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Praey for the Gods, a spiritual successor to Shadow of the Colossus, has us hooked

The early access title already has plenty of polish

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The independently produced action-adventure game Praey for the Gods entered Steam’s Early Access program on Jan. 31. Described in its original Kickstarter campaign as an ambitious blend of Shadow of the Colossus, Deus Ex, DayZ, and Bloodborne, the game has been in development since at least 2014. After spending just a few hours with it last week, I’m a little bit blown away.

Praey for the Gods is a third-person survival brawler set on a desolate, frozen island. I take on the role of a silent protagonist on a mission to destroy a collection of powerful gods. The opening mission provides only a basic understanding of the controls before throwing me into battle with a a frost-breathing monster as big as a mountain.

It’s a scene that could easily have served as a game’s climax, but here I am in just the opening few moments.

Much like Shadow of the Colossus, the hulking thing is more than just an enemy. It serves as the terrain of the level itself. Bringing it down requires me to make my way up the side of a steep valley and then leap onto its back. Once I have my character clinging to its furry hide, I spend the next few minutes clamoring across its body to attack weak points. All the while, the beast is shaking wildly, trying in desperation to fling me off.

The initial encounter serves to teach the basics of Praey for the Gods’ combat mechanics, which are largely stamina-based. If I stay too long on the giant’s back, my stamina meter runs down and I fall to the ground where the creature can easily stomp me to death. The secret, therefore, is to move quickly from point to point, doing as much damage as possible before dismounting safely and attempting another pass.

Once the starting monster is defeated, the game also includes battles at a much smaller scale. Before long, I’m able to pick up a melee weapon, as well as a bow and arrows. I can use them to hunt for resources, or to take on mobs of undead enemies more my size. Then the game lets me loose in an open world, free to search for the next massive monster to take down.

There’s just so much to do in Praey for the Gods. The boss monsters can be encountered in any order, meaning you can pick and choose when and how you engage them. There’s a light survival mechanic as well, one that requires you to return to camp to warm up and cook food. What’s so exciting is that all of it feels cohesive and complete, considering the game is just a few days into early access.

The few areas that I’ve been able to explore so far seem like part of an already finished product. Technical and mechanical issues are almost invisible, leaving a fun and fascinating adventure that stands apart on Windows PC. The developers assure me, however, that there’s plenty of work left to be done. According to posts on Steam, bugs include players falling out of bounds and some bosses disappearing suddenly in the middle of a fight. There’s also a plan to release the game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The team tells me that work on those ports should begin in early 2019.

More than anything, I’m just surprised that a game of this quality has been produced by an independent team of just three people.

“Publishers have been reaching out since the first trailer,” game director Brian Parnell told me via email. “It’s exciting to see the interest, but our plan was to be independent for our first project. IMO more money isn’t always a good thing. Being such a small team allows us to have an insanely low overhead and focus on scope a bit easier. Also, we don’t need to hit tons of sales to see another day. Down the road, we might be up to chatting with publishers, but currently we’re happy with how we are working.”

Praey for the Gods is available on Steam Early Access for $29.99.

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