It has been bugging me for years: maybe the problem isn’t the games. Maybe it’s me.
I didn’t like the Thief reboot. I was tepid towards BioShock. The new Deus Ex games have some charm, but they never engrossed me the way the original did. Dishonored was kind of amusing, but it always felt like classic Thief with the best parts ripped out. Most other people loved these gamesAside from the Thief reboot. Nobody liked that.. Reviewers like them, the public embraces them, but they just don’t blow me away like in the good old days.
Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’ve just played too many games. Maybe after rolling over the same tropes and gameplay for years I’ve just lost the ability to give myself over to a game like I did back in my 20s. Maybe what made those games so magical was my own sense of wonder.
It’s been bugging me for years, but Prey proves that this isn’t the case. My fondness for those old titles isn’t blind nostalgia. Modern games really have been missing something special that I’ve been craving. I know this, because Prey has these things and I’m suddenly experiencing a game in a way I haven’t since I was 28. Prey is the real deal.
Prey is the Real Deal
It’s always bugged me that I have this reputation as “the guy who is always looking for an excuse to complain about something”. Some people don’t like that I’m “nitpicky”. I like to think I write all these words because I love games, and not because I enjoy whining and pointing out the faults of others. On the other hand, I can see they have a point. A lot of my analysis is focused on things that are wrong.
But now? Now I finally have a game I can gush about. A game I can praise without a bunch of qualifying asterisks and historical references to older, better things. A game that’s highbrow without being pretentious. A game that’s challenging without being tedious. A game that doesn’t need to make a big deal about offering me a choice. A game that knows that the key to a powerful ending is all the moments before the ending, and not just having the player fight a giant lava monster to save the universe. Prey is a game that’s bursting at the seams with vibrant new ideas.
I finished my initial run-through of Prey on Friday night. I actually stayed up four hours past my bedtime because I didn’t want to stop playing. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Even as I drifted off to sleep I was still thinking about all the little moments that stuck with me.
On Saturday morning I wake up, start a brand-new game, and proceed to play for the next eight hours straight. Again, I don’t think I’ve done this sort of thing with a first-person game since the 90s.
My first trip through Prey was a bit of a rush job. The side missions were interesting, but I was really curious about where the main story was going so I couldn’t bring myself to take a break from it. But now we’re into the second playthrough and I can linger. I can hunt for all the secrets, do all the side missions, and explore the other major ending. (There’s more than two, but breaking it all down would involve huge spoilers.)
Spoilers for the curious:
(Please remember to spoiler-tag your comments below. The game is still pretty young. The rest of this article should be spoiler free aside from the names of missions and locations.)
Now that I know the mechanics and I know what’s good, this is going to be my “perfect” playthrough. I comb the station for loot. I crack every door. I loot every container. I kill every monster. I listen to every audiolog. At the end of seven hours I’m just finally reaching the G.U.T.S.A long shaft the runs the length of the entire space station., which is barely a quarter of the way through the story. I pop open the airlock and begin the first extended spacewalk of the game.
There’s something odd going on here. January – my robot buddy – narrated my trip through the G.U.T.S. in the last game, but this time Jan is silent. Also, all of the lootable containers are empty. This includes dead bodies that should have audiologs with more exposition. And I feel like we’re missing some foes. I remember there being a lot of opposition on my first playthrough, but here I’m just flying through an empty tunnel. The game is still on Normal difficulty, so everything should be the same. Am I remembering this wrong?
I reach the Arboretum and the door is… unlocked? It’s supposed to be locked. There’s a little five-minute sidequest to get the keycard, but here I can just roll up to the airlock and breeze through. Inside, it’s more of the same. No dialog. All the containers are empty. January never speaks. My mission log hasn’t updated.
The game is broken. I can’t progress.
I’ve got about ten saves. Some are autosaves, some are quick saves. I go back to the oldest one, which is from about an hour ago. I reload it and play through the entire Psychotronics section again.
Same result. All quest progress stops the moment I leave Psychotronics. I just sunk eight solid hours into this playthrough and it’s completely dead.
Yes I tried re-launching the game.
Yes I’m using the latest public beta patch that promises to fix all the progress-killing bugs.
I don’t want to start another game only to run into this problem again. Is this it? Did this bug just kill my ability to enjoy this game?
This was going to be the big moment. This was my chance to be positive for once.
And you ruined it, Bethesda. You world-class jackasses.
 Aside from the Thief reboot. Nobody liked that.
 A long shaft the runs the length of the entire space station.
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