Although I’m only five hours into it, I’m really enjoying Dead Space 3. I’ve enjoyed the enemy encounters and the environments, and the weird little set pieces in space. I’ve enjoyed stomping creature-piñatas and having ammo and health fly out of them. I never really enjoyed the first Dead Space, and appreciated the second one but found the idea of actually playing it made me very anxious after the first hour and a half or so. But in Dead Space 3, on Normal difficulty, I’m having a great time.
I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good thing.
The movement in ‘horror’ games towards mainstream accessibility has benefited many. Look at Resident Evil 4 – it took a horror series and made it palatable for those of us who could never quite bear the original games, taking out the ink ribbon system and fixed camera and adding in a combat system that made fighting back both viable and essential. The series would eventually mutate into something extremely messy in Resident Evil 6 (which has missed its sales targets), but Resident Evil 4 remains one of the best action games ever made.
And there’s the thing – RE4 got away with being what it was not because Resident Evil fans were crying out for a new style of gameplay, but because it was phenomenally well designed. And now, eight years after the game’s initial release, fans of the original Resident Evil don’t really have their genre anymore (save for the good-but-not-great Silent Hill: Downpour, which didn’t hold a candle to the older Silent Hill games).
If it signals where the series is headed, I’d argue that the players won over by Dead Space 3 are less likely to be interested in Dead Space 4 and 5.
Dead Space was never really my thing, I suppose, and that’s why I feel bad about enjoying the third game so much. So many developers are already making games that I’m totally into. My shelves are filled with games and genres that I’d hate to see have their core essence diluted. What if Broken Sword 5 launched with puzzles that have been toned down so that anyone could solve easily , I wonder? What if the next Hitman is more like Absolution and less like Blood Money? What if Nintendo never bothers to make another 3D Mario because the 2D ones sell better, and are enjoyed more widely?
I don’t think Dead Space 3 goes quite far enough to alienate Dead Space fans. But if it signals where the series is headed, I’d argue that the players won over by Dead Space 3 are less likely to be interested in Dead Space 4 and 5 than the people who had been with the series from the start would have if the game had continually been designed to appease them. The initial dip in sales on Dead Space 3 could well suggest that I’m onto something here.
Most of all, I worry that if more and more AAA games are designed to garner wider appeal, they’ll all start to look the same. For all the enjoyment I’m getting out of it, DS3 feels a little generic outside of the weapon-building benches, and as much as I don’t mind the lack of scares they made the last two games stand out.
Basically, I’m comfortable with some great games simply not being aimed at me. It’s wonderful that Dark Souls exists, for instance, and has been successful purely by being really good – I can’t bring myself to start playing my copy again, but that’s beside the point, because plenty of other people can. If winning someone like me over means upsetting loyalist fans, I’m happy to go back to whatever I was playing before.
By James O'Connor