Prey 2017 Part 3: The Story is Mostly Backstory

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jul 21, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 129 comments

The weird thing about Prey is that it has almost no story, but it has absolutely tons of backstory. Most of the game consists of Morgan just trying to get from A to B and running into an endless series of hazards and complications because the space station is in such disarray. Morgan’s adventure is primarily a series of door-opening exercises, but there’s a ton of worldbuilding and history leading up to that adventure.

The author shows a lot of respect for the intelligence and curiosity of the player. There’s never a scene where someone grabs the player’s camera for a brute-force info dump. Very little of the history is revealed through direct dialog, and the little bit we do get is provided out-of-order. If you want to understand the world of Prey, then you need to read bits of in-game lore, listen to optional audiologs, pay attention to environmental cues, and extrapolate the whole based on these various hints.

I love it. The knowledge is there if you care about it, and the gameworld rewards serious inspection. At the same time, the game never force-feeds you and you’re free to run around and shoot shit in blissful ignorance if that’s more your speed.Although, if that’s the case then I can’t help but think you’d be better served by some other genre. 

For the sake of this retrospective, I’m going to present the important bits of historical context in order.

Spoilers Ahoy!

At the top of the list of stuff you're not supposed to think about or question: Why would ANYONE want to introduce firearms to a pressurized vessel like this space station?
At the top of the list of stuff you're not supposed to think about or question: Why would ANYONE want to introduce firearms to a pressurized vessel like this space station?

This is it. This is the big spoiler dump. If you’ve been thinking of playing the game yourself and you want  to experience the big surprises first-hand, then set this aside until you’ve played the first two or three hours of the game.

Prey takes place in an alternate timeline. In the early days of the space race, the first cosmonauts found (and were subsequently killed by) small alien creatures that had infested an early satellite. These aliens came to be known as the Typhon.

The two major superpowers – the USA and the USSR – secretly agreed to work together to study these creatures, and thus the cold war followed a slightly different course in this timeline. John F. Kennedy survived his assassination attempt, we built a base on the moon, and we built a space station around the captured alien specimens. This space station grew in size and complexity as the years went on. Eventually it came to be known as Talos-1.

We can skip the next several decades of twists and turns and jump ahead to the mid 2020s when the space station is privatized by the TranStar corporation. Eventually Alex Yu is appointed the head of the station, and his sibling Morgan studies the Typhon.

A Brain-Sucking Spider

Here a mimic ate some poor bastard's brain and then immediately began making copies of itself.
Here a mimic ate some poor bastard's brain and then immediately began making copies of itself.

Part of the station is dedicated to studying the Typhon and figuring out how they work. It turns out these aren’t normal biological creatures like we see on Earth. The idea that the author is playing with here is that consciousness is a fundamental force in the universe, like gravity or magnetism. This leads to the idea that a lot of stuff like telepathy, mind control, and telekinesis are actually possible. Humans can’t do it naturally, but the Typhon can.

The Typhon are creatures that eat consciousness. Now, this idea is a little odd to me. If you’re “eating” something, then you’re absorbing the energy it’s collected. Given the idea the author has proposed, saying you “eat consciousness” is like saying you “eat gravity” or “eat electromagnetism”. That doesn’t make any sense. Forces aren’t themselves a source of energy. You can use a force to capture or store energy.  When I eat a burger, I’m breaking a bunch of chemical bonds in the burger to obtain their energy. But when I do this, I’m eating the burger, I’m not “eating chemistry”. 

When a Typhon eats you, it’s not eating and digesting your physical brain matter in the sense of eating a burger. Instead, it’s somehow consuming, like… your thoughts and memories? Your intelligence? I dunno. It’s eating something that harnesses the force of consciousness, and when it’s gone you die.

The problem here is that within the universe of Prey we need two different words for two things:

  1. The fundamental force of consciousness
  2. A fixed amount of consciousness as possessed by a living creature 

Like, we have different words for “gravity” and “potential energy” to differentiate between the force and the energy created using that force. But in the universe of Prey we use the word “consciousness” for both ideas.

So my personal head-canon is that the scientists in Prey were speaking informally. It’s like saying a hydroelectric dam “consumes gravity”. That’s not the right way to say that and maybe the folks in this universe need to add some vocabulary to discuss these new concepts they’ve discovered, but I guess I understand what they’re getting at.

Now, a physicist might nitpick this idea and demand to know how this consciousness force works. How do you put energy into this system, how do you get energy out, and how do you measure it? Like, what’s the unit of measure for consciousness? Are we talking about intelligence? Or awareness of self? Questions like, “What is consciousness?” and “Is X conscious?” are usually things we leave to the philosophers, but here in the universe of Prey it’s apparently something that physicists have to deal with.

While it might annoy the physicists to add consciousness to the four fundamental forces, I’m more than willing to go along with the idea. This is so much more interesting than robots that kill you to prevent you from building robots that kill you

Neuromod Research 

You're supposed to grip the mod by the purple cylinder, which is both smooth and has some hoses to get caught on. Basically, the ergonomics of this thing are terrible, and don't even get me started on THE NEEDLES.
You're supposed to grip the mod by the purple cylinder, which is both smooth and has some hoses to get caught on. Basically, the ergonomics of this thing are terrible, and don't even get me started on THE NEEDLES.

On Talos-1, Morgan gets to work studying the Typhon. Some of this research involves sticking human test subjects into a cell with a live Typhon and letting nature run its course. The Typhon are really good at replicating by consuming human minds. This process is 100% fatal to the humans in question. TranStar uses death row inmates for this purpose, and nobody gets too worked up about it because the testing victims are supposedly all murderers and psychos. But then the Soviet Union (which still exists in the 2030s in this timeline) decides this program is a good way to get rid of various political prisoners. Morgan Yu heads up this research and is happy to feed these “criminals” to the Typhon without asking too many questions.

The major breakthrough is the development of neuromod technology – a device that makes it possible to capture / record the skills and knowledge of one person and copy them to someone else. The possibilities for humanity are tremendous. Why spend a decade mastering the piano when you can just buy a mod to absorb those skills in one go? Why spend years in grad school when the knowledge is just one good eye-poke away?

There are three little caveats with neuromods:

  1. If you uninstall a neuromod for some reason, then your brain loses access to all the memories acquired since you installed the mod. So if you absorb a mod to play the piano, enjoy it for three months, and then get rid of it, then you’ll lose those three months of memories. 
  2. Most people don’t know this, but neuromods are based on the Typhon. Like, when you install a mod, you’re literally sticking Typhon cells into your brain. Since the Typhon are creeping tentacled nightmare fuel, this fact has some scary implications. 
  3. The only way to get more Typhon cells is to allow them to reproduce, and the only way to do that is to feed them a living human. So on top of the safety concerns, there are some rather alarming ethical concerns as well.

Oh wow. This all sounds extraordinarily unpleasant.
Oh wow. This all sounds extraordinarily unpleasant.

Fact #1 wouldn’t normally be a problem. You can just tell customers that neuromods are permanent. That’s fine once you have a product fit for public consumption. The problem is that the technology is still in the early stages where you need lots of trial-and-error testing to get everything working properly. 

The obvious question here is, “Why don’t we feed animals to the Typhon? Just give them some cows or pigs or whatever, so we don’t need to sacrifice humans.” The story never explains this directly, and we don’t know if anyone attempted feeding animals to the Typhon. Perhaps they require prey above a certain level of intelligence or sophistication? I’d be willing to buy the idea that it just wouldn’t work, but I’d like it if we got to see some emails from people who tried it and what the result was.

Having said that…

What Did I Miss?

You jam these SUPER long needles THROUGH YOUR EYEBALL so they can reach the brain matter behind. The packaging says you hold it there for 5 minutes, but for the purposes of gameplay the process is instant.
You jam these SUPER long needles THROUGH YOUR EYEBALL so they can reach the brain matter behind. The packaging says you hold it there for 5 minutes, but for the purposes of gameplay the process is instant.

Maybe this is addressed in the game and I missed it. I’ve been through Prey several times now. I’ve spent a lot of time on the wiki and up until last week I thought I’d read every scrap of in-game lore.  I thought I had a really good handle on the particulars of the setting. And then I began publishing this series and through the comments I discovered a ton of stuff that I’d missed.

I’m not sure how I missed these details. Is there a particular cluster of rooms I’ve somehow never visited? Or did I ignore a bunch of the in-universe magazine articles because I assumed all the magazines contained the same material? Or did I miss a few scattered computer terminals, thinking I’d read them already?

I don’t know. But I do know that I’ve seen several comments from people that contained information that’s new to me. I suppose I could put this series on hiatus and play through the game two or three more times in a search for fresh lore items. Or maybe we’ll just have to live with what I’ve written and accept that I’ve somehow missed a handful of details. 

I’ll let you guess which one of those two options I chose. 

At any rate: To the best of my knowledge, nobody in the world of Prey attempted to feed a bunch of lab rats to the Typhon, and I’m curious if it was ever suggested. I’m also curious what the result of that would have been. I’m totally willing to believe that it wouldn’t work, based on what the game shows us about consciousness. But like, how would it not work? Would the Typhon eat a rat and then make worthless dumb-dumb mimics? Or would it eat the rat but then not reproduce? Or would it ignore the rat?

Shrug. I’m just curious.

How Did Yu Get Here?

Yes, I'm going to keep substituting 'yu' for 'You' in section titles. Yes, I realize the pun is already stale. But look, YU try naming these sections. It's harder than it looks!
Yes, I'm going to keep substituting 'yu' for 'You' in section titles. Yes, I realize the pun is already stale. But look, YU try naming these sections. It's harder than it looks!

If you’re going to test a neuromod, then you need a smart and cooperative test subject. You need to install a neuromod and then appraise how well the subject is able to utilize the absorbed information. This means you need a steady baseline subject with known capabilities. This isn’t something you can study with an army of random anonymous conscripted prisoners. 

Morgan volunteers to be the main test subject. This means that all of her existing neuromods need to be removed. This resets her memories back to March 15, 2032, just before her first neuromod – and just before she left Earth.

So Morgan enters a very chaotic period of her life. She wakes up thinking it’s March 15, 2032. Then Alex has to explain that no, it’s actually a few years later. He brings her up to speed. Then they install the latest neuromod. Then Morgan hangs around for a few days or weeks while the team appraises the neuromod performance. 

During this time, Morgan often makes friends, has conversations, and pursues hobbies. And then the testing ends and the neuromod is removed. Morgan is once again reset to March 15, 2032 and the process begins again.

The New Yu

The operator robots are cool and all, but their form factor is clunky as hell. Who decided our space robots should look like a flying VCR?
The operator robots are cool and all, but their form factor is clunky as hell. Who decided our space robots should look like a flying VCR?

As the testing goes on, Alex notices that his sister’s personality is changing. The story doesn’t say how, because it’s actually up to the player how the “new” Morgan thinks, feels, and behaves. But to Alex, his sister is slowly becoming someone else.

After allowing the Typhon to feast on all those test subjects, the alien creatures have grown in numbers and complexity. The creatures themselves are apparently inscrutable and unapproachable. They have no language and no perceptible means of communication. On the surface they seem like insects – creatures with largely mechanical behavior. They just do whatever it is they do and don’t seem to understand or regard humans as anything but possible food. At the same time, they also show flashes of intelligence, natural curiosity, and the capacity for figuring out machines. 

In December, Morgan starts worrying about what happens if the Typhon figure out how to break containment. She comes up with a plan to hijack an escape pod and flee the facility if something goes wrong. But she also knows that she’s going to lose access to this plan the next time her neuromods are stripped out. So she programs an operator – an autonomous robot – to remember the plan for her. It will hang out in her office, remaining dormant until an emergency. If the Typhon escape, the December operator will find her and walk her through the steps of her own plan.

Morgan’s memories are wiped again, and her testing continues. At this point, literally nobody knows about December.

In January, Morgan asks herself the same question: What happens if the Typhon break containment? This time she concludes that the only safe thing to do is to nuke the entire station. If a single Typhon somehow reaches Earth, then it would be effortless for them to consume the entire human race. As before, she decides to build an operator to remember the plan and walk her future self through it should the need arise. She has no idea she’s already built a different robot with a different plan.

Alex Betrays Morgan

This seems like a guy I can trust!
This seems like a guy I can trust!

I’ve never found an explicit explanation for what Alex does next: Alex stops bringing Morgan up to speed after a memory wipe.

The space station has a perfect replica of Morgan’s old apartment back on Earth. This was created so that Morgan won’t freak out after a memory wipe. She can wake up in her old bed, and then Alex can break the news to her gently.

TranStar has this VR display technology called “Looking Glass” that can make display screens act like windows. Alex has a fake simulation set up so that Morgan can wake up in her fake apartment, think she’s riding a helicopter across town, arrive at a replica of the TranStar building on Earth, and undergo some personality tests so Alex can see how she’s changed this time. Then he gives her the latest neuromod. Once he has the information he needs, he knocks her out and strips the neuromods. This resets Morgan back to zero without her ever realizing the truth. She thinks she’s still on Earth and getting ready for a journey into space.

While the game doesn’t explain why Alex does this,Again, the comments on the last couple of entries have made me paranoid that I’ve missed things. it’s easy to come up with a few guesses. 

It would be maddening to have the same exact conversation with Morgan every time she wakes up. It’s probably annoying to spend a couple of hours explaining the entire setup to Morgan every time, answering the same questions, and enduring the same reactions. The whole time Alex would know that she’s going to forget the entire exchange the next time another neuromod enters beta. Also, her interactions with the crew – who didn’t know anything about the secret memory-wipe testing – were causing confusion for other people and generating a bunch of complaints about Morgan’s behavior. Having Morgan constantly forget people, forget conversations, and inadvertently break promises was creating a bunch of gossip and offense on among the employees, and Alex probably felt that reflected poorly on the rest of the company leadership. 

To Alex, it was probably for the best to keep Morgan sequestered in the simulation. It created fewer problems, and (to his thinking) when it was all over Morgan wouldn’t know the difference anyway.

Good Morning, Morgan.
Good Morning, Morgan.

This all worked fine until the Typhon escaped their cage. At that point both of Morgan’s sleeper robots activated and began seeking her in order to enact their conflicting plans. They helped Morgan escape the simulation, leaving her wondering what was going on, how she got into space, and why she’d been trapped in a simulation to begin with.

So that’s the setup for Prey 2017. Well, that’s the bare-bones explanation anyway. I’ve left out more than I included, but this should be enough to follow the retrospective even if you haven’t played the game. (Or if it’s been a few years and you’ve forgotten the details.)

The slow reveal of all of this information is a fun experience. The game feels confusing and incomprehensible at first, and it’s really satisfying as the pieces fall into place during your adventure.

Next time we’ll get started on the game proper.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Although, if that’s the case then I can’t help but think you’d be better served by some other genre.

[2] Again, the comments on the last couple of entries have made me paranoid that I’ve missed things.



From The Archives:
 

129 thoughts on “Prey 2017 Part 3: The Story is Mostly Backstory

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    You jam these SUPER long needles THROUGH YOUR EYEBALL so they can reach the brain matter behind. The packaging says you hold it there for 5 minutes, but for the purposes of gameplay the process is instant.

    I’ve always wondered of there was some quick acting anesthesia included to dull the pain or if people just had the force of will to jam them into their eyes and straight into their brains.

    1. Grimwear says:

      And I’m just over here looking and it and going “Those needles are longer than my freaking head”.

      1. Kincajou says:

        You know? Guesstimating the sizes and proportions… You’re absolutely right, those things would go through my skull!

    2. Chris says:

      Yeah, or if you do it yourself in reflex of the needles suddenly poking your eye cause you to flinch. Then you either snap the needles or bend them or have them move around and damage tissue. I know its for body horror, but this delivery system doesnt seem very intelligent. Knocking someone out before applying it seems more sensible.

    3. Cubic says:

      Me old mum suffers from vascular macular degeneration and hence periodically gets needle shots right into the eyeball, in the field of vision no less. No anaesthesia that I’ve heard of. But it’s not right through the eye, which would seem quite bad.

      I believe old school lobotomies were done by inserting some sort of object, a thin hook or something, in the space between the eye socket and the eye and, you know, rummaging about. Actually seems a bit less destructive than going through the eye to do it.

      1. Cubic says:

        Actually, I should say there might very well be anaesthesia. I see that web pages mention there is, so it would seem odd if she didn’t get it.

      2. Melfina+the+Blue says:

        My grandmother told me stories about her cataract surgeries, and while she was given a local and calming meds, she was awake and could see what was happening. When my mom had hers, I believe she was knocked out, but the idea of having someone do stuff to your eyes with you being awake still gives me the willies. But then I can’t even give myself eyedrops properly (seriously, I have to put it in the corner of my eye, and man do I dread the eye doc) so needles, yeah, NOT HAPPENING.

        Edited to add: upon a bit of further research, decreased interocular pressure, such as might be caused by stabbing your eye is related to a loss of vision known as hypotony. So yeah, Morgan would (most likely) eventually go blind in the eye she’s stabbing if that’s what she’s doing. Maybe the needle goes through the corner just outside the eyeball? Like a lobotomy?

        1. Syal says:

          One of the needles is to reinflate the eye, like a balloon.

          (I have the same problem with eyedrops. Can’t imagine ever wearing contacts.)

  2. Coming Second says:

    At the top of the list of stuff you’re not supposed to think about or question: Why would ANYONE want to introduce firearms to a pressurized vessel like this space station?

    They do in fact address this. It’s the reason why there’s a dearth of conventional weaponry, and why the pistol is silenced and kind of sucks: TranStar didn’t want every employee deafened and face potential depressurisation every time one of the security team fired one for whatever reason.

    I don’t think they ever bothered to explain away the shotgun though.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      The head of security was constantly pushing for heavier equipment (because fighting escaped Typhon with dinky pistols seemed like a really bad idea), so I imagine that’s why they brought in some bigger guns.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        The pellets of shotguns also have pretty piss-poor penetration power against anything that’s… well, not cloth or flesh to be blunt. Meaning they’re one of the few ‘bigger guns’ that don’t have (as big) risk of causing depressurization.

        It’s the reason they’re sometimes more easily available legally then other guns. You just don’t get that ‘passes through fifteen walls’ problem of, say, nine-millimeter, and anything you’re supposed to shoot legally isn’t going to be wearing body armor anyway.

        Not counting specialist ammo like deer slugs, of course.

        There’s even a couple of special guns made for, for example, air-line pilots. These tend to be rare and expensive collector’s items that were dead on arrival, though, because the market’s typically so teeny-tiny. Still, would have been cool seeing a ‘Tran-Star Issue Sub-Machine Gun’ or something as one of the rarer, eleventh hour weapons.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zJP89orlbc

        1. bobbert says:

          I mean, if HAVE to get shot in the face, bird-shot is the way to go.

        2. Fullmoon says:

          For that matter, they might be using fragile bullets/pellets, since it’s all constructed on-site. Sort of like that specialist door-breaching shotgun ammo made from compressed lead dust.

  3. Chad+Miller says:

    The packaging says you hold it there for 5 minutes, but for the purposes of gameplay the process is instant.

    My favorite part about this one is how the higher-level abilities require 6 or more neuromods. Imagine Morgan slumped in an air vent, deciding “I need to make sure I can sneak past this [scary alien monster]”, and then jamming needles into herself for at least 30 consecutive minutes.

    For all this game does explain things and go out of its way to justify everything including game mechanics, it does seem like the in-game mechanics of the neuromods themselves are largely a handwave.

    1. Coming Second says:

      Possibly the five minute thing is just a precaution, the same way you’re supposed to hang about for fifteen minutes after getting your vaccine. A TranStar tech is supposed to be the one administering it, and they’re presumably there to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction. Morgan is in desparate straits and later comes to know she’s had umpteen neuromods already, so she is just jamming them in there as fast as she can.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        They actually address this in the fluff. Morgan’s basically performing the neuro-mod version of grossly inefficient meat-ball surgery.

        ONE of those things is, if you use those special chairs and being operated on by an expert as is standard, enough to give you basically an entire laundry list of skills. But since Morgan is basically just stabbing them in and fiddling around until something sticks, they need a lot more purple nightmare gloop to get results.

        Given the source of neuro-mods, it’s… honestly kinda of horrifying, if you think about it. Still, neat they actually addressed the rpg mechanics, and how it normally DOES NOT work like that, because it would be an economic nightmare.

        1. Coming Second says:

          The amount of brain damage she’s giving herself probably explains the memory lapses better than anything else honestly.

    2. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      That, and I’m not sure how the needles are supposed to work. Do they just heal all the damage they do to your eyeballs?
      And wouldn’t people be really hesitant to use these things? Nobody likes sticking sharp objects in their eyes.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        I’m not 100% sure the needles are going into the eye (as opposed to somewhere very near the eye, such that lining up the neuromod injector with the eye socket is the most convenient way to do it)

        That said, if you look closely, the installation instructions pictured in this very post don’t even agree with the actual animation used to depict Morgan’s first injection, so who knows.

  4. Chad+Miller says:

    Re Alex and why he stopped telling Morgan everything:

    An even more basic question, one that didn’t occur to me until after the game: Why didn’t Morgan and Alex just let Morgan form some memories on purpose between the uninstallation and the experiments? After all, the memory wipe only goes back to when the neuromods were installed. So conceivably, you could uninstall Morgan’s pre-experiment neuromods, have some kind of “orientation” to get her up to speed with the situation, then restart the experiments, with Morgan now forgetting each day but with fully informed consent. This would probably be less work than the ruse they actually came up with.

    This suggests that Alex decided that Morgan’s ignorance was a feature, not a bug. And it’s not the only evidence in that regard; in early dialogue January states that she’s programmed to break Morgan out of the amnesia loop if the Typhon break containment, or if Alex stops telling her about it, meaning that Morgan correctly guessed he might pull something like this.

    1. Smosh says:

      As I understand it, the moment you install your very first neuromod is the single point in time that you return to every time a neuromod is removed. Even if you live without mods for a year, then install one and remove it after a day, you lose the whole year (and day), resetting you back to the singular moment where you installed your first one.

      So there is no way to solve this neatly, because she has already had a neuromod in place when the plan was hatched.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        The way I understand it is, if you uninstall all neuromods you go back to the point of the first installation, but if you wait a bit, install new mods, then uninstall them, then the new installation point becomes the point of memory reset. In fact I’m pretty sure part of Walther Dahl’s scheme depends on it:

        He intentionally exploits neuromod amnesia by installing a mod right before a job, then uninstalling it afterward so that he has the paycheck but doesn’t remember what he did. This is why you can exploit him to pilot the escape shuttle; after Igwe’s forced uninstallation, he remembers his status as a TranStar mercenary but not his specific mission. Would he do all that if it meant he never got to enjoy his ill-gotten gains?

    2. BlueHorus says:

      So it’s just my interpretation, but:

      I got a very controlling vibe from Alex’s dialogue. “What are you doing, Morgan?”. “I’m sorry Morgan. I can’t let you do that”. “Look, just stay there.” He’s actively obstructive to your progress in the game, and talks about breaking her arm when they were kids, because she messed with one of his computer game saves.
      He also seems in flat-out denial about how serious the Typhon outbreak is, clinging to the idea that he can fix it somehow and go back to normal while 80% or more of the station’s crew are already dead.

      Also implied is a massive fear of failure and / or a sibling rivalry with Morgan, whether it’s living up to the Yu name or not having to go back to their parents having failed or whatever. It made perfect sense to me that he’d get nervous if Morgan changed personality, and just take the choices away from her if she looked like she was going to make the ‘wrong’ choice.

      He wouldn’t even care WHAT her new personality was, just the thought that his precious guinea pig might do something he can’t predict would be enough.
      I really got the impression that Neuromods – and the Typhon – were his legacy, TranStar’s revolutionary, insanely valuable technology; thus he wouldn’t give up on them easily.

      1. Trevor says:

        Alex has HUGE “I can still fix this!” vibes.

        There’s also a lot of sibling rivalry going on and insecurities in Alex that, much like Seamus discussed with the backstory above, you can totally ignore as you go about GLOO gunning your way around obstacles/playing the game. But paying attention yields a much more interesting dynamic to the game’s conflict.

        It’s also worth noting that they used a bunch of money to get Benedict Wong to do the voice of Alex and it was absolutely money well spent. Typically I’m not a huge fan of games getting Hollywood actors to provide voices, but in this case he brings a depth to the performance and character that really enriches the gaming experience.

    3. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      I think part of the justification was to keep a consistent baseline. Not only would they have to add a lot of uncertainty to all subsequent tests, but that new baseline will only last so long. And if you change the experiments, or there are new important developments, or the staff changes a lot, you have to explain things anyway.
      It also doesn’t fix the problem that the staff gets suspicious, but I’m not sure why they didn’t just tell people in the first place.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I’m not sure why they didn’t just tell people in the first place.

        They’re trying to hide the existence of the Typhon and the nature of the research from most of the stations’s crew. With good reason, too, because logs make it clear that people who DID know (understandably) freaked out, or complained, or tried to take matters into their own hands in various ways.

        Even the idea of keeping Morgan reliving the same day for testing purposes is sketchy enough to warrant secrecy.

    4. Ninety-Three says:

      This suggests that Alex decided that Morgan’s ignorance was a feature, not a bug.

      The way they do the tests reinforces this: they clearly expected Morgan to intuitively use telekinesis and shapeshifting without even knowing she had the abilities, so the ignorance must be deliberate. However, this raises questions about what those tests were supposed to do if January hadn’t sabotaged the neuromods: they ask Morgan to remove the boxes from the circle and she intuitively psy-blasts them, then what? Presumably Morgan freaks out at the discovery of supernatural abilities and you have to onboard her anyway, you were never going to get to chamber 3 with Morgan in ignorance.

      Perhaps I’m not giving the writer enough credit but I suspect this is a plot hole, rather than a deliberate feature of the story.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        Yeah, the multiple tests in one day probably needed further elaboration (you can find session records for individual tests, such as accounts of different ways she solved the box puzzle, but as far as I know nothing explaining how she reacted afterward)

  5. Syal says:

    Like, what’s the unit of measure for consciousness?

    Typhon Standard Units.

    1. Smosh says:

      And the Americans use Morganheit, where 0 is defined as “the intelligence of Morgan’s cat in 2033” and 100 as “the average smarts of a relatively clever person.”

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Scientists, though, often measure consciousness in Absolute Kevins, which is based on how many typhon you get by feeding a man called Kevin to a mimic.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Since it’s all just potential energy, you can technically convert it into more conventional units that don’t seem to fit, as demonstrated by one scientist who always describes consciousness in terms of calories in order to make “food for thought” jokes.

        2. Smith says:

          Funny coincidence. There’s a subreddit called StoriesAboutKevin, which is a bunch of stories about men and women who are critically lacking in self-awareness and intelligence.

          In other words, consciousness.

      2. Syal says:

        What kind of person names their cat Heit, anyway.

        1. Chris says:

          Americans do

    2. kincajou says:

      This whole thred has won this comments section! you guys are brilliant! :)

  6. Gahrer says:

    Another possible reason for Alex’s betrayal is that he feared that Morgan would do. When you find the message from yourself Alex cuts you off from the servers and says “I thought I had found every one of those”. There is also the stuff about the key card to the escape pod (EP01). Apparently he figured out that Morgan had set up plans to escape and/or destroy the station and figured Morgan could not be trusted anymore.

    Edit: As far as I understood it, it is possible to remove a neuromod and only losing the time since you installed that particular one. However, since Morgan and Alex were testing new special mods they needed a complete blank slate to rule out interference with other mods.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Yeah that’s my impression too. I think Alex knew that a few versions of Morgan wanted to blow up the station. Also maybe some versions of Morgan were instead particularly nasty, Nameless One style (there is a lot in common between the two characters’ plight).

      1. Coming Second says:

        There’s an interesting ambiguity in the game about which Morgans Alex considers ‘bad’ and which the versions most like the original that he loves. He obviously doesn’t like the January types that want to blow up the station, which might be considered the most moral of Morgans. And then there’s the Morgan that approvingly watches Mikhaila’s dad be murdered and harvested. Is that the version Alex is pining after when he talks about old times?

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        There’s in-game documentation suggesting that Superthermal neuromods were banned from the tests after some incident with Morgan casually burning one of the tests in a way that risked the lives of researchers.

  7. JDMM says:

    The consciousness as fundamental force of the universe brings to my mind panpsychism but the thing with that is even if that particular mode of thought was ‘right’ it wouldn’t make consciousness a fundamental universal force, it would just be a thing that has universal applicability like temperature

    It feels like they’ve taken some arguments from philosophy and used it to break Conservation of Energy which is annoying but I suppose better than the current alternative (using discredited theories and then filling the game with smug jokes)

    1. SidheKnight says:

      but I suppose better than the current alternative (using discredited theories and then filling the game with smug jokes)

      Do you have any examples of that? I’m curious.
      (I can only think of one game that fits that description: Assassin’s Creed)

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      It feels like they’ve taken some arguments from philosophy and used it to break Conservation of Energy

      They lampshade this a bit, there’s an area with a few emails from scientists studying the mimics and they can be summarized as “this breaks all the laws of physics and makes no sense, we’re baffled”. Clearly it’s a gameplay gimmick that the writers aren’t interested in thinking about too hard, but at least they’re forthright about that.

  8. Geebs says:

    This is what I really love about Prey’s writing; it takes the sci-fi principle of “change something and then explore all of the ramifications” and manages to do this while both maintaining a consistent, character driven plot and keeping the same pitch-black comedic tone throughout.

    As for “eating our consciousness”… I guess the Typhon are getting their energy by reducing something complex to something less complex, so the law of psychic entropy gets preserved? It fits beautifully with both the inverted “accidentally using sentient beings for fuel” plot and the overarching theme of empathy, in any case.

  9. Crimson Dragoon says:

    If Alex is studying behavioral changes in Morgan, it makes more sense not to tell her about the experiment, since that would create a bias in the results. She’s going to act differently knowing she lost memories than she would if she just woke up thinking everything is normal. It’s not particularly ethical, but then what is in this experiment?

  10. Ninety-Three says:

    I was always a bit fuzzy on the nature of neuromods. I found various pieces of lore suggesting that a neuromod is like a Nintendo 64 cartridge: each one contains a specific pattern of information. But the gameplay makes them completely modular, you have six units of neuromod in your inventory and you can spend five of them to acquire Leverage III or three of them to acquire Recycling. January even coaches you through this at the start, making it clear that you can choose what skill to install. I couldn’t tell if the neuromods were some kind of configurable installer linked to a database of skills, or if it was just fudged for the sake of gameplay.

    Oh, and the “injecting Typhon cells into your brain” thing was also unclear. Do all neuromods do that or only the Typhon skill ones? On the one hand they all require Exotic Matter to fabricate, but on the other there’s the mechanic where security bots will detect you as Typhon if you install too many Typhon mods.

    Of course none of this is even getting into how loading skills into your brain can make you better at picking up heavy objects. There’s a degree of videogaminess that they’re not even trying to justify.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      Yeah, this is the kind of stuff I meant in the last post when I said that the actual mechanics of neuromods were almost entirely handwaved.

      Everyone makes fun of Leverage and Mobility neuromods, but what I want to know is how injecting stuff in my brain lets me carry twice as much stuff.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The Prey universe diegetically runs on inventory Lootris, you’re loading up the skills of a Tetris grandmaster.

  11. RamblePak64 says:

    So I’m clearly going through this game slowly, because I’ve played for a few hours and only learned some of what’s above. I don’t mind, however, as I’m uncertain as to whether I’ll be finishing the game or not. It’s a shame because, reading this post, I want to see how the rest of the story has played out. I’ve also enjoyed navigating the environment, finding alternate paths towards objectives just by thinking “I wonder if I can get up there like this?” But I just do not like the feel of the combat. I figure I’ll wait until you’ve gotten to a post more thoroughly discussing those mechanics before scrawling about them here, though.

    Regardless, the whole “consciousness” thing seems to me a way to explore philosophy through science-fiction, which is honestly the sort of thing sci-fi does really well since you can go beyond the limits of reality. What’s the science to it all? I dunno, perhaps there’s something special about the electrical signals our brain sends and how it generates memory and yatta yatta. I’m more interested in the philosophy generated by the (pseudo) science.

    In regards to “why not animals”, I guess that’s where I’m a bit unclear. I already learned that they were inviting people on board the Talos to get the memories of their skills, like a major musician/guitarist I think. If what you say is true, that person wound up dead in order to obtain those memories? I guess I’m uncertain on how the memories are obtained, since it sounds as if they are obtained when the Typhon feeds. Or is that all left murky as well for the sake of hand-waving and gameplay?

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      The memories are obtained from a big sci-fi memory recording device that doesn’t involve any Typhon or death, although there is a weird one-off bit where the game implies that recording the memories somehow deletes them from the original subject (the exact mechanics of neuromods are pretty fuzzy overall, it’s not helped by how much they have to abstract for gameplay purposes).

      If it’s Phantoms in particular giving you trouble I can offer an easy way to deal with them: two power attacks from the wrench will knock them down, and if you ready another power attack to unleash as soon as they start standing back up you can get in two more before they manage to attack again, stunlocking them.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        It’s nothing so specific as a particular enemy, but more my choice to play on a controller out of comfort than anything else. It has been too long since I’ve played a complex game on keyboard and mouse, which I feel confident in believing this game was primarily designed for, and anything more complicated than Phasmophobia’s control scheme just comes off as being overly complicated. Therefore, controller, and all the issues that come with it.

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      The process for downloading skills is non-destructive. You can even find excerpts of public interviews with skill donors peppered throughout the game (implying that the existence of neuromods is already public knowledge, though they appear to still be in-development and not for sale yet)

      The reasons they need Typhon organisms are two-fold:

      * Raw material. For reasons that are never explained in detail, the neuromods themselves require some amount of Typhon biomass to function, so the station has to farm them somehow.

      * Typhon neuromods. While most abilities, and certainly the only ones known to the public, are simply knowledge transfer from other humans, they’ve also figured out how to copy various Typhon abilities too.

      The first may be a more important reason than the second in terms of demanding human sacrifices; the only known ways for Typhon to reproduce involve killing humans. The Psychotronics section is where this is all laid out in detail. This is in part because a lot of the people who know all of the above work in Psychotronics; most people, including most employees of the station, are blissfully unaware that Typhon exist at all. Others know they exist and maybe even that they’re being experimented on, but don’t realize the full connection with neuromods. Then there’s an inner circle that’s privy to all of it.

      1. Fullmoon says:

        > For reasons that are never explained in detail, the neuromods themselves require some amount of Typhon biomass to function, so the station has to farm them somehow.

        For what I understand, Typhon are from universe with higher dimensions and can “mimic” stuff (lore bits say they do that by pulling actual item from parallel universe in place of themselves). Neuromod injections create mimicked neural network that somehow plug right into existing one.

    3. Trevor says:

      The combat feel being off is a bit intentional. The Typhon are supposed to be scary, lethal, and quick. You initially encounter the Typhon as a normal human would and the slippery bastards jumping all over the place explains how they were able to take over the station and kill most of the people.

      The Combat Focus neuromod ability in the Security Tree gives you the ability to slow time down and fight better. But ultimately combat is not meant to feel empowering. The Call of Duty games are for that. Fighting the Typhon with guns is supposed to be a pain and suggest to you that the Typhon problem is not best solved with a collection of space marines with the best guns.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        I’m honestly not a fan of the idea that “X is jank intentionally so you can feel X”. I used to use that same argument for the original Resident Evil’s tank controls, when in reality that game was as jank as it was because it was an early step into 3D game development for Capcom and was decided on due to the static camera angles used in the game.

        There are a lot of games out there with good controls and well-designed enemy A.I. that manage to be intimidating, forcing the player to be resourceful, and don’t just hand them an over-powered gun and say “take ’em all out”. In fact, my favorite thing in a game is a challenge to overcome. I don’t play games to be given empowerment, I play them to earn empowerment by learning the system and coming out on top.

        If a game feels as if the controls were not designed for the experience they’re selling, then that’s just poor design. If that’s intentional, then it is shameful design because they did it wrong. Does that make the game bad as a whole? No, it doesn’t, and I wouldn’t even call the combat bad (partially because it’s too early for me to say, really). However, even if 90% of Prey is great, it’s still possible to be poorly executed in its combat design. And that’s fine. A game can be 90% great and 10% mediocre, janky, or troublesome. It doesn’t devalue the game’s strengths, nor does it devalue anyone that likes the game despite it.

        So, if they really designed the game’s combat to be this jank, then shame on Arkane.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I’m honestly not a fan of the idea that “X is jank intentionally so you can feel X”. I used to use that same argument for the original Resident Evil’s tank controls, when in reality that game was as jank as it was because it was an early step into 3D game development for Capcom and was decided on due to the static camera angles used in the game.

          I’m the same. No, stronger. I’ve never felt threatened in a Resident Evil game (well, once. Regenerators in RE4, but that ended the instant you get the ability to actually kill them) – instead, I felt annoyed. And it’s the game’s control system’s fault.
          Goddamnit Chris / Jill / Claire / Leon / Whoever, if you’d just learn to move faster, or shoot while moving, there’s be little-to-no threat from anything in this game. An arthritic grandma could have dodged that zombie, you cretin!

          There are a lot of games out there with good controls and well-designed enemy A.I. that manage to be intimidating, forcing the player to be resourceful

          Not the last time I’ll compare the two games, but Alien Isolation does a great job of this. Sure, it’s not perfect, but that Alien was fuckin’ scary, whatever you had in your inventory. And at very, very few points did I feel that it was the control system’s fault that I died.

        2. Chris says:

          I think that the “RE feels clunky because it was supposed to be that way” is backwards reasoning. The tank controls and being unable to shoot while moving is done because of how the game is set up. The static cameras would constantly throw you off with relative controls (you move away from the camera, the camera swings around 180 degrees, now you’re moving towards the camera). And the fixed camera is used because they use prerendered backgrounds. Tank controls work actually pretty well if you’re used to them. I remember switching controls to tank controls in silent hill 2 because i played it immediately after SH1 and was used to the movement. But if I try tank controls now i feel like im constantly bumping into things and when i try to turn i just spin around.

      2. Daimbert says:

        This really only works, though, if you are allowed to take other options, or if the combat is minimal. If the controls and experience are designed to make combat a pain and you have to do a lot of combat, then no matter what you intended the game itself, in one of its primary components, is a pain. And a game being a pain doesn’t really give a reason to play it.

        You CAN use a combat system to add to the atmosphere. I think “Fatal Frame” did this well, as the only weapon is a camera which is non-standard, and dropping into and out of first-person view really adds to the scares (the ghost hops out of frame and you have to quickly drop back to third-person to find it again, but you can only hurt in first-person mode), but there’s a LOT less combat than you’d get in your standard survival horror game so even if you find it annoying and awkward at least it isn’t something that you’re doing all the time.

  12. Henson says:

    I’m not sure you’ve got the timing right on what Morgan goes through every day. In the simulation room, one of the messages from Alex indicates that Morgan should install the Neuromod she was provided right away, because they’ll be running some tests “in the morning”. This indicates that the Neuromod was installed last night, before going to bed; this is why Morgan’s memory is reset to right before waking up.

    This also means that whatever Neuromod Alex wants to test has already been installed the ‘night’ before, yes? In which case, the testing with Dr. Bellamy isn’t just to see how different Morgan is this iteration, but how the Neuromod itself is working. It also implies that Morgan has an unknown Neuromod installed from the very beginning of the game, which carries through.

    (I suppose it’s possible that no Neuromods were actually installed…but why would you have Morgan believe that she’s taken a Neuromod, only to install another one right after the initial testing?)

    1. Rho says:

      Of course, because of *spoilers* it’s possible the holes in the logic are deliberate.

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      My best guess at the daily cycle looks something like:

      * Morgan goes through a day of testing
      * At some point, she’s sedated
      * Sometime between there and waking up in the morning, previous neuromods are uninstalled and new ones are installed
      * Morgan wakes up in an apartment with everything set up to imply that she’s already installed the neuromods last night and ready to go take her tests
      * Repeat

      Then, as far as how the loop was broken at the beginning of the game:

      * January, posing as an unmodified Science Operator, surreptitiously replaces a day’s testing batch with blanks
      * The neuromods are installed as usual
      * Since the neuromods conferred no abilities, Morgan blows all the tests
      * Bellamy gets facehugged and the tests end early, but security is convinced the threat is contained. Morgan gets her neuromods uninstalled as normal and is put back to bed
      * The Typhon infestation is worse than previously believed and by the time Morgan wakes up she’s no longer under surveillance.

      Some of this is hard to find clues (I didn’t see any mention of the blank neuromods thing without exhausting January’s dialogue, something that isn’t obvious even if you’re actively poking around for backstory) and some of it is definitely me filling in gaps (e.g. I can’t come up with a better explanation of how Morgan ended up back in bed, and while that part is speculation there are definitely hints that the infestation started slowly and people were encountering Typhon without even realizing what was going on, like those engineers that accidentally killed a mimic)

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        I can’t come up with a better explanation of how Morgan ended up back in bed, and while that part is speculation there are definitely hints that the infestation started slowly and people were encountering Typhon without even realizing what was going on, like those engineers that accidentally killed a mimic

        There are one or two emails talking about “the incident this morning” in a way that implies they thought everything was under control after security shotgunned the one mimic you saw in the opening.

      2. Zekiel says:

        My biggest puzzle with the whole plot was what triggered the Typhons getting loose? There are emails about a big explosion which I think was caused by a space shuttle somewhere, but I’m not sure how. Does anyone know?

        And is it just a massive coincidence that January replaces the neuromods with blanks in the same day as the mysterious disaster that releases the Typhon to cause havoc?

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          I don’t think it’s ever explicitly explained (if for no other reason that it seems nobody has a clear explanation for this, even people who really rooted around in the lore)

          Some guesses:

          * Voltaic Phantoms (and possibly Technopaths) are adaptations specifically meant to break our machinery, and by extension containment. In particular, when you have to run the experiment in Psychotronics, a Voltaic Phantom ends up getting created and immediately busts out, despite it taking place in equipment specifically designed to restrain Phantoms. I’ve also seen it pointed out elsewhere that when reading the research notes about phantoms, you see both bafflement at the development of the more advanced phantoms, as well as a relative dearth of Voltaics compared to the other types (implying that they were rarer or appeared later)

          * There’s evidence that mimics and maybe other specimens were leaking out of containment before it became a full-on takeover. (this is total speculation, but it could be either that they’re smart enough to know when they’re outnumbered and bide their time accordingly, or maybe a sign that the Typhon have some kind of shared intelligence and collectively waited until they figured they had the upper hand stationwide). In particular, one document notes that some engineers installed a part only to have it mysteriously shriek and melt into some kind of goo, implying that a mimic had copied the part and been electrocuted rather than revealing itself when humans handled it. Similarly the research notes on corrupted operators read something like “huh, some of our operators were reprogrammed and tried to attack us, isn’t that weird?” rather than “OH GOD THE MONSTERS DESTROYING THE STATION TURNED OUR HEALBOTS INTO KILLBOTS OH THE HUMANITY”

          And is it just a massive coincidence that January replaces the neuromods with blanks in the same day as the mysterious disaster that releases the Typhon to cause havoc?

          As far as I can tell the answer is “yes” but that is a bit unsatisfying.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            I’m not sure…it isn’t THAT much of a coincidence for January to sabotage the research before Dr Bellamy gets attacked.
            Morgan was the head of the whole Typhon project and part-head of the station – she had access to all the station’s information, which few others did. In particular, the corrupted operators and weird melting machine parts are on engineering computers, flagged as engineering issues and sent up the chain of responsibility by engineers who don’t know about the Typhon.

            It fits very well with the theory that the Typhon a) adapted specifically to escape containment and b) waited a bit after getting out to make their move: January is the first to notice, because January has all of Morgan Yu’s access codes and knows what to look for – or, maybe they didn’t know specifically, but there was a threshold of supicious incidents that set January working.

            1. Chad+Miller says:

              Sure, there are various reasons I could buy why Alex closing the loop on Morgan coincided with the Typhon breaking out. But what January actually says about her protocol is that she was programmed to break Morgan out if the Typhon escaped confinement or if Alex kept her in the dark about the experiments, saying “both happened.” If both happening had a common cause, or if one caused the other, I feel like that could have used at least one line of dialogue acknowledging it. Or if not, some light lampshading like, January mentioning that she had a plan to sneak you past security but the Typhon already took them out. Sort of like near the end of the game where she says something like “You programmed me with a whole series of counterarguments for this exact situation, but I don’t think any of them are necessary because a Typhon the size of a skyscraper is eating the station right now

          2. Zekiel says:

            I got inquisitive and googled for an answer. There’s a thread on Reddit where someone claims that the imprisoned mind controlled guy in the sickbay released one mimic (some unknown time ago) and apparently there is a holding cell somewhere that has been broken open from the outside. Because of the aliens’ lifecycle, every single other Typhon on the station could be descended from that one mimic.

            No idea how to check that theory, but it is interesting.

            You’re definitely right that mimics had been roaming the station for some time before the major disaster, based on the multitude of darkly humorous emails that you come across. :-)

            1. Zekiel says:

              Also it isn’t really too disappointing for January’s move to be a coincidence, because as far as I can tell it doesn’t really affect the main plot at all. As far as I can tell it’s just an excuse to have the fun sequence with Bellamy getting exasperated with your test responses – but if January hadn’t done that I don’t think anything else would have changed.

            2. Mye says:

              Its specifically explained in psychotronic (I think) that the mind controlled guy started eating objects, one of those object was a mimic. Later the subject died (possibly choking on an object he ate) and was sent for autopsy, when they did the autopsy they removed the mimic object which escaped that way.

              1. RFS-81 says:

                No, that was “volunteer” 37, aka the impostor cook. He was intentionally exposed to a Telepath in an experiment, but the Telepath didn’t control him and instead went “Nope! Nope! Not gonna touch that mind with a 10 foot tendril!” He started eating random things after the experiment, but presumably not a mimic considering that he’s alive.

                1. mye says:

                  That’s weird cause if you go to the morgue you see a corpse in the middle of an autopsy with a mimic bursting out of it, pretty sure that was meant to explain how the typhoon got out in the first place (otherwise how could this set of events ever happen?). Also 37 is never shown trying to eat random things, it would be weird to introduce this eat random things idea and literally do nothing with it. Maybe 37 was the first time typhoon attempted that before perfecting it with another subject.

                  1. RFS-81 says:

                    Maybe it was just writers accidentally crossing the streams.

                    37 eating things could have been a suicide attempt as they speculate in the e-mail, or a trick to escape the cell when they try to give him medical attention. I seem to remember that there was another e-mail about how he bit off a surgeon’s finger, but I don’t know if that was when he escaped.

            3. RFS-81 says:

              I read that on prey.fandom.com. It says that it’s from some developer commentary, but didn’t appear in the game. No idea why they dropped it from the game, but I like Shamus’s stance that if it isn’t in the game, it’s fanfiction.

    3. guy says:

      Given the nature of the tests, I’m pretty sure Morgan was supposed to get a batch of Typhon neural mods, which I guess didn’t take.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Apparently January sabotaged the batch so they didn’t do anything, presumably specifically in order to preserve your memory.

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        Yes, January states that she sabotaged the experiment if you exhaust her dialogue. I think maybe that should have maybe been made more explicit (e.g. putting it in an email, having it be automatic dialogue instead of being something optional at the end of her tree, etc) as it’s really easy to miss.

        Not only were the scientists expecting Typhon powers, it’s even possible to deduce which ones and there’s an achievement for going back and passing all the tests. My favorite hint as to what they were expecting: When you break out of the simulated apartment and escape through the testing chamber, the first mimic you see darts into the room you were supposed to hide in. Then it transforms itself into a chair, performing the exact task Bellamy was expecting from you. (the others are Kinetic Blast for knocking the crates out of the circle, and Remote Manipulation to flip the switch from across the room)

  13. Parkhorse says:

    Re: animals: perhaps the Typhon are simply picky eaters? Like giant pandas with bamboo, or koalas with eucalyptus. Do we know that animals weren’t tried? Perhaps the Typhon simply weren’t interested in eating rats or dogs or what have you, rather than not theoretically being able to eat them.

    I haven’t played Prey, and almost certainly won’t (I just don’t enjoy FPS combat), so my apologies if this was addressed in game. I am certainly enjoying the long form nitpicking, though!

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I’m interested in what the Typhon were eating before humans made it space. The Hubble time is a long time to wait for food…

      (I also haven’t played the game, and don’t mind being spoiled, though perhaps it’s simply not addressed or not known in the game world.)

      1. BlueHorus says:

        It kind of is…they can survive in vacuum (you often find them outside the station) and there’s an email observing that they can enter some kind of stasis lasting hundreds or years or more, until they get awakened by nearby prey. They’re well designed to be interstellar predators.

        That said, it’s never even speculated on what they ate before humans turned up.

        1. DougO says:

          In Morgans “apartment” there’s a reference to the Fermi paradox…I think the questions raised by it are answered handily by the Typhon.

  14. Zekiel says:

    Several observations ( as a massive fan whose played the game through twice):

    I found having the plot laid out chronologically really interesting – I guess I basically knew almost all of that, but never perceived how it all fit together.

    What is it makes you think Alex betrayed Morgan? I just figured that the whole “Morgan being a lab rat with no memory” thing was something she willingly signed up to in the first place.

    The biggie is that I had no idea Typhon “ate” consciousness. Where is this from? I thought they just consumed humans in order to reproduce (incidentally there a Typhon life cycle diagram somewhere – can’t remember if it’s in game or a scan from an official art book that I found on the internet).

    Really loving this series thanks Shamus :-)

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      What is it makes you think Alex betrayed Morgan? I just figured that the whole “Morgan being a lab rat with no memory” thing was something she willingly signed up to in the first place.

      The strongest piece of evidence is January, who outright says that its protocol was to kick in if Morgan were ever kept in dark about the loop. It’s technically possible that she set up that contingency, forgot about it at the next neuromod wipe, then had a change of heart later, but I don’t know of anything in-game to support that.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Ah I’d totally forgotten that. Thanks!

  15. Lino says:

    Typolice:

    But look, YOU trying naming these sections.

    Should be “try”.

    I found the premise of Prey really interesting. I love sci-fi and worldbuilding, so this was right up my alley. Unfortunately, about halfway through, I just got bored (it might even have been 2/3rds of the way through, I don’t remember).

    After learning the story, the plot had kind of dried up, and I found the gameplay challenges to be trivial. Very early on, I got a neuromod that let you see which objects in the environment were actually Mimicks, and that killed the entire atmosphere for me. And even though I was playing on Normal (or it might even have been on Hard), my sneak build had no trouble going through the game…

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I got a neuromod that let you see which objects in the environment were actually Mimicks

      It’s a chipset actually, and the weird thing is that it’s partially randomized. Mimic detection v1 comes free with the psychoscope, but the ability to detect greater mimics is locked behind the v2 chipset and it’s random where or even if that chipset appears in the game. My first run got it almost immediately, my second never saw it. It’s crazy that the devs left such a core gameplay feature up to chance like that.

    2. Syal says:

      Should also be YU.

    3. Duoae says:

      And yet you missed, “purple cylander”? You call yourself a typolice?

      *Puts out hand, palm up*

      Your badge, please…

      ;)

      1. Lino says:

        Damn it, Captain, you know I’m a good cop! When have I ever let you down?! I swear, gimme one more chance, and next time I’ll get ’em all!

      2. pseudonym says:

        On what authority can you demand a typolice badge? Are you a member of the gestypo?

        1. Duoae says:

          Ack! You’ve discovered my ruse!

          I’m just a Typoster!

          1. Lino says:

            I can’t believe it! For how long have have we had you among us, I wonder…..

            1. Syal says:

              Typolice. should be “amang us”.

  16. Also Tom says:

    “But then the Soviet Union (which still exists in the 2030s in this timeline) decides this program is a good way to get rid of various political prisoners.”

    I call shenanigans at this point. The Soviets got less ruthless about their political prisoners over time, not more so, which means it makes no sense for them to propose this in the 2030s if they didn’t propose it in the 1960s. Maybe they did propose that early on, and the US balked at it, but at that point you have to ask the question about what changed between the 1960s and the 2030s that would make the US and USSR more amenable to that sort of thing rather than less.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I’m not sure what’s gained by speculation about what a fictional Soviet Union did over the course of 70 years in a sci-fi story…if the real Soviet Union wasn’t the kind of country to kill political prisoners, sure, why not.
      It’s barely relevant that Prey uses the names of countries that exist (or used to) as it is. The story all takes place on a space station orbiting the moon, after all…

      I must have missed the ‘political prisoner’ email in my playthrough, though. I just thought it was prisoners, and not only from the Soviet Union. That one prisoner you meet and speak to has a noticably American accent, and while it’s a bit vague on what he’s supposed to have done to earn his incarceration, I’m wondering now if he WAS actually sentenced to death…

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        Yes, they’re all prisoners, not necessarily political. In-universe it’s pitched as a sort of work-release program for prisoners of all kinds (and unfortunately it may be easier to siphon away your less dangerous criminals under this pretext than the really bad ones) One of the game’s most prominent sidequests is about Mikhaila’s father who is, she claims, an otherwise innocent political dissident. Then on the other side of the spectrum you have people like Luka the imposter cook who are clearly completely off the deep end and likely guilty of capital crimes.

        As far as the reasons for going with the Soviets, I suspect it’s the same reason that they’re major villains in Archer; any more modern villain hits too close to home for one reason or another. But it is worth noting that there are some other serious divergences from the modern timeline (there’s a cute bit where you can find a notice memorializing JFK’s death…in 2032)

    2. Honorsharpe says:

      The 70 years of timeline difference gives plenty of room for potential differences in policy. Considering the USSR didn’t quite make 70 in real life its certainly possible they survived due to more repressive policies rather than the more relaxed policies that eventually allowed the dissolution of the USSR.

      1. Also Tom says:

        And I can completely buy that. I just find the notion that the USSR wouldn’t have been okay with using political prisoners as raw material in the 1960s to be an odd notion.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Flying people to space is expensive, especially in the early days of space flight! Much cheaper to off ’em down here on terra firma. Then the cost of spaceflight went down over time and dropped enough for it to be viable.

          1. Chris says:

            They need more people to harvest, and whether you shoot death row inmates into space or political prisoners, the cost doesnt matter. Also i believe somewhere it’s said that there is a space elevator in this universe, so that could reduce the cost of transportation.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          Well, in the 1960s there weren’t psychic space aliens to research that fed on exclusively on humans*.

          I remember thinking that the more promising the Typhon research became, the more governments back on Earth began to relax their standards on capital punishment. Because what’s a few dead prisoners in exchange for psychic supersoldiers? I can’t remember if it’s actually made explicit in-game, but it seems pretty damned plausible to me.

          I know there was an email chain in Psychotronics ended with a project lead assuring one of his researchers that all the subjects were definitely bad guys, who completely deserved to die, don’t worry after they began to express doubts.

          *[insert favoured conspiracy theory here if you want]

        3. Daniil Adamov says:

          I would really like to dig deeper on this. Superficial searches and my pre-existing knowledge point towards credible reports of such experiments in 1930s and 1950s, and much more doubtful suggestions for later periods. However, after 1953 there was a considerable softening of policy across the board, so I don’t think it’s odd to expect it to extend to that, if one does not know specific examples to the contrary. Granted, putting dissidents or some unlucky people with alternative lifestyles in insane asylums and stuffing them full of drugs was alright, and I can see how that would be a good counter-point, but this is still on a different level.

          But it is of course largely a moot point re: 2030s – while I find that totalitarian regimes tend to soften over time as they get complacent and lose zeal, that is not some universal rule, and it is entirely possible that even in the 1960s someone here might have decided that the benefits in this case would be worth sacrificing some expendable people. I do wonder whether they would’ve used dissidents rather than murderers for that purpose, though – in a Cold War-like environment, surely that would create greater risks due to the active human rights movement and those pesky Americans being right there? I guess that in turn can be explained away too: greater Soviet-American cooperation kills the human rights movement by the 2030s and those particular Americans have been trusted partners for decades, so it’s okay.

          1. Chad+Miller says:

            The impression I got is that this isn’t so much a Soviet/American project as TranStar doing dealings with the Soviets and maybe other governments individually. TranStar is actually even more corrupt than this post has let on so far, and you can find audiologs implying that one advantage of these experiments being in space is that they aren’t bound by any specific country’s jurisdiction. Morgan’s father is on the TranStar board of directors, and gets just enough dialogue to confirm he’s a total bastard.

  17. Jaedar says:

    I really enjoyed exploring the world and lore of Talos-1, figuring out what was going on and trying to puzzle it out.

    But then I got to the ending learned that it’s all a simulation, which made it feel kind of pointless. Any inconsistencies can be waved away and given what the *actual* plot of the game is, everything should be viewed with maximum suspicion.

    It’s kinda preventing me from replaying the game too, because it made the whole thing feel empty in terms of narrative/exploration, and the gameplay isn’t that amazing.

    1. Duoae says:

      Huh, I guess everyone’s different. I really liked the twist at the end and felt that it added to the whole premise of the game especially since it seems like the beginning wipe cycle may have been happening for “you” all this time.

    2. Cubic says:

      “But then I got to the ending learned that …, which made it feel kind of pointless. ”

      Oh dear lord, yes, I’ve already reacted like you just by reading it.

      1. Henson says:

        I actually don’t think it’s as bad as it sounds. It’s not a full-on Dallas season 9 ‘this never happened’ twist. But I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about when we get there.

  18. Duoae says:

    I need to go back and read the comments of the other two posts as I’m kinda curious about how people felt about this game. I was in a bit of a weird gameplay mood when this and Dishonored 2 came out and I played both with “no powers” runs with the intention to go back and play “powers only” runs… only I never actually got around to it.

  19. Hal says:

    Ah, okay. So it’s 50 First Dates: The Sci-Fi Game.

    Question: Would this game be improved with Adam Sandler as a character?

    On a different note, does the knowledge derived from the neuromods actually have to come from someone? That is, if you’re installing the Master Pianist neuromod, did somebody have to have their brain liquified to pass on that knowledge? And does it become a one-to-one transaction, or can the defunct pianist pass on his knowledge to many people?

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      The Master Pianist neuromod has to come from hooking up a John The Pianist to a big scifi machine, but he survives the experience just fine (at one point it implies this might make him forget how to play the piano, but at other points it seems like this isn’t a thing, I think there might’ve been multiple writers failing to coordinate). I don’t know if the game ever explicitly says whether neuromods are one-to-many but it certainly implies that the skills can be digitized and copy-pasted into as many neuromod applicators as you care to produce.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        If making a Neuromod causes you to lose your memories that go into that ‘mod, couldn’t you just install that ‘mod into yourself to regain them?

      2. Melfina+the+Blue says:

        Could it be that the earlier version did erase the skills, but they fixed that in a newer version? Haven’t actually played the game, so I know the lore only from here, but that’d be how I’d explain it (and probably what I’d assume playing). After all, it’d be kinda hard to get people to give up skills they spent years acquiring….

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          I don’t recall anything implying the neuromod recording process causes people to lose skills.

          There are some accounts of people wistfully talking about skills they can’t use anymore, but that’s due to unrelated limitations, e.g. athletes with career-ending injuries.

  20. Christopher says:

    1 unit of consciousness is 1 soul I suppose. Then 1000 souls is 1 Large Soul of a Nameless soldier while 10000 souls is 1 Soul of a Hero.

    In all seriousness, while I thought from the initial paragraphs they should’ve considered Souls Shock, the neuromods sound very interesting. And the amnesia aspect in particular is a good fit for a game.

    I appreciate that the game doesn’t bother you with story at all turns, but I gotta admit I’m more engaged in current happenings and dialogue than logs. It’s one of the positive things about Bioshock Infinite, it felt like things were happening right now and you weren’t just sorting through the mess to find out what exactly happened at that party yesterday. This difference can be pretty gradual tho. I’ve known people who’d say Dark Souls has no plot but Demon’s Souls does, based on how much the backstory matters vs the current narrative.

    For an explorative game it’s probably smart to err on the side too little plot as opposed to too much.

  21. GGANate says:

    I didn’t think that the Typhon ate consciousness (are there any in game documents that support this?), I thought it was hinted at that they themselves were not conscious. They were not aware of themselves as individual beings, and Alex’s experiment was to try to get a Typhon to understand humans so that they wouldn’t just see us as food. If anyone has ever read Peter Watt’s “Blindsight,” the Typhon seem to be heavily influenced by the starfish aliens in that novel. The whole novel deals with consciousness, and whether or not it’s actually a good thing for humanity (it’s not in the book).

    1. SidheKnight says:

      Great novel. The Typhon reminded me of those aliens too, except not as intelligent perhaps.

    2. Shufflecat says:

      I can’t quote chapter and verse, unfortunately (I’m just starting a new playthrough now, after maybe two years since my last), but the idea that typhon eat consciousness is definitely in there. I remember encountering it in my first playthrough, and thinking it was a really weird and creepy concept.

      IIRC it’s also implied that they are multiversal in nature. They’ve been spreading not just through our galaxy, but through multiple parallel universes. IIRC it’s part of why it’s considered super urgent at one point to prevent them from developing a critical mass of coral in Talos 1: if they do, they can summon reinforcements from other realities, overrunning literally any defense we could put up. Morgan fails to stop this (it’s when the arboretum gets smashed and taken over by the giant spaceborne typhon, and you have to rescue unconscious Alex from his panic room).

  22. Cradok says:

    There was at least one other contingency Operator that Morgan created before she started experimenting on herself, October. We find out from an audio log in Alex’s bunker late in the game, and the plan then was to create a Nullwave weapon that would destroy all Typhon on the station. Given where you find the log, it’s safe to assume Alex found October and destroyed it.

    October, December and January’s plans are the three ‘main’ variants of the ending: destroy the Typhon, escape in Alex’s escape pod, and destroy the station. One wonders if there’s wasn’t a November out there too, and what its contingency was going to be.

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      The most interesting thing about October is that Morgan and Alex’s positions are reversed from January. In those three months (or a year and three months, or possibly two years and three months, it’s not clear how long it’s been) Morgan went from being “Think of the possibilities” to “Nuke them all from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure”, while Alex went the other way.

      Alex always accuses Morgan of being a different person to when they began, but is oblivious the the fact he changed just as much in the same time. I’m sure there’s some commentary about the continuity of self in there, but I can’t decipher it.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        A better twist than the post-credit scene, if you ask me!

  23. chiefnewo says:

    Should’ve put: “YU try naming these sections” :P

  24. Patrick the Hijacker says:

    As I read this I can’t help but be impressed by the complexity of storytelling through scattered, random and unrequired bits of information throughout the game. Storytelling is hard, especially in videogames. To do so in a puzzle format, that isn’t required, is pretty impressive. We can debate the nuances of the story, lab rats and length of needles and her brother trying to compensate for failure, but details aside the presentation is impressive. If it was presented in a more traditional linear format it might be videogame gibberish, but the way its presented is a interesting evolution in videogame storytelling.

    I can’t help but wonder what FO4 would have been like with a few writers of this quality…..

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      I can’t help but wonder what FO4 would have been like with a few writers of this quality

      One of my “favorite” bits of environmental storytelling in FO4 is in the hippie co-op. There’s a building, on stilts, with a toilet in it. “That’s odd,” I think. “Most outhouses lead to a hole in the ground, but there’s clearly no hole. The building is elevated so we can see that. And there’s also no plumbing; even if I couldn’t move the toilet and see there’s no plumbing, this structure doesn’t look like it ever accommodated plumbing. Did someone put this here post-nuke to make a bathroom? Did that person understand that a toilet leading to a bare floor is just a bucket with a hole in it?

      You know, I was perfectly happy not to care where Fallout people poop, game!”

      That said, there are actually a handful of spots where I feel like there were better writers being held back by the format, including awful decisions like the 4-choice dialogue wheel. Human Error in particular gave me the feeling that I was seeing the fruits of some talented people butting up against the limitations of their tools.

  25. theBrost says:

    The reason they can’t use rats, or other animals: the Typhon have to ingest the skill from a human who already has it.

    A Typhon has to eat a piano player, for Talos-1 to make a piano neuromod.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      Skill scanning for neuromods is a non-destructive process. In the game you can find magazines featuring interviews with people who have already been scanned. And really, how could it be otherwise? It’s one thing if prisoners disappear into your station and don’t come back, but if you start spiriting away experts at the top of their fields who mysteriously vanish only to have their skills show up in your product catalog, how are you going to explain that away? Or find new donors?

      You can even find the skill recording apparatus in the game. You know that first Phantom, the one that just presses against a window so January can explain what it is before it darts off? The grand piano in that same room? That’s the recording lab.

    2. Shufflecat says:

      That’s not how it works though. As others have noted above, a special chair device is used to record the brain patterns. The process doesn’t involve live typhon, just some kind of refined typhon bio-extract. At no point is the process implied to be lethal, and there are email chains that establish that the research team was already pretty freely swapping skills amongst each other.

      IIRC the song you find in the nightclub (“Semi-Sacred Geometry”) was created when a handful of musically skilled crew volunteered to have neuromods of their skills made during R&D, and those skills got redistributed among a bunch of staff, resulting in a “battle of the bands” contest, with IIRC the originals competing against people neuromodded with their own skills.

  26. Melfina+the+Blue says:

    Shamus, loving this series! Oh, btw, Matt McMuscles did a What Happened? for Prey 2 over here on YouTube and it gives a bit more insight into how this game ended up as Prey as well. Thought it might interest you (plus I just like his What Happun? series in general, fascinating look into the behind the scene of (mostly) game disasters).

    1. RFS-81 says:

      Thanks for reminding me of that channel! Prey 2 looked pretty cool! Also, I’ll never understand why Prey 2017 is called Prey. “Hey, we have this trademark lying around that’s now completely irrelevant. Why don’t you use it so it doesn’t lapse?”

    2. Christopher says:

      That link doesn’t work for me at least, so for convenience’s sake I’ll just paste the link here
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXLnq5B_mIQ

  27. RFS-81 says:

    Complete speculation, but maybe Morgan’s personality changes and contingency plans are due to somehow becoming aware of the Apex. There’s this TranScribe where she says:

    I keep having this… dream. I’m just staring into the black between the stars. There’s something there. I know there is. I just can’t see it… but it sees me. I can feel it… hate us. I know you know what I’m talking about. Or you will soon.

    Maybe it’s an effect of the Typhon abilities, or whatever is causing Dr. Calvino’s dreams about the “shape in the glass”.

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