to have to play through it. The Looking Glass tricks alone made the game worth the full price I payed but got DAMN did I love the detail in every nook and cranny of a wonderful future we could have had if only JFK’s head did not explode.

  18. Vasily R says:

    I’m with you Alec. I would say it’s a toss up between this and Horizon Zero Dawn for my game of the year.

  19. Petethegoat says:

    An astonishingly good game. I played the demo and didn’t enjoy it at all, but decided to try again with the full game, and I’m so so glad I did.

    To me, it’s especially amazing how good it was despite the typhoon being so bad as enemies. No personality like the guards in Thief, or the Many from Shock. Pretty boring to fight, especially compared to the clockwork soldiers from Dishonored 2, (although I’m disappointed they’re so easy to dispatch with the crossbow, sword fighting them is sublime).

    But it doesn’t really matter, maybe it’s even intentional that there’s no reason to hang around listening to them, that it’s not especially rewarding to fight them. Just navigating through the gorgeous, gorgeous levels is so satisfying.

    I actually really enjoyed the ending, too. Can see why people would dislike it, but entirely disagree. Perfect, in my eyes.

  20. Caiman says:

    GOTY, for sure, although only because I haven’t played D:OS2 yet. Played the first earlier in the year and THAT would be my actual GOTY if it was eligible, but Prey is brilliant.

  21. hundtand says:

    Stellar game. Dominated by a dense and repressive atmosphere of wondering ‘what’s next’ that lasted for a surprising amount of time. Not only regarding exploration but story-wise as well. In terms of exploration and combat it was only towards the endgame that enemies felt A) too numerous and B) too easy to deal with. Or run away from, loadscreens are great places to hide. Those screens are, besides the ending, my only true issue with Prey.

    Almost best of all? This gem of a game is framed by some of the best environments I’ve ever seen in a game. Not only in terms of aesthetics but in terms of all the details and all the information, written or otherwise.

  22. TheApologist says:

    In a fantastic year for games, Prey is my unfashionable favourite.

  23. The Bitcher III says:

    Saved it up for a rainy day. Have to say that the first 10 hours were the best. After that, I found so many characters floating around in a loose story, with some really confusing level designs, I ultimately didn’t know where to look, who to care about.

    Although there was some excellent emergent stuff, I never felt the Typhon lived up to their shocking introduction. Some great stuff going on with weapons and powers, but it seemed kind of wasted on the big bullet sponges. Think I would have much preferred a sleeker 20 hour experience.

  24. Marclev says:

    Definitely Game of the Year, and probably would be in the running as a contender for Game of the Decade.

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