If you’re following games media even the tiniest bit, you will undoubtedly be aware of the insane amount of lay-offs that have been happening. After what seems like the most lucractive year in terms of releases, studios that have been acquired by giants like the embracer group or Microsoft have been dropping left and right. It shows how horrible the video game industry is to work in – no one, no matter how succesful you are, is safe. Case in point: Arkane Austin. Aside from an unfortunate dud last year, they’re one of my favourite studios and they created one of my favourite games: Prey.

(If you’re now googling Prey, please add 2017 to your search, as there is another Prey from 2006 which has nothing to do with this one. The atrocious name for this game is a wholly different and incredibly stupid story which, in my opinion, probably tanked game sales when the game launched.)

On the outside and on screenshots, Prey is a shooter set aboard a space ship. On the inside, however, Prey is an immersive sim. Yes, you shoot enemies, but this game is not really a shooter, but a role playing game. You are Morgan Yu, a crewmember of the Thalos 1, which has been overrun by aliens called Typhon. These aliens can turn into any object they see – so any harmless coffee mug can be a deadly creature. This already makes every second of the game tense, but it’s not why this game became my favourite of all time. The reason for that is the Thalos 1.

I’m not a huge fan of space ships or science-fiction, to be quite honest, but this game could be set in an english forest in the 1500s and I’d still be hooked. The reason for that is that Thalos 1 is a living, breathing, immersive world. There were 286 crew members aboard the space ship when the aliens took over, and each of these crew members have a name, a job description and a story to tell through various e-mails and voice messages. You can find all members in and around the gargantuan space station, most of them strewn across the hallways, half eaten, but some of them are quite cleverly hidden. Like actual people, the crew members of the Thalos 1 tried their very best to hide to survive.

And the realism doesn’t stop there. Every fridge, every cupboard, every nook and cranny is stuffed with items that actually belong there. Kitchens feel like kitchens, lounges like lounges and creepy labs… well, you get the gist. Moreover, the Thalos 1 has a logical lay-out, with the engines down at the bottom and the living spaces up top. At first, the game leads you by the hand from one level to the next, but it doesn’t take long until you actually run around the space ship like it was an actual place. There’s two kind of games: Games in which lobbies have toilets, and games in which they don’t. Prey has toilets. And you can fucking flush’em.

So it’s such a shame that Arkane Austin got the short end of the Microsoft stick. There were some incredibly talented people there, people who also have a firm hand on the wonderful Dishonoured and Deadloop franchises. I hope this is not a loss, and these people know what great things they can accomplish and find a way to create another game like this. Because I’ve yet to find one.


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