Publishers have tried fishing the micro-transactions waters for a while now, but this time it has gone too far. These stores defeat the very root of survival horror, a dying genre. And sadly, the end could be nearer than we think.
My most distinct memory of any Dead Space game is hearing a good friend shriek over Xbox Live just at the twitch of a broken light. Even though she’s naturally jumpy, her experience is reflective of many others playing through Visceral’s sci-fi series. Early Dead Space games were defined by two aspects: the many frightening and gory ways Isaac Clarke could get torn apart, and the series’ nuances deviating from traditional survival horror.
But monetization has started to pollute the genre landscape, where publishers test the limits of player tolerance of slight micro-transaction options. For one, the ability to purchase powerful weapons early, eradicating the term “survival horror”. A genre that relies on low ammo, weapon scavenging and tense scenarios is easy when you can blast away enemies rendering Isaac untouchable.
In free-to-play games, micro-transactions are plausible and even expected. It’s how these titles receive their funding to continue existing. A game you pay a hefty cost for upfront is where things get cloudy, and in that the only reason to include an in-game store is to let consumers who don’t have the time handy to complete a 10 to 20 hour experience have their fun.
Fairly, the in-game store for Dead Space 3 is optional. Components to build weaponry are collected through the campaign, through Isaac or by scavenger bots, at least according to that Eurogamer article. How a survival horror should be played. However, just because the option is there, it doesn’t make it right or plausible.
An in-game store and purchasing weapons early undermines the many ideas of survival horror: the eerie strangeness and direness of many situations; that uncertain feeling of what lies around the corner; scavenging for ammo and other supplies; restarting after checkpoints to figure out the best course of action. The genre overall relies on how vulnerable a protagonist is, thus consequently a player’s emotional state, but that feeling is gone when the player has a shiny, Necromorph-massacring weapon.
The character and player must be weary to the reality of the situation, that death (and in Dead Space a gory end) could come at any second. A new weapon, however, provides the player with a boosted sense of confidence. Necromorph slaying becomes easier, not tougher, and turns Dead Space 3 into another generic sci-fi shooter instead of part of a dying breed.
I haven’t tried Dead Space 3 nor do I plan on buying it on release. Not out of protest or some other slimy reason either. But I can confidently state one fact: publishers are lopping off the limbs of survival horror, and with micro-transactions now invading every genre, it’s only a matter of time before the good old days of Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark are left to history.
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