After having loved my playthrough of Deathloop awhile back when it first came out, I decided to check out some more games from it’s developer, Arkane Studios. They are a developer I’ve always known and heard about but I never actually played any of their games. They are probably most well known for their Dishonored games, which are a series of first person stealth action games. But in 2017 the studio released the game Prey. The game is technically a reboot but from what I can tell it doesn’t have much to do with the original Prey game. The story behind why the game is a reboot and what happened to the original Prey series is a long and messy story itself so let’s save that for another time. For now, let’s stay focused on Prey from 2017, and more specifically the game’s Mooncrash DLC which took the mechanics of the main game and used them to make an amazingly unique roguelite experience.
When looking into Arkane Studios, I noticed a trend with most of their games. All of them review extremely well and are very beloved by those that play them, but for the most part they don’t seem to move many copies. Every time they release a new game I always hear about how great it is but I never hear about anyone actually playing it besides reviewers. Now that I am one of the few to actually play some of their games, I think this is a massive shame! Take Prey for example. It’s a game very much in the style of Bioshock or System Shock, a first person game with a strong narrative and plenty of player freedom when it comes to building your character and play style. It’s honestly a great game that got overlooked for seemingly no reason… But what was even more overlooked than Prey was it’s DLC, Mooncrash!
Arkane Studios went above and beyond with this DLC. Taking place off the space station of the main game, Talos 1, it is instead set on the moon base that supplies Talos 1 with resources and explains what was happening there while things were going wrong during the main game. Mooncrash very much has it’s own story and narrative to follow that provides a lot of context for some of the things that happen on Talos 1 but generally stays self contained. The whole DLC is set up as a simulation that you are playing through as a hacker forced to work for a rival company to the company running Talos 1. I’m not going to get too into the story of the DLC as that’s not really the point of this post but I wanted to at least explain the concept that it all takes place in a simulation as that does affect how the game play works! Basically, your goal is to try and escape the moon with all five playable characters. Something that might not seem hard at first until you realize you have to get all five out in one run. And that’s what really makes this roguelite shine!
For those who don’t know, a rogue style game is a game where when you die, or get a game over of some kind, you have to start all over from the beginning losing every bit of progress. A roguelite on the other hand, is a game where you have to go back to the beginning when you fail as well but some things aren’t reset back to square one. Things like upgrades you have on your character or your in game currency or your items. Things that can help you on your next run. Basically, roguelites are less punishing than pure rogue games. How Mooncrash functions is that you are trying to get as many of the five playable characters to escape in one run as you can, with everything being reset when you either get everyone out or run out of characters to play as. But there’s a catch! The moon base itself is shared among all five of them in a single run. Meaning that things you do on one character will carry over to the next until you fully reset the simulation. That means that you not only have to keep in mind which escape methods you use but also the resources you are leaving behind. So if you’re greedy with health items on one character, the other characters are going to be very much lacking in them when it’s their turn! This is such a fun and unique addition to the roguelite formula. It adds an entirely new layer of planning and strategy. And it goes way deeper than you might think!
Planning really is the most important thing when it comes to Mooncrash, something you will very much realize when you unlock all the characters and the methods of escape. There are only five methods of escape off the moon, one for each character. While some methods are extremely easy and can be done by any character, such as the escape pod method and the shuttle method, others require a bit more prep or specific characters all together! For example, there is a method using a portal to Earth in one of the labs. To do this method you need to first fix the portal container, which requires the Engineer character as they are the only one that can repair things around the base, as well as the Spy as they are the only one with hacking abilities which you need to access the computer that stabilizes the portal and makes it safe to use. So planning which order your characters should escape in is a rather big decision all on it’s own! You need to plan certain methods ahead of time after all. Going back to the Engineer, they are the only one that can repair anything on the base. This can heavily affect what you have access to as it’s random what is and isn’t broken each time you play. There are something that are always broken, like the portal, but there are also certain doors that need to be repaired or elevators that won’t work. Sometimes these things can be circumvented but a lot of the time it means you are completely locked out of certain areas and the resources those areas might have. This can make things extremely difficult for some of the characters as an item they need to get for a particular escape method could now be completely locked off to them. As you can probably imagine, this can throw a pretty big wrench in your plans and cause you to improvise. But it also causes you to make sure you know everything each character can do and what advantages and disadvantages they come with. Every character has their own pros and cons, and it’s up to you to manage all of that and make sure you are picking the best route and escape method for each. But the order you pick to play each character and what escape you should use is only part of the problem, you’ll soon realize that managing the base’s resources is just as important!
As I said before, you have to share all of the base’s resources across all the characters. This was actually a bit hard for me to get use to personally! Having played through the main game first, I had gotten so use to taking everything I found around Talos 1 even if I didn’t really need it. So much so, that suddenly thinking to leave some things behind was quite difficult. But as I soon found out, it was completely necessary if I wanted to get all five characters out safely! You can’t simply hoard items anymore, you now have to think about whether or not the character you are playing as really needs that pistol you found on that dead body or if it would serve another character better. Same goes for ammo as well. You can very easily find yourself with lots of guns but no ammo because you had one character take it all. This also forces you to really use all of the characters’ unique abilities, something that wasn’t super needed to beat the main game. But for Mooncrash? Completely different story. For instance, the Engineer can summon a turret to them whenever they need so perhaps they don’t need to be picking up too many guns and instead leave them for the fire arm focused Security member. This was honestly one of my favorite parts of Mooncrash. Never had I played a roguelite game where I had to really think about what items I wanted to pick up and which ones to leave behind. Normally you do have to make decisions similar to this in a roguelite, but those decisions are based around what kind of character or run you want to have. Like do you want to have a fast weapon with low power or a slow weapon that does a lot of damage this run. That’s not how it works here though. In Mooncrash, you have to consider how taking an item will affect the other characters you have to play as. Resources are very much limited on the moon base and they only get replenished when you start over. It even got to the point where I was crafting certain items with one character to leave behind for another because I knew they would be needing them. The entire thing requires much more foresight and planning than any other roguelite I have played and it was a great way to spice things up! I was purposefully making certain characters weaker so that other characters could be stronger when it was their turn. How well a character can survive without certain resources was something I needed to keep in mind as there is also a timer ticking down that will not only respawn some enemies but make them stronger too.
This timer actually plays a pretty big role. Not only does letting it go up mean stronger enemies, but after enough time passes it will simply end your run all together! This forces you to not only plan but rush. For example, having the Engineer go first and run around the whole base repairing everything is a pretty good idea. It means that none of the other characters will have to deal with broken machines or doorways. But this also means you are going to be using up a lot of that early time when the enemies aren’t too dangerous simply repairing and running around. So you’ll be leaving the rest of the characters with quite the mess if you aren’t careful! While this can add a lot of stress to an already stressful situation, I actually really liked the inclusion of it. It adds yet another level of planning and it tests your knowledge of the base itself. It forces you to think on your feet as to how to go about each area and how to quickly kill or get around each enemy. Also, to relieve some of that stress, there is an item to reduce the timer. You can either craft the item, find it in some tricky to reach places, or kill a strong enemy as they will always drop one. Honestly though, if this timer concept really worries you that much, believe me when I say it’s not nearly as stressful as it sounds and it only adds to the experience. After all, I normally despise timers in games, they stress me out to no end, but the way it’s used in Mooncrash is done so well! I wholeheartedly believe it adds to the experience and removing it would be a massive loss.
The timer itself will actually start to build up faster the more characters you have unlocked. This isn’t the only thing that changes by you unlocking more of the playable characters either. The game will throw in new changes to the base as well. Such as some areas not having any oxygen or power or there is a chemical leak all throughout the place. Things like that! These elements will also force you to plan around them and rethink some of your strategies. Which only adds to the replay value that much more! Sadly, despite this, there aren’t too many differences between each run besides what I mentioned so you probably won’t be playing Mooncrash for as long as you’d be playing something like Hades, but it’s unique set up and required planning really set it apart from the rest. Of course, there could be another roguelite like this that I’m unaware of. In which case please tell me about it! But this is certainly the first time I’ve run into anything like this in this kind of game. The only thing that even comes close for me is, funny enough, Deathloop!
It’s pretty clear to see how elements of Mooncrash inspired Arkane to go on to make Deathloop next. Both are very unique roguelite experiences that have a lot of planning involved. Though, the planning you need to do in Deathloop revolves mostly around how to kill all your targets in a single day rather than planning out how to manage resources and such. I plan on talking about Deathloop much more another time but it’s hard not to bring it up when talking about Mooncrash since it’s clear the two are pretty connected. But again! We’ll save that talk for another time, as I actually have a lot to say about Deathloop.
Mooncrash is such a fresh and unique take on the roguelite formula! It is a little on the short side but like most roguelites it has a lot of replay value as well. Sadly, despite all my praise, it’s a little hard to actually recommend the game. Not because of the quality of it or anything but for the fact that it’s DLC, meaning you not only need to buy Mooncrash but you also need to buy Prey to play it. And don’t get me wrong! Prey is a fantastic game but it’s also a very different game from Mooncrash despite them sharing a lot of mechanics. At the core, they are very different experiences, so much so that I could certainly see some people loving Mooncrash but not caring much for Prey, making the purchase rather hard to justify. It honestly really shocks me that Mooncrash was not sold as a standalone download only game for a cheap price. Like I said before, while it is short it does have enough content to justify a $20 price tag, which is what it costs as DLC for Prey right now. I might actually hold out hope that this could be the case in the future but given how long ago Prey and the Mooncrash DLC came out, it seems unlikely that it’ll be touched.
That being said though, if anything that I just described sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend giving Mooncrash a go! Just wait till Prey is on sale or something so if you are only looking to play Mooncrash you don’t have to worry about spending too much money. Because honestly, I really want more people to experience Mooncrash! When it comes to roguelites, it truly is the most unique one around. Which is why it’s so sad so few have played it.
But those are just my thoughts! What are some of yours? Are there any roguelite games you know of that change things up? Are you interested in giving Mooncrash a try after all this? I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t be shy!
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