Over this season of The Witching Hour, we’ve gone over Dead Space and Dead Space 2, examined The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2 and even visited Until Dawn. In my final piece for the 2018 season of The Witching Hour, we’re going to conclude the trilogy and take a look at Dead Space 3. While not originally intended as the conclusion for the series, it’s the last Dead Space game to be developed, as the development studio at Visceral Games was closed in 2017.
Dead Space 3 has some interesting departures from prior games. For starters, the entire game can be played in co-op – in fact, it’s the best way to play it, as there are unique missions and dialogue only available with two players. While the first player controls Isaac Clarke, the second player takes the role of John Carver, an Earth Defence Force (EDF) soldier who has quite a bit of hidden torment.
Dead Space 3 opens with an interesting prologue, set far in the past compared to prior games, as the player(s) control soldiers Tim Caufman and Sam Ackerman, who are making their way across the frozen world of Tau Volantis. After accomplishing their mission, the narrative shifts back to the present day for Isaac Clarke. Living in an apartment, trying his best to rest, he’s living a somber life, having broken up with Ellie Langford.
Fate has them meet again however, when a group of Unitoligists destroy the barriers shielding the Marker on the planet. With the Markers rapidly causing the surrounding population to succumb and transform into Necromorphs, John Carver and Robert Norton (Ellie’s new beau) extract Isaac and chart a course for the last location of Ellie and some other survivors – Tau Volantis.
Dead Space 3 manages to juggle two completely different settings in an interesting way. For a good portion of the game, you’ll be exploring a graveyard of ships in the atmosphere of Tau Volantis. Then, when you actually touch down on the planet, it’s an icy wilderness filled with abandoned research stations. The Dead Space games have always had elements reminiscent of The Thing but here, it’s taken to the max in a very good way.
The scale and detail in the environment and setting is extremely well done, though the pacing is much slower compared to Dead Space 2. As a result, this game is more focused on the lore of world and the overall nightmarish plot of what is really going on, at somewhat of a cost to the jump scares, tension and moment-to-moment horror.
Another major departure from the prior games is the crafting system. This time, you gather resources, schematics and parts to build your own guns. Ever wanted an assault rifle with a flamethrower attached? You can build it. There’s a ton of different possibilities and as a result, you no longer have to worry about different types of ammo. Instead, everything uses the same universal ammo resource. While it’s an understandable simplification, it does dilute resource management compared to the previous games.
I also highly recommend you grab the Dead Space 3: Awakened DLC, as it includes the actual ending of the game and what would have been the setup for a potential Dead Space 4. Yes, the DLC should have been in the base game, I would never argue otherwise. With that said, it contains some truly horrific stuff – if you weren’t happy with the lack of scares in the base game, the DLC will absolutely make you happy.
If you can, find a co-op partner to play this game with, as the experience is meant to be shared. Dead Space 3 is not a perfect sendoff but it’s still a fantastic game that is well worth playing. Visceral Games clearly wanted the franchise to evolve and tried a lot of new things here. Some of them work, some of them don’t. Don’t let that stop you (and hopefully a friend) from playing what is still a great horror game.