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Dead Space on easy is just right

Experience the desperation without being desperate

Dead Space Isaac getting a big hug from a hulking necromorph Image: Visceral Games/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Dead Space — both the original and the remake — are survival horror games that lean heavily into scarcity and desperation (and jump scares and body horror). You’ll spend a lot of your time on the USG Ishimura low on health and almost out of ammo. That feeling of being right on the edge of failure is part of what makes Dead Space such an effective horror game (that and all the jump scares) — to the point where it can easily overpower the story.

But there is a difficulty setting that lets you take the edge off (or make it so much worse if that’s what you’re into). Let’s talk about the various difficulty levels, what they do, and how (and when) to change them.

There are five levels of difficulty

On your first run through the Dead Space remake, you’ll have four options for the difficulty setting — Story, Easy, Medium, and Hard. Once you’ve beaten it the first time on any difficulty setting, you’ll unlock a fifth: Impossible (this is different than New Game+, which is already harder all on its own).

The difficulty settings really just boil down to damage dealt and damage taken. This goes from Story, where Isaac deals dramatically more damage to enemies than on Medium, and takes dramatically less from them, up to Hard, where Isaac deals less damage and takes more.

Think of it (roughly) this way: on Story, one shot from an unupgraded Plasma Cutter will kill a necromorph; on Easy, it takes about four; on Medium, it takes about six to eight; and so on. Nothing changes in the story, and even the number of enemies stays the same. All you’re getting are damage and defense buffs, making both your ammo and healing more effective.

When you get up to the Impossible difficulty, things get a little different. Enemies are similar in both settings in terms of health and damage, but on Impossible, they can dodge. Items and drops are less frequent and less effective (ammo gives you fewer shots) on Impossible.

You can change the difficulty at any time

You’ll pick a difficulty when you start a new game, but you can also change it at any time as you play. In the pause menu (not the RIG menu), go to Settings > Gameplay > Select Difficulty. From here, you can adjust the difficulty without any fuss — which makes sense, since it’s really just a damage buff — and get back to your game.

Medium is normal, but easy is better

Look, Dead Space is all about desperation. Having to worry about running out of ammo and health just adds to the overall feeling of impending doom. Each necromorph you kill will probably drop about the same number of bullets you spent killing it or drop a Med Kit to heal about the amount of damage it dealt, but you’re never going to feel overpowered or over-prepared.

Scraping by on just enough ammo can quickly come to feel just as pressing and scary as the necromorphs dropping from the ceiling. Even on Medium difficulty, it’s going to become a problem at some point. Like we said, that’s part of the game’s whole gimmick, and it works very, very well, but…

When you’re more worried about conserving bullets than the monster eating your face, it’s absolutely fine to back off the difficulty a bit. You’re not missing out on any story (or jump scares), and you’ll experience the same atmospheric (and existential) dread.

The Easy setting is the way to go for that. You’re still not going to end up ammo-rich, but you’re also not going to be desperate for each bullet you find. Think of it as ammo-middle class. Slipping up and getting hit by an attack might take half of your health in Medium difficulty, but you’ll have a lot more breathing room on Easy.

(We can’t recommend backing all the way down to Story difficulty, though. You still need a little bit of that danger to get the full experience.)

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