The Immersive Sim Could Be Endangered

Does Prey’s new expansion Mooncrash spell doom for the beloved genre?

Originally published June 30, 2018 on

Set on the Talos I in 2035 during an alternative history where John F. Kennedy never died, the Vietnam War never happened and the space race of the 60s played out rapidly on an international scale, Prey is gorgeously detailed in both setting and character. It’s a world with a genuine history, where the lives and stories behind the space station’s many crew members are tragically cut short, frozen in time. A wealth of audio logs, emails and corpses reveal an unsettling, morally bankrupt devotion to scientific advancement, no matter the cost, where even memories have become yet another another part of the human experience parcelled up as a product for the masses. Feel like mastering piano? Speaking French? Just try a Neuromod.

Developed by Arkane Studios, Prey is one of a rare but often underloved genre that embodies some of the best qualities of the medium: the ‘immersive simulation’ (sim). Prey itself is a transparent homage to the System Shock games: just swap out grotesque body experimentation with the dangers and horror of memory manipulation and you’re most of the way there.

Immersive sims are distinct for the choice they offer players, designed around offering a range of choice, usually inside unique, compelling spaces like Prey’s Talos I, Bioshock’s Rapture or sections of Dunwall in Dishonored (another Arkane production). They offer problems dependent on both the player’s ingenuity and specialisation, missions with more than one ending, and combat that rewards resourcefulness, preparedness and caution. Immersive sims ‘immerse’ the player and encourage players to find their own path through the game, their own journey.

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