Dead Space 3 launched in February of 2013 and since then, not much has been said about the EA sci-fi, horror franchise. Now though, Ben Wanat, the creative director of Dead Space who now serves as the creative director at Crystal Dynamics, has broken that silence with details about what Visceral’s Dead Space 4 would look like.
In an exclusive interview with Eurogamer, Wanat said Visceral had plans for a Dead Space 4, but due to the lack of 3’s success, EA put the studio to work elsewhere. Specifically, Visceral was moved over to the Battlefield series where the studio created Battlefield Hardline. After that game, the studio was given the opportunity to create a single-player pulp-action game set in the Star Wars universe. Sadly, that game will never make its way to players as earlier this year, EA shut Visceral down.
Dead Space 4 would have picked up after the end of Dead Space 3, according to Wanat, with a focus on the idea that humanity was truly facing its doom. This end-of-the-world ambiance was going to set the stage of 4, which would have leaned heavily into the systems implemented in 3’s flotilla section. In that chapter of the game, players had to scavenge supplies in order to survive.
“The notion was you were trying to survive day to day against infested ships, searching for a glimmer of life, scavenging supplies to keep your own little ship going, trying to find survivors,” Wanat told Eurogamer.
According to Wanat, details surrounding the story of 4 were still in rough draft stages, but the changes to gameplay were already being explored deeply.
“We would have finessed a lot of existing mechanics,” Wanat said. “The flotilla section in Dead Space 3 hinted at what non-linear gameplay could be, and I would have loved to go deeper into that.”
Dead Space 4 was set to be a mix of chapter-based progression and non-linear sections that allowed the player to explore ships in a number of ways, according to Wanat. He said that players would be able to jump from ship to ship in an effort to gather enough supplies to ready their own personal ship for a jump to a new area of space, such as a nearby orbital station. The plot would lean into environmental storytelling as well, with bits and pieces of the plot coming from the individual ships the player scavenges on their trek.
“You’d start to form a picture of what happened in that region while fighting through scores of Necromorphs from ship to ship, and you’d learn a new, critical bit of plot info along with the means to Shock [the Dead Space form of interstellar travel] to a couple of nearby sectors,” Wanat said, explaining that alongside the plot progression, exploration options would open up as players progressed further into the game.
Remember how integral the USG Ishimura was to the story of Dead Space? The ship was practically a character in and of itself. Well, according to Wanat, the character put into the USG Ishimura would have been implemented into each and every ship present in Dead Space 4.
“The ships you would visit are where the game would get really diverse. The Ishimura had some inkling of that diversity with the variously-themed decks, but imagine an entire roster of ship types, each with unique purposes, floor plans and gameplay,” Wanat said. “Our original prototypes for the Dead Space 3 flotilla had some pretty wild setups that I wish we had been able to use.”
In term of the weapons available to players, Dead Space 4 likely would have strayed away from the crafting system of 3, as in Wanat’s opinion, that system made weapons in the game feel less special.
“I think in our exuberance to really lean into Isaac’s mechanic background, we managed to diminish that synergy with the Dead Space 3 crafting system,” Wanat explained. “I love that it gave players creativity in putting together their weapons, but it became very difficult to tune when you allowed players to break the primary and alt-fire pairings. There would have needed to be focus on re-perfecting the weapon balance while still giving players plenty to tinker with.”
What character would be using these weapons, though? According to Wanat, Visceral wasn’t quite sure. With the ending of Dead Space 3 and the openness of it, Dead Space 4 could have put players in control of Isaac, Carver, Ellie or even a new character.
“With the apocalypse, there was the opportunity for a clean break,” Wanat said. “It wouldn’t be necessary for the story going forward to include any of them.”
But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t. In fact, Wanat was personally rooting for Ellie to be the lead of Dead Space 4.
While all of this information sounds interesting, it’s very unlikely any of it will come to fruition, and if it does, it won’t be with the help of Wanat. Wanat has moved on to Crystal Dynamics, while the studio he once served for, Visceral, is no more. Even if Visceral was still around, Wanat thinks it’s unlikely Dead Space 4 would have happened anytime soon. Simply put, the Dead Space franchise just didn’t make enough money to justify it’s continued existence.
“As much as everyone wanted to keep making Dead Space games, the cost of development was just too high compared to how much they sold,” Wanat said. “Nobody ever officially came out and said, ‘there will be no more Dead Space,’ but for the first time in a while, it no longer appeared on any SKU plans.”
With a smaller budget, though, Wanat believes the Dead Space franchise could have found its footing once more.
“It would involve getting the development cost pushed way down,” Wanat told Eurogamer. “And I think you’d have to focus much more on a fantastic core experience: dread, horror and great dismemberment combat — you’d also have to forego some of the ridiculously expensive one-off action moments.”
Despite his lack of involvement with the franchise anymore, Wanat still hopes to see Dead Space return to the gaming space sometime in the future.
“I think the Dead Space universe is a solid piece of original IP,” Wanat explained. “It’s a big enough space for sequels, new stories and new ideas.”
“You never know,” Wanat continued. “Someone might look back at the old EA catalogue one day and say, ‘Whatever happened to Dead Space? Maybe we should bring it back’.”