Dead Space 2 Session Notes (part 1)

Session notes are a collection of my casual thoughts from a recent gaming session.  They are not reviews and may not reflect my overall view of a game accurately.  Instead I just take note of design choices and my experience playing the game.  There are no inline spoiler warnings so consider this it.

This doesn't do the look justice.

I’m somewhere in the middle of chapter 10 now headed into Ishimura medical.  I seem to recall that a couple of commentators booed the idea that the designers included content from the original game.  While some of the textures and models were not up to the standard of the rest of the game (I’m thinking of the metal holes in the wall where the worm attacks in Dead Space 1) I don’t find the sequence to be distracting or cheap so far.  They saved money, sure but it fits with the aesthetic of the rest of the game.  In fact, the luminol / blacklight look of medical is refreshing.  The alien glow is appropriately otherworldy and it contributes to the eerie and disquieting feel of the sequence.

Tension in games really gets to me and I find Dead Space 2 does it well.  Even when I catch myself reading the tension setup, I manage to go rigid and develop a feeling of nervousness.  When I first entered the decontamination chamber and the deliberate chaos of that scene ramped up I got a bit edgy but then came to awareness that this was a “false scare” which allowed me to relax.  While I generally believe that if I’m thinking about playing the game then there’s probably been a break down in the design to some extent, here it contributed to the sustained tension in a meta sort of way.  I immediately predicted I’d be heading back through here and that’d be where the trap opens.  I think by knowing this well in advanced it served to increase my anxiety over the upcoming event.  This led me to formulate the following hypothesis: tension may be derived from the promise of an event unfulfilled.  For all I know that’s the definition of tension but this moment in DS2 crystallized it for me.

Another source of tension was the room layouts in combat areas.  I noticed that in this section of the game the designer is favoring carefully sized rooms with large central obstacles.  I wonder if this will start subconsciously prompting my spider senses over time.  Better, perhaps there is a reversal of that expectation coming.  The game got me with a creature playing dead while backtracking.  It was nicely timed and placed — It’d been so long since a similar encounter I simply walked right up to the lucky bugger.

The story, on the other hand, is not being delivered at a satisfying pace.  Dead Space 2 is very much about what’s happening to Isaac right now and isn’t giving me much information about the larger context for these events.  From what I can tell the station commander (governor?) built a new evil space marker using information gleaned from the brains of survivors from the original disaster.  I guess I missed the explanation of how Stross is connected.  Anyway, my point is that the game seems to be overly reluctant to spill the beans and I think its because there’s only got about 2 bites left and the creators are trying to stretch it out to 10 servings.  If I see a discarded pack of Morley’s I’m quitting.

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