Dead Space 3 is, for the most part, scare-less.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its unnerving moments. The hangar where you first find the Crozier shuttle (with all the exploders) is rather scary, but only because the creepy string music doesn’t ever end while you’re in the room. So is the first time you encounter Feeders, but you soon learn they aren’t really anything to fear if you can find a choke point and have an automatic weapon.
The Regenerators are always frightening, but they are only scary because they are un-killable. And with the weapons you can make now days…more on that later
The Creeper (divider head) and Swarm deaths end in Isaac becoming a Necro, and are genuinely disturbing.
Necromorphs pop from vents (and the snow). Exploders sneak up on you, all the while making that terrible cry. Stalkers stalk. Twitchers…twitch. But this is all something we’ve seen before. They don’t scare us; they just make us nervous (if you’re playing on a higher difficulty; otherwise you almost can’t die). So how does Dead Space become horror again? Let’s take a look at what’s wrong and doesn’t work and how I think it could be fixed, and what should be brought back.
I LOVE Dead Space 3’s crafting system, and I don’t want it to change. I love making ridiculously overpowered weapons of mass dismemberment. They’re fun. Being able to laugh off enemies that would have troubled me in previous games is a great feeling. Here’s the problem: a big part of survival horror is being low on ammunition with underpowered weapons. Dead Space 3 has neither of those (except for on Pure Survival and Classic). Also, there’s no reason for players to build a lesser combo (or a one handed weapon at all, for that matter). Why build a Plasma Cutter with an under slung Ripper (I actually did build that) if you can build a Mark V Chaingun with an under slung Mark II Overclocked Force gun with Mark II Damage Support and Mark II Acid Bath (I built this gun too. It’s a beast).
So here’s my proposal. I love Dead Space 3’s crafting system and it’s great fun to use and mess with. But there needs to be a way to limit it if the player so chooses. I’m not saying totally eliminate it; There would be two modes of crafting. In normal games, you would get the Dead Space 3 system. But there would be a new difficulty mode where there was “Basic Crafting”: you can still craft, but only the functions from the weapons of Dead Space 2 would be useable (you can combine attributes of dead space 2’s weapons in any way you want, but those are the only weapons whose attributes you can use. Hope that makes sense). This would allow players to choose a more survival horror experience, and still be able to craft.
Take a look at the following pictures and tell me which one is scarier.
I’m not gonna lie; I loved the original Dead Spaces, but I was tired of dark grey corridors by the time Dead Space 3 rolled around. I like Tau Volantis. It’s a great setting. It’s just not that scary when it’s so bright. I enjoyed not being on edge all the time, but it’s not exactly horror. A little more dramatic lighting goes a long way. How about a level at night (but not like the ones at the Rosetta Lab, where there’s a spot light every twenty feet). It could be nearly pitch black, and the player would have to use their flashlight to see (It would be similar to, you know, walking around at night in the real world). That way it could still be dark but not be on a space ship.
Zombie Soap Opera:
While the little love triangle might have made sense story wise, it doesn’t help the situation be any scarier. It’s the end of the world, there are space zombies everywhere, and all Isaac and Norton can do is fight over Ellie? Come on. You guy should be practically losing your minds. The only time that happens is when Norton has his little freak out and you blow his head off. Character writing in the future needs to be better.
I could go on, but let’s talk about the stuff to add.
Sense of Location:
The Ishimura felt like a real ship. Part of what made it feel like that was the fact that Isaac didn’t just progress through it linearly; He visited some decks multiple times. This feeling of revisiting (not to be confused with backtracking) is good as it makes the location feel like a place rather than a long line of rooms on a level map.
I enjoyed fighting the Circle’s soldiers…occasionally. They are stupid, die too easily and the only time they are scary is when they have a rocket launcher. They might have fit Dead Space 3’s plot, but not it’s game play. Now let’s do another ‘which picture is creepier’:
I’m going to guess that you said the one from Awakened. There’s a reason that Call of Duty isn’t a horror franchise. Every enemy is a human, and there’s no doubt about it. The second picture is scary because you don’t understand it; you don’t really know what it is. It looks human, but is it? Dead Space has always been very macabre, even when there are no Necros in sight. These guys might be easy to kill, but at least they are slightly unnerving.
==Less is More ==
There’s just too much in Dead Space 3. Too much air, too much ammo, too many enemies. In the original Dead Space, you were out gunned and under armored, but Necros also only came two or three at a time (most of the time). Having less enemies will allow the game to give you less ammo and still make fights possible. Players don’t judge a game based on the number of enemies they fight. Players judge a game on how well it lived up to their expectations. When you’re almost out of ammo, two slashers and a leaper can be scary.
That brings me to my next point. We need less air (by default). Dead Space 1 and 2 defaulted you to around 30 or so seconds of air. Dead Space 3 defaults you to roughly 220. There’s a slight difference there. Now you could argue that it’s that way because of the huge amounts of space walking required in DS3, but there are air cans everywhere. There’s no pressure to hurry in space. While that’s a nice relaxing feeling, it’s not survival horror. 220-300 should be your max, not your start.
Hallucinations has always been a huge part of Dead Space…until number 3. Sure Carver hallucinated, but only if you played Co-Op. Isaac’s hallucinations have always added an unnerving feel to the game. One of my few scares in Dead Space 2 (that weren’t jump scares; I don’t count those) was when you exit a vent in the church and are immediately grabbed by ‘Nicole’ who tries to stab your eye out with a needle. That was scary. The various scenes where ‘Nicole’ did her glowing eye thing and spoke to you were creepy. The level where you re-board the Ishimura is the creepiest of the game. Awakened had the right Idea, and I hope future Dead Spaces continue in that way.
These are some of the things that I think need to be re-added or changed to make Dead Space scary again. Thanks for reading!