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May 2022

Praey for the Gods

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: No Matter Studios
Release Date: Dec. 14, 2021


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PS4/PS5 Review - 'Praey for the Gods'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 29, 2021 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Praey for the Gods is a brutal journey set on a desolate frozen island, where your only chance of survival is to destroy the very gods you believe in.

Praey for the Gods — yes, that is the actual spelling — is set in a world ravaged by an endless winter. Humanity is on the verge of dying out, and the only hope lies in finding and slaying gigantic creatures called gods. You play as a young woman who wakes up after a shipwreck on the island where the gods are said to live. With only the clothes on her back, she sets out to find and defeat the creatures before the endless winter claims what little remains of humankind.

Praey is a very obvious homage to Shadow of the Colossus. Your goal is to travel around the environment, locate giant beasts, climb them, and strike their weak points to defeat them. Even the act of striking weak points feels very familiar. I bring this up to set expectations. In many ways, starting up Praey felt like starting up a Shadow of the Colossus expansion pack that was developed decades later. It was a comfortable and familiar feeling, and the game starts off with its best foot forward.

The fights against the gods are the high point of Praey. They are large epic encounters that task you with figuring out how to mount and kill something roughly 50 times your size — and that's at the small end. Each one is distinctive and interesting, and I'm loathe to spoil them for those who have avoided spoilers. Know that the gods trend toward far more inhuman looks than the Shadow of the Colossus creatures, and even one of the earliest is a giant wormlike creature that pelts the area with deadly blasts as you struggle to approach it. I really like the designs and how incredibly epic it feels to fight one. Yes, it feels familiar, but that's a good thing. Few other games have captured the feel of Shadow of the Colossus as well as this.

Unfortunately, that also includes the somewhat awkward and very ponderous controls. I don't want to call them bad, but they require a fair amount of effort to learn. SotC fans will have a head start because while some of the buttons are different, the core "feel" of movement is very similar. Without that expectation, it's easy to imagine someone finding the controls to be frustrating or awkward. This is also part of the "expansion pack" feeling; it feels very much like it expects you to have played its spiritual predecessor.

Praey deviates from its obvious inspiration in between the skirmishes. It draws from survival games and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The land of the gods is a giant frozen hellscape that's not meant for human survival, so you need to find ways to survive the trek between your targets. In game terms, this means that you need to manage your exhaustion, hunger and temperature levels. Each of these things impacts your overall stats. When you're well-fed and well-rested, you have more stamina and durability. When you're cold, hungry and tired, you're far less capable against the giant foes. In easier difficulty modes, merely being well taken care of provides you with bonuses, but in harder modes, you'll face negatives.

In addition, there is a crafting system to create items (like grappling hooks) and weapons (like bows) for combat. You need to collect material from the environment that you can use to craft the equipment. The equipment is very breakable, though, so you'll need to be prepared to take on giant foes and deal with your gear breaking during the battles. There are smaller enemies to fight, but I felt like it was a waste to do so due to weapon breakage. Any durability that's spent on a meaningless skeleton-ghost-thing is durability that could've been spent on a giant yeti instead.

The biggest thing I can take away from Praey for the Gods is that it can show how too many mechanics can detract from the strong whole. "What if you combined Breath of the Wild and Shadow of the Colossus?" sounds great on paper, but it feels too disconnected for its own good. The survival mechanics detract from the fun of the game without adding much in return. With Zelda, there's a sense of freedom and exploration that Praey lacks, while Shadow of the Colossus was so laser-focused on the bosses that they dominated the entire game, with only small amounts of padding in between.

Praey for the Gods has excellent boss fights. Early on, I was on board with the game feeling like an unofficial Shadow of the Colossus expansion pack. As things progressed, I got increasingly frustrated and annoyed with the stuff in between that took me away from the fun segments. The survival mechanics don't feel like they add anything, and they lack any real sense of satisfaction. That old bugbear, weapon durability, feels particularly bad here because I realized I didn't want to use that neat things I'd crafted out of fear of spending the time fixing it later, which felt like the bad kind of chore.

In a way, it feels almost unfair to compare a smaller indie title to two of the most popular games of all time, but unfortunately, one can't avoid the comparison. The game knows exactly what it is doing, and it's damn impressive that a small team managed to come so close to hitting the mark. At the same time, it's difficult to not make constant comparisons to its bigger brothers and feel like it comes up short. If you're willing to put up with some level of awkwardness or enjoy the survival mechanics, it will probably check more boxes for you. It's an example of a game where I would've taken a shorter experience and been happier with it.

One area I can't fault Praey is visuals because the game looks awesome. The environments are a little repetitive, but it sells the idea of being in a harsh, unforgiving wasteland that's populated by things that hate your very existence. The gods are remarkably impressive in action and capture the sense of grandeur and scale that Shadow of the Colossus did — although many other games can't quite pull it off. Some of the moments are genuinely breathtaking. For something made by such a small development team, it's absolutely incredible how good of a job they did, and it shows that a little can go a long way. Some of the smaller stuff isn't quite as impressive, but it's easy to forgive when you feel the wonderful sense of, "Oh no, I have to fight this thing!" that makes even a relatively passive foe feel immensely intimidating.

Praey for the Gods is game that is inches away from being a new classic. It does many things very well, and it is an incredibly impressive achievement for a small team. It is dragged down a bit by trying to be too many things at once. I applaud the attempt to spice up the "in-between" time that Shadow had, but the result doesn't quite hit the mark. If you have a tolerance for tedium to reach some brief high points, then Praey delivers, but newcomers might be best served by starting off with Shadow of the Colossus.

Score: 7.0/10

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