I love Dead Space. Probably a little too much.
I love part one and two equally; Downfall a lot more than Aftermath; Martyr over Catalyst, but I’m only a few chapters into the latter.
Point is, I’m invested. Dead Space has inspired in me a level of fandom that no other game has. I am drawn to the lore – cthulonic alien technology, reanimated corpses, religious zealots, planet-cracking spaceships; it’s a fully formed, lived-in fiction, and one that I want to revisit again and again. I care about Isaac Clarke. I want to see how he makes it out of this. If he makes it out at all.
But I’m torn about Dead Space 3.
First, the fanboy problem: I was bummed that Dead Space 3 shifted focus to co-op. That’s not the Dead Space I want. I want to be Isaac Clarke, the most put-upon engineer in the history of space mining, alone, tested and scared; fighting my fear, determined to put an end to the Necromorph menace, getting to the bottom of the Big Question mystery of who, what, why.
I don’t want to bro through the terror. For all that internet toughs like to claim the game isn’t scary, its gotchas still get me. The atmosphere is unparalleled. Violinists hide around every corner. I get the heebie jeebies from it, and heebie jeebies don’t do threesomes. I want to play alone.
Sure, the game isn’t co-op only. But marketing has made it seem like co-op first and foremost, like single-player is some archaic mode from the past that we’re all better off without, instead of the bedrock of horror. I harbor feelings about this. I don’t like it. For two years I’ve watched “fans” become monsters over the changes to Devil May Cry with disdain, but Dead Space 3 gives me a bit of sympathy. Unreasonable or not, it’s hurtful when something you love as-is is changed without your consent.
The end result is this: I’m already disappointed. Game-unplayed, Dead Space 3 has already failed to live up because it’s chosen to go in a different direction.
Not all of that direction is bad, though. I love the idea of weapon crafting. Isaac Clarke should be able to MacGruber through a bunch of scrap and cobble together an effective weapon. That’s super engineer-y. It seems more honest to the character that buying blueprints. The game is committed to the system: gone is the traditional Dead Space credit economy, which would be cool if they hadn’t replaced it with real money.
Before you flip your shit: I get it, I don’t have to buy anything I don’t want to. But here I decide to be principled – how can you justifying a micro-transaction model in a full-priced console game? There is only one justification, and it’s EA’s motto: “Because money, idiot.”
Even that I wouldn’t fault, necessarily. But we live in a post-Diablo 3 world. A game that should have been legendary and nearly was, except end-game loot was tuned to turn people to the Auction House, which, lo and behold, had a real money variant. Given that my trust in this franchise is in a fragile state, why should I believe the appalling line we’re fed about “appealing to mobile gamers and their enthusiasm to pay-for-convenience”? Especially since that model is regularly abused in the mobile space. It is just as likely that in-game material drops will be tuned to encourage real money purchases. They can, so they will – because money, idiot.
Reviews will tell the tale on that. But regardless, I’m not comfortable with premium, pay-for content adopting a model designed to support free games. Game luminary Jim Sterling calls it the ‘pay-to-pay’ model; how I loathe it.
There’s a total of $51 worth of day-1 DLC; weapons and suits and crafting materials, oh my. Part of that is the now-familiar $10 online pass.
And that’s the kicker that brings it back home. I have no interest in playing Dead Space co-op. None. Not now, not ever.
Do I get a discount on the game?
If access to online co-op play is something I don’t want, can I opt out, and buy a solo-only version of the game for less?
No, I can’t. That’s not how it works. EA can saddle this game with a secondary revenue stream and pretend it is a different tier – free-to-play, supported by in-game purchases – while still reaping the benefits of a full-priced console title, and all I get out of it is half a product I want to play.
If the game didn’t have co-op, and didn’t intend to beg money out of me at every bench – if it were in line with the other two games in this series I dearly love – I wouldn’t have a qualm laying down my $60 and space-jumping back to terror.
It’s a funny thing. Instead of adding value – the PR perspective – these things depreciate the game for me. They detract from my enthusiasm. A product stuffed with twice as many features as the last game in the series comes off as somehow less-than its predecessor. These aren’t features I want. I don’t want co-op. I don’t want to be able to buy cheat-codes. That I can theoretically ignore them is irrelevant; perceptually, they have already cheapened whatever experience I wanted to have. I don’t want to give EA new game money, because they will misinterpret that as consent.
But… it’s Dead Space. I love Dead Space.
How much is too much?
At what point should I suppress my affection for a franchise because of my disgust for the business around it? It’s not something gamers do. We are a culture of dead-ending dissent. If you express less than reverential love, you’re a hater who’s just hatin’. The ramifications of supporting game companies that continue to devalue product with this pay-for cheat-code grubbing is always secondary to self-interest.
That’s what I’m struggling with. I want to play Dead Space 3. I read everything posted about it. I’m even creeping on the Neogaf OT, which as low as a gamer can get. I look for confirmation of my disdain; I look for justification to consume. I want to be right and have the franchise ruined by this game; I want to be bullshit and it’s the best in the series.
I’m making this hard on myself. Do, or do not. I’m fluffing up the importance of this decision – do my actions matter to anyone but myself? Will not buying a game I want to play actually send EA a message? If my purchase will send them the wrong message, maybe I should write a letter to the lead dev with the right one: “Dear Sir, I love your franchise but I’m not buying Dead Space 3 because I’m mad at it and you for changing it; also micro-transactions are shitty. I hope it fails horribly and you feel bad about yourself. Can’t wait for a much improved back-to-basics Dead Space 4! Also please do another movie; the first one was rad.”
In the end, is this really all about the co-op? Because I hate that they put it in. I really do. Don’t get me wrong – I hate all the shitty pay-to-pay crap that is worming its way into all our games, of which I feel this Dead Space is a Step Too Far. But, of course, I rarely buy DLC.
If I don’t buy this game, it will be because it turned its back on me, first – it told me that my preferred play-style is a secondary concern to shifting units to the bros. My fan devotion is irrelevant. Dead Space doesn’t care about me, personally, as much as I have cared about Dead Space.