Prey: Mooncrash Review

By Rebecca Smith, 5 months ago
Back in March, strange teasers for Prey started to appear on the internet. Now deleted accounts on Reddit and Twitter referred to KASMA Corp, a rival company to the Yu family's TranStar corporation, as well as new typhon technology and a possible trip to the moon. More information was promised for June's E3, and more information we got. In fact, Bethesda did more than tell us about it. Instead, we were treated to a surprise release of the "Mooncrash" DLC, content that promised to keep the premise of the main game but would add a roguelike twist to proceedings.

It doesn't look this inviting anymoreIt doesn't look this inviting anymore

Players assume the role of Peter, a KASMA Corp employee who is contracted to retrieve and interpret data for them. Upon receipt of all of the data from rival company TranStar's moon base, Pytheas, he is tasked with setting up a simulation that allows him to explore the base through the eyes of five of the employees. Something has gone wrong on the base and it's up to Peter to find out what that is through completing a series of objectives set by KASMA Corp. If he doesn't, his contract will keep being extended and he won't ever see his family again. The passive-aggressive tone of the contract and sense of unease it creates over the possibility of failure sets the perfect atmosphere for walking out into an unknown moon base.

As well as the completely new location, there's the new Nightmare-like Moon Shark enemy that patrols the crater, and new weapons like a Gloo Charge grenade and a Psychostatic Cutter that can only really be described as a laser knife. The DLC also runs with some of the new Survival Mode tweaks, like different weapon tiers (they're not upgradeable), weapon degradation through use, and different ailments like haemorrhaging that can only be fixed with a specific type of health kit. The only complaint would be that weapons degrade too quickly — weapons should be usable for more than a couple of boxes of ammo before breaking. Despite these differences, the DLC's basic gameplay is much the same as it was before. It is still a first person shooter at heart, while there is plenty of loot and environmental storytelling to be found if you care to look for it. The DLC isn't jarringly different, but there's enough of a change for this to be a fresh and worthwhile experience.

Some of your old friends are still hereSome of your old friends are still here

The primary objective is to escape the moon base with all five of the TranStar employees. Only one of the employees is unlocked at the start, while completing different objectives will unlock the other four. Unlike Morgan Yu, who had an extensive and all-encompassing skill tree where players could pick the skills that suited them, the five characters each have smaller, specialised skill trees... and they all have weaknesses. For example, volunteer Andrius specialises in Typhon powers, but extensive experimentation has had a significant impact on his health. There's no longer a feeling of immunity offered by maxing all of the skills you wanted with Morgan — players have to adapt to each character and make sure their limited skillsets are used as effectively as possible. If you die, it was likely because of your own mistakes and not because of cheap gameplay mechanics.

There are five different escape routes off the moon base, and all of these must be located and activated if all five employees are to escape successfully. While finding the means to do this, players will uncover e-mails, transcribes, and notes that tell of a moon base where not all of the employees are happy and there are suspicious goings on. These also hint at the story objectives that give background to each of the five employees and some of the other characters you'll find too. These objectives make the basic escape playthroughs far more interesting, and make each employee feel more than just an impersonal vessel that is a means to escape.

There are five escape routes around here somewhereThere are five escape routes around here somewhere

"Mooncrash" is described by publisher Bethesda as a roguelike DLC, but while there are roguelike elements to it, it's more roguelite than roguelike. The layout of the moon base stays the same in every playthrough, although door states can change; for example, the door you just unlocked with a keycard in your previous run might now need to be repaired. With the exception of a few employees key to some of the KASMA objectives, all of the TranStar employees and lootable locations are in the same place every time, although the loot they hold will differ. The type of enemies may vary, but they'll be patrolling in roughly the same places. Eventually you'll get used to the base and little will surprise you, but that still doesn't mean you can be complacent.

In theory, the more players play and explore, the easier each run can become, so to counter that, the simulation becomes harder as players complete more objectives. Environmental hazards are introduced, areas may be without power, and more difficult typhon will appear. There's also a corruption timer that increases the longer players stay in the simulation. Every time the level increases, enemies respawn and become tougher. Reach the end of level 5 and the simulation will crash, with Peter's sanity taking a bit of a hit. None of it becomes too much to bear, but it does add a sense of urgency to get things done without too much dawdling.

Radiation can be a massive nuisanceRadiation can be a massive nuisance

Like virtually all roguelite titles, death is an inevitable part of the game, but when it happens, at least players don't have to completely start from scratch. When a player dies, the simulation is restarted, or players can choose to restart the simulation themselves after a successful escape. This means all progress made in that run is lost, so enemies will respawn, all items that were collected will be lost, and locked doors will be closed again. However, all characters that have been unlocked will remain unlocked, and all Neuromods that have been installed will remain that way so the characters keep their skills. Each run earns players Sim Points for actions like killing enemies, finding plans, and completing objectives, and these can be used to buy weapons, equipment, and chipsets available from those players have found in previous runs. While initially frustrating, death never feels like a complete disaster.

Finally, the DLC's ten achievements are a mix of one off events, cumulative progression, and the odd collectible. The Starbender novels appear again and you'll need to find all six of those. You'll need to use the new weapons in specific ways and defeat the new enemy. Progression wise, there are four achievements tied to progressing through the KASMA objectives. None of these are too challenging and all are unlockable, although the achievement to install all Neuromods will take some time and several playthroughs.

This game was featured in our Best Xbox First Person Shooters Available in 2018 article. Why not check it out to see what else made the cut?

Summary

For fans of Prey, the idea of a roguelite DLC might have filled them with trepidation, but "Mooncrash" is an experience that shouldn't be missed. The basic gameplay remains the same but the roguelite style makes the expansion feel like a new experience rather than more of the same. The Survival Mode rules add tension and unpredictability to a new environment, and the increasing difficulty means that players can never become too complacent. The DLC finally manages to capture the feeling of being vulnerable that was lacking from the latter stages of the main game and escaping with all five of the TranStar employees is not an easy undertaking. If you're done with new gameplay additions added by the free title update and you're looking for a new TranStar experience, there's no reason why you should overlook this DLC.
4.5 / 5
Mooncrash in Prey
Positives
  • Great atmosphere
  • Roguelite gameplay feels like a fresh experience
  • Death doesn't feel cheap
Negatives
  • Weapons degrade slightly too quickly
  • Base can become too familiar
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 40 hours hiding, fighting and sometimes sprinting through the moon base more times than she can count on her way to escaping with all five of the TranStar employees and fulfilling Peter's contract. She earned all 10 of the DLC's achievements in the process. An Xbox One version of the DLC was provided for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.