I did not write anything last weekend mostly because of my first match with my sparkling new Imperial Guard army and various board games. Despite losing the 40k match horribly, it did not sting as much as with Necrons, since my defeat was because my unit choices were poor, not because the whole army was a pile of incompetence.
Another source to blame would be Steam’s weekend offer: Dead Space for a few euros. It inspired me to do something I rarely do these days: Replay the game. For a third time.
Dead Space is a nice little game. It definitely could use improvement, but never makes any unforgivable mistakes. The game controls nicely, is fun to play and most of all has an excellent atmosphere. While not nearly as good as Space Rangers, it teached me a lot.
The game is very immersive. The camera is constantly near Isaac, the main character, creating a sense of claustrophobia. The player must move constantly to see everywhere. There is no HUD; Health and Stasis energy are shown in the spine of Isaac’s suit. Each weapon’s ammo is projected to the player via hologram, as is the inventory, map, objectives and recordings. Except for the few info-holograms at the start of the game and every time a player collects a new gameplay mechanic, there is nothing there to remind the player that it is a game.
But enough reviewing. You can find a review of the game with just a few clicks. I’ll talk about the most interesting parts of the game; The look and sound.
In the game, Isaac wears his RIG, a pressurized mechanic suit. The suit looks appropriately mechanicky, with a gray overall and brown, rusted-looking metallic parts. It looks somewhat cubersome and heavy, mostly because how Isaac is animated. He walks with a slight stoop, taking careful steps. He never does anything especially agile. And the suit also sounds very heavy, the footsteps make an audible clatter against the metallic floor. And most impressively, Isaac breathes. He breathes, grunts and yells when in pain or surprised, and every sound he makes sounds like it comes from inside a helmet. This is especially noticeable when in a vacuum; No other sounds are audible except for Isaac’s breath, his footsteps and when he fires his weapon. The parts in vacuum are my favourite parts of the game; The soundscape is drastically different from the ambient creaking and groaning of the Ishimura and the oxygen is running out, making Isaac breathe more laborously. The monsters are more frightening, coming at the player in complete silence.
For me the game is best when there are no monsters in direct contact. There is only Isaac, sweating inside his suit, aiming at shadows and pressing forward while the ship creaks and meteor impacts thud against the hull somewhere far away. It feels utterly lonely, with only the ship’s and suit’s computers soulleslly talking to you.
A few years ago I played a one-shot tabletop roleplaying game. It was inspired by Vague Voices, a soundtrack from Half-life. Dead Space reminded me of that game, and the next time I played it, I had taken a few pointers from it to describe the soundscape better. Next time I’ll analyze that game a bit more.