December 29, 2021 — PlayStation’s Shadow of the Colossus broke ground in 2005 and again with its 2018 remake. No Matter Studios is a three-person team of game development veterans who had been making Praey for the Gods, an open-world survival twist on the same boss climbing fighter as Shadow. After years of development, Praey has finally arrived.
It was not on my radar at that time, so instead, I got to enjoy a surprisingly heroic adventure game that reminded me of one of my favorite PS2 classics.
Linear story matching game scope
Once you boot up, Praey for the Gods delivers some exposition that this world is frozen over, and while people have failed to perform the ritual to save it, your nameless heroine attempts to bring out the sun and warm up this uninviting land. It was unfortunate to only get a brief narration of what was happening as I was interested in the story that was set up for my character, but not much was delivered after those few minutes of playing. Thankfully, the game provided a satisfying conclusion.
“The bosses are epic, each with its own unique attacks, looks, and puzzles.”
In the current landscape of video games, having a more diverse set of playable characters has become a major talking point. In 2021, we had Colt from Deathloop, Selene from Returnal, and Alex from Life Is Strange: True Colors. As for Praey, I got excited when I saw this mysterious redhead that I got played as, but unfortunately, my unnamed heroine stayed the same all the way and the lack of character progression creates a sense of stagnation. It was not that I expected a lot, but it was disappointing that Praey for the Gods falls short by not evolving the player character.
Notes can be found to give hints and extra lore behind the world. Reading these scribblings brought depth to the world and people’s journeys in ways that I found irresistible.
Epic scale bogged down by drawn-out survival
Praey for the Gods has two halves of its heart that give life to the gameplay: boss battles and survival.
The bosses are epic, each with its own individuality in attacks, looks, and puzzles. It was all about climbing on them and pulling and pushing a few mechanisms to kill them. Finding the three or four weak points required me to think and explore their giant enemy bodies. No Matter Studios understood their premise and executed it lovingly with these memorable behemoths in a way that gave me nostalgia Colossus-style.
The survival element separated this from being a clone of Shadow of the Colossus. Having to sleep, eat, and keep warm made me think beyond getting to the next colossus to slay. It kept me on my toes, and if I were not too prepared, I would regret it when going to duke it out with a giant hairy stoned creature. This mechanic allowed the game’s open-world to have meaning and allowed me to explore for supplies along with other surprises.
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I could adjust the survival aspects through the difficulty settings and separate survival options that would affect how cold, hunger and other elements would impact my character. I chose for a normal difficulty with the survival maxed out as it seemed like a good way to balance things out for my experience. It turned out I was right, as I could feel the need for food and fire to stay warm without losing enjoyment.
Puzzles were another core aspect of getting to new locations and defeating bosses. As someone who often struggles with puzzles in most games, I had a breeze getting through it while still wearing my thinking cap. It highlighted more so with the colossi that had unique ways of getting me on them to pull their mechanisms. The further I got, each of the eight bosses got more creative in how I was supposed to handle them.
Moment to Moment Gameplay
Smaller enemies and animals to hunt meant I had food from the animals and other threats to worry about from the monsters. Due to the stiff fighting from the melee weapons, I found around the world, I would opt out of fighting as it did not feel good or was fun to do so. I love a bow and arrow in any game, but this was one of the few where even shooting the bow was not enjoyable, even if it was less sluggish than swinging a sword.
I did wish that crafting and upgrading played a bigger role. I found most of my supplies went to repairing my most precious item, the grappling hook. Since I could avoid general enemies and bosses did not require me to use weapons, I did not find it worth my time to craft or upgrade any of my items or armor.
Moving around the world was a lot of fun. Rolling was the best part, and the character’s weight made running around feel good. I did hate jumping as it was weirdly slow as I fell back to the ground. Thankfully, the grappling hook, climbing, and a piece of cloth to glide in the air enhanced maneuverability in different and interesting ways. Combining these to glide across a gap, grapple mid-air, and climb the rest of the way was a blast.
“The map design is a brilliant balance of openness while still being linear.”
The climbing was very much influenced by Breath of the Wild, and yes, yet another reviewer referencing the beloved Zelda game. It is just too true, even though I could not climb on everything. I still had a lot I could climb, and when I leaped or moved at all, I would lose stamina slowly. It was one of the best aspects that kept me going as I scaled mountains or monsters.
The map design is a brilliant balance of openness while still being linear. I never got lost trying to get from point A to B, but I was able to explore enough to find supplies and plenty of surprises. Climbing opened it up to let me get to places my own way without the game pushing me in a single direction.
The biggest flaw was the checkpoints. It was painful to die and get set back. As bosses had cutscenes, if I died on a boss, I would walk back and watch the cutscene and start the fight over again. I could skip the cutscenes, but sometimes the button to do so was unresponsive.
I got to review this on a PS5, which meant I got to enjoy a few hours of my time with the lovely DualSense controller. It was not the best adaptive feedback I had felt, but it did a few things that gave a great sensation when playing. As I walked, I could feel each step in the controller. The best was in deep snow as I could feel the sluggishness in trudging through the snow. That alone made it worth playing on the console if you are lucky enough to own one.
Music and sound make up for so-so art
Composed by Ian Horsch, easily the best part of Praey for the Gods is the music which gives the story this ominous tone while lifting the boss encounters to the most epic scale imaginable. Somehow it was everything from beautiful, horrifying, and grand at the same time.
The overall sound design was equally as great. The roars of the beasts were terrifying and gave me a greater sense of their scale. The howling wind made me cold and want to wrap up in a blanket as I pushed through every passing hour of my playtime.
Praey’s art style will remind players of a bunch of different indie games. A cartoon-like style was wisely chosen by the three-person development teams, and although it is well done, nothing in the game world stood out as spectacular. In a way, Praey is the perfect example of how technical aspects and artistic direction results in visuals that do not hold up. The wasteland of snowy mountains and ruined buildings provide little to look at as you explore the game world, but the excellent monster design makes up for it.
Out of 10
- Epic music elevated every second, including the epic boss fights.
- Clever yet simple puzzles and mechanics.
- Fun tools like the grappling hook and climbing feel great.
- Art direction could have been more consistent.
- The combat is stiff and rarely enjoyable.
- Terrible checkpoints.
A Behemoth Verdict
For players who like survival games and want to scratch that itch of fighting monsters as you did back in the day with Shadow of the Colossus, then Praey for the Gods should do that. It is a mighty debut from the three-person indie studio.
Praey does not achieve greatness, but greatness can be seen from what was crafted in this fantastical game. Besides, No Matter Studios is a talented studio with massive potential and definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Praey for the Gods was released on December 14 for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox, and Windows. The PC version can be bought on Steam (where the game has garnered a massive amount of positive reviews.)