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Back in the day, when the grass was greener, and the planet wasn’t on the verge of economic collapse, one of my favorite things to do was play a good horror game. A game that truly took me out of my comfort zone and increased my heart rate.
One of my favorite games I found for this very purpose was the very first Dead Space game, starring our loveable protagonist, systems engineer Isaac Clarke. Through his eyes, I managed to find the strength to keep my own open as we explored the bowels of his ship together, suffering all the way through.
Of course, when I managed to complete the first game in this series, I was incredibly hungry for more. So, after a lengthy wait, I got my hands on the second iteration of the series, and boy, did it impress.
So, with two good titles under the belt, composed of brilliant level design, atmospheric tension, and decent enough gameplay mechanics, I honestly thought this franchise could do no wrong, and the developers had hit on an idiot-proof framework.
However, my little teenage mind was not as into gaming culture as I am now. I didn’t know that EA was in charge of the franchise; therefore, I couldn’t possibly predict the idiotic turn the developers would take in the third iteration of the franchise. Truly proving that nothing is entirely idiot-proof when a famously greedy gaming company gets involved.
With this in mind, why don’t we look deeper at Dead Space 3 to properly find out why this absolute classic derailed an entire franchise and the hopes and dreams of many fans?
The Series Thus Far
When Dead Space originally debuted, fans loved the oppressive and tense atmosphere that permeated every hallway and room of the dead spaceship that they had to navigate their way through somehow. This, teamed with a unique and somewhat tricky combat system, only exacerbated the tension and drove players crazy with fright.
All of this, combined with excellent level design, asset cohesion, and overall storyline, resulted in the first Dead Space game to garner tones of praise, including two BAFTAs and an overall Metacritic score of 86.
The second entry into the series seemed to continue right where the first left off. Instead of trying o reinvent the wheel, the developers decided to take the successful underpinnings of Dead Space 1 and tweak them, making the second title an all-around better experience for the player. This included minor adjustments to the UI and the combat system and a step-up in graphics, as was expected for the 2011 release.
All of these changes seemed to land well with fans as the title became even more successful than the original, selling over 4 million copies around the globe. Dead Space 2 also outscored its predecessor amongst critics, scoring an impressive 87 on Metacritic.
After this successful launch, it would be easy to assume that Visceral Games, the franchise’s developers, would continue to pump out winner after winner with this IP under their belt. However, the fire nation, I mean EA, attacked!
The Sequal Curse
We are all familiar, at this point, with the curse that all sequels seem to carry on their back. This curse can be seen in most media and is probably summed up most aptly via the third Matrix film, the one we all like to forget about. Well, it would seem that this trend is also applicable to games and is possibly another reason that Dead Space 3 would ultimately fail.
One thing you might come across frequently when scanning the forums concerning Dead Space 3 is that newcomers to the series found nothing wrong with the game. Some actually really enjoyed their experience. When I read these comments, I truly feel how most of our parents must have when we praised the Star Wars prequels.
What I’m getting at here is that Dead Space 3, due to the changes forced on the developers by EA, became a game almost unrecognizable to past fans of the franchise. Therefore, while newer entrants to the series may have been impressed with some of the all-out action in DS3, original fans were left wanting. This deviation from what the core group of fans of the series expected therefore resulting in poor overall reception from the group Visceral games, perhaps though they could depend upon most.
An Unwelcomed Genre Shuffle
I’m not a successful games publisher worth over 34 billion dollars. However, I do know how to follow a basic recipe, and it would appear that Visceral Games shared that knowledge, as they planned to produce a third Dead Space title with similar elements to their first two titles.
The original plan for Dead Space 3 was to strip the experience back, to create a game that was more rooted in horror than either of its predecessors could have ever dreamed of. This would have included the oppressive and demure atmosphere of the previous iterations while also bringing in some more psychological horror elements.
It would seem that the original plan for this title would have resulted in a game very similar to the opening hours of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, as much of the combat would have been removed. Instead, they would have focused on slowing the pace of the experience way down.
To me, at least, this all sounds rather awesome and a completely open goal for success in the gaming market today, wherein titles such as this are few and far between, but I simply could not imagine the stir such a game would have made back in 2013. The good folks over at EA decided that such a game would not be “marketable” and, therefore, it wouldn’t have been successful. However, if I know EA, and I think I do by this point, I would wager that they knew it would be successful, but just not successful enough to be worth their time.
So, with this commandment being made from on high, the developers over at Visceral Games were practically forced to abandon all their months of hard work, including all planning and storyboarding that had already been produced, in order to focus on a more “marketable” game, focusing on action instead of horror.
The resultant game, therefore, abandoned all previously loved horror elements, having morphed into something more like a triple-A shooter than either of the previous games.
How can you properly ensure a game was made under the direction of the beautiful people over at EA? Well, you can simply look at the worry lines that form around the eyes and foreheads of the people in charge of making their games.
Soon after the release of Dead Space 3 and the inevitable backlash from fans around the world, it came out that the developers over at Visceral games were forced to not only rebuild their game from scratch. Creating a game totally unlike the one they had initially pitched and spent nearly over a decade laying the foundations for, but they also had to make said game on a limited budget, having their funding slashed mid-project.
While these reports also stated that Visceral Games were not happy with the situation they now found themselves in, they also reported that the studio simply had no other choice but to stay the course, should they want their game to be made at all. In essence, it would seem that the studio was trapped between a rock and a hard place, both of which were named EA.
The Final Product
With the history of EA and the curtails they placed on Visceral Games discussed, we should move on and talk about the ultimately published game and why fans disliked it so much.
First of all, when I review any game, I first think about what I expected from the title and whether it delivered for me, ignoring the reviews and opinions made by others. However, in this instance, it would appear that my opinion perfectly aligns with most other series fans.
Many other players and I found that Dead Space 3 lacked everything that made the original games so unique. Not only did Dead Space 1 manage to scare the complete pants off of me, but it also gave me moments that I will remember forever.
Dead Space 3, on the other hand, was a completely forgettable experience, teeming with tired and overused FPS cliches that really began to drive me mad as I progressed through the incredibly straightforward storyline. All of this, combined with hordes of nameless and easily dealt with soldiers, resulted in a game that is entirely devoid of the life and difficulties that made the rest of the titles in this series so successful and widely appreciated by fans of the horror genre.
In the end, Dead Space 3 was poorly received by critics and, perhaps more importantly, by fans of the series, receiving a Metacritic score of 78 and a user score of 6.2, by far the lowest of the entire franchise. The more shocking statistic surrounding Dead Space 3, however, is the fact that so many fans were turned off by the path the series took that many didn’t even bother to buy the game, with sales dropping 26.2% in the opening week alone when compared to Dead Space 2. The title only sold a tiny 605 thousand copies in the end.
Future of the Franchise
As with most games that receive rather lackluster reviews and, more importantly, sales, it would appear that the developers of the Dead Space franchise have been forced to take their eyes away from the intellectual property and focus on other titles for their EA overlords.
This really does not come as a surprise for anyone in the know in relation to EA’s track record with franchises over the years. Dead Space may simply end here as another victim of their company ethics, whatever they may be.
When one thinks of franchises and EA, your mind will probably go to games such as Titanfall and Skate. Two amazing titles that have been woefully treated, used and abused by the good people over at EA.
Not only was Titanfall a real breath of fresh air in the FPS genre, but it also managed to produce some real moments of tension and heart throughout the campaign of its second iteration. However, Titanfall 2 was released exactly one week after and one week before Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, two juggernauts of space, which ensured the title received next to no attention.
Also, in a move that seems to signal the ending of the Dead Space franchise, the studio itself, Visceral Games, has officially been closed by EA. Many of their crew have moved on to other things, such as the recent series of Star Wars games.
It would seem that while we may not be getting another entry in the Dead Space franchise, we could be getting a spiritual successor in the form of The Callisto Protocol.
This title is to be headed up by Glen Schofield, a former Dead Space developer who is writing big checks, promising to be the horror space opera that Dead Space could have been. Including all the prerequisite gore that one expects in this genre post Until Dawn and recent Resident Evil titles.
Tentative release dates see this game releasing in December of this year, so we don’t have long to wait now, thankfully.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Will there be a Dead Space 4?
Answer: Due to the failure of Dead Space 3, there will most likely not be another Dead Space title; however, Callisto Protocol is coming out soon, and this may scratch that itch for you.
Question: How are Nechromorphs created?
Answer: Nechromorphs are created through the power of markers. These alien objects emit electromagnetic signals that turn dead tissue into Nechromorph tissue.
Question: When was Dead Space 3 released?
Answer: Dead Space 3 initially hit the shelves on the 5th of February, 2013.
So there you have it, a comprehensive look at why Dead Space 3 hit the mark. In many ways, I think this game represents the systemic problems that have been running through EA for nearly two decades. After all, a company cannot ruin as many franchises as they have without some serious effort or problems.
With that being said, I really hope that the franchise gets another chance to win back some of its fans; after all, the story is still not over, and many of us need that crazy oppressive atmosphere back in our lives. But until that day, I hope you enjoyed this article and got something out of it. See you again soon!