Book Review: Dead Space 3 Limited Edition Strategy Guide

DS3GuideboxAbout two years back, at the request of a reader, I took a look into the Dead Space 2 Limited Edition Strategy Guide to see if it was worth picking up. Well, while the game itself didn’t receive a tricked out Limited Edition (unless DLC counts as “tricked out” to you), there’s a LE strategy guide available for Dead Space 3 for about thirty five dollars (though is offering it for about twenty three), so I figured I might as well do everyone a solid and review this guide as well. As before, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel that before we begin I should make two points:

1.) I am not a huge follower of the Dead Space mythology like Alex is. I haven’t read the books or the comics, I haven’t seen the anime films based on it, and aside from an hour spent with Dead Space: Ignition, I’ve not played anything outside of the three main games in the franchise. As such, I have little actual exposure to the mythos of the series beyond what little I’ve culled together from the main games and perusing the Dead Space wiki in preparation for my review of the third game.

2.) I beat the game without the strategy guide, so I can safely say that you likely won’t need it in order to complete the game.

With that in mind, I’m basically going to judge the guide based on the same six points as last time:

Will this guide actually HELP you complete the game? – Simple enough.

Will this guide help you complete the game on the harder or specialized difficulties? – Since the game not only gives out specific unlocks for playing on higher difficulties, but ALSO offers three specialty difficulties to play with, it’s only fair that we judge the guide based on whether or not it can prepare you to take on those difficulties, since they’re all rather specific in their offerings.

Will this guide help you get all the Achievements/Trophies? – Simple enough.

Does the guide give you any useful information you might not know you needed? – This is essentially a case of pointing out anything that might be useful to you during the game, be it ideal choke points or effective strategies that might not be obvious, moreso than hidden items and such. As such, if the guide gives me any information I wasn’t expecting, I’ll include it here.

What are the extras? – This being the Limited Edition guide, and thus TWICE the price of the normal guide (more or less), I’ll list here what the guide includes that you can’t get from the regular guide, and you can decide if that’s worth the extra money.

Is it worth it? – Simple enough: does all of the above combine together to make the guide worth the asking price?

With all of that in mind, let’s get started.

Will this guide actually HELP you complete the game?

As with the prior guide, the one thing the guide is very good at is getting you through the game as intact as possible. Not only will it help you complete the game, it’ll help you find just about every last item along the way and warn you well in advance about anything that’ll be popping up in your way. The guide is stuffed with information relating to item locations, enemy placements, and general information on monsters and weapon types, so you’ll find that completing the game with the guide will be very much feasible. If you’re looking to make sure you don’t miss a single thing in your playthrough this will absolutely make sure that doesn’t happen if you follow it along, and there are extensive maps of each chapter as well as of the various side quests you’ll encounter to help you find everything there is to find. It even breaks down the co-op missions with maps and item locations (albeit in their own section) to make plowing through them as easy and profitable as possible so you can direct friends if they don’t have the guide on-hand.

I will note that finding the majority of the artifacts, text logs and data files wasn’t too hard on my own, but the guide even titles each individual collectible based on how it’s titled in the game, so if you’re missing a particular collectible, you can review your list for the chapter, see what you’re missing and go hunt the chapter for it with little effort. As such, even if you’re the sort of person who wants to go through the game on your own and find hidden items as clean-up after the fact, the guide itself (regardless of whether it’s the normal version or the collectible version) will tell you how to find anything you might be missing in clear and concise fashion, which is basically fantastic.

Will this guide help you complete the game on the harder or specialized difficulties?

Sort of. On one hand, as with its predecessor, the guide generally breaks down what you’ll be seeing and where you’ll be seeing it with a decent amount of explanation, so you can plan ahead, especially when dealing with larger ambushes or firefights. That said, as with the last guide, this one has no idea that other difficulty levels exist, which is fine in the sense that the game doesn’t seem to spawn additional enemies at higher difficulty levels or anything to that extent. On the other hand, the guide isn’t particularly interested in addressing how you should try to survive in these sorts of situations either; boss battles receive extensive detailing, but common encounters don’t see much exposition, when some of them could be brutal in the end. The guide also doesn’t discuss the specialty difficulty modes at all, which is frustrating because

1.) seeing as how each difficulty has special novelties that are tailored to the difficulty level, tips such as “use this area to restock resources” or “be very careful here as instant death is likely” would be helpful, and

2.) when you’re paying money for a strategy guide it should explain what the extra difficulty levels DO in the first place so as to at least warn the player in advance,

Which were both issues the prior guide suffered from. On the plus side, at least the different specialty difficulties obviously do not stack with one another, and the regular difficulties don’t have any Achievements/Trophies associated to them, so that’s somewhat less of a hassle, though the fact that this is a change made by the developers rather than the guide writers doesn’t help out here, of course.

Will this guide help you get all the Achievements/Trophies?

More so than the last guide did, and certainly enough to be helpful, but not fully. There’s a comprehensive list of all Achievements/Trophies at the end of the guide, including chapters where these can be earned when applicable, and some of the more awkward Achievements/Trophies are spelled out at the end of the guide to give you some assistance in figuring how how to get them. In sections where you need to perform specific tasks, such as during the drill section of Chapter Ten or the Feeder sequence in Chapter Nine, the guide is also nice enough to pop in comments indicating how you can get the awards associated with these sequences, so you can follow the guide and have an idea of what to do. It also offers a basic breakdown of many Achievements, such as “Electric Lawnmower” and “Axes High”, that might not be easy to understand at first. It also gives some useful tips on the more obvious awards to make them easier to earn for those who want to avoid wasting time. On the other hand, some of the awards will simply be easier with some kind of video guide or step-by-step walkthrough that the guide doesn’t have the option to provide (for obvious reasons), and, again, there’s nothing here to help you with the specialty difficulty levels at all. What’s here is generally better than it was in the last guide, to be certain, and you’ll find it to be helpful if you want to do everything you can in the game, but you’ll still want to seek outside help for a couple things. Given the limitations of the print medium it’s about as good as can possibly be expected, save for the lack of difficulty level assistance, so there’s that.

Does the guide give you any useful information you might not know you needed?

Yes, actually; the guide gives you a full breakdown of what chip sets, suits and game modes you can unlock and what actions you’ll have to perform to do so, which is basically the exact sort of thing one would expect to pay money for a strategy guide to get. As such, you’re given a full explanation of why you’d want to collect everything, outside of “because Achievements/Trophies” in case you want actual in-game benefit for this. Sadly, it doesn’t explain what some of the unlockables do (IE it doesn’t tell you that the “Devil Horns” are the Foam Finger, or that “Retro Mode” is just a visual filter), but knowing that you unlock something at least is nice. The guide also points out that you unlock extra stuff for having a Dead Space 2 and Mass Effect 3 save file, and outlines the different suits and default blueprints that are available to the player (either as DLC or in-game). Beyond that, it also gives you some mildly useful pointers on how to accomplish various things via Isaac’s Notes throughout the guide, which give a general indication of how useful certain weapons are, how to accomplish certain things, and how to survive in a general sense. They’re not MANDATORY by any means, but they work out fine.

What are the extras?

The Limited Edition is, once again, hard bound, so if that sort of thing matters to you, go nuts. It comes with a Peng lithograph, which is basically just a drawn picture of a girl in a bikini top done in a quasi-World War II art style, which is cute. There are also some additional chapters at the end of the book that contain various pieces of concept art, Peng pictures, and art from the Dead Space: Liberation Graphic Novel. Additionally, there’s a chapter devoted to “Team Favorite” weapons that appear in the Bench if you’re curious as to the specific attachments that go into making these weapons that appear in the list, as well as a section on the lore surrounding the locations in Dead Space 3. Finally, there’s a timeline of Dead Space releases, albeit in a weird, broken order that is neither chronological nor release date order (IE it puts Dead Space 2: Severed before Dead Space 2, which is probably correct timeline-wise, but it ALSO puts Dead Space: Martyr after Dead Space which is correct release-wise).

Is it worth it?

That depends entirely on whether or not you love the extended Dead Space universe. As a strategy guide, it’s fine, but you’d get the same content out of the normal guide for half the price. As a collector’s piece, however, well, it’s not going to be worth anything as a collector’s item, and unless you care about owning the concept art and writer/artist/creator interviews, you’re not likely to care much about the extra content as a result of that. Even if you are a fan, there are like fifteen pages of interviews relative to the forty or so pages of artwork and concept pieces, so even then, it’s all pretty (or ugly, depending) pictures with a few snippets of information here and there, so unless you’re REALLY a huge fan of the franchise, you might well not take anything away from the Limited Edition guide.

Final thoughts:

The guide itself certainly is, if you’re looking to unlock and collect everything in the game and want to know what unlocks what components; the guide is quite thorough and points out the vast majority of what needs to be done when in a well organized, well designed fashion. It would have been more intuitive to have the co-op side-missions included in the chapters they occur in instead of as a separate chapter towards the end of the guide, and it would have been more useful as a guide had there been a breakdown of what the extra difficulty modes do and how to survive them, but these are minor complaints. Overall, between the pop-in Achievement/Trophy notes, the well designed maps, and the breakdown and hints on how to accomplish the majority of the tasks in the game, the Dead Space 3 strategy guide is definitely worth it.

Insofar as the Limited Edition guide goes, however? Not really. The concept art is interesting if you’re a huge fan of the franchise, to be certain, but the artwork from Dead Space: Liberation is the sort of thing where if you care about it, you’ll own the book, and if you don’t, having it here doesn’t matter. The Peng lithograph is cute, but it’s not something someone is going to put up on their wall unless they’re an extreme fan, the lore surrounding the locations in Dead Space 3 is really only for completionists, the breakdown of the Team Favorite guns is basically pointless, and the timeline is available for free online elsewhere. Compared to the LE guide for Dead Space 2, the novelties included here are neither terribly novel nor terribly interesting; while one could make a case that a fan might find the translation guide or the Unitology letter included in the prior guide interesting, what’s here is mostly things you can find elsewhere or else is basically junk.

The final verdict here is that the actual guide itself is definitely worth the asking price if you’re at all interested in print guides, but the extra content included in the Limited Edition guide isn’t terribly worth the extra cost and can safely be skipped over. While you’ll likely find video guides or comprehensive walkthroughs elsewhere, the maps included here are worth the cost on their own, as they’re quite useful and generally very accurate. Further, the guide is helpful for clearing out Achievements/Trophies if you’re into this thing, and while there’s information that’s lacking in some respects, the majority of what’s here is very useful and should be helpful to anyone who wants to do more with the game than simply play through it once and never touch it again. The Limited Edition content, on the other hand, consists of some concept art that might be fun for devoted fans and a bunch of stuff that only the hardest of the diehard fans would care about. The artwork from Dead Space: Liberation is completely pointless because you’ll either own the book or won’t care about it in the first place, the chapter on the Team Favorite guns is pointless because they’re already in the game anyway to be manufactured, and the rest is filler that’s fine, but unnecessary. By all means, if you’re a HUGE fan of the franchise, don’t let me dissuade you from picking the Limited Edition up, but for everyone else, there’s nothing in it to make it worth the extra money; buy the regular edition and save your money instead.



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