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Hopes and Fears: Dead Space 3

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The Dead Space series has been one of my favorite new IPs this generation. Dead Space 1 was one of the first games I purchased with my PS3, picked up on a whim due to its low price tag, and ended up being a great surprise (that and Valkyria Chronicles, great way to start out). The second came out a year or so later and was among my favorites of 2011. I worried a bit about the shift to a more action-y presentation with a more vocal Isaac, but after I had played it through I was more than satisfied. While not exactly “scary” in a traditional survival-horror game sense, the Dead Space series creates a superbly tense atmosphere, keeping you on edge and alert as you progress.

And now we have Dead Space 3. I know EA has always been involved with the series as the publisher, but many of the games they’ve been involved with recently have rubbed fans (including myself) the wrong way. I have some concerns for the series I’ve become so attached to, but there’s always still an optimistic (or naïve) glimmer of hope lurking in my mind. Here’s how I’m feeling about the next entry to the Dead Space series.

HOPES

New enemies and weapons

Everyone knows about the whole engineering tools turned dismemberment aids that are Dead Space’s weapons.  I was genuinely worried when rumors of no plasma cutter in DS3 were flying around. Thankfully, that was proven false. DS3 seems to be emphasizing weapon customization with its combinations, so it looks like that’ll be pretty neat. But weapons are pointless if there are no potential threats to shoot them at. DS2 did a good job of adding in new enemy types, especially those raptor-like enemies that would peek around corners and try to flank or surround you. I relished any encounter with those guys. If some new enemy varieties can keep on surprising me, I’ll be very pleased.

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More zero-g is always welcome, too.

Bosses

Bosses are great. They can be some of the most memorable moments of a game if executed well, or just a pain in the ass. DS1 had a couple, the notable one being that tentacle beast you fight in the “sort of zero gravity” room. With DS2, the only real “boss” I recall is the final boss, which was more frustrating than satisfying, especially if you didn’t have the best weapons on hand. The trailers for DS3 have already shown some footage of Isaac fighting some gigantic creatures, so I can only hope it’s a common occurrence and not just a drop in the bucket. You have pretty much free reign when it comes to designing undead type bosses. Resident Evil 4’s have stuck with me and I look forward to the encounters each playthrough. I hope DS3 can hit the mark with its stronger foes.

Lore and some closure

I find the Dead Space lore pretty interesting, interesting enough that I read the Dead Space: Martyr novel (can’t really recommend it). DS2 delved into the government’s involvement with the Marker, and it seems like Isaac is going to take an active role in opposing them from here on out. I’d also like to see more Ellie, but I believe she may be kidnapped for a portion of the game (why can’t SHE be the co-op partner, huh?). My longshot hope would be to receive some kind of closure, or some substantial reveals about the Marker and the related necromorphs. Where’d the come from? What’s their goal? Just to consume or survive and spread? Or something else? If these have already been answered in some way, shape, or form then I must not have been paying close attention, but if the series is to end here (here’s where I doubt, since I fully expect some more franchise milking), some answers would be nice.

FEARS

Cover-based combat

There are lots of cover-based shooters on the market nowadays. Some are enjoyable (go play Vanquish). Some are not. DS3 still has necromorphs roaming around, and I’m not against the crouch and roll mechanics, but the inclusion of human enemies is worrying. Why take a unique game series and copy what other series are doing? Will dismemberment still be key to victory with normal dudes, or will it be machine gun fire in bursts like every other whack-a-mole shooter out there. Hopefully it won’t beas bad as I’m imagining.

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Oh look, medium sized barrels placed conveniently in front of a human soldier encounter. How fortunate.

Shoehorned co-op

I’m iffy on co-op designed games because I don’t always want to play with others. Most games accommodate for that, and it does look like DS3 is doing so with its drop-in-drop-out totally optional play, but I can’t know for sure until I’ve tried it myself. I just don’t want the game to turn into what Resident Evil 5 was, a decent game that, while still fun, was hurt by either an annoying AI partner or lack of tension when you’re playing with a buddy.

Budget concerns

Games need to make money. Visceral and EA need money to continue to make games. That’s how things work. But when EA says that Dead Space 3 needs to sell 5 million copies to survive, I start scratching my head.  Here’s the quote:

“In general we’re thinking about how we make this a more broadly appealing franchise, because ultimately you need to get to audience sizes of around five million to really continue to invest in an IP like Dead Space.

“Anything less than that and it becomes quite difficult financially given how expensive it is to make games and market them.

“We feel good about that growth but we have to be very paranoid about making sure we don’t change the experience so much that we lose the fanbase.”

I know games are expensive to make, but is it realistic to aim for that high of sales numbers? Could it be possible, hypothetically, that EA spent too much on marketing than it should have, and seems to think that such exorbitant sales numbers are necessary to keep the franchise afloat? I don’t think making games more “broadly appealing” will benefit the games themselves, just the sales. Making a game less unique and more like the others could possibly bring in new fans, but will likely make the game less appealing to previous fans. Quotes like this make me worry, EA, and I really hope you don’t run this franchise into the ground by pumping out sub-par entries to make a quick buck.

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