In the last few years, Electronic Arts (EA) has gotten an increasingly bad wrap for it’s decreasing focus on single-player gaming and focusing on multiplayer. Most think this is so they can find increasingly easy ways to make a profit through their infamous loot boxes and micro transactions in which you have purchase the most obscure things (That sometimes you’ll need to actually beat the game) in addition to the main game. An early example of a franchise that suffered from this was the horror-action Dead Space video game series. The first two installments were straight forward but critically acclaimed, following an engineer named Isaac Clarke who battles Necromorphs (Think space-age version of zombies but more diverse designs) and tries to deal with a strange force that wants to convert all life to this state.
However, the games were never heavy sellers, and so for the third game in the series, Dead Space 3, EA opted to added an online co-op element along with a weapon crafting system that, while praised in this aspect, led to players needing to perform micro transactions to make better weapons. In addition, EA forced the game to focus more on the action aspect instead of the horror aspect that dominated the first two games in tone. Sadly, this backfired with the game underselling even worse than the first two games and receiving mediocre reviews. Another issue was, on top of all those unnecessary changes to the series, the game was made to have side-missions and optional storylines which took away from the atmospheric storytelling in which players were dragged along not really having a choice where they went.
The third game ended on a cliffhanger in which the Necromorphs had made it to Earth and were slowly taking over the planet, all while Isaac listened to the chaos over radio while in space. Turns out, despite the third games lackluster sales, a fourth game was in fact in early development at Visceral Games, a subsidiary of EA who made the Dead Space games before EA closed them down last year. So, sadly, the series was left incomplete for fans.
This week however, former Dead Space creative director Ben Wanat was interviewed at Eurogamer magazine, not only confirming that a fourth game was in early development before EA shut them down, but that they were hoping to return the franchise to it’s horror roots. Wanat, who is now at Crystal Dynamics where he’s been handling the Tomb Raider games, spoke about the fourth game in the following quote:
The notion was you were trying to survive day to day against infested ships, searching for a glimmer of life, scavenging supplies to keep your own little ship going, trying to find survivors. We would have finessed a lot of existing mechanics, the flotilla section in Dead Space 3 hinted at what non-linear gameplay could be, and I would have loved to go a lot deeper into that.
I figured you’d start in a section of space, maybe following a trail of ship carcasses to an orbital station you think might have the parts and fuel needed to get your ship Shock-capable. You’d start to form a picture of what happened in that region while fighting through scores of Necromorphs from ship to ship. And you’d learn a new, critical bit of plot info along with the means to Shock to a couple of nearby sectors.
The ships you would visit are where the game would get really diverse. The Ishimura had some inkling of that diversity with the variously themed decks. But imagine an entire roster of ship types, each with unique purposes, floor plans, and gameplay. Our original prototypes for the Dead Space 3 flotilla had some pretty wild setups that I wish we had been able to use.
I don’t want to give away the lore, but I will say that we spent a bit of time working out the origin of the Necromorphs and what purpose humans held in this dark universe. Would players find a way out of the Necromorph apocalypse? I’d say yes, but they might be sorry they did. Sometimes you’re better off with the devil you know.
It goes without saying this is the part of any of the creative-driven medias that really makes it hard to actually emphasize the creative element. Because audiences need to be satisfied and the sales drive what games get made. Sadly, despite Dead Space being an excellent series of games, the lack of profit ruined this gem of a franchise. Uniting a combat system inspired by the Resident Evil games (Namely Resident Evil 4) with sci-fi thrills and brilliant game design (And all the gore you could ask for in this genre), Dead Space will hopefully be remembered more for it’s inventive installments and not the one installment that brought the franchise to ruin. Course, who knows? Maybe EA will try and finish it in a couple years as they continue to face backlash for their current wave of profit-driven games. Only time will tell. Stay tuned!