Dead Space, Dementia, and Punishing the Heroes
[Editor's Note: IGN asked Visceral Games' about the purpose and effects of dementia in Dead Space 3, both in its narrative and gameplay. Senior production designer Ben Wanat's response was lengthy and detailed enough to justify its own developer-authored article.]
The dementia caused by the Markers has always been a staple of the Dead Space franchise. Just being near them is enough to induce personality shifts, insanity and hallucinations, all of which usually lead to death. But the Markers affect people differently, and some characters in the series are more resilient than others.
In Dead Space 3, Isaac Clarke is much more resilient to the effects of Marker-induced dementia, having defeated his inner-demons in Dead Space 2. His mind still has the secrets of the Markers crammed into it, but it manifests more as an affinity for the Markers rather than a madness. This affinity has made him the closest thing there is to an expert on Markers. Ultimately, it’s why he’s pulled into this latest adventure.
Sergeant John Carver has been through a lot before Dead Space 3 begins. He was a career military man with a wife and kid but had grown disconnected from his family, even resentful of them. When a Marker outbreak happens on the planet he’s stationed on, tragedy strikes and his family is taken from him. This leaves Carver with a lot of unresolved personal issues locked inside by his inability to express his pain. And this is exactly what feeds Marker dementia the best.
In Dead Space 3, Carver drags himself through a number of punishing but revelatory ordeals. He knows he won’t like what he finds but he’s determined to face his past and atone for his sins. Isaac’s resilience to dementia allows him to act as a grounding element for Carver as he explores these waking nightmares.
These manifest in the game in co-op-only missions. If you are playing the game with a friend, you’ll find areas throughout the game that Carver is interested in checking out. While there are game-side benefits to discovering these spots (additional loot and lore), the primary focus is to communicate more about Carver’s past, which serves to make his contribution to the story that much more meaningful by the time you reach the end.
During these missions, players will experience the world differently. If you play as Carver, you’ll come across constant creepy reminders to his ugly past. If you play as Isaac, you’ll get to see things as they really are which makes Carver’s madness all the more apparent.
IGN is running daily updates for Dead Space 3 until the holiday break — look for trailers, reveals, interviews, and other updates each day.
Ben Wanat is Dead Space 3′s senior production designer at Visceral Games. He is responsible for many creature designs in the series.
By Ben Wanat