Before I started playing Dead Space 3 I was considering writing a blog post about why I hate “Free to Play” games. The reason I can’t stand Free to Play games is because I hate being bombarded with “Buy this” ads all over the place, and half the time completing the game without spending any real money is a monumental task. I’d much rather fork over money for the game and call it a day. Which leads to the grand realization I had while playing Dead Space 3.
It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a game anymore. Whether you spend two bucks on a downloadable game for your smart phone or pay full price for a console game. We can now expect to be assaulted every time we load up a game to spend more money. After spending sixty dollars on a game, updating my system and installing the damn thing, EA still isn’t too ashamed to harass me for more of my hard earned money. How many hours does someone working the federal minimum wage in the United States have to work to be able to buy this game on release? Only to be asked to spend more money on stuff that should have been included in the game? Were the projected sales for this blockbuster title not high enough to have a decent profit margin? Give me a break.
I know I risk sounding like a crazy conspiracy theorist, or someone giving EA a bit too much credit, but it seems to me (read with George Carlin’s emphasis) that it’s no mistake there is next to no tutorial explaining the weapon crafting system or how to properly utilize your scavenger bots to get enough mats to actually make something worthwhile. They must’ve figured I’d get sick of trying to get ahead, and in frustration drop five bucks on some already crafted guns I could’ve created myself if given any guidance whatsoever on how to do so. I believe I was about a third of the way through the game when I figured there had to be some way of getting enough Tungsten to actually make something worth using my first playthrough. I went online, and thanks to kind similar-minded gamers, I was able to watch a video showing how to deploy a scavenger bot properly. Then it was paydirt.
I have no conceptual problem with weapon crafting, really. If you’ve played the other installments, you know what to expect when you’re working with a rip core or a line gun blueprint. My only problem is the inclusion of an entirely new system with no guidance. Sort of like my first day of working at Burger King: “Here’s a headset, here’s the cash register, have fun figuring out what all the buttons do on your own.” Thankfully we weren’t above screwing around until we made a couple of cool guns. Essentially, you have an upper and lower gun, both of which you can add upgrades to (more on that in a minute), so in most instances you’re really carrying around four guns when you have two weapon slots.
And you better figure out how to make some necro-stopping guns pretty quickly, because they won’t stop for you. For being reanimated dead bits of flesh flopping around, necromorphs are unbelievable fast. Faster than Isaac, that’s for damn sure, who can never manage to find a sense of urgency. Even when there’s ten necromorphs crowding around him. You have no choice throughout most of the game (unless you like dying and replaying the same bits over and over) to abuse your stasis and find a gun worth using. Upgrade your stasis as soon as you can. Even when maxed, I still didn’t feel like I was slowing them down enough. Actually, my gaming buddy and I ended up putting stasis on our ripper blades, which was a godsend.
Creating a sense of urgency is the only remote semblance to survival horror this game has. If you still expect to get some frights out of this series, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. This installment is more akin to an action-shooter with a taste for the visceral. During a couple of ridiculous crash scenes I had to stop and make sure I wasn’t playing an Uncharted game. Nothing “survival” about it when enemies drop ammo like trails of blood and you can make your own healing items from the over-abundance of mats spewing from dismembered bodies. The only item management you’ll be doing is negotiating between how many spare stacks of ammo you think you should be carrying around. Most of the item creation mats don’t even take up inventory space. I don’t understand the rationalization behind it all, because upgrade circuits and other core upgrade items do go in the actual inventory. This is just nitpicking, because like I stated earlier, you’ll be carrying around so much extra ammo you won’t blink dropping a couple stacks of it to make room for weapon upgrading goodies. And even if you’re worried about ammunition, next time you find a bench you can make some out of scrap metal (a mat that doesn’t take up inventory space) anyway.
Ah, benches. When you aren’t in need of one you come by one every five minutes. When three of your scavenger bots are waiting at one to give you a whole bunch of goodies, they’re nowhere to be found. And don’t even get me started on Suit Kiosks. There must be one of those for every ten benches. When it got to the point where we had the guns we were sure we could commit to sticking with and the enemies suddenly had three times the resistance to the line gun, we said “Okay, better upgrade hit points and armor. Now… where’s a suit kiosk?” Nowhere, that’s where! Not too many of those out in frozen tundra marker alien planet, or wherever, but benches somehow exist.
While I’m on the subject of upgrading and suit kiosks, I have a question to throw out there. When upgrading the Hit Points on Isaac’s RIG, the game tells you it adds 25Hit Points for each step. What does that mean!? There are no numbers in the game anywhere to indicate how much damage enemies are doing to Isaac, or even how much HP he has in the first place. I really would have liked to see some numbers in this game, since we’re obviously beyond the point of pretending this is a survival horror game. I wish more games had the option to turn damage/healing numbers on.
Two of the main selling points about this game I remember reading about are the added co-op feature and weapon upgrading systems. Okay. I said to myself, “Dead Space is going the Resident Evil route. But at least if it isn’t gonna be scary anymore, my gaming buddy and I can play together and it’ll be fun.” Wrong! Well, sort of. The co-op is not local/splitscreen co-op. It is online only, something I didn’t realize until playing the demo. A big disappointment for me. I’m old school I guess. I’d rather be sitting next to someone I am playing with and be playing with a friend rather than some stranger online. As if to rub salt in the wound, while wandering around deep space and such I saw doors with “Co-op only” signs hanging like some VIP event I wasn’t invited to. There’s one out of two down.
As with the weapon crafting, I did like it to a certain extent. Blending two of my favorite guns into one was immensely satisfying. The reviews and such parroted the hundreds of crafting options in the game. I’ll admit, I have a secret fear of missing out on great items in games when I have to rely solely on my wherewithal to create things. And while you could make hundreds of different guns, there are only so many combinations that make sense or hold more than experimental value. After getting more than a handful of upgrade circuits, it became painfully apparent that I couldn’t increase the shotgun’s rate of fire as much as I thought I could. There are invisible caps on item stats, which I began to notice while adding +2 Rate of Fire, for example, yet nothing would happen. I suppose increasing the rate of fire would make it stop being a shotgun to a certain extent, but where’s the fun in that? I want to be rewarded for going out of my way to find upgrade circuits. It is frustrating when the enemies keep getting faster and stronger but you’re stuck in progress because the developers don’t want you going ten minutes without using stasis or crafting items at a bench.
There’s only so many guns that give the impression they do anything to these epileptic necromorphs on speed. Like the shotgun. After getting killed in an optional mission about five times, we decided to backtrack five minutes and turn our Ripper-Line Gun combo into a Ripper-Shotgun combo because the Line Gun was suddenly incapable of decapitating limbs in one shot, even with maxed damage. And, when an enemy doesn’t lose a leg, they’re in your face before Issac gets around to reloading the damn thing. The shotgun, we found, at least had some stopping power. But god-forbid if you have to reload, because even with only one arm left for a limb, a necromorph will still crawl on top of you before the gun is ready to be shot again.
It’s as if the developers are screaming, “Stasis! STASIS! OMG isn’t stasis awesome? Use it!” Yes, I agree, it is pretty awesome. So awesome that I don’t stand a chance killing more than one enemy without using it if I don’t want to lose half of my health. You know what would be more awesome? Is if you could shoot it more than five times and the duration lasted for more than three seconds on enemies, even after maxing out the stasis module on the RIG. Oh, and NOT tying stasis to the rate of fire stat on the current gun he’s shooting. It defeats the purpose of having it. Say you shoot the gun and miss or don’t chop off a leg. You’d like to be able to shoot the enemy with stasis to give yourself time until the gun is ready to be fired again. But in the case of the slower weapons that actually do a decent amount of damage, the stasis is mysteriously not ready to be used either. You’re tied with the weapon’s cooldown, so to speak. And in the many instances when you’re stuck in a room with waves of necromorphs coming after you, every second counts and this feature becomes unbearably annoying.
Yet Telekinesis has an infinite usage pool. This frustrates me, because I never used it during fights. The only time I used it was when the game makes you for puzzles and the super-powered Telekinesis you get in the final chapters that will make you go, “Wow, wish it did this ALL the time!” I find Telekinesis too unreliable. Maybe if there was a way to guarantee I’d pick up a bladed limb instead of a foot or something else among the dismembered limb pile I would have used it more often.
Enough about that. Let’s talk about the riveting story. I hope you sensed the sarcasm in that last statement. When it comes to storytelling, I always look towards characters and character development to carry the tale along. In Dead Space 3, I was left wishing they’d left Isaac as the under-developed Engineer doing everyone else’s menial tasks for them like he was in the first installment.
The story devolved into a terrible love triangle. The two boys vying for the female’s attentions acted like pubescent junior high boys. It was unbelievable. Can someone tell me, is this an accurate reflection of how jealous boyfriends truly act? I know there are only so many human vaginas out in necromorph-infected space, but come on! It also would’ve been nice if the female in question was left to make the decision herself, but the writers made it for her, unsurprisingly. I don’t expect many video games to have accurate representations of strong women, so I really shouldn’t have been too put-out that their idea of a great female character is a chick with her breasts popping out who can’t decide if she’d rather date the Marker-crazed PTSD Engineer, or the macho soldier who acts like he beats her around the house if she doesn’t have dinner cooked on time. And she even makes excuses for him! “He doesn’t normally act like this,” she says… Yeah, we’ve all heard that before.
A writing professor I had once told me killing a character off is a poor storytelling mechanic, and (SPOILER!) in this case, I agree. And, (Another spoiler!) the character who wins the gal is the one who doesn’t get shot by the main character, if you can imagine that.
The presentation in DS3 is as beautiful as ever. The graphics look great and the sound is flawless. Isaac’s stomp has never been so gratifying. I’ll admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when I played this game because I found out it IS possible to release a new game without it being overburdened with technical errors, glitches, and bugs. The game ran almost flawlessly on my fat 60gig PS3. I did have a scare when a door in Chapter 14 kept making the disc loop and refusing to load, but as it turned out some teeny smudge on the disc was the cause.
All in all, DS3 is yet another example of developers trying to fix something that isn’t broken, and irritating a lot of the core fanbase in the process. Someone in the company must’ve said, “Well, now that Dead Space is a couple of installments in, people who are buying the game on release already know what to expect, so let’s shake things up a bit!” Their idea of shaking it up a bit is trying to make it more of an action game, which undoubtedly results in having the worst of both worlds. Adding in people shooting back at me instantly turns a game into an action-shooter in my mind. Then to combine that with the clunky and slow controls that are common to the survival horror genre is disastrous. They even went out of their way to add a Dodge Roll. Tapping L2 twice on a PS3 controller is pretty obnoxious, and in DS3 not worth the effort because it never ONCE got me out of taking a hit. I always found avoiding damage to be the point of dodging and/or rolling, amirite? I will, however, praise the addition of optional missions because it was nice getting a couple more hours of play out of my experience, though it doesn’t offset the co-op only missions I missed out on.
In the future, I don’t plan on purchasing the next Dead Space title on launch, unless it can be confirmed beforehand that the developers have decided it is going to be a third-person action/shooter and not a poorly designed hybrid still masked as a survival horror. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’ll probably still give you my money because I’m a desperate fangirl who just wants a gory scare.