Friday, July 13, 2018
Before Visceral closed its doors for good, it appears that the studio had been percolating more than a few potentially very interesting ideas for Dead Space 4. But with the developer drafted to create Battlefield Hardline, before tackling its own linear story-driven Star Wars game that will now never see the light of day, the fourth Dead Space game was swiftly nipped in the bud.
Had it gone further, however, Dead Space 4 could have potentially seen you playing as Ellie Langford, taking the reins from Isaac Clarke as the lead protagonist, and placing a greater emphasis on exploration, scavenging for supplies and seeking any signs of life amid the remnants of humankind as it faced almost certain doom. These ideas come from former Dead Space Creative Director - now Creative Director at Crystal Dynamics - Ben Wanat.
Apparently, a jumping-off point for Dead Space 4 was the flotilla sequence from 2013's Dead Space 3, and the kind of non-linear gameplay that could have been implemented in a possible sequel. "The notion was you were trying to survive day to day against infested ships, searching for a glimmer of life, scavenging supplies to keep your own little ship going, trying to find survivors," Wanat told Eurogamer.
"We would have finessed a lot of existing mechanics. The flotilla section in Dead Space 3 hinted at what non-linear gameplay could be, and I would have loved to go a lot deeper into that," he added. "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."
'Shock-capable' being primed for interstellar travel using a ShockPoint Drive. As you'd move from ship to ship, you'd have fought hordes of Necromorphs, and each ship would have been built with unique purposes in mind, with some original prototypes that Visceral had for the Dead Space 3 flotilla boasting "some pretty wild setups", according to Wanat. The weapon crafting would also have received an overhaul, he notes. "There would have needed to be a focus on re-perfecting the weapon balance while still giving players plenty to tinker with," said Wanat.
Necromorphs would have also posed a far greater threat during Dead Space 4's zero-G sections, with Wanat stating that if you could "make a zero-g enemy that can snake through zero-g corridors, propel itself in open space, and grapple with the player to tear off his mask and eat his face? Then I think you'd have yourself a good old time." Who doesn't love a good zero-G face chew?
As for Ellie taking over from Isaac or Sgt. Carver as the lead character in Dead Space 4, Wanat would have seen this as a "clean break" for the series. "With the apocalypse, there was the opportunity for a clean break," he explained. "It wouldn't be necessary for the story going forward to include any of them." As such, Wanat imagined Ellie as the protagonist for a Dead Space 3 follow-up.
With five years since the last Dead Space game, a comeback for the series is looking increasingly unlikely, and indeed, once Dead Space 3 was finished, Visceral and Wanat could already see that the writing was on the wall for the sci-fi survival horror series. "After the third game, some folks stayed on to finish up the DLC, but the rest needed to move on to help other projects. At this point, it was pretty clear that Dead Space 3 was going to be the last instalment," he said.
Wanat adds that Visceral had spent time "working out the origin of the Necromorphs and what purpose humans held in this dark universe," adding that it was possible that the player could have even found a way out of the Necromorph apocalypse, "but they might be sorry they did," he teased. "Sometimes you're better off with the devil you know..."
Still, there's hope yet that Dead Space could one day be resurrected, and should such a thing happen, Wanat sees it as an IP with heaps of untapped potential. "I think the Dead Space universe is a solid piece of original IP. It's a big enough space for sequels, new stories and new ideas," he observed. "You never know. Someone might look back at the old EA catalogue one day and say, 'Whatever happened to Dead Space? Maybe we should bring that back'."
As far as EA's dormant franchises go, Dead Space does seem ripe for a revisit. Hopefully EA will see sense and bring us a new entry in the series.
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