This DLC, then, is basically about endless fights in the same few environments over and over again.You’re given control of a single survivor, “The Volunteer,” or Andrius Alekna, an experiment test subject with an affinity for the Typhon aliens and their psychic powers. This first run is also limited to a small subsection of the Pytheas Moonbase, and a fairly linear one at that.To do this, you leap into a simulated version of the base’s final hours and take control of a handful of characters in an attempt to guide them to safety. What you do as one character affects others—pick up a useful item, for instance, and it won’t be there for the next character. If you fail, you simply run the simulation again. Each playthrough shuffles the enemy placement, available items, and environmental hazards. The map layouts remain the same, but each run feels different.There are five different ways to escape the moon base, from the super-simple escape pod route you’ll aim to reach on your first run, to far more elaborate means such as launching a rocket, which, well, requires you to know how to fly a rocket.
It’s somewhere between a new mode and a traditional expansion. There are five playable characters, each with a different power set: a security specialist with high HP capabilities but no typhon powers, for example, or an engineer who can drop a turret. Riley Yu, meanwhile, has plenty of Typhon powers and carries a psychoscope.Here’s where Mooncrash really starts to get interesting, as you carry over any skills you unlocked last time, and also have access to any Fabrication Plans you gathered. Killing enemies or achieving objectives earns you “Sim Points,” and these can be spent between runs. A shotgun, for instance, costs 750 points. The game wanted to talk about ideas like the nature of memory and what happens when the lines between reality and digital spaces is thin. It followed in the vein of immersive sims like Deus Ex, but the decision to place crucial plot information after the credits shattered pacing. Prey succeeded in spite of this thanks to intricate level design that encouraged creative problem solving. You could use alien abilities to morph into a clipboard and slide under locked doors or use a glue gun to make platforms to climb past hazards.First you’re going to have to work out how to unlock all the characters, then how to reach all the escape routes, and then get each character powered up enough with upgrades and Psi options such that it is possible. And to do that, you’re going to need to run each character a few times.This leads to the other major areas of this place: Crew Annex, Moonworks and Pythea Labs, names which I now feel like I’ve read ten million times. With loose gravity, it’s fun to leap around the lunar surface. That is, until perma-bastard the Moon Shark turns up, a huge, overpowered Typhon enemy that responds to the sound of footsteps on the moon’s surface. At this point, the simulation resets only when both characters either escape or die. Also, a whole new section of Pytheas unlocks, including the Crew Quarters and a labyrinthine mining area.
The engineer Joan Winslow might consider planting turrets on the moon’s surface and firing a nerf gun to wake the Moon Shark under the dirt, letting her robot pals dispose of it and clear the way for the next character. If you’re playing as the test subject Andrius Alekna, it might be best to avoid picking up weapons and using your psychic powers.There are multiple ways to escape the station and personal tasks for each character to complete, all of which award points. You also gain points for defeating enemies or exploring certain locations fully. These point accumulate and can be spent to add weapons and items to a character’s inventory before their run. Mooncrash encourages exhaustive play, a decision made more interesting by the fact that the longer you play, the more unstable the simulation becomes. Staying in the simulation too long increases the threat level, spawning in buffed enemies and additional hazards. As a result, it’s actually safer to rush even if you can only get points and new characters by completing time-consuming objectives.
For an early example, you begin the first time in a small room heavily staffed by disguised mimics, but on further plays that’s all cleared out and the door’s opened, so saves the tedium of repeating the same simple actions each time.) As indeed do fabrication plans (items you can make in the fabricators), and the sim points you gain. Each one represents a different character build you might have made during the Prey campaign, like the gifted mentalist who has access to a ridiculous arsenal of powers (such as telekinesis or energy blasts) but limited health, and the security officer who’s good with a gun. While the universal goal for everyone is to escape the moon by any means possible, each character also has a special objective for you to complete. Most of them are enjoyable short stories that give you a little insight into each character, like the security officer’s friendship with a custodian who’s actually a backstabbing Kasma operative.Then there are chipsets, more minor upgrades, that require repurchasing from your gathered pool each time. But, of course, also means you can’t spam the game, as you need to earn more sim points to be able to do this each time. Such points are earned mostly just by playing – discoveries, kills, repairs, and so on. First, I’ve been playing it a load, and despite assuming the same, it hasn’t happened yet. And secondly, multiplayer games. Mooncrash’s reuse of the same spaces with differing characters is a single-player rendering of that familiar multiplayer notion, where the spaces are interesting enough when combined with the changes in enemies, enemy placements, and tools available, to sustain it.
One of the main goals, along with completing the story quest for each character, is to finish a run with all five using wildly different methods of escape—this is made trickier by a ‘corruption level’ that ticks up relatively quickly, adding harder enemies to the world each time it increases. When this reaches its final level, the run ends, meaning you have to reset the simulation again. For me, it was the wrench for Mimics, the silenced pistol for Phantoms, the shotgun for anything larger, and the EMP Charge for robots. I also invested heavily in any stealth-centric skills, and barely touched Typhon powers.Because it’s forcing me to play a single-player first-person-me-do in ways I usually avoid. Like anyone, there are ways I lean to in any immersive sim, preferring stealth, hacking and repairing over bombs and run-n-gun bravado. But here, as you play each archetype, you’re required to change your play-style accordingly. It’s making me approach Prey’s world in a way I haven’t before, and that’s refreshing and interesting.With every new level of corruption it reaches, enemies you’ve killed respawn stronger than they were before. Once corruption hits level five, the simulation crashes. Though you have a way to reset the corruption level counter, the countdown is more of an annoyance and resource drain than a mechanic that intensifies gameplay.
If you use the shuttle to escape with your first character, you can’t use it again to escape with another. Each escape method is also more than just discovering and selecting the method. A second or even third step is always involved, like searching out a pilot’s corpse and injecting their knowledge of flight into your brain so you can escape with the shuttle. These objectives are enticing to the point that I don’t want to spoil any of the others here, but rest assured: plenty of zany and grotesque sci-fi story beats are waiting to be found. The multi-tiered objectives liven up every area, and character playthrough makes exploration an exciting prospect as opposed to the tedious backtracking that made Talos 1 feel woefully underused.For no discernible reason, your guns get worn out at an astonishing pace through use (I don’t know anything about guns, but I’m pretty sure they last more than a day). The traumas are more interesting. Get injured in particular ways and you’re hobbled until addressed. Sometimes this limits how much health can be restored, but more interestingly, it might mean you can’t sprint or jump without incurring further injury, forcing you to quickly adapt how you play in that moment.Mooncrash is a tour de force because every decision is a hard decision. There’s a constant give-and-take, and even the lowliest item left for a future run could end up making the difference between escape and failure.