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The changes to Dead Space, paid off.
Dead Space 2 was well received, meaning fans
of the original were okay with the slight

shift towards action. And it sold better than
the first game, with roughly two million sales.

But EA still wasn't happy. Frank Gibeau said
the publisher would "need to get to audience

sizes of around five million to really continue
to invest in an IP like Dead Space".

So the design shifted even further.
If Dead Space 2 started to pull away from
the franchise's horror roots, then in Dead

Space 3 that legacy is a dot in the rear view
mirror of a spaceship that's shooting down

mines, smashing through debris, and crash
landing into a big load of rocks.

If you were under any doubt about how
much the franchise has shifted towards being

an action-packed shooter, you'll find out
soon enough because, after a short prologue,

the game kicks off with cinematic set pieces,
automatic weapons, shoot outs in office buildings,

and Isaac blasting away at human enemies using
his new cover system and combat roll.

Luckily, once you go to space, things even out
a bit and it begins to feel more like a Dead
Space game. But, the focus on action manages

to permeate the entire experience.
Isaac is now the most agile he's ever been
- making his original influence, Leon Kennedy,

look like an old age pensioner.
Plus, by default, the game has switched from
a wonky camera angle that makes perfect shots

tricky to line up, to the centred reticule
seen in other shooters, making head-shots,

and later, limb shots, easy to pull off.
The game now uses universal ammo, which means
that every gun you own can fire bullets from

the same, shared ammo pouch. This almost completely
nullifies resource management, and ammo counts

will never factor in to your decision to use
a specific gun.

Ammo won't be a problem in general, by the
way: supplies are more plentiful than ever

in this game and, at times, I was walking
around with more than 1000 bullets in my inventory.

The universal ammo thing is presumably there
to support the game's new crafting system

where you can upgrade guns or make weapons
from scratch, using bits and bobs found scattered

throughout the levels.
It's an interesting system, supposed to highlight
Isaac's engineering abilities. Problem is:

you are capable of making something so versatile
and powerful - and, of course, compatible

with every bullet you have - that you'll never
need another gun in the entire game.

Some have said that they played the entirety
of Dead Space 1 with an upgraded plasma cutter.

Well, I'm the same, only, replace Dead Space
1 with Dead Space 3, and replace plasma cutter

with combination assault rifle and rocket
launcher with acid-laced bullets and boosted

damage, reload, and clip sizes.
Unsurprisingly, walking around with an incredibly
powerful gun not only reduces any need for

weapon switching, and resource management,
and shifts most of your decision making away

from the tension of the battlefield, and into
the quiet, safe solace of a menu screen...

But it also just means that the player is
so empowered that Dead Space 3 is practically

never scary, relying almost entirely on a
few jump scares to get any sort of reaction

out of you.
Like, there are these deadly new enemies called
feeders and they react to light and noise

so don't shine a torch at them and use kinesis to
oh sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sound of me shooting them all to death!
Even the regenerating enemy who freaked me
out in Dead Space 1 and made me sprint through

waves of enemies in Dead Space 2, is just
a minor nuisance in his Dead Space 3 version.

Versions. There's two of them now and they're
still not scary.

And while old enemies like the pregnant and
the guardian, which is this creepy zombie

who has fused with a wall, do show up, they're
just something slightly different to mow down.

For the most part, the game settles for shooting
lots of basic enemies in very simple combat

situations.
One of the only bits I found unnerving took
place inside the belly of some long-dead alien,

where hordes of beady eye monsters
sprint through a windy maze of dark corridors.

That was pretty tense!
But you can make anything less scary by bringing
a friend along for the ride. Dead Space 3

also adds a cooperative mode where Isaac is
joined by a bloke called John Carver, and

the two team-up to blast away at necromorphs
and unitology soldiers alike - with, almost,

double the fire power.
This mode adds some co-op friendly stuff like now,
when one player is solving a puzzle, the other

needs to defend their pal from attack. And
some of the puzzles have been rejiggered to

need two people.
It's also supposed to have this thing called
asymmetric dementia - because, every game

mechanic needs a pithy, marketing friendly
name - where the two players will see two

different things - but it's hardly in the
final product and I didn't notice anything

of the sorts when playing through the first
six chapters online. Maybe we were too busy

laughing at my character's inconsistent appearance
in the cutscenes.

I think, if nothing else, we can be thankful
that the co-op mode has hardly any impact

on the singleplayer campaign - other than
some oddities like having two of everything

in the environment, and Carver randomly popping
up in cutscenes before disappearing again.

In terms of structure, Dead Space 3 feels
closer to the first game than the second.

Especially in the back half where you're exploring
and backtracking and starting to understand

this cohesive research station, which feels
more like a real place than anything in Dead

Space 2.
You can even do objectives out of order, just
like the first game. And beyond optional rooms,

there are entirely optional missions to take
on - involving some of the more interesting

bits of story in the series.
But the game has pacing issues, just like
Dead Space 1. Where the first part is interesting

and changeable, as you explore different spaceships,
glide through a debris field, and set foot

on an icy planet, the second half feels like
the entire game takes place in the same three

research rooms for about five solid hours,
and then the same three temple rooms for another four.

This sort of pacing was... serviceable in a survival horror
game, where the endless corridors add to the

oppressive feel of the game and the backtracking
is used for some good scares. But it really

grates in an overpowered shooter and, ultimately,
Dead Space 2 proves to be a much better template

for level design in an action-heavy blast
'em up.

Dead Space 3 does find some ways to shake
up its pacing, though. You've got a bunch

of different and imaginative puzzles like
these alien language locks, a bit of Tetris-style

cargo manipulation, and a section where you're
shifting around alien body bits.

And there are plenty of story beats, too.
I shouldn't even talk about the stories in

these videos. It's just not my bag and, turns out,
people are very passionate about Dead Space

lore. But, man, this one goes off the rials.
There's a love triangle, a thing where Isaac

is smooching Ellie like 20 minutes after executing
her boyfriend, and then it starts going on

about evil moons, leading to this bonkers
final boss fight that I don't even know how

to explain...
Perhaps it was inevitable that Dead Space
would become more epic and absurd as it went on.

Original Dead Space writer Antony Johnston,
who had no involvement with part three, said

as much. "Otherwise you’d just have the
same game on a different ship each time, and

that’s pretty dull."
But I'm not convinced because there's this,
like, 20 minute long section that shows what

Dead Space 3 could have been, if the franchise
followed the survival horror path, instead

of action.
So we've just crash landed a spaceship on
an icy planet and we have no objective marker,

and no connection to other characters.
Your body temperature is constantly dropping,
forcing you to move between heat sources to

stay alive, and track down buildings where
you can raise your temperature back to normal.

It's a nice spin on the oxygen management
from throughout the series.

You're also being stalked by a giant monster,
enemies pop out of the snow without notice,

and when the blizzard sets in you can't see
enemies in front of your nose - you can just

hear them.
This would have been an amazing setting for a survival
horror game, riffing on John Carpenter's The Thing.

But, this is Dead Space 3. So when one of
those stalkers bursts through the fog you

just... Yeah. Soon after that you get a warm suit and it's back to basics. See zombies, shoot zombies.
Outside of a few moments like that, Dead Space
had truly finished its transition from a balanced

horror-and-action game, to a more action-oriented
horror experience, to a full-on action game,

just, with a horror theme.
And it feels like a game that is lugging
around the baggage of a completely different

genre, because despite all the changes made
to ammo and weapon crafting, the game still

holds onto things like an inventory system,
level pacing, and monster designs, that were

obviously made for a much slower, more methodical
game.

Meaning that, even if you take it on its own
merits, just as a silly co-op action game

completely divorced from the Dead Space legacy,
it's not a particularly great one, and can't

hold up to something that was built from the
ground up to be about shooting a million enemies

with overpowered guns.
Which wouldn't be hard to find because, while
survival horror games are relatively rare

- third person action games are everywhere.
It's no secret that the shift in design focus,
from horror to action, was less of an intentional

creative choice from the team at Visceral
- and more of a publisher and marketing-led

decision from EA to win the game more mainstream
fans.

"It's a hard thing to do, to make a horror
game have mass appeal. They're two diametrically

opposed things," said Ben Wanat, previously
of Visceral Games. And so, "it was a deliberate

decision in each of those instalments to make
it faster, more relevant to a broader audience."

That decision also led to the co-op campaign
- listen to Eurogamer's interview with Wanat

for more on that - and the goofy microtransactions,
plus the competitive multiplayer mode in Dead

Space 2. All there, to get this series to
that fabled five million mark.

But... it didn't actually work.
"In Dead Space 3 we kinda destroyed
what we had because we pushed too far on it",

admits Wanat. Dead Space 3 didn't just receive
the worst review scores of the series but

it was also a big flop - not even selling
a million copies at launch, let alone five.

And, so, we haven't seen a new Dead Space
since.

And I feel like we keep seeing this happen.
A new game comes along with a bold vision

and innovative gameplay.
And then, the franchise starts to lose what
made it special, making it more simple and

action-heavy, for supposed "mass appeal".
But there's no guarantee that it will increase
sales - the only thing you can be sure of

is that it will piss of the most hardcore
fans of the original vision.

If we're lucky, we'll get a franchise reboot
that will take the series back to its roots.

Will that happen with Dead Space? Probably
not. Most of the key creative minds behind

Dead Space have left the company, and as for
Visceral Games itself? Well, after a slow

trickle of new IPs, EA has since gone back
to its old business model with sports games,

movie tie-ins, and sequels to its most popular
properties - and that's what Visceral Games

is doing, having since made a sequel, with
the Battlefield spin-off Hardline, and is

now working on movie-tie ins, with the Star
Wars license.

But, hey. Maybe this Dead Space saga will
shine a light on something important.

That instead of making a game that
you hope many people will like - it's sometimes

better to create a game that you know a few
people will love.

Hi. This has been Mark Brown with Game Maker's
Toolkit. Thanks for watching! GMTK is powered

by Patreon, and these are my top-tier supporters.
This three-part episode was a bit different
for me. Bit of an experiment. So, do let me know

what you thought in the comments below. But for now, it's back to my normal style of analysis.
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The Design of Dead Space - Part 3 | Game Maker's Toolkit

177 Folder Collection
Amy.Lin published on October 21, 2017
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