Dead Space 3: Awakened Review

ds3-awakened

Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t finished Dead Space 3, be warned that this piece of DLC takes place after the ending of the base game.

As the Brethren Moon fell to Tau Volantis after Isaac and John activated the Codex, leaving Ellie to endure the immutable depths of space as she made the journey home, I wasn’t filled with a lingering sadness. Quite the opposite, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. The final chapter hadn’t been perfect, but it closed in a way that granted me a wonderful sense of closure. They didn’t close all doors and left a lot to interpretation, which to me is bold storytelling and speaks to how strongly they regard their canon.

When any possible sequel was snuffed in a recent ‘report’, which claimed the market was simply no longer there to justify further expansion, I shrugged. It was practically out of steam I figured, it was for the best. It’s a ‘report’ that is vehemently denied by EA; Peter Moore got mad.

With Ellie long gone, Awakened tells the story of Isaac and John after they—as the name suggests—wake up having somehow survived the Moon’s collapse, and their harrowing do-or-die mission to escape the planet’s surface. Their great disappearing act takes up only a small slice of this content pie, though, as the larger bulk of it explores Isaac’s slip back into dementia, wrought by the Brethren Moon. It’s his lunacy, if you will. Ha, stick around.

dead space 3 awakened screenshot 1 Dead Space 3: Awakened Review

Tastes like chicken!

Fighting off temptations from a network of hungry Moons, Isaac also has to deal with a overzealous cult of Unitologists lead by Randall Carr, who took over after Danik perished during the collapse at the end of the base game. He preaches of a church built of flesh and blood as opposed to brick and mortar; his ritualistic sacrifices, which see him sawing off the hands of his zealot brothers, are the crux of Isaac’s severe hallucinations.

Carr pulls Isaac into several wars the engineer’s own mind. These brief encounters aren’t dissimilar at all to those at the heart of John Carver’s narrative. Not unlike Severed, which told the ultimate gut-punch tale of Gabe Weller, Awakened doesn’t exactly propel you into unexplored destinations. Your time is spent trudging over old ground, with only new context pushing you forth. This practice isn’t new, as evidenced by Visceral’s other ventures into expanded content, though it’s still a little disappointing. Sure, there’s a stunning looking Moon engulfing the horizon now, but it’s still a relief to finally take flight and escape Tau Volantis at the conclusion of act one. Wherever will Isaac and John wind up, I asked myself with a sense of wondrous hope.

ds3 awakened screenshot2 Dead Space 3: Awakened Review

Oh shit, this can’t be good.

Not long after, they dock with the Terra Nova. Yeah, the one bloody frigate in a derelict fleet we’ve already blown through ad nauseam. The cosmos was their oyster and this is where they wound up? Oh, bother. In an attempt to touch the place up a bit, Randall and his minions have splashed a fresh coat of claret on the walls, and have left ominous, candlelit shrines laced with severed hands all over the place.

For the first time since The Sprawl, I was kind of afraid. It didn’t quite measure up to the “darkest chapter of the franchise” tagline EA had been parading about, but it makes the handful of hours preceding it look like a basket of kittens. Isaac’s tenuous grasp on his mental faculties gave rise to a heap of dreaded jump scares that, not only filled in the back story regarding Carr’s men, but filled in my underpants as well. It was that kind of atmosphere and sense of foreboding that the base game sorely missed.

If you look at the Tau Volantis misadventure, rife with moments both great and bad, as a continual tumbling act, fearful its slowing momentum might see it plummet from the sky, I’m relieved to say that Visceral have stuck the landing. Should we meet Isaac and John again, and I venture to say we might, I’ll follow them both to the very end.

  • Xbox 360

The Verdict

Awakened places a greater emphasis on that patented brand of claustrophobia, putting the series back on the right track.
8.5
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