I’ve heard from word of mouth that Dead Space 3 changed from the suit of its predecessors and switched from a horror game to more of an action-oriented game, and it even included outlandish things like rolling and crouching. One of my friends in particular voiced his opinion that the Dead Space series should have been horror games through and through. While I do respect the guy’s opinion, I found myself disagreeing with him the more I played Dead Space and Dead Space 2.
I have come to believe that the reason for the series’ change in design was because of protagonist Isaac Clarke’s mental and character development over the course of the first two games and into the third one. The context of each game also justifies the change.
The context of the first game justifies it being a survival-horror game; the context of the second game justifies it being a more disturbing horror game, and the game where Isaac develops as a character the most; and the context of the third game justifies it being more of an action game.
With the cards now firmly set on the table, allow me to explain myself.
During an illegal mining operation on a remote planet called Aegis VII, an “alien” artifact (known as a Marker) was brought on board the USG Ishimura (a deep-space mining vessel) to later be transported back to Earth. The Ishimura didn’t get very far, however, as an infestation soon started to spread throughout the ship, infecting, killing, and transforming its crew. The outbreak ensued, both on the ship itself and on the mining colony on the surface of Aegis VII. Both the colony and the Ishimura went dark in a matter of hours, but not before a distress call was launched from the Ishimura.
After receiving a distress call from the Ishimura, a repair crew and security detail was sent to investigate and fix the problem, believing it to be a regular repair mission. Among their number was engineer Isaac Clarke, who volunteered for the mission to find his girlfriend Nicole, who was a senior medical officer on board the Ishimura.
Isaac and company had crashed into a survival situation where they had to fight to stay alive and work together to keep the ship from falling apart. Isaac in particular, considering that he was passively searching for evidence of his missing girlfriend whenever possible.
Unbeknownst to them, the majority of the crew of the Ishimura was either dead, dying, or something else. With two other surviving companions from the repair crew, Isaac had to figure out what had happened to all of the crew members of the Ishimura, as well as repair the ship along the way. Every now and then, he’d bump into the odd survivor, but they would quickly get killed off by a Necromorph or by a disturbingly calm, insane survivor before Isaac could do anything about it.
Needless to say, the events on the Ishimura were very traumatic for Isaac, and he was lucky to get out of the whole mess alive.
Isaac is just an engineer who volunteered for a mission with the hope of seeing his girlfriend again. He’s not a soldier, and yet he has to overcome leaps and bounds to survive and find his way off the Ishimura. He has never encountered such things like the infestation that mutilated the crew.
In Dead Space, Isaac is usually traversing tight corridors rather than open spaces. To me, this justifies why some mechanics that were introduced in Dead Space 3 (crouching, rolling) were not in the first Dead Space; because there wasn’t a need for them. Why would Isaac crouch behind cover when something is violently running at him? Why would he roll out of the way when there was nowhere to roll?
Additionally, because he has never been in a life-or-death situation like fending off reanimated monsters, I believe Isaac wouldn’t know what to do in such a situation, other than simply to do what it takes to survive – after all, he’s just an engineer and has no military background, and thus, no military training. This, along with the environment Isaac happened to be in, would contextually explain why Isaac wouldn’t roll out of the way in some situations.
Another reason to justify the absence of crouching or rolling would be because, say, if he was crouching, he would be doing nothing more than just making himself a sitting duck for undead monsters to creep up behind him.
The Marker brought on board the Ishimura induces hallucinations in humans. Due to the horrific and traumatic events on the Ishimura, there are multiple occasions when Clarke has minor hallucinations when traversing through the ship that were induced by the Marker, which added to his trauma. Not to mention that it also buried blueprints into his mind that would be essential to other parties in the future.
His hallucinations reached such an extent that he started to see his girlfriend Nicole; however, unbeknownst to him, she was just an apparition conjured up by the Marker. “Nicole” persuaded Isaac to take the artifact back down to Aegis VII, where he discovers that the real Nicole committed suicide whilst on the Ishimura during the infestation outbreak.
Hallucinations of his dead girlfriend continued to haunt Isaac into the second game, which acts as a critical catalyst in Isaac’s development as a character. Plagued by the guilt of his girlfriend’s passing, Isaac subconsciously clung onto the memory of her, not wanting to let her go.
In the second game – Dead Space 2 – Isaac is brought to a psychiatric ward on Titan Station, a colony latched on to the remains of Saturn’s moon Titan, where he was brainwashed into constructing more Markers from the blueprints that were burned into his mind. He was also diagnosed with dementia and post traumatic stress disorder. After three years, Isaac finds himself being woken up and flung into another survival situation with the same beasts and more sprawling about the station.
Not only did he continue to see hallucinations of Nicole thereafter, but he also continued to see hallucinations of the Necromorphs that were on the Ishimura, which would be very disconcerting for a PTSD patient. Every once in a while, Isaac would succumb to rather vivid hallucinations of the dead, causing him to either stop dead in his tracks or unknowingly try to kill himself.
Along the way, however, he encounters a fair few survivors. His encounters with them don’t last long, mainly because they either flee or are killed by a Necromorph. There are even many occasions when he passes by residential areas, where the screams and deaths of occupants can be heard from behind closed doors.
Only two of the said survivors band together with Isaac to help him. One of those survivors tells Isaac that there’s a way to destroy the Marker that’s within Titan Station, a Marker that turns out to be one that Isaac built.
Isaac is very much in the same situation as he was back on the Ishimura. More fundamentally, as the game progresses, he comes to terms with what happened with the Ishimura and Nicole, and in turn, he develops more as a character. By the end of it all, he pretty much gives a giant middle finger to both Nicole and the Marker he created on Titan Station.
There are two turning points in Isaac’s character development during his escapades in Dead Space 2. One of them is the acceptance of Nicole’s death, and the other is the giant middle finger to her and the Marker.
Isaac was under the impression that the hallucination of Nicole would help him destroy the Marker. Even though Nicole plagued Isaac for the majority of Dead Space 2, she did in fact help him in a small part after he accepted that Nicole was dead and there was nothing he could do about it. This was a turning point for Isaac, because it symbolized that he was no longer going to be running away from his doubts and fears. He was going to face the Necromorph and the Marker threat head-on and destroy them. He knew what he had to do from then on, even if it was rather impulsive.
The second turning point is when Isaac is tricked by Nicole into getting closer to the Marker and be “absorbed” by it. Isaac shouldn’t have trusted the Markers apparition of Nicole to begin with because Nicole was leading him to the Marker on purpose. In the final showdown between the two, Isaac mentally battles out the Marker’s hold on him and escapes from Titan Station along with the last remaining survivor that stuck with him.
The events that took place both in Dead Space and Dead Space 2 affected Isaac’s mind. Along with suffering from PTSD and dementia, he also had to fight for survival, and sometimes for the survival of others. However, it’d be foolish to say that what happened to him didn’t leave a permanent mark on his psyche. Aside from the Marker blueprints that were burned into him, he still suffers from what happened to him, something which ties into the beginning of Dead Space 3.
As for Dead Space 3, it is more action-oriented because Isaac is forced into finding a way to destroy the Necromorph epidemics once and for all. Because a majority of this takes place in large, open areas with larger enemies and Isaac has had more combat experience, he is more on the ball when it comes to fighting Necromorphs this time around. Not only that, but Isaac also encounters human enemies who use cover and the occasional grenade.
I believe the crouching and rolling mechanics were implemented into Dead Space 3 because crouching is used for ducking for cover from enemy fire and sneaking past Necromorphs with sensitive hearing, and rolling is for quickly moving out of the way of explosives or wide-sweeping Necromorph attacks.
Leading up to Dead Space 3, however, Isaac had little need for the use of those mechanics. Except maybe the rolling mechanic, but that’s just personal opinion.