Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mind Games - Prey (2017) - Finale

At last, the Mind Games have reached their conclusion, and it's time for Mathias and I to enter the endgame. The choices we make will determine the fate of both Talos 1 and it's crew, and we must consider the consequences of our actions.

Or do we? Maybe there's more to what's going on then we can see.

As always, thanks to Sam Callahan for working on the thumbnails for this one.

This series was a ton of fun, from start to finish. Arkane Studio's Prey was one of my favorite games of 2017, and a lot of that is how much freedom the game gives the player when experimenting with the tools at their disposal. For every problem, there are a number of different tools and solutions available to us, even if we never come across the vast majority of them. Like many of the games in the "Immersive Sim" genre, Prey rewards creative problem solving and use of the physics engine in order manipulate the environment to our favor.

We even got to see an example of that with the Military Operators in the final stretch. Since there's a finite number of them that can spawn into the same space, we can halt the production of more of them by hacking them all. It became a lot easier to explore the Landing Bay to figure out how to get on board that shuttle once we weren't getting hounded by legions of robots. Never use a weapon against Morgan Yu unless you want it turned against you.

But beyond that, I wish I could show you all how I reacted what the final scene in "A Hidden Location" played in front of me for the first time. It's one of those examples of a plot twist that was well thought out. While it feels like it comes out of nowhere on the first run, there was significant foreshadowing, and all the relevant details were established before the scene unfolds.

  • Alex mentions in Psychotronics that the Typhon lack mirror neurons, which means that they lack empathy for other living creatures. They don't kill maliciously. They kill only because human memory is their source of food.
    • This is also why mirrors don't work in the game. Typhon have no sense of self and are unable to recognize themselves.
  • Throughout the game, we get flashes as we come into contact with the Typhon in the simulation. It's easy to pass this off as the Typhon trying to influence Morgan, but in truth it's both the player character waking from the simulation and their Typhon side trying to fend off the process of injecting empathy into it.
    • And when we go for the escape pod prematurely, we get the ending where Alex says "We failed. This isn't the one."

  • The threat of the Typhon is routinely discussed by the other characters. January says that "If even one of them reaches Earth, we're done for." While it's unclear over the course of the game if that's true or not, it still places the seed in the player's mind.

  • As Mathias pointed out in the episode, the introduction to the game makes it clear that our senses aren't to be trusted. Anything can be a meticulously crafted illusion designed to make us think we're somewhere we aren't. Of course, this is always true since we're in a video game, but Prey takes great pain to make it explicit as we literally step through the Looking Glass.

  • "Morgan Yu," the player character, never speaks... because they aren't human.

It takes a great deal of skill and forethought to successfully plant all of the important details in the story, over the course of the campaign, while still keeping the player in the dark. And similar to how the introduction feels different when you play it in subsequent playthroughs, so too does the rest of the game, because returning players can better appreciate the way it all weaves together into a coherent whole.

The only thing I regret about this series is how we failed to accept and complete Mikhaila's quest to uncover the truth behind her father's disappearance. I found a video of the quest being completed for posterity. What I like about the quest is both how it emphasizes the horror of the research being conducted on Talos 1 and asks the interesting question of whether we, the current incarnation of "Morgan Yu", should feel responsible for the actions of our prior incarnations. Do we carry the burden of those sins, or are we so far removed from what "Morgan Yu" was that we might as well be a different person entirely?

Ultimately, it's up for us to weigh those decisions, and we can't communicate our motives in any way aside from the choices we make and how we react to the situations we're in. But can't the same be said for the real world as well. Is it not impossible to truly understand someone beyond what they choose to put on display?

And with that, our cerebral adventure is all wrapped up. Next week, tune in as my cohort in the Marvelous Duo, Acharky, joins me for Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled.

PS: Turns out I was wrong about the speedrun record for Prey. It's only about 7 minutes.

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