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Arkane on empowering players with choice in Prey

Ricardo Bare joined us at PAX East to discuss new abilities, enemies, and empowering the player.

  • Text: Ford James

Arkane Studios appeared on everybody's radar back in 2012 when they released Dishonored, the immensely successful first-person stealth game where you play as Corvo, the Royal Protector to the Empress, but where you're framed for her murder and spend the rest of the game trying to prove your innocence and save her daughter, Emily. Dishonored 2 was released last year to similarly glowing critical acclaim, continuing Corvo and Emily's story, having them both as playable characters this time around. They've opted to stick to a similar route with their next game, Prey.

Set on the moon-orbiting space station Talos I, the player controls Morgan Yu, a human whose gender can be defined by the player, along with various other attributes. The purpose of Talos I is to house and confine a hostile alien collective known as the Typhon, but somewhat predictably the Typhon manages to escape. Morgan must scavenge and collect various weapons and resources available aboard the station to fend off the aliens, while traversing the station, often returning to previously explored areas Metroidvania-style. Morgan even learns some of the aliens' powers over time, such as the mimic ability, which allows him/her to transform into everyday items such as a chair or a coffee mug.

It's with that in mind, when we were at PAX East, that we had the chance to talk to Ricardo Bare, lead designer at Arkane Austin, about the direction the game is heading, the various forms of the Typhon, and everything else Prey.

Dishonored was a title that allowed the player to tackle each objective in a plethora of different ways, often having multiple routes for stealth alone. Arkane have taken the same approach with Prey, with Bare saying one of the team's core values is "to make games where players are empowered and can approach problems, fights, and challenges with their own tools and their own ways to solve them."

As well as players being able to tackle situations in different and unique ways, the aliens tend to do the same thing too, a formula that creates some interesting moments. "I was watching Seth (lead systems designer) rehearse earlier today about how we're going to play the game (for the demonstration) and he was fighting this creature called a Phantom," he told us. "The Phantom hit him, but knocked over an explosive tank that blew up and Seth flew out of the room, crashed through the window and landed in the next room over. I was shocked that it happened. There's always surprising stuff like that."

The Typhon can take on various different forms in the game, and react to how you play, something that we also talked about with Bare. "There's a creature called the Nightmare," he explained, "and there's certain things you can do which will attract its attention, it'll appear in the level and hunt you down. When I was playing, I thought I was safe and was crafting stuff with a bunch of neuromod upgrades, and I forgot that's one of the things that will grab the Nightmare's attention. I did that while I was in my office and it broke inside, killed all my allies and then killed me."