*Author’s Note: This column features spoilers to Dead Space 3 and Dead Space: Awakened.*
Today I wanted to take a look at one of my favorite modern video gaming franchises, Dead Space. We got our last taste of the franchise with Dead Space 3 early last year, followed by its subsequent story DLC release, Awakened. Since that time, news and discussion about the future of the franchise has been worrisome. Since the first game release in 2008, Visceral Games and Electronic Arts made Dead Space into quite the transmedia franchise, spawning comics, mobile games, collectibles, action figures, animated movies, and even books. However, what about the games? Dead Space 3 and Awakened left the franchise in such an uncertain state that the developers might have written themselves into a corner with the ending.
The original ending to Dead Space 3, while not wholly definitive, appeared to have a certain bit of finality. Isaac Clarke, the main protagonist of the franchise, sacrificed himself and managed to save the life of his love, Ellie Langford, who escaped off the icy death trap that was the planet Tau Volantis. We learned that Tau Volantis was not the Marker homeworld and the source of the signal that created the Necromorphs, but merely the homeworld of a civilized alien species who were also tricked and driven to extinction by the Markers. The true source of the Markers and the ultimate Necromorph bosses are the Brethren Moons. Apparently, Clarke and Carver gave up their lines to destroy one…or did they?
Enter Dead Space 3: Awakened. Miraculously, Clarke and Carver are not dead! In fact, they are inexplicably not dead. How did they survive? Aliens saved them, perhaps. Clarke and Carver, in an effort to get the hell off Tau Volantis, find that they basically accomplished absolutely nothing. The Markers are far from gone. A whole freaking network of Brethren Moons is out there, and they have made their way to Earth. So basically, Earth is screwed. The human race is screwed. Clarke and Carver are screwed, and most likely, Ellie is totally screwed by proxy. So, what is next? Well, we don’t know.
Unfortunately, sales of Dead Space 3 did not meet the expectations of publisher EA. There were various reports and rumors online that Dead Space 4 had in fact been cancelled. EA, to their credit, denied those reports and promised that they haven’t killed the franchise. However, there appears to be nothing on the horizon for Dead Space either.
Speaking to Eurogamer on the issue, EA Games Label head Patrick Soderlund stated, “I wouldn’t say it’s [Dead Space franchise] cancelled at all.” He added: “Dead Space remains a brand that is close to Electronic Arts’ heart. It’s been a great brand for us, done by a very passionate team. Is that team working on a Dead Space game today? No they’re not. They’re working on something else very exciting. You have to think of it from that perspective. Is it better to put them on the fourth version of a game they’ve done three previous versions of before? Or is it better to put them on something new that they want to build, that they have passion for?” While it’s good to know that EA still sounds committed to Dead Space, it doesn’t seem like there is any hurry to continue or resolve all those lingering issues of the franchise.
At times I found critics were unfair to Dead Space 3. Fans and critics alike bemoaned the game’s micro-transaction component. While you don’t have to like micro-transactions, not once did I have to resort to micro-transactions in order to beat the game on normal or hard. Another common complaint was the move of the franchise in a more action-oriented direction. For me, the action had always been present in the franchise. The additional action in Dead Space 3 was simply like the transition of Ridley Scott’s Alien to James Cameron’s Aliens. And this is part of why I find the Dead Space games appealing. The gameplay and atmosphere create a feeling of playing through an alien movie. As for the scares, I thought Dead Space 3 was still quite scary and freaky. I was consistently on edge, scared brainless that a Necromorph monster would pop up at any moment and eviscerate me. As for the game’s controversial co-op mode, I enjoyed the texture John Carver provided the gameplay. He provided a dry wit and a sardonic, gallows humor. The Carver co-op missions provided some of the headiest, creepiest, and most unsettling moments in the entire game. And not only was the co-op mode optional, but if people actually played them, they would realize how those co-op only missions are ingrained deeply in the franchise.
For now, it appears that Visceral Games has moved on to another endeavor, that of a secret, untitled Star Wars project. Hopefully, at some point, the company will get the chance to return to Dead Space and continue the franchise on the next-gen consoles. It will be truly heart-breaking if the franchise ends with Awakened.