There are few more appealing game premises than slaying a series of giant monsters by climbing them like moving mountains to deal a death blow from above. And yet, there are also few more disappointing experiences than having that premise come up so woefully short as it has in Praey for the Gods. This giant-slaying adventure tries to capture the magic of the PlayStation classic Shadow of the Colossus, but misses the mark with sloppy controls, cheesy deaths, and bugs that manage to squander some otherwise solid boss encounters.
The inspiration taken from Shadow of the Colossus isn’t hard to spot: in Praey for the Gods you’ll travel through a desolate open world, scale giant monsters, and probably be pretty confused by the story. Where the comparison stops is in its incredibly sloppy mechanics and questionable design choices.
Most egregious among them is how unresponsive and clunky everything feels, from climbing to combat. It feels like it takes about a second for your character to react to anything you do, which got me killed a lot in the beginning. Eventually my brain adjusted to the lag and it became less of an issue, but every time I put the controller down and picked it back up again later, I’d have to retrain myself all over again. As you can imagine, lag in a combat-focused game where you can get killed in one hit is a recipe for plenty of rage, and even if I did acclimate to it at times, it never stopped being frustrating.
It certainly doesn’t help that I was constantly shocked by the things that killed me during boss fights. Basically, anytime one of the giants attacks they create a shockwave in the immediate area that deals tons of damage, knocks you to the ground for what feels like forever, and is just downright cheap. There were times where I was clearly several feet away from an incoming attack and my character would flop to the ground like I was a FIFA player trying to get a foul called on the colossus attacking me. Combined with the sluggish controls, there were many times where my death felt completely unfair and had me looking to the nonexistent referee for a slow-motion replay of that flagrant malarkey.
Climbing giant beasts is supposed to be Praey for the Gods’ headliner, but because you move so incredibly slowly, and the controls for climbing are so inconsistent, it oftentimes is more irritating than fun. You’ll get caught on random surfaces as you go and have to frantically jiggle the thumbstick until you break free, or start climbing in the wrong direction for no discernible reason and struggle to regain control. Sometimes you’ll even just fall off of whatever you were climbing when you’ve still got stamina left and plummet to your death in a fit of pure rage. Considering how much time you spend climbing in Praey for the Gods, these annoyances end up haunting you almost every single step of the way through a mercifully short five-hour playthrough.
These problems mesh with the existing minor annoyances associated with this kind of game in the worst way possible – things like how you’re constantly interrupted by the beast shaking you around like a rag doll and have to monitor your stamina meter the whole time. There’s nothing worse than finally getting on top of a beast and reaching the area where you can deal damage, only to get repeatedly interrupted as you’re shaken around until you finally run out of stamina and tumble back to the ground. The issues with climbing mechanics take these infrequent irritations and make them full-blown infuriating.
You’ll also spend a lot of your time stumbling all over the place, because anytime your character is so much as breathed on she loses her balance, rolls to the ground, then picks herself back up and regains her footing. It takes several seconds each time and the animation frequently repeats multiple times back to back when, for example, a giant monster walks nearby. It’s so, so very annoying that, even though it made me laugh the first couple times it happened, the longer I played the more it filled me with intractable fury.
As if that weren’t enough, Praey for the Gods also tests the limits of patience with technical wonkiness. Most of it is minor, like framerate instability on PS5 or that time I got knocked off of a boss because he phased through an object in the world and didn’t bring me with him, but I also experienced three hard crashes while playing, including one that lost me quite a bit of progress. I didn’t encounter enough bugs to make me flip a desk over, but when you combine it with already rocky gameplay it just adds to this general sense of a lack of polish that became more and more irksome the longer I played.
Combat out in the open world has many of the same complaints as climbing, including the laggy feeling to the controls and your character having a hard time staying on her feet, but has the added annoyance in the form of weapons so breakable that they feel like they’re made out of fine china. I’m not one of those people who claims Breath of the Wild is a bad game because of weapon durability, but dear lord, here your weapons get smashed into pieces after so few uses that most of the time I just ran past enemies for fear of having to spend time gathering resources to craft new ones. (You don’t get XP from combat, so why bother?)
And even when your weapons aren’t broken yet, if they’ve reached low durability they do significantly less damage, and that causes combat to drag on and cause so much frustration because combat isn’t all that good to begin with. Swinging weapons at skeletal enemies or taking aim at animals you’re hunting with a bow and arrow is inaccurate, costs valuable resources, and rarely helps you accomplish your goal of taking down all eight bosses.
Which brings us to Praey for the Gods’ survival mechanics, which are an addition to the Shadow of the Colossus formula that I really could have done without. When you aren’t hunting big, furry deities, you’ll be out in the open world gathering resources, crafting weapons and armor, and finding places to sleep, cook food, or warm yourself by the fire. I enjoy a good survival game every now and again, but the level of biological and equipment management required in between boss fights is an aggravation that only makes it harder to enjoy the high points.
You have to monitor and maintain no fewer than three separate meters just for your biology: hunger, energy, and temperature. Depending on your chosen difficulty, these might not ever actively hurt you, but they can make you worse at everything. Energy, for example, is a measure of how well-rested your character is and if you go a while without sleeping your stamina comes back slower, meaning you spend more time standing around during boss fights and hoofing it around the overworld – an indignation I don’t think I needed on top of everything I already found bothersome. And this is, of course, all on top of the stamina and health meters you’re already constantly nursing as you play.
Assuming you do as I did and spend the least amount of time in the open world possible, and assuming that you can acclimate with less-than-ideal controls, the bosses themselves are definitely the best part of Praey for the Gods. You’ll fight winged dragons, big ol’ troll thingies, and a giant worm, and most of the fights are at the very least great premises even if sloppy gameplay rains on the parade. There’s a particularly cool boss near the end that has you shooting off the giant’s armor from afar, before mounting the beast and jumping between parts of his body as you dodge lightning bolts. There’s very clearly the makings of a really enjoyable game hidden somewhere underneath all the poorly executed ideas, and I wish I hadn’t had to push past all of the problems to enjoy some memorable moments to be had with the boss fights.
Not all of them are winners, though. One boss fight in the middle of the campaign pits you against a giant yeti that slowly lumbers around and lazily swipes at you with his paws. I really don’t know what the developers were thinking with that one – it’s like fighting a really big Snorlax that has a drinking problem and just takes forever for the big dummy to finally attack you so you can climb on his back and slap him around.