By Daniel Slawson
Saturday, March 22, 2014
After finishing Dead Space 3 a few times, it began to feel stale: I’d optimized the most effective weapons, unlocked most of the goodies, and knew where all the scares were. It felt like there wasn’t much left to discover. Then I looked at the optional modes for new ways to enjoy the game.
Hardcore (which resets you to the very beginning of the game if you ever die) seemed way too punitive and frustrating to ever be fun, and Classic Mode was the same as the regular game except limiting what weapons you could craft (blueprints only). Pure Survival seemed interesting, though: enemies didn’t drop health, ammo, or stasis, but only the ingredients to make them, meaning you can only restock at benches. The default difficulty in this mode is set to “Hard”, which turned me off at first because I’d been playing on Impossible and found it very manageable.
Then I actually tried Pure Survival, and now it’s my favorite way to play the game.
I quickly realized that the “hard” difficulty was just fine for this mode: the real challenge is managing your resources to survive until the next bench. You’re constantly lacking essentials, so vulnerability is almost the default state of being. This is largely because crafting materials you’d normally spend upgrading your suit or weapons go to the dire necessity of making ammo and health packs, so you don’t have access to the finely-tuned instruments of death you’d normally enjoy. Necromorphs seem powerful because your weapons are weaker, and you will run out of medpacs early and often. This mode doesn’t ever hold your hand: if you forget to make enough ammo, you’ll be left punching necromorphs to death as you flee to the closest bench.
Ultimately, this mode is too punishing on players to recommend as the default Dead Space experience (even if it is tempting). But of all the modes, it’s certainly the best for bringing out the sense of desperation and vulnerability that fits Dead Space so well. A little bit of scarcity is a powerful thing.