It’s fair to say the Dead Space series has experienced its fair share of changes. From the caustic claustrophobia, atmospheric isolation aboard the derelict Ishimura, to the stunningly suspenseful but increasingly cinematic strewn set-pieces of the Sprawl. Visceral Games’ touchstone sci-fi horror franchise persistently introduces new settings, stories, spooks, features in to every title. Every iteration, like its monsters, coagulating from a bloody blob of reanimated stumps and meat into a necromantic conglomeration of mismatched limbs and flesh, each entry necro-morphing (I’ll stop…) into something familiar while new all the same. For better or worse, Isaac Clarke’s latest extremity eviscerating, curb-stompin’ romp, like any sequel, continues this trend of change, continually creating, adopting and adapting new features to scare, entice and excite players new and old. Yet, Dead Space 3 innovates not only with its own series-unique mechanics but this time borrows the established staples of other genres, RPGs in particular. Dead Space 3 subtly, sometimes blatantly, implementing some of the beloved elements of the RPG genre, dismembering them, necro-morphing them into its own.
Optional missions appear regularly thru-out the game
Errands, tasks, side-quests, call em’ what you will, Dead Space 3 has quests. Taking the form of optional side-missions DS3 boasts a menagerie of one-off side-quests interspersed throughout the main campaign. Ranging from tracking down a mysterious two-hundred year old communication signal to raiding a military barrack for weapons, DS3’s optional side missions are akin to any side-quest in an Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, or Final Fantasy (Ni No Kuni ftw!). Offering sizable vignettes, the various missions explore/expand the fiction whilst providing some good scares in the process.
(Highlights one of Dead Space 3’s many optional side-missions. Courtesy of YouTube user: fightincowboy713)
Blending with the core game, you can diverge into these optional side missions at anytime, smoothly returning to the main task after completion. A prime example of good design, every mission plops you right back into the main fray often times without you noticing, great job Visceral, some RPG developers could do well to learn this. So, in short, imagine a Dead Space dungeon of sorts. Except, instead of vast and verdant plains your stranded in space and, instead of random encounters with goblins, you’re assaulted by mutated, razor-limbed monstrosities. Heck, at the end of most missions you’re even rewarded with a bounty of…
Dead Space 3: Dev Team Edition (…Couldn’t find a good in-game screenshot :)
Vampirizing (that’s now a word, it was that or “sired”) from the vein of games like Diablo or Borderlands (yes Borderlands is an RPGFPSSMS@$#), RPGs in general, the latest Dead Space like quests, also has loot. Like the chests found in any respectable RPG, at the end of nearly every side-mission you are rewarded with a satisfying splay of valuable ammo, resources, loot in every sense of the word. Not only that, it could be argued (and I will argue) the Dead Space series has always had loot. You didn’t stomp on dem’ corpses like a savage for some sort of sadistic, exhilarating, lust, gory thrill did ya? (I did). Medpacks to tesla cores, loot gathering is as addictive in the newest Dead Space as ActivisionBlizzardUbiEASoft’s very own hoarding sims. Like MMORPGs it even has micro-transactions, wait...
(CAUTION NSFW OR PUPPIES; Courtesy of YouTube user: AlphaOmegaSin)
Unlike the often times “we need something in this procedural chest” filler garbage, the loot of DS3 is vital, resource gathering with balanced item management especially critical in those beefier difficulties. In fact, aside from ammo and stasispacks, Dead Space 3’s loot drops yield weapon parts, upgrades, and my favorite metal, tungsten for its all new cra- (these transitions are going to get worse)
Isaac should craft me some better transitions
If this isn’t the most blatant adaptation from the RPG model, I don’t know what an RPG is! (I probably don’t). Eschewing the power-nodes of old (I’ll miss you!) DS3 exchanges credits for the debut of a brand-new crafting system. Unable to purchase (unless micropurchased…) goods, in DS3 you gather resources like tungsten, scrap metal, transducers etc. along with an exhaustive array of weapon components for an even more exhaustive, involving panoply of combinable arsenal possibilities.
(“Courtesy” of: EA)
Want a plasmacutter/sub-machine gun with acid rounds? You got it! What about an electrolyzed lawnmower-blade-firing-ripper/shotgun? Sure thing! Instead of potions, with DS3’s crafting bench hub, you craft medpacks. Instead of allies, or the pawns of say Dragon’s Dogma accruing items, you have little deployable scavenger bots to collect materials and do your dirty work (and, boy, is my work filthy!). Instead of crafting weapons via smith or forge, you scrap guns with duct tape and mineral ores. Some, (like me) may favor a more streamlined node-based, “give me my @*$@# weapon” approach, but the RPG-esque crafting system of Dead Space 3 enables players to experiment, genuinely feel like an engineer with upgrades, stats, and character customization.
My transitions, unlike Isaac’s weapons, progressively deteriorate overtime
Dead Space has always had a relatively robust upgrade system but the third title fully realizes, capitalizes on the new crafting system, further embracing some classic RPG features. After duct-taping, scrapping together your mechanical abomination to slay abominations, DS3, like in DS2 and DS proper, enables you to utilize loot dropped upgrades (like nodes) to improve upon your weapons . +1 damage, +2 Speed, sounds- looks like RPG stats and upgrades to me!
Shiny space suit=Shiny knight armor (also similar box art apparently…)
Any RPG, even pen and paper D&D (I prefer Warhammer 40k) has stats/upgrades, Dead Space 3 an apparent “action horror” title so to sharing such traditional role playing traits. Character customization is a byproduct of such stat systems and weapon crafting. Even though you’re singularly Isaac Clarke, thru these systems and various RIGS, DS3 partakes in character customization allowing you to personalize your appearance (granted a bit limited) toying with cosmetic customs like most contemporary role playing games. Indeed, you’ll need a spiffy space suit when exploring Dead Space 3’s…
Isaac babe, while your out there, you mind fixing my transitions along with those ships?
If the Dead Space font I’m using was equipped with “quotation marks” there would be fat, emboldened ones around “open world”. The original DS confined you to the narrow corridors of the USG Ishimura and, while DS2 opened up the passageways in favor of the large metropolitan space station of the Sprawl it wasn’t until now, the newest iteration that the environments dramatically expanded. Screw-what was the name of that game again?-Oh! Skyrim or that pansy Witcher, DS3’s space exploration is of another scale!
(This game has fast travel for cryin’ out loud! Approximately 1:10 minute mark, courtesy of YouTube user: MrPopAlot)
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating the level of exploration permitted in DS3 (please don’t kill me). Early in the game and consistent towards the middle act, DS3 allows you to explore the dead space (ha! Get it!?...I had to, really, I did) of a number of locales. From the drifting remnants of a two-hundred-year-old fleet to the blizzard blustered glaciers of the planet Tau Volantis, DS3 is unlike its predecessors in terms of environment exploration. DS3 like open world RPGs exercises a measure of non-linearity when accomplishing certain optional side-missions or even main tasks, allowing you to tackle many in any order. There’s even fast travel byway of a small transport ship called the SK-1P shuttling you from location to destination. Dead Space 3 is as “open world-nonlinear” as a game that literally guides you by a holographic blue line can be. Hey, it’s the closest thing we’re gonna get to a true, AAA, Neil Armstrong Astronaut/Engineer RPG…
Isaac contemplates “Red, green, or blue…”
Whether it is a “necessary evil” or the product of natural game development, evolution over time, the Dead Space saga has indeed seen its fair share of changes. Adopting and adapting features from a plethora of genres, Dead Space 3 is (in my humble opinion) as much an “Action Horror” game as it is an “Action-Horror-Survival-RPG”. As much the flirtation of FPS and RPG in a game like Borderlands or Fallout 3 as it is the failed contraception of Aliens and The Thing. With side-quests, loot drops, crafting, its fair to say Dead Space has learned from RPGs. With a more “action-oriented” mixed with the franchise-familiar, paced, scares Dead Space persistently endeavors to stay true to itself, the Dead in Dead Space, as it does to challenge for experimentation, for change.
Are these changes for the better, or for the worse? Well, ultimately, that’s up to you and personal preference. Is the franchise flailing violently under corporate pressures? Forcibly changing in a fight for finances, for a balance between horror, action, while also relevancy? Most definitely. But I’d rather like to think of it in a different way. Dead Space 3 is just one case, an apocalyptic trumpet sounding the end of genre classifications, generalizations, labels and marketing jingoism. Games these days are maturing and rapidly exploring new ideas, new ground, new ways to play to the point to where such superficial terms as RPG won’t, if they already don’t apply, even matter. I mean Role Playing Game? I’d be hard pressed to find a game where I wasn’t playing a role in some way.
Dead Space 3, as I see it, is but one early bell-horn, the death knell booming the end of genre, sounding the bleeding, the blending of elements, beginning the blurring and synergy of something new, the medium of videogames. To tell you the truth, in some ways I am disappointed in Dead Space 3 (an article for a different time). But, in many others, I am incredulously impressed. Visceral Game’s dedication to the series, to its roots, its gameplay, storytelling/universe, as well as dedication to experimentation, their desire to create something new while familiar all the same, is only evidence for their talent and passion for the franchise. Will there ever be a future where genre disappears entirely? Where the term “RPG” or “Action Horror” doesn’t matter? Where and when it is too limited to describe the breath of a videogame? Probably not. But as a fan, as a gamer, I can’t wait to see what’s next for the franchise and gaming in general, cant wait to embark, explore this brave new world.
Forever a gamer,
Hayden Robel (Draco)
Thank you for reading :)
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Comments? Any “RPG” features I missed? Sound off like the trumpets of genre below :)
IF you liked the inane ramblings or would like to funnel your rage/homicidal threats directly, contact me on Twitter (if i ever use it) or follow my my blog. I'm sure you will be thoroughly disappointed!