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And then there's this new interview on Fenix Bazaar with lead designer Ricardo Bare that reinforces its similarites to Arx Fatalis and calls out its RPG features in greater detail:
Fenix Bazaar: Arkane has mentioned that Prey is similar to — or is inspired by — an earlier game the studio made called Arx Fatalis. In what ways are the games similar, and how has the studio used that experience to inspire certain features/settings for Prey?
Ricardo Bare: I would say Prey is similar to Arx Fatalis in two ways. First, the structure of Prey is more like Arx Fatalis than something like Dishonored. Prey is an ‘open space station game’. That means the player is free to explore the entire space station, including the outside of space station, for the majority of the game. Of course, you have to work for it – discovering airlocks, finding keys, completing objectives, etc. But as long as you’re able, and you can handle the threats in each area, you’re free to explore. You’ll often come back to areas you’ve already discovered, either because you have your own particular goals in mind (maybe you want to craft something) or something new has happened in the story or a side mission you’re trying to complete.
Fenix Bazaar: The Arkane style has always been about allowing the player to play their own way, without really imposing any real “default” way to play. What are some of the challenges in applying that to an action sci-fi game as opposed to a game that, say, actively encourages the player to avoid violence?
Ricardo Bare: Introducing players into the idea that there’s not just one prescribed way to accomplish their goals is always challenging in these types of games. There’s the temptation to just intrude into the game with the designer’s voice and say, “try this…” and we do that at times, but the tradeoff is breaking immersion.
One advantage is that Prey is a little more of an RPG. Players used to games with RPG mechanics already have the experience of ‘Oh I can build my character in different ways’ which comes implicitly with the idea that there are different ways to play.