If you are new to the dead series you have definitely been missing out on the past installments. If you aren’t new then you know exactly what we are talking about. It goes to show that most of us can agree that the DS series is not an experience to be missed out on, but what about the newly released Dead Space 3? How well does DS3 break the surface considering its reputation?
As Isaac Clarke, you will set out on an adventure across space itself. Isaac will push himself and others to the limit as your well-acted allies help you cut to the very source of every tragic necromorph plague. There is much to explore in Isaac’s wake and there is no definite guess as to how the story will play out. The direction will have you guessing what will happen next the entire game, this is because the surreal inflection that has been introduced in DS3 was done accurately. Social struggles and conversations move in a pace appropriate to the current subject and situation at hand. You will come across small and large problems but realistically none the less requiring you to make bold and sometimes reckless decisions. Having no precursor as to what will happen next results in a story that is anything but bland. Though this is all very enveloping for the player alone, unless you play with a friend you won’t feel a relationship with Isaac’s ally Carver. The single player mode avoids side by side gameplay at all costs depriving players from any NPC co-op killing. This is a disappointment in consideration of co-op being new with the DS series but altogether can be passed off as something not needed due to essentially being a loner stylized game.
There are many positive factors in DS3 worth mentioning along with the few strands of issues hanging from this thread. This version of Isaac’s journey involves a sense of free roam, not funneling you down one specific path. While there aren’t any alternate choices to make you can take up optional missions which are fed seamlessly through the game’s story. These optional missions result in more loot and more game time that are worth playing through. The developers did not cut these additions short and it makes the game feel more full. The loot system is fair in cases of backtracking, meaning when you return to a location you previously visited you will see the same crates whole again waiting for you to break and reap its goods. Thankfully the backtracking isn’t tedious or repetitious, a few passes at most and you are moving on fast enough.
One down side about the gameplay worth mentioning early on is the ice climbing sequences. While they are a different direction in gameplay, they feel like a failure more than a success to the player. Including later in the game the last thing you’ll want to do is troubleshoot your way down a cliff with broken mechanics. If anything it isn’t the most polished form of ice climbing it could have been. On a more positive note save stations are removed bringing added convenience to the player due to no longer needing to stop and save which takes away from immersion. While being a DS game with the same core mechanics, you will have different objectives leading up to a less linear game.
In terms of what we all know and love of DS it hasn’t changed a thing, limbs are still a weakness, stomping to kill the crawling dead, and upgrading guns are all intact. The only change one would complain about in reference to DS’s previous installments is how the horror aspect has changed. It isn’t as dark and eerie anymore, it blatantly changed from survival horror to action horror. Those scares are still popping in and out but not in the same settings and sometimes with a feeling of laziness. To be blunt, crafting is a well working gimmick, while it isn’t by any means necessary to survive (along with bot collecting) it makes a difference in survivability and fun without being a chore. This is due to the various amounts of guns you can create- all being different. Based on different styles of the main gun such as plasma, fire, and even bolts, you can branch off from there and combine different weapon tips to vary the end result. Add this feature with upgrades and a second combination on the same gun and you have a mechanic worth trying. Also, instead of buying parts or health you will only craft parts and health, eliminating purchasing whole items altogether. Upgrading your rig will use the same currency to make components as well so everything is based around acquiring components. Different guns give a lot of variety to what is known of the combat in DS series. This changes the combat interestingly enough without altering too much to make it seem far-fetched, leaving it up to each player.
A strong point in DS3 is it’s accurate simulations of surreal situations and dialogue. Not only is this much more immersing than most cliché moments in gaming history like an evil overlord or boss battle after boss battle, it results in a more puzzle oriented way of playing. Also, who doesn’t love quality puzzles in between a tasty action-horror sandwich? Not to mention, the entire shop system of money, ammo and upgrades are all simplified with the parts system. Upgrades are a matter of finding and buying, not upgrading nodes to finally reach the actual upgrade node. Since you can only roll in a limited range (forward, back, left, and right) you won’t find yourself using this maneuver that often since it is more a hassle than just running around. What is great about Isaac’s moving in DS3 is that he is more nimble than the last. Even better, his actions such as reloading can be done at any time and can also be interrupted now. This makes it easier to stomp a necromorph at your feet instantly instead of waiting to reload your gun resulting in taking damage. Human fights are not dead space’s thing… surprisingly enough (sarcasm), this is shown by the non-necromorphic human battles being bland and almost a chore. They don’t fight back other than shoot and take cover, a mechanic many other games have mastered. While it is an interesting change of pace, it is in no way an overall success. You can only hold two guns at the same time on Isaac’s person leaving one space for your parts bot. Do not fear though, you can keep many more in your safe when you play god and make every gun combination you can think of.
The game’s co-op system is like most of DS3’s downfalls, not something you want to initially play the game for. Again, the DS series has become successful over the years because of its single player story and gameplay. The co-op does not top the single player experience because mainly of submersion. When you take the story and concept away from an experience and dull it down even, you have another co-op principle that many others have done better. The co-op is drop in/drop out that will unlock additional stories and its details. Each character has dementia and experiences this differently throughout the game. This admittedly is a unique mechanic tied in with co-op gameplay, but don’t expect to play the single player alongside your trusty companion Carver. Your interaction will be at a bare minimum and you will only see him mainly in cut scenes. Alas, we digress.
Occasionally we would say this game has frame rate issues and sometimes we wouldn’t give it a diagnosis as such. For the most part it looks well and the environments give it that home-like feeling many enjoy. There are some open spaces but the majority of the game contains itself in the smaller areas DS is known for. So have no fear, the physical structure of the game is built just how you like it! Graphics consist of more detail in each object and the blur effects look good and aren’t overabundant. Walls and the world around you paint a clean picture that is easily held onto in terms of submersion which wouldn’t mean anything without an organic art direction backing such skills. Thankfully, the developers took care of that. Speaking of direction, in terms of character development, they decided to go both directions. They kept the enemies (sometimes just the principle) from previously known enemies and introduced new enemies for a good balance of what we loved and something more. Drifting from the graphical aspect a bit, yet staying with the involvement of your eye sockets, the atmosphere is totally enveloping. The way the game looks is wonderful in terms of telling a story with the room itself giving each level its own story, resulting in more emotion invested into the story. The camera pans slowly and the game provides still, a cinematic experience with nothing altered from the last game, Dead Space 2. Some animations are improved as well showing slight additional detail. Very appealing vistas are introduced at face value. Literally put, vistas are fully visible and you will see more than a few. Some will see better than others, but visually stimulating none the less.
The soundtrack is wonderfully orchestrated to fit each and every sequence in the game. The audio doesn’t stop there, more descriptive and improved sounds come with this installment. Most would be impressed in the detail and believability of each door opening, reload, and wind howl. Controls for DS3 result in the same layout keeping everything like it was, a good idea as it was what many were used to from the beginning.
The DS’s theme has been altered but it is in no way short of a very solid game considering gameplay and mechanics. There are some failed factors introduced in DS3 as we mentioned before such as the robotic AI in humans, online only co-op, and troublesome ice climbing sequences. Mind you, these factors do not block the game from shining through its necromorphic flesh. Regardless of the change that some may not like, the developers of DS3 kept same high quality core gameplay to provide at least 10 hours of gaming goodness. With unlockable doors, collectibles, wonderful story progression, and a cinematic feel to name a few pieces of the cake, this time around it proves to be a solid and mysterious addition to whole series. With DS3, a lot more meets the eye especially if you stuck around for the story and core gameplay alone, you will be in for a treat. There is a theme change yes, but there is no denying it was executed without failure. While a change of theme can make or break a series, they managed to maintain the good. At the same token, if you play and enjoy DS for the constant scares then don’t bother with DS3. If you enjoy DS for its thick story and solid gameplay mechanics, then DS3 is for you.