Prey: Who is Morgan Yu?

Prey is a game about identity. It is a game that fully embrace’s Arkane Studio’s mantra of “Choose the Way You Want to Play”. Each section of the space station have areas that can be accessed in multiple ways depending on how you are playing the game. Each “weapon” has a specific use for a specific enemy or situation. Each power enhances your capabilities or gives you new tools to deal with the dangers and the exploration of the space station.

It can be compared to the Dishonored games, also by Arkane, and their chaos system although in Prey it is a lot more ambiguous. In Dishonored, depending on how you approach a mission, you will either raise or lower their overall chaos level. Kill a lot of people, and chaos rises but spare them, and chaos remains low. This affects the game world by making it more dangerous and decrepit and also influences the ending of the game. Usually a high chaos playthrough will give the negative ending while low chaos provides a more optimistic ending. In Prey, this system is mostly hidden and will not affect the environment or the ending, but instead is a reflection on who Morgan Yu is and by extension, who the player is.

Prey takes place on a space station orbiting the moon, Talos 1 run by the Transtar Corporation, that has suffered a catastrophe. You play as Morgan Yu, one of the sibling pair that runs the station, and you need to explore enough to make an informed decision about the fate of the station and the research carried within.

Through playing the game, the player creates their own identity based on the tools they choose to use. Do you want to stay human but use the blood of Russian prisoners to enhance your abilities? Do you want to take on some alien powers and give up some of your humanity? Or will you remain pure and take no special abilities of any kind? This identity is not only limited to how you play (stealthy human, bad-ass alien, techno-engineer beating mimics with a wrench) but also to what kind of person you are, or at least who Morgan is.

Talos 1, the space station where the game takes place, was constructed to research an alien organism known as the Typhon and to use organic material from these creatures to create neuromods. A neuromod is a type of brain enhancer which allows a person to instantly learn skills previously learned by another human. With a neuromod, a user will be able to learn a foreign language instantly or learn how to play a musical instrument. In the game, it is through neuromods that the player upgrades their skills and learns new abilities.

The process of creating a neuromod is disturbing since it hinges on extracting an exotic material by feeding the alien creatures human “volunteers” – Russian prisoner slaves – to spawn more aliens which are then put through a process to extract the exotic material. A side-effect of using neuromods is that when they are removed, they also remove all the memories of whatever happened since the neuromod was installed.

There are a few key areas in the game where you come across this directly. In one instance, such a test was interrupted half way through and you can choose to either let the test be carried out, or to let the prisoner escape. In another instance, you come across an audio recording of the murder of your love interest’s father. This second one is especially chilling as it is Morgan who gives the final command to execute the prisoner for the sole purpose of seeing if the alien creatures interact differently with an elderly human.

When you start the game, Morgan has suffered memory loss and does not remember much about the station or the people on it. As you work your way through the station, the relationship between Morgan and their brother Alex changes. At first, it sounds like Alex was conducting tests on Morgan against their will but as you spend more time in the station, the truth starts getting uncovered.

Everything that Alex was doing was actually done under Morgan’s express instructions. Morgan wanted to submit themselves to the tests voluntarily, wanted to experiment on the Typhon. Alex goes from creepy power hungry brother to a brother carrying out his sister’s wishes. The different incarnations of Morgan you meet – December, January, the Morgan in the recordings – are all Morgans who have, at the time, a different view of the situation due to “personality drift”.

Personaly drift is one side effect of this constant neuromod installation and remova. Each time Morgan goes through the procedure, their personality shifts slightly. Over time, they have become “someone else” which not only explains Alex’s behaviour to an extent, but also gives the player a blank slate in which to imprint their version of Morgan on.

The effect of personality drift is manifested in two operators – or service robots – which you come across at the beginning of the game. These robots’ purpose is to help Morgan escape from the station but their priorities are completely different. December wants to guide Morgan to a secret escape pod to allow for a swift escape but only for Morgan. January wants Morgan to blow up the station with everyone in it to prevent the spread of Typhon to Earth. Both December and January were created at different times, when Morgan’s personality was different. December is concerned with personal preservation without considering others. January is concerned with containing the Typhon threat at all costs. There is a third option presented by the game as well, via Alex, where you should finish your work in creating a device which nullifies the Typhon.

As you go through the station and learn about the crew, the Typhon, and the evils of the Transtar corporation, what you decide to do ultimately decides what kind of Morgan you are.

Who Is the Real Morgan Yu?

No matter what you choose to do, the very final ending sequence will be similar. You awake from a dream and find yourself in a chair. The whole experience was nothing but a virtual reality simulation based on Morgan’s actually memories of what happened on Typhon 1.  Alex is there with 4 operators standing in front of Morgan (is it Morgan?) and together they will evaluate your performance.  The purpose of this simulation is to evaluate your performance to determine if you have enough empathy to work with. It is revealed that the Typhon have  made it to Earth and that you are actually a Typhon that they tried to use human neuromods on. Talos 1 was a test to see if you would be a good candidate to bridge the gap between humans and Typhon, so that the two species could try to work together. Alex explains that they tried to make humans more like Typhon but they never tried to make Typhon more like humans.

An “it was all a dream” is interpreted as a cheap way to end a story but it really works here. The obvious response to such an ending is that nothing mattered. From all the choices made in the game, nothing ultimately made a difference.

But it does.

The final choice, whether to shake Alex’s hand and agree to help humans and Typhon understand each other or to kill everyone, at first seems strange but it is the final chance to define who you are.

Do you agree to help because you have seen, truly seen, what humans are? The characters and side stories in the game cover a lot of the complexities of the human experience. Scattered about are traces of love stories and breakups, people with a difficult time dealing with their demons, addiction, theft, hybris, manipulation, death, sorrow, hope, strength, leisure, and more. Most characters are not presented, eventually, as clearly good or clearly bad. There are a few exceptions, and even your brother Alex comes across as manipulative but by the end we discover that his behavior was loyal.

Do you agree to help because the Typhon are terrible? A race of aliens that devour the minds of other creatures to feed some gigantic space beast. Surely that can’t be good for the galaxy. They do not have feelings or empathy to relate to others and thus must be stopped. Or is that a human way of looking at things? You can be the bridge that teaches the Typhon how to live with other creatures.

Do you kill Alex because he manipulated you? Born into a world you thought was yours, with someone else’s memories being recreated as they are their own. This isn’t different than the Typhon, who feed on others’ minds, both species prey on those weaker but at least the Typhon are honest about it. You couldn’t trust Alex in the simulation, and you shouldn’t trust him now.

Do you kill Alex because humans are clearly the weaker species and survival of the fittest is the rule of the galaxy? It was hard to stay alive on Talos 1. Fighting the Typhon  left you desperate and out of breath – until you acquired Typhon powers. It became clear that the Typhon can’t be stopped, and you will help them solidify their place as the galaxy’s apex predator. After all, you were a Typhon all along.

Do you choose whatever you choose because you do not care? Live, die, these creatures are at your whim and chaos is the name of the game. Whatever happens – happens – and it is no concern of yours.

Initially, I felt that being able to choose to kill Alex was strange because I spent so much of the game saving people. I chose to shake his hand and tear it up with him “like in old times.” – insinuating that part of his sibling was inside me, the Typhon. Perhaps part of the human neuromod mapped onto my Typhon brain was Morgan’s. Even after I made the choice, I kept thinking back on this decision.

In the Dishonored games, our character;s morality is made obvious after each mission with the chaos score system. The state of the world at the end is directly affected by the choices Corvo or Emily make. These are characters with backstories and motivations hinted at by the game narrative. In Prey, Morgan Yu is a blank state both in terms of memory and personality which allows for more projection from the player. In Dishonored, we choose the fate of Dunwall and Karnaca in binary fashion. This is presented upfront in the games and from the beginning you can decide how to play. Prey hides this from us until the very end when it tells us it was not ever about saving Talos 1. Prey evaluates us on all of our choices and reflects what kind of person the player is, it is about what kind of person “Morgan” is.

Even though I had spent the game saving most of the humans and generally being helpful, I did use Typhon neuromods to get alien powers. My reasoning was initially because I wanted to turn into a tea-cup but later it made dominating the Typhon in combat much easier. I didn’t care about their culture or if they had one, or that they were creatures of sorts that might have no idea what they are doing to the humans on the space stations. It is possible I would have chosen to kill Alex after finding out I was a Typhon after all.

Personally, the one reason I could see myself choosing to kill him was because he had made my experience in Talos 1 a lie. Like players who didn’t like the ending because the choices didn’t matter and so none of it was “real”. Or as real as a game could be anyway.

Feeling more human than Typhon might not be enough to not feel betrayed and manipulated. But that was not my Morgan. That was not the identity I had built through the choices in the game.

 

 

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