I’m sitting here thinking about the games I want to play next. I picked up Prey on launch day only to set it aside in favor of a second time through Dishonored 2. I’ve taken this week off from any serious gaming, and I’m ready to dive back into something a little bigger now—but I’m questioning whether playing Prey is the right decision.
In a way, I’m questioning whether playing any new game is the right decision.
We live in a world where games shipping as finished products is more and more of a rarity. Horizon Zero Dawn was an excellent experience day one, and every indication I’ve heard is that other games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 were equally good out of the gate. It seems like that’s becoming a novelty, though.
Even Horizon and BotW have had several updates to improve the games, though they’re just that—improvements. The games I played (or others played in the case of the latter two) were tight, polished experiences that have been further tightened and polished since then. Over the past few years, that idea has shifted away from being the norm, with many games shipping and becoming the games they would be after they were out in the wild.
I picked up Destiny in September 2014 after enjoying the alpha earlier that year. The game was repetitive and frankly didn’t work as a single player game as Bungie had promised. Which was fine. But the game I played is essentially unrecognizable from the game that those who stuck with it are playing today. This is largely due to updates and expansions, but the game also famously replaced Peter Dinklage’s voice acting with Nolan North’s, drastically changing it even before those expansions.
No Man’s Sky was overhyped and couldn’t possibly live up to even the mildest of expectations. I didn’t play it after realizing somewhere along the way that it couldn’t possibly live up to its promises and recognizing that it probably wasn’t going to be worth my time. Once again, the game that launched differs greatly from the game that’s currently available.
Final Fantasy XV was pretty high on my to-play list late last year, only to be removed entirely when Square Enix announced that there would be significant story changes coming to the game in the year or so following its launch. They shipped a game after numerous delays, but they still felt that the game could be improved. So I’m waiting.
I’ve played less than half an hour of Mass Effect, so the problems with Mass Effect: Andromeda don’t directly affect me. They continue the precedent followed by FF XV, though, in making it essentially a teaser for the version of the game that will follow.
Even Dishonored 2, which I gather was largely complete at the time of its release, has changed since its November 11 launch. New Game Plus didn’t exist and wouldn’t have been there for me if I’d played it back then. Chapter Select wasn’t available, meaning I would have had to play through over half the game a third time because I missed a trophy in chapter five. Realistically, I just wouldn’t have gotten that trophy. But you get the point.
And that brings us back to Prey. I like what I’ve heard and read about the game, and I really think I’m going to enjoy it. But I’m not convinced the game that’s out now is the best version of the game. What changes will have occurred to the game if I wait a few months to check it out? Will I enjoy the game more because of whatever these changes may be? These questions are impossible to answer. It’s that impossibility that leaves me uncertain. There is some certainty in gaming, though.
I don’t know that playing Prey so soon after launch will result in my having the best possible experience with the game. I do know that playing other games that have been sitting on my shelves for half a year or longer will give me the best possible version of those games. Titanfall 2 and Watch Dogs 2 have been out for six plus months at this point, so I can play those assured that the games I’m playing have already been through their growing pains and maturations.
I’m not saying that games shouldn’t be patched—they absolutely should. Creators have the right, even responsibility, to make their games the best they can be. I just wish more games shipped in the polished state of Horizon Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild than in the more fluid state of Final Fantasy XV and Mass Effect: Andromeda. I have a feeling Prey is closer to the former camp than the latter, and I hope I’m right because I don’t think I can resist its draw.
How do you feel about games changing post-launch? Are you cool with it? Do you wish you could buy a game at launch and play it with the confidence that you’re getting the best experience? Let me know in the comments.