Dead Space: Luck is Dumb, But Stupid Kills

Spoilers for Dead Space, right from the get-go. That’s how we roll.

I just finished Dead Space the other night (scaaaaary!) and I’ve been thinking a bit about the story. Specifically I was wondering, as one does, why it is that Dead Space protagonist Isaac Clarke manages to survive the events of the game when literally nobody else that we meet does.

You could argue that Isaac is tough and resourceful, and certainly I won’t argue the point. But who isn’t? Hammond is the Chief Security Officer of the USG Kellion, which you would think entails a lot more training in the arts of crisis management and combat. Kendra is a deep-cover secret agent, who would also presumably have plenty of training in fighting and survival, yet both she and Hammond are unceremoniously squished by enemies that Isaac deals with more or less handily. On top of that, the entire military crew and soldier complement of the USM Valor are wiped out – almost to the last man – by Necromorphs in the time it takes them to intercept an escape pod containing a single enemy and then to crash into the Ishimura. What has Isaac got that any of these others don’t, other than plenty of dumb luck to get him through things? I suppose you could try to say that his engineer suit means that he’s got more armor than Hammond or Kendra, for all the good that really does him, but if the Valor’s crew are wearing the same Military Suit that Isaac gets after a successful playthrough then they have even more armor than he does.

"Isaac! Use this toothpick to destroy the angry bull elephant's prostate or we're all doomed!"

And it’s not like Isaac is even trying to avoid getting in trouble. He repeatedly, even regularly seeks out the biggest and most horrible threat in the area and gets to smacking it about with his array of cutting tools. In particular Kendra prods him into single-handedly attacking the Leviathan: the gigantic, betentacled, explosive-asteroid-shitting anus of a 10,000 ton monster eating its way through the ship’s food supply. This is not the behavior of a guy who survives the story, and yet he sits all alone in his little ship at the end, pondering everyone who was unfortunate enough to be cornered by the Brutes that only confront Isaac in wide-open spaces. Or squished by capricious tentacles that give Isaac half a dozen sporting chances at shooting their glowy weak spots before dragging him to Hell. Or stalked by a crazy-ass doctor who tied them up and cracked their skulls open as zombie chow but decided to leave Isaac alone with an immortal but easily-immobilized death trap monster.

The only thing that Isaac does smarter than anyone else is to attack the Necromorphs with cutting tools. Why is he the only one we meet who twigs to the need to dismember the things? Plenty of dead people on the Ishimura figured it out quickly enough to write handy tips to that effect in their blood. Everyone in Dead Space: Downfall got the idea within their second fight against the Necromorphs. Hell, Hammond and Kendra are working closely with Isaac throughout the whole game, the guy who does nothing but show that dismemberment is the only way to really succeed in fighting the damned things; Hammod literally tells Isaac “Go for the limbs, dismember them,” and yet when they die they’re still toting around regular projectile weapons. It’s not as if the stuff isn’t around to use; the Ishimura and Valor both have stores that allow their customers to buy the full variety of choppers, loppers, limbers and whackers that 27th Century technology has available, and we can only assume that many plasma cutters and other such things are laying about the ships, much like the first one Isaac pilfers.

"You can't win, Guile. If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you could ever imagine.

I suppose we need to chalk this up to lazy writing. You could easily have written in explanations for why Isaac makes it out when many others don’t. A lot of folk seem to be driven bonkers by stress or the Red Marker, and “they just went fucking crazy and couldn’t take care of themselves” just seems overused in the story, as does “they never figured out that guns won’t work”. Many survivors seem to have been overrrun by sheer numbers and surprise attacks from vents, which is fine with me. Hammond was killed by a Brute in tight quarters while armed with a plasma rifle, which is a pretty staggering combination of unlucky and badly-prepared; it would have been a lot more sensible for him to, say, be mobbed by a bunch of Lurkers or Twitch Slashers and just be unable to deal with them while using a cutting tool and no stasis. He has to die at the start of a miniboss fight, you say? Fine, at least have him drop his peashooter and whip out one of those lightsaber chainsaws from Downfall and go out in a blaze of glory. As for Kendra… I suppose she has to die, but getting surprise one-shotted by a tentacle is just pathetic. That’s like Boba Fett getting bonked on his jetpack and flying into a wall.


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