When I heard that PREY was going to be getting additional content in the form of downloadable DLC, I was a bit confused. Unlike many open world titles, PREY was one that I did not feel would gain any benefit from DLC additions. I wasn’t even sure what could be added to the game. There were a few things that might have been interesting to see, like maybe a side-story as one of the other scientists as the space station was being taken over by aliens, but none that could really do justice to PREY’s pseudo-action horror nature.
That’s why Mooncrash is much less of a DLC and much more of an entire new game. It honestly feels like one, and is probably worth at least double its $15 asking price. It contains some familiar rogue-lite elements of random enemy spawns and twisting level aspects, but also adds a set of new features that make this product feel like a natural evolution of the rogue-lite genre. Going forward, I will be shocked if other companies and even aspiring indie devs do not take aspects from the Mooncrash DLC into future rogue-lite titles. It’s that good.
To lay down some groundwork for how the mode functions, players take control of one of five character classes as they explore a simulation called “Mooncrash” that is being contaminated with alien life. They must be careful in order to survive the array of mimics on the moon base, using each classes’ abilities to their fullest. To win, they must escape the base using one of the total ten escape methods available to them.
That’s the basics, anyway. But there are two mechanics that really sell this “evolution of rogue-lite” aspect of the game. One of them is the contamination mechanic. This is a ticking timer of difficulty that never stops counting up. Every moment that a player spends in the new DLC, whether they’re fighting enemies, repairing a structure or scavenging supplies, this timer counts up. When it fills, the base’s contamination level increases by one. When a contamination level increases, a new wave of enemies replaces the old ones around the map. All killed foes return, more numerous and stronger than before. So, obviously, the smartest way to play the DLC would be to rush your way through the whole thing – something that you know doesn’t work at all if you’ve played the main game. It’s a really nice, dynamic bond between caution and speed that does a great job with building tension as you extract each character, one by one.
And yes, I said one by one. As in, without resetting one by one. To fully complete the DLC, players must beat the game with each of the five playable characters in a row without starting over. And it gets harder and harder each time you do it. This is the second masterwork of this product: New levels of persistence.
One of the easiest escape methods is a shuttle that allows the character who finds it to fly off the moon. No problem – but the next character won’t be able to take that route because the shuttle is already gone. What’s more, the previously mentioned contamination timer DOES NOT RESET between characters. Your first character will be the easiest to get out, but everyone after them will get harder, and harder, and harder.
Objects you loot as one character will already be looted when you start your next character. There’s a mechanic to transport inventory items between characters, but it only appears in certain places, and forces you to make those difficult choices: Do I take these bullets now? I could use them to survive – but I know my next character will need them even more than this one does. It’s a whole five or six extra levels of planning and strategy than rouge-lite titles have ever been able to achieve, making sure the consequences of your actions carry weight onto the next four playthroughs after the first.
My only gripe with this DLC is that it cannot be played or purchased without first owning the base PREY game. With DLC titles as expansive as this one, I believe releasing them as separate titles is more than reasonable – in the same vein as Far Cry: Blood Dragon, which was a smash-hit at launch. Being a DLC of a AAA singleplayer game will get this DLC way less attention than it deserves, and that’s a shame. This isn’t the kind of addon that happens often enough.