Dead Space 3 - What's next for Isaac Clarke?

Warning: While the following article is DS3 spoiler-free (I don't know anymore than you do), be careful if you go searching around the web. It seems some folks have their copies and have posted some pretty major spoilers out there.

With less than a week left before the next chapter in Isaac Clarke’s adventure, I can’t help but think about how little we know about the story in Dead Space 3. EA and Visceral have shown us tons of gameplay, their weapon crafting system, a cover system, human enemies that fire back, and the controversial co-op gameplay. We have a basic idea of what Isaac is doing on this frozen snow planet (only one of the few different locations in the game), but really, where do you go after the phenomenal Dead Space 2?

The Story So Far

Dead Space 3 Story so Far

EA and Visceral have already put together a concise catch-up video for newcomers to the series and anyone looking for a refresher. That video, located at the top of this article, is required viewing for anyone wanting to know the story of Isaac Clarke so far. What I want to talk about is bigger than Clarke himself: the overall Dead Space universe and what you should check out to get the most out of DS3’s story.

Back when Dead Space was first introduced as a series, it was one of the first, outside of Halo, to ship a game right alongside some cross-media fiction. First, there was the six-part comic series prequel explaining the catastrophic events on Aegis 7 before Isaac arrived. I can’t tell you how cool it was to stumble upon the audio log from that comic’s main character in the first Dead Space.

After that they released the animated film, Dead Space: Downfall, which quickly established the rule that not all cross-media fiction is created equal. The film was mostly cheesy and forgettable, amounting to very little in the grand scheme of things. Not all Dead Space storytelling is created equal, but if you really want to know the whole story so far, then I recommend the following:

  • Check out the original six part comic series (Amazon Link).
  • Play the original Dead Space if you haven’t already.
  • Read Dead Space: Martyr, the surprisingly good novel that explains the origin of Michael Altman and The Church of Unitology.
  • Play Dead Space: Extraction on the Wii or Playstation Move. It’s a cool Dead Space prequel and one of the best rail shooters ever made.
  • Play Dead Space 2, because it’s one of the greatest video games of all time.
  • Play the surprisingly decent Dead Space mobile game. It isn’t amazing, but it plays better than any mobile game like this ever should.
  • Wait patiently for Dead Space 3.

Yes, there are some more comics, another animated movie, and the terrible XBLA/PSN game, Dead Space: Ignition, but I’d rather not waste your time. If you really want to dig into the franchise, the list above offers some quality sci-fi horror storytelling.

Stories Untold

Dead Space 3 Story so Far

Dead Space 2 was, more than anything, the story of Isaac Clarke. It dabbled in the unsavory activities of the cult of Unitology, gave a bit more insight into the Markers, and established EarthGov as one of the series’ other major players. However, it spent most of its time confronting Isaac’s demons and introducing some hope in his life in the form of Ellie Langford.

The final, post-credits tease offered up some possibilities for the future of the series. Referring to Titan Station as Marker site 12, the mysterious voiceover says that the other Marker sites will have to “pick up the pieces.”

This leaves Dead Space 3 with a lot of storytelling potential. After all, in the grand scheme of things, Isaac hasn’t really accomplished that much. We haven’t truly seen how powerful Unitology is beyond the suggestion that they’re pulling many strings. Meanwhile, EarthGov has established themselves as a power-hungry entity willing to create more Markers and monsters in a blind effort for military might. Finally, we still don’t really know what the Markers are, what their purpose is, and who made the first one. If Isaac is even going to scratch the surface of all this, he’s going to be pretty busy in Dead Space 3.

My guess? This will be the game where they finally delve into the Church of Unitology. They’ve been in the background quite a lot, but we already know that Isaac will be fighting them directly in Dead Space 3. The Martyr novel and the church area in DS2 offered a lot of insight into the group’s beginnings, but we don’t really know what their play is these days.

The Trilogy Trap

Dead Space 3 Story so Far

The quest for answers is dangerous. You need look no further than some of 2012’s most popular releases like Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Halo 4. Between those three games we got answers that were unsatisfying, half-baked, or just completely unnecessary. With Dead Space 3 rounding out a trilogy, we can only hope that the series doesn’t over-answer or under-deliver.

Thankfully, Visceral has made no claims of epic conclusions for the series. Dead Space 3 isn’t a trilogy-closer, and with any luck the story introduces some new layers without ruining the mystery. Visceral, if you’re listening, I can only hope you’re not turning Isaac Clarke into “the one” who will stop “an ancient evil” with some kind of McGuffin.

One of the promising aspects hinted at in various screenshots and media is the ensemble of characters. Dead Space may ultimately be about loneliness and desolation, but Visceral writes some great characters. Nicole, Ellie, and Stross in Dead Space 2 were evidence of this, but even more so was the cast in Dead Space: Extraction. Hopefully we can learn more about the Dead Space universe and our favorite characters through their interactions with all the new characters.

In the lead up to both Dead Space and Dead Space 2 many gamers had doubts about whether Visceral could pull if off, yet on both occasions they destroyed all expectations. Asking them to pull that off a third time seems impossible, but at this point if anyone can do it, it’s probably them. Here’s hoping Isaac’s upcoming adventure is as exhilarating as the last two.

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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