What’s your favorite dead franchise? Well, mine’s Metroid, since Nintendo refuses to release an actual game, but my favorite officially dead franchise is Dead Space. Be warned, there are heavy spoilers ahead.
Dead Space 1 was an interesting, if flawed, horror game; tense, exciting, and gruesome, it followed engineer (read: space mechanic) Isaac Clarke as he and his team discovered that the ship they’d come to fix was overrun with alien zombies called necromorphs, controlled by an ancient artifact called the Marker. Fruitlessly searching the ship for his girlfriend, Nicole, only to discover that she was dead, and all the while slowly being driven mad by the signals sent out by the Marker, Isaac nevertheless succeeded in destroying it, although he was the only person to make it out of the star system alive.
Dead Space 2 was an amazing game; it picks up two years later, as Isaac wakes up in a straightjacket with amnesia, in the midst of an outbreak of necromorphs on a space station orbiting Saturn’s moon Titan. It comes to light that the Marker had left more of a mark on him than he could handle, and the human military had spent the last few years dredging his brain for secrets; now, he must survive the station, destroy the Marker he helped create, and confront the vengeful hive mind he helped spawn, which is wearing Nicole’s face.
Dead Space 3 was cold garbage.
Where the previous games were tense and horrifying, Dead Space 3 tries for gritty space marine action and barely manages to make its combat work. Where the previous games forced inventory management and careful weapon selection, Dead Space 3 allows broken customization and unifies all ammo types into a single nondescript lump of ammo, rendering the frantic ammo scrounging from previous games irrelevant–and while you can unlock a mode where it returns to the diverse ammo types, you don’t get that until you beat the game.
And the story. Hoo, boy. The story suffers from being built around co-op and outright removing large segments of character interaction in single-player. (Did I mention it was a co-op horror game? RE5 managed it because it was still hard as hell, but here it’s just kind of boring.) My biggest gripe, though, was how it treated Ellie.
You see, in Dead Space 2, Isaac meets another survivor, Ellie, who we’re introduced to knee-deep in necromorph corpses, who’s a pilot and effective survivor in her own right, who, like Connie Maheswaran of Steven Universe, defies a lot of love-interest cliches to become an effective character with her own agency. Dead Space 3 shits all over her character, turning her into a damsel in distress being fought over by Isaac and Norton, her current boyfriend. It was boring and infuriating.
And Dead Space 3 killed the franchise.
It didn’t sell, it was boring, and it was bland. Nobody liked it, and EA has thus far taken that to be a sign that nobody wanted more Dead Space, not that Dead Space 3 failed because it was bad.
Which, of course, brings me to the point of my post: How would I revive the franchise with Dead Space 4? (this song may be good accompaniment for this post, because it’s what I was listening to on repeat when I came up with all this)
Well, I’d start with Ellie.
Isaac’s story is done. He’s defeated his ghosts, he’s found peace (even though the playable epilogue DLC brings him back to a disaster on Earth and then just leaves us hanging…) and he’s back together with Ellie.
Ellie’s story is not done.
Last we saw of her, she was warping back to Sol system, presumably to get eaten by whatever was left of humanity, so let’s start there.
Ellie makes it back to Earth, but automated defenses left by now-dead soldiers knock her shuttle out of the sky. She crashes, without armor, without weapons, and as she drags herself from the wreckage, she spots a necromorph wandering nearby. The entire first level is spent unarmed, unarmored, finding ways to sever the thing’s limbs, until she finds a store where she can use Isaac’s logins to buy armor and a weapon and put the thing down for good.
And then? Then she sets off into the wreckage of humanity.
She’s far from the only surviving human. Norton was being melodramatic when he said they were the last of Earth’s defense forces; there are plenty of soldiers and armed citizens still fighting for survival, and Ellie makes her way through the city, gathering help, gathering other pilots, burning a path through the outbreak until they can reach the nearest starport, but by the time they’ve reached it, Earth’s Convergence event has begun; as the Moons awake throughout the galaxy, they begin with the assimilation of Earth, and Ellie, the pilot, takes matters into her own hands. If Isaac could kill one with nothing but kinesis and a grudge, she can kill one with a starfighter, right?
This is when Isaac and Carver show back up, and their horror at what’s happening to Earth is cut off by a glimmer of hope: Ellie’s voice over the open comms, calling for anybody and everybody still alive to help her kill this thing once and for all. They join the fight, but it’s Ellie who finishes it off, who deals the final blow, who brings hope back to the world and to the series itself.
Anyways, that’s how I would do it.