Sci-fi shooter Prey comes from the System Shock school of games — one filled not only with weapons for blasting away at enemies, but upgrades that give your character weird special abilities. Like Deus Ex, BioShock, System Shock, Dishonored, and many other franchises, how you upgrade your character can significantly change your path through the horror/mystery that is Prey.
If you’re overwhelmed by choice and at a loss as to which abilities to choose, good news: There’s no wrong answer. But if you want to fast track your way to some specific play styles, we’ve got a few handy tips for tailoring your upgrades to specific play styles.
How neuromods work
Prey’s upgrades and special abilities come from items called “neuromods,” which you’ll find scattered all over the Talos-1 space station. You’ll need them in huge numbers to fully upgrade Morgan: High-level upgrades require as many as eight neuromods to activate, so it often pays to save them up.
At the start of the game, you can activate three different kinds of modifications for Morgan: Scientist, Engineer, and Security. Each one focuses on a different kind of aptitude. Scientist gives you new hacking and healing abilities, Engineer open the door for upgrading weapons and repairing machinery, and Security increases combat effectiveness.
Before too long, you’ll discover the Psychoscope, a device that lets you scan Typhon and activate abilities based on the creatures. That opens up three additional upgrade paths: Energy, which features fire and electricity based attacks; Morph, which lets you change into objects the way Mimics can; and Telepathy, which lets you control enemies. You’ll find plenty of neuromods throughout the course of Prey, so don’t worry about investing in early abilities to save up for the alien ones you’ll get later.
One last thing to keep in mind: How you upgrade Morgan affects the narrative. There are achievements and trophies tied to whether you upgrade her at all, whether you choose only human abilities, or whether you choose only alien abilities. And elements of the ending are tied to your choices. That isn’t to say you should focus one way or another, but you should know that many of your choices throughout Prey, including which neuromods you use, will have consequences beyond your skill-set.
The loadouts below will allow you to fine-tune your Prey experience for your particular play style, but keep in mind that you can unlock most of these powers in any order. Generally, you might want to save your neuromods until you run up against a problem you need to solve — like a computer that needs hacking, for instance — so you can get the most utility out of your upgrades.
Play styles and powers
While Prey isn’t a stealth game, per se, sneaking around can be a viable option for getting through the game. You can often avoid combat if you’re careful, and if you bring the right abilities.
Hacking — You can use hacking to get through doors and access systems that can help you get around. Sometimes these put you out in the open, but the ability to open up pathways forward is extremely useful for staying out of sight.
Suit Modification — Upgrading your suit expands your inventory, but more significantly, it also lets you equip additional “chipsets,” which give you specialized perks. There are a few that are specifically geared toward faster, stealthier motion, so lean into those.
Gunsmith — You might not need it, but weapon upgrades can be helpful in a pinch. If nothing else, make sure to deck out a silenced pistol, which is extremely valuable in dealing death while remaining undetected.
Stealth — A no-brainer. The Stealth upgrades reduce how much noise you make, which means enemies detect you less often.
Sneak Attack — Same deal as Stealth. This essential skill lets you dispatch enemies you can’t otherwise avoid, so long as you get the drop on them.
Conditioning and Mobility I — Mobility gets you moving faster, and that means sneaking around faster, which can be essential for escaping enemies.
There are no energy skills that will make you harder to detect, but abilities like Electrostatic Burst and Superthermal can give you attack capabilities that expose you less than guns.
Mimic Matter — Hiding in plain sight like Mimics do is handy for evading an enemy you’re not equipped to deal with. If you’re using this one a lot, you might also want to invest in the Science tree to upgrade your Psi bar.
Phantom Shift — Good for getting out of tight scrapes when spotted. It lets you teleport a short distance while leaving behind a residual image to distract enemies.
Remote Manipulation — Being able to grab objects without having to walk over to them is great for staying hidden, as is mentally dominating robots with Machine Mind to get them to fight for you while you lurk in the shadows.
Mindjack — Same deal, but lets you force Typhon enemies to fight on your side instead of robots.
Getting around Talos-1 is as important to survival as being able to fight whatever you find on it. Prey is full of possible paths and hidden secrets, as long as you’re equipped to find them. Focus on these powers to sneak into all of the space station’s nooks and crannies.
Hacking — Obviously, you’ll want to get your hacking tiers unlocked early. These will get you through doors and into computers that’ll help you get everywhere, and let you read Prey’s story while you go.
Leverage — Lots of doors, passages, and air ducts are blocked by robust object in Prey. Leverage gives you the strength to move that stuff and find out what’s behind or underneath it.
Repair — You’ll need Repair to power some systems, complete some side missions, and open some pathways when electricity is arcing in a room. Note that you can also temporarily kill the power with your Gloo Gun.
Dismantle — Handy for acquiring additional spare parts, which you’ll probably need most of the time.
Suit Upgrades — This is less pressing than some of the other upgrades here, but deep pockets let you carry more of the stuff you find as you’re wandering Talos-1.
Mobility — The last tier of Mobility unlocks a high jump that lets you reach a lot of areas you previously couldn’t. While clever players can often make paths using the Gloo Gun, you’ll wonder how you got along with your regular jump once you’ve unlocked the high one. Moving around on high pipes and in the rafters is a great way to avoid bad combat situations, or to pick off enemies from a distance. High jumping is also useful any time you go to the Arboretum.
Mimic Matter — The outward use of Mimic Matter is to hide from enemies, but you can also use it shrink yourself and slip through small spaces. This will allow you to get through barriers and into locked rooms on several occasions.
Remote Manipulation — Grabbing objects from afar will let you get gear out of rooms and places you couldn’t otherwise reach. It’s useful occasionally, but not as often as you might think, so save this one for when you really need it.
There are lots of different cool Typhon powers you can use to blow apart enemies. If you’re looking for pure offensive capabilities, grab these upgrades.
Psionic Aptitude — Simply put, this increases your Psi pool so you can zap more things with your brain.
Psychotronics — Upgrades for your Psychoscope come from this tree, which will boost your powers in a number of ways with the right chipsets.
Suit Modification — You’ll open up the ability to add chipsets to your suit with these perks, which can boost your various powers.
Combat Focus — This ability lets you slow down time while you fight, which can be great for firing off powers and getting out of danger.
Kinetic Blast — A big bolt of energy that’s pretty painful and explodes after it lands, which makes it great for dealing splash damage against multiple enemies.
Lift Field — This one doesn’t actually damage enemies, but it lifts them into the air and traps them so you can hit them.
Electrostatic Burst — Basically a big bolt of electricity.
Superthermal — Fire. Everything on fire.
Backlash — A psychic shield that protects you from attacks, this one is going to help keep you alive.
Mindjack — Use the ability to dominate enemies’ minds to distract groups of bad guys while you line up a big blast.
Psychoshock — This big blast of energy hurts most enemies pretty significantly, but it also renders a lot of their powers unusable for a few seconds. Psychoshock is usually the ability you want to lead with to protect yourself against enemies while you whittle them down.
Machine Mind — Same premise as Mindjack, except with getting robots off your back. You’ll especially want this one late in the game.
The opposite of somebody relying on mind bullets to deal with enemies, this loadout is all about weapons and robot friends. Invest in these traits to make yourself a mechanical marvel.
Hacking — Getting into computers will unlock a lot of crafting options over the course of Prey, while also helping you find security codes for safes and other bits of info you might need.
Physician — This set of upgrades helps you get the most out of your medkits, which makes it a useful place to invest early to help keep you alive.
Necropsy — A one-off upgrade, this one will help you craft a few extremely useful things more efficiently, like spare neuromods.
Repair — You’ll find yourself making great use of turrets with a mechanically-minded loadout, so make sure you can fix them up on the fly.
Gunsmith — Absolutely essential. Upgrade your guns as fast as you can and you’ll face down any Typhon threat with relative ease, including the Nightmare.
Suit Modification — Inventory space is at a premium if you mean to craft a lot of medkits and ammo, which is likely. You’ll also want as many chipsets as possible.
Dismantle — Get this early to get a jump on your crafting game.
Materials Expert — You can’t upgrade your laser or Gloo Gun without this line, so if you’re finding you want to use those weapons often, invest here first to unlock the Lab Tech upgrades.
Firearms — As is pretty obvious, these perks make your guns more effective. Once you’ve upgraded them, you’ll be pretty devastating.
Electrostatic Resistance — You’ll be surprised how often you’ll wish electricity didn’t kill you quite so quickly, especially when you’re trying to make repairs.
Machine Mind — You’ll probably be hacking a lot of robots, but when you can’t because they’re coming at you en masse, Machine Mind can be a lifesaver as it turns bad robots against one another.
It’s more challenging, but it is possible to make a powerful character while foregoing all human neuromod perks, including health and mobility boosts. You’ll probably be able to afford just about everything you want with an alien focus, but here are a few tips on how to invest your first neuromods once you get the psychoscope.
1. Skip Lift Field: Unless you especially like it, it’s not particularly useful in most situations. You don’t need it to win fights, so you can probably find a better place to spend.
2. You probably won’t need Fear Resistance, either: At least on Normal mode. Throughout our 35 or so hours with Prey, we could never really even figure out what the “fear” status effect did and why we should worry about it.
3. Go for defensive abilities early: Greater resistance to electricity and fire will help you when you’re more vulnerable in the early stages of the game. Especially when you’re first encountering enemies that sling these energy types, having some immunity can be extremely useful.
4. You can wait a bit to invest in Machine Mind: It’s an extremely useful ability, but Prey really ramps up how often you’ll use it toward the end of the game. Before that, it’s mostly for corrupted operators and turrets — but most turrets you encounter will already be broken. This means you can spend your neuromods on something else, at least in the early game.
This loadout is actually pretty easy. The human side has a ton of defensive and strength perks, and your upgraded guns can help you in all situations. Like the Pure Alien build, you’ll have plenty of neuromods to spend throughout the game, which will probably mean you’re going to get almost everything on the human abilities side if you’re doing a lot of wandering about Talos-1. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of the abilities quickly.
1. Start with exploration: Everybody starts out pretty weak in Prey, but many of the human upgrades will help you get access to locked rooms, where weapons and neuromods are usually kept, as quickly as possible. Unlocking abilities that will get you through doors or into safes is exceedingly useful.
2. Repairs are essential: Grab the repair perks early. They’ll get you access to turrets, which are your best friend when you’re not getting any Typhon abilities. They’ll also let you fix a number of Recycler and Fabricator machines throughout Talos that you’ll be happy are there throughout the game, whenever you need gear you’re short on.
3. Upgrade your weapons: It feels like the first few areas of Prey are flush with weapon upgrade kits, and there’s no reason not to use them as soon as you can to make your guns as good as they can be. You’re going to be relying on these weapons for the entire game, so as soon as your guns are ready for it, start snagging the Gunsmith and Lab Tech perks to keep making them better.
4. Skip Psyonic Aptitude and Stamina: The Psyonics set of Scientist perks are only good for adding chipsets to your Psychoscope, so you won’t need most of it if you’re not using Psi powers. You might want to increase the number of chipsets you can equip eventually — after all, there are a few that give you increased chances for critical hits with your weapons — but for most of the game, you won’t need to worry about it.
Similarly, unless your play style really requires it, don’t bother wasting neuromods on Stamina upgrades. You’ll probably never need them.
As for upgrades to your toughness and health, use your own discretion. It’s very possible to get through Prey without needing much in the way of additional health or damage resistance, because most of the time, health packs, food, and crafting materials are abundant. If you’re struggling, try leaning into those areas (or adjust your play style and get sneakier). These on-the-fly changes are why it’s good to try to keep a few neuromods in your inventory at all times, rather than try to use them as quickly as you get them. Installing a new ability or perk when you come up against a challenge can make dealing with it a lot easier.