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Dead Space. What could have been.

Updated: Jan 17

The original Dead Space

There is an excellent article on Eurogamer that talks about what Dead Space 4 could have been. Eurogamer spoke with Ben Wanat, the creative director of Dead Space at Visceral Games. They spoke on how different the game would be from the past entries as well as the idea of a new protagonist. Visceral games were the developers behind the critically praised Dead Space and up until EA scrapped they studio were working on the Amy Hennig Star Wars project.

The hypothetical fourth game would adopt a way more open feel that would involve exploration and scavenging for supplies. The game would still have a chapter progression and linear moments but the developers were excited to try something new and put more emphasis on non-linear sections, maybe something similar to Crystal Dynamics Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Ben Wanat explains:

"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 further the player would get in the game, the broader their exploration options would be.”

Another point of emphasis Eurogamer reported about was how the developers wanted to make multiple space crafts to explore, as intricate and well thought out as the Ishimura. Each would have unique themes and elements making them radically different from one another.

The game would, of course, include new Necromorphs as well as new weapons to customize. But I think the most exciting new feature would be the plans to have players control a new protagonist. Wana always wanted Ellie (introduced in the second game, and later a love interest of Isaac) to be the protagonist for the fourth game and with the direction the game was going, the world being in an apocalyptic state there were opportunities to mix things up and make a “clean break” said Wana. The article states that he always imagined her as the protagonist.

Isaac and Ellie in Dead Space 3

Unfortunately, none of this came to fruition. The third game failed to impress many fans. EA “suggested” the franchise go in a more action-oriented direction. The previous entry had multiplayer but it was very much just tacked on to appease EA What was most interesting is the third installment was always going to be developed with coop in mind. The original idea was pretty darn cool, it played into the psychological nature of the series. Instead of the super boring, unimportant, military-type character John Carver, one player would play as Issac and the other play as "shadow Issac" a visual representation of Issacs alter ego. He would have a different appearance of course but what made it special was that each player would experience different things through the game unbeknown to the other resulting in discrepancies in gameplay that would make you question which one is real and it would ultimately lead to a big reveal at the end. EA deemed the psychological aspect of Dead Space to be not mainstream enough along so it was scrapped for a more traditional approach. Instead, we got a co-op partner so insignificant he would disappear mid cut scene. Eurogamer has an excellent video all about this that I will link below

Issac taking cover from human enemies

Issac taking cover from human enemies

The game also introduced human enemies that were really dull. Dead Space 3 also implemented a dreaded microtransactions system that was unnecessary, to say the least, and was heavily connected to the game's new crafting system. creating new weapons required various types of scrap and other components only acquirable in specific locations using this little droid Roomba, or you can always buy them in the marketplace using real money. All this resulted in a game that lacked the survival horror elements we fell in love with. It was pretty much void of everything that made the name Dead Space special.

All that being said the game was still decent. Isaac and Ellie were still excellent characters and spending time with them was a joy. The gameplay was solid enough and more action approach had its benefits like some amazing set pieces. ultimately it lost what made the franchise unique and the whole experience just felt souless.

Project Ragtag concept art

EA went on record saying that Dead Space would need to have an audience of at least 5 million to keep the franchise alive and so after failing to reach that milestone, EA all but said they were done with the franchise. Visceral started work on the Battlefield franchise resulting in Battlefield Hardline, a solid game in its own right but in my opinion a waste of there talent. After that, a small portion of the team would start working on a new pirate-themed game codename Jamaica which was ultimately canceled in favor of project Ragtag, the now-canceled Amy Hennig Star Wars game.

Project Ragtag concept art

To me, it’s a very sad story about such a talented development team that was just dealt with some really bad hands. In my opinion, Visceral was a company too ambitious and talented to be under the thumb of EA. They don’t make “games as service” games, they make cinematic experiences more akin to Uncharted. EA creates some fine games but they have proven countless times they are only interested in games that can extract as much money as possible from there customers. Games that continue to drip feed content while it sucks the customer dry. Just look at the whole Battlefront 2 clusterf**k.

I like to imagine if Visceral was independent or at least under a company that would allow them to make a game in their own vision we would have Dead Space 4. I still remember when the news came in that they were shut down, it was a sad day in gaming.

Today there is absolutely no word from EA on the fate of the Dead Space franchise. But if they were developing a new game in the series would I even want to play it if it wasn’t Visceral’s vision? What would it be like? It would probably come back as some sort of massively multiplayer game that takes place in space and has absolutely nothing to do with Dead Space. If that’s the case, I hope they just let it rest in peace.

Read the full article on Eurogamer link below:


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