Pay As You Churn: Dead Space 3’s Microtransactions

Remember how in the previous Dead Space games, the only way to buy new weapons, armour, ammo and medkits was to stomp on the gooey remains of malformed mutants and catch the credits that they had stashed in their internal organs? Those were the good old days. Eurogamer spotted a “downloadable content” pop-up during Dead Space 3’s all-new crafting sections and the game’s associate producer, Yara Khoury, has now confirmed to our EG chums that it will be possible to pay real money to improve weaponry:

“You can buy resources with real money, but scavenger bots can also give you the currency that you can use on the marketplace. So you don’t have to spend [real world] dollars.”

The answer to the question, “Please, sir, can I have some Ishi-more-a?”, is “Yes, but keep your credit card handy.”

When I played a preview build of the game, crafting items did drop from enemies but the actual system wasn’t ready for use, so it wasn’t clear whether it would involve interesting modifications or simple stat boosts. It’s probably going to be a mix of the two, with one screenshot showing an engineered safety guard that prevents splash damage. Whatever the final cost of these crafting kits (they may be macrotransactions, we don’t know!) and however powerful the buffs they provide, I can’t see a positive reason for their inclusion, except for their role as a way for EA to catch the money that people hurl at their screens.

If it’s necessary to have modified gear to succeed then scavenging for parts could become a grindy, horrible mess – and not the good sort of grindy horrible mess which involves Isaac’s boot grinding a necromorph into jam. The transaction then becomes a payment to avoid tedium. Or it may be that the crafted upgrades are more of a leveller, easing progress through the game’s more tricky sections for those who want a helping hand. That’s fine but it’s also often dealt with through a choice of difficulty levels and those (at least the easier ones) shouldn’t cost money or time to unlock.

Somebody gifted me a deluxe/limited/pre-order edition of Dead Space 2 before it was released and I was genuinely dismayed to find that their good intentions had provided me with a version of the game that handed me free late-level equipment from the start. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want that, in a game where desperation and inventory progression are so well linked, and so much a part of the experience. I ignored the free stuff and refused to use it, and I’ll do the same in Dead Space 3, but ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. The entire crafting system is new and I’m suspicious of any system that I can pay to skip past, particularly in a game where pacing should be at the forefront of design.

It won’t be possible to buy all of the high-end equipment on the first level – “There are a lot of weapon parts that are only available to buy later in the game. Unless you’re playing through it again [on New Game Plus]” – but the rationing out of purchases doesn’t particularly ease the discomfort. I’ve already seen people defending the decision by referring to people who don’t have as much time to play and might want to see all of the upgraded equipment. It’s alarming that asking those same people to pay more than the retail price for the privilege is seen as a kindness. Give them a cheat code!

I enjoyed the time I spent with the game, though not without reservations, but this news has made me grumpy. As much as anything, it’s a huge leap from the first game’s unusual and admirable approach to equipment, which allowed no possibility for the player to upgrade everything on a single playthrough. In the Ishimura’s flickering corridors, players had to pick their poison and adjust to what was at hand rather than carrying the best weaponry available into every fight.

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