Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Gaming Gab: Dead Space 3

The Dead Space series grew on me. I was indifferent with the first game, and after a short bit of gamer RAEG I came to the conclusion that the sequel was actually pretty damn good. Now the series comes to its epic conclusion and I had to wait until I got back from a business trip before I could take on the Necromorphs one last time.

Dead Space 3 takes place well after the events on Titan. Isaac Clarke is living in squalor on a Lunar Colony when all hell breaks loose. EarthGov presses him back into service to follow in the path of his now ex Ellie (from Dead Space 2), who’s gone off to find the source of the Markers. Then the Unitologists — the cult that thinks the Markers are divine — pursue Isaac to punish him for his blasphemy. Seems that the cult (which merits comparisons to Scientology) now has the assets and man power to start open rebellion against Earth Gov, demanding the colonists convert or die. It’s an odd ultimatum, given the Unitologists believe death is needed for salvation.

After a Die-Hard style pursuit sequence, Isaac reaches the Earth Gov ship and they jump to Tau Volantis, site of an ice-ball planet and a 200 year old ship graveyard.

Gameplay from a mechanical perspective hasn’t changed much. Isaac now has the ability to take cover and do a barrel roll rolling dodge. I think I may have used the roll once, and the cover mechanics only work as far as a gun wielding foe is involved. That’s only required about a third of the time at most.

The engineering portion — and with it the weaponry system — has gone through the most change. You can collect weapon parts throughout the game, but you can also find raw resources to assemble said components. The resulting variety of weapons can become quite impressive, allowing you to put together any combination of offense you might like. This is rather important considering you can only carry two weapons (as opposed to four previously). I crafted and kept a hold of a shotgun with an underbarrel assault rifle — both of which did acid damage.

The raw materials and upgrade circuits replace the power nodes for both weapons and your R.I.G. The latter hasn’t changed much, with upgrades applying to health, armor and oxygen. Upgrading the air tank right off the bat makes the deep space segments a little too easy, but it doesn’t hurt.

To aid your resource gathering beyond curb-stomping crates and corpses, the game provides you (eventually) with scavenger drones. The in-game tutorial provides poor instructions as to how to use them effectively, but the audio cue is distinct enough once you make the connection. While the drones aren’t all that quick, effective use can get you plenty of goods, including ration packs. The packs are a separate in game currency you can use to “buy” bundles of random goodies. These bundles can also be bought with real money (i.e. your wallet). I’m not sure what to make of this — you can’t necessarily “buy” your way through the game, but you can make the trip a little easier.

The story is a solid escalation from the previous two games — Tau Volantis is the source of the Markers’ ability to inflict insanity and create Necromorphs. However, due to an untimely Plot Complication, getting down to the planet’s surface becomes easier said than done. This stage of the game is quite entertaining, maintaining the claustrophobic element from the previous games without feeling monotonous.

During this stage you reunite with Ellie, who’s gotten over Isaac. Of course her new flame is Captain Norton from your recently complicated ride, so the obvious tensions rise there. Also Norton has strong doubts to continuing the mission. Either one of these is a red flag, both means you’ll be shaking your fist at some point saying “curse your sudden and inevitable betrayal!” Yeah, it’s a spoiler — if you’ve never watched horror movies.

I should have noted this previously, but the game introduces two new main characters. First there’s Carver, a soldier assigned to the mission after losing his wife and daughter to a Necromorph attack. He’s protagonist number two if you play the game in co-op mode, which makes three side missions available. Then there’s Jacob Danik, the antagonist, and leader of the Unitologists. Both characters also appeared in the graphic novel Dead Space: Liberation, released around the same time as the game. In my review of Mass Effect 3, I mention that I shouldn’t have to be required to turn to auxiliary sources to understand the core story. Fortunately this case you don’t have to. The newer characters are inserted into the story effectively enough to not require the printed prequel.

About halfway through I came to the realization that Nicole — the spectral psychosis that haunts and guides Isaac in the first two games — never shows up here. This isn’t a bad thing, the writers could have easily taken the lazier path and kept her around to harry Isaac’s sanity. They didn’t, which is good. Isaac had accepted and moved on by the end of the second game. Including Nicole would have taken away from the current plot.

Another thing I noticed was there was less attempts at scaring the player by having monsters jump up right in front of you going “booga-booga.” It happened, but not with the same frequency as before. Instead, I found the game focusing a little more on atmosphere and mood — which helps when you’re trying to build a sense of dread.

The dead alien cityscape was sufficiently eerie. Piecing together what happened to the previous expedition from 200 years ago is a dreadful matter in its own right. Yes, the prologue kind of spoils it, but it doesn’t water down the experience of poring through the wreckage and hearing the voices of the long departed. When you the reach the point where “Condition Five” is invoked, you understand why things ended the way they did. It confirms Isaac’s suspicions about what’s at stake.

At the same time, not everything about the Markers is revealed. I like that because it allows players to let their imagination run around a little and stir up that dread in the brain pan. That’s how good horror should work.

In all, I was satisfied with Dead Space 3. The ending worked well for me, and I actually hope this is the last of the series. You could carry on with Ellie, but at this point the story becomes repetitive, and the series would go the way of sucktastic horror sequels.