Impressions: Praey for the Gods is an underbaked homage to Shadow of the Colossus
It’s clear right from its opening moments that Praey for the Gods, a new single-player adventure game that’s available now via Steam Early Access, was made by people who thoroughly enjoyed Team Ico’s 2005 darling Shadow of the Colossus. However, those same people, a three-person indie development team called No Matter Studios, weren’t content with merely making a SotC spiritual successor.
While Praey for the Gods embodies much of what made SotC so memorable, fighting towering behemoths and exploring a vast, empty land are just two parts of a much larger puzzle. The game also mixes in Zelda-esque adventure elements and survival-based ancillary systems to create a world that feels dangerous, desolate, and serene all at once. It may not technically be a finished game, but Praey for the Gods already shows a lot of promise, especially for Team Ico fans.
To slay a god
Much like Shadow of the Colossus, Praey for the Gods drops players into its world with little in the way of background story context. Indeed, all the player really has to go on is what they can see for themselves.
Praey’s unnamed female protagonist wanders across an expansive world blanketed in snow and assailed by endless blizzards. She can run, leap, climb, and (later on) utilize melee and ranged weapons to defend herself. It’s also not long before the player finds navigation tools like a grappling hook (which functions in a similar manner to The Legend of Zelda’s hookshot) and a cloth parachute which lets them glide through the air.
The game’s opening moments are also when the player encounters the first of five massive behemoths. Those who are already familiar with SotC’s inherent gameplay loop will quickly figure out how to take this towering monstrosity down. Find a spot to grab onto, scale the creature to find its weak points, and attack those weak points until the lumbering monster is dead.
Much like in SotC, the player has to also carefully manage their limited stamina as they climb up and attack the beast, otherwise they’ll be flung back down to the ground and must repeat the process. After the first behemoth falls, the player is taken to a central hub area of sorts by a mysterious wolf ally and it is there that their ultimate quest is revealed: four behemoths remain, and all must be slain.
Braving the elements
As the player sets out from the hub area, the rest of Praey’s different gameplay systems are slowly laid out before them. The player’s personal map starts out completely empty and must be filled in by finding specific markers out in the world (finding such markers is also helpful since it highlights tunnel-based shortcuts the player can utilize to access different sub-regions more quickly).
Smaller enemies like risen skeleton warriors and ethereal wraiths also rise on occasion to challenge the player, and it is during such encounters that the player must wield whatever melee and ranged weapons they have scavenged to fend them off.
Speaking of scavenging, Praey for the Gods players also have to manage the game’s survival-based elements in-between major behemoth encounters. Weapons, food, and upgrade materials can all be scavenged from breakable crates, fallen enemies and wildlife, and even from the land itself. If you find an axe, for example, you can chop down a tree, harvest the wood, and use that wood to build a warmth-giving fire.
Along with warmth, Praey’s protagonist also needs food and sleep. Having to maintain these basic needs means that wandering around the world aimlessly is usually a bad idea. It’s always important to take stock of what you have (and what you need), decide on a destination, and keep a keen eye out for opportunities to find more resources. Thankfully, Praey for the Gods also has several different difficulty levels which adjust not only enemy strength but also how much upkeep the protagonist’s survival stats require.
Going on faith
For the most part Praey for the Gods already feels like a well-polished experience despite its early access status. However, some aspects of the game clearly need a little more time to bake. Character animations feel a bit wooden at times, especially during combat, and character faces also don’t have any animations at all (this is especially jarring when you first notice that the protagonist’s face never ever changes from her pensive, stoic default).
I also noticed a few minor clipping issues (especially while swimming), framerate drops, and other visual bugs, but none of those issues occurred with any degree of frequency. The game’s built-in controller support could also use some touch-ups (it’s technically present, but not very well-optimized), but I admit that’s more of a personal preference issue than anything. When it comes to overall gameplay performance and stability, Praey for the Gods easily clears all hurdles.
The one point of contention which most potential players might get hung up on is price vs. value. As of this writing, Praey for the Gods is $30 on Steam and for that price you get about 8-10 hours of gameplay for an average playthrough. Praey’s total roster of five behemoths is also a far cry from the double-digit number found in Shadow of the Colossus, but then finding and fighting behemoths was all Team Ico’s game really had to offer.
Personally, I think Praey is worth its current asking price, especially since No Matter Studios says it plans on adding in more content (including new behemoths potentially) for the game’s final launch later this year. Whether or not it’s worth it to you depends on how badly you want to play a SotC spiritual successor and how amiable you are to survival-based gameplay elements.
No Matter Studios is also working on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One console ports of Praey for the Gods, so if you want to play the final stable release and don’t mind waiting a bit that might be your best option. If, however, you choose to jump into the game now on PC, you’ll still find plenty of content to slake your adventure game thirst.
Praey for the Gods feels like a carefully constructed combination of Shadow of the Colossus, The Legend of Zelda, and survival-based gameplay. It wasn’t until I played Praey for myself that I realized how well such disparate elements can come together to create a compelling one-of-a-kind experience.