I’ve never played any of the Dead Space games, though I own all 3. Not that I don’t plan to play them (eventually) but one of the hazards of being a collector is that you buy far more games than you have time to play. What I do know about Dead Space is that the first game received what is perhaps the most iconic and and one of the most sought-after editions of this generation, the “Ultra Limited Edition“. Low production numbers tend to be the best trait any collector could ask for and with only 1000 made the Ultra Limited Edition could have been nothing more than a regular game case with alternative art and made collectors still crave it. Thankfully it was not only rare but a really well put-together package, not what I would consider to be the best edition, but it would still be one of the better editions even if it wasn’t so limited.
Due to the desirability of the Ultra Limited Edition the Collector’s Edition for Dead Space 2 was considered somewhat of a let-down. Over production make them not much more valuable than the standard edition and the included bonus item (a replica plasma cutter) was actually a scale model and not the full-sized replica people were hoping for. It seems for Dead Space 3 EA is hoping to rectify this with the Dev Team Edition, limited to 5000 units across all platforms and all bundled up in what is arguably one of the highest quality packages for an edition this generation, we’ll see if the Dev Team Edition can live up to the legacy that is the Ultra Limited Edition.
One of the first things that struck me about this edition is the decision to NOT include the game with Edition. This to me is a rather bizarre scenario as it makes the release more just a collection of swag than a real “edition” release of a game. When ordering you had the option to “include” the game in your order, which I did, however I received the game in a completely separate box several days after the “Dev Team Edition” package arrived. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Generally I don’t like any “edition” that just throws a copy of the standard-edition into a larger box full of stuff. I feel that CEs should be all about the packaging and the unboxing experience as much as it is about the items it includes, the game disc should be the most special item in the whole package. Even if the game box itself is just the standard edition I would have at least preferred it to be packaged in among the content. I feel almost as if I bought a Ferrari where the engine wasn’t included an instead arrived in a crate a few days later… some assembly required.
So lets talk about the unboxing experience the image above is what I was first presented with upon opening the shipping box and removing the first layer of Styrofoam. I like that the game logo is the first thing I’m presented with and I was impressed that the box for this edition is actually 100% metal. SteelBooks and Tins notwithstanding I honestly can’t think of any other release this physical size that can make that claim. Removing this from the box however I quickly realized that I was staring at the bottom of the box. I’m not sure if this was a creative decision or if the shipping department at Treehouse just wasn’t on top of their game that day.
Another interesting decision was to leave this edition unsealed. Above you can see that the plastic wrapping is just a simple bag; open on one end. This I’m sure drives the more hardcore collectors crazy as it means there is no way to prove or guarantee that the content is perfect and unspoiled. I personally like when editions are unsealed because it means I can enjoy peeking at the content without worrying that I’ve devalued my purchase. Any purchase that I can both enjoy and leave in factory new condition at the same time is a good thing in my book.
One thing all collectors will love is the very limited nature of this release, only 5000 are being produced, and since it doesn’t include the game that means it’s 5000 across all platforms. While this isn’t as rare as the 1000 production count of the Ultra Limited Edition, for a successful and established franchise 5000 is actually a very low production number. The fact that the editions are numbered and etched on a plaque right on the front of the box is already a big step up from the Ultra Limited Edition which was only numbered on a small included card.
The lid of the box displays the SCAF logo and upon opening the box you are presented with a cardboard inlay with the same logo, this is a really nice touch as the box is clearly designed to look like some weather beaten and forgotten relic from the game world that has managed to keep it’s internal content pristine. I think it’s also worth noting that while CEs aren’t typically stuck with the stereotypical box art of game hero+game title this particulate box doesn’t advertise itself at all, with the exception of the logo on the underside of the box the only place the game title is even mentioned is in the small engraving of the number plaque. This earns some serious points in my book as I really enjoy when the creative design of the package take prescience over branding and marketing.
The next thing you’re presented with is the “Aluminum Data Pad”. I have mixed feelings about this. The “data pad” itself is truly awesome. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in any other CE release and it’s a really high quality item and a really neat cross between an art book and an in-game artifact brought to life. I will say that it is easily my favorite item included with this edition. I’ll say more on this in a minute but where my mixed feelings come in is how this item is presented. The unboxing experience itself starts to go downhill at this point as this truly awesome items is surrounded with cheap run-of-the-mill cardboard and a plastic bag. I would have really loved to see such special item presented in a much more special way.
The “Data Pad” itself is a small aluminum bound 3-ring binder with thick cardboard and plastic pages. Each page is a translucent piece of plastic with a heavy surround overlaid onto a related image. It’s difficult to describe but the effect is a really interesting way of presenting concept art and game design elements it feels more like an in-game item than an art book and it had me flipping through the images for quite some time. I think what makes it most special is that it’s not something I’ve ever seen before. Originality goes a long way but they combined that with very high production quality and an item that feels like it’s from within the game world. This to me are the three qualities that make for the best bonus items in a CE.
More disappointment as we get to the next layer of the box. More use of plastic bags and generic cardboard spacers. The real shame here, more than anything else, is the wasted potential. I will however say that the internal package design of the Ultra limited edition used it’s share of cheap cardboard too, although it was at least color matched and integrated with the rest of the package.
The next item is a water bottle decorated to look like a “Med Pack”. The exterior has a fairly unique design that seems true to the in-game items and the inclusion of the little data-card is an awesome touch. This item ultimately is a let down for me though as it’s also clearly just a plastic water-bottle. I’m not sure who they expect to actually use this. I would suspect anyone who forked out the money for this edition would want to leave an item like this unused, which means it’s ultimately useless and the space and effort could have gone towards something else. Who knows maybe we’ll see some Issac cosplayers willing to break the seal as an excuse to hydrate with an authentic “Med Pack” though ultimately this feels more like a filler item than a worthwhile piece of content.
The “Black Marker Statue” comes in it’s own unsealed box, although the Styrofoam inside the box is sealed with standard packing tape. I see this as another missed opportunity for improving the unboxing experience. I always refer back to the Halo Reach Legendary Edition. That release is in my opinion the best unboxing experience of any CE release I’ve ever opened. Simple treatments to the Styrofoam and bubble-wrap design changed mundane (and often necessary) packing material into something that actually added to the experience. I implore any CE package designer to obtain that release for themselves and use it for inspiration in your own design.
The Black Marker Statue itself is actually a really nice item. It’s full of detail and looks and feels like a high quality item. The paint work is impeccable and next to the Data Pad I think it’s the next best item included with this edition. While typically a matter of personal preference, I don’t often like statues or figurines as CE items, this one is somewhat different though it has more of an artifact quality to it which makes it something I think a Dead Space collector could display and be proud of without any of the childish stigmas that typically come along with game statues or figurines.
There isa pack of six sealed post cards included, the design is pretty neat and I particularly like attention to detail on the back of the card with the use of the word “credits” instead of “stamp” and the futuristic line treatment as well as fake location name. Ultimately though I think this suffers the same folly as the water bottle in that it’s something that will probably never be used and the effort probably would have been spent better elsewhere.
The SCAF notebook is something I really enjoyed there is a lot of attention to detail in the content and realistic looking handwriting in the notes and sketches. It’s a fairly high quality item too. It actually feels like a real notepad. All too often CE “notebooks” like this are just instruction booklet like binding with glossy print, this one feels genuine from cover to page and that attention to detail is not unappreciated. Unfortunately it was another item wrapped in a plastic bag with a “made in china” sticker which to me is the kind of thing that tarnishes an unboxing experience.
I have mixed feelings about the included art book. It’s hardcover which is great, it’s a good length and not short on content, and the artwork inside is awe inspiring and beautiful, which is what you want from any good art book. My gripe is the physical dimensions of the book. Books these sizes are common with CEs but that’s because it’s roughly the size of a DVD case so it fits neatly in a smaller DVD-shelf sized package. The Dev Team Edition is not a smaller DVD-shelf sized package, there’s no good reason that this couldn’t have been a full-sized coffee-table worthy art-book. I think I would have gladly traded the water bottle Med Pack and some of the other cheaper content in exchange for a full-format art book.
The last piece of content in this edition is a tube mailer that contains three recruitment style posters. I actually really like this inclusion. Again, any items that feels like an artifact from within the game world are something I look-forward to in a CE. The artwork on these is fantastic as is the print quality and paper stock. I also appreciate that they were rolled instead of folded and contained within a proper tube container to prevent damage. Too many CEs include posters that are ultimately worthless due to either creases from folding or damage due to poor package design. This is posters done right. The tube that holds the posters is rather plain but I think it’s still appropriate and they made the effort to stamp it with an official looking sticker.
I think this is a CE that any collector should want to have in their collection, if for no other reason than it’s rarity; only 5000 made with the quantity displayed front and center on the package. The overall package design is great and will make an excellent display piece as well, certainly something that will stand out among all the cardboard and plastic of other similar releases. I’d say the unboxing experience starts off well but then quickly diminishes once you’re confronted with cheap cardboard packing. The included content is a mixed bag with a few really nice items and some other cheap filler items that seem like they were only included to boost the item list. My biggest gripe however is the fact that the game wasn’t bundled in with the package itself and instead was packed and shipped as a separate item. Being as this wasn’t sealed it wouldn’t have taken much effort to pop the selected game inside the tin to make this feel like a true and complete CE.
Ultimately I’m satisfied with this CE, it’s a nice enough package and rare enough edition that it will be sitting among my most prized CEs. I hope the next Dead Space release will feature another edition that not only improves upon what they’ve done here but continues the tradition of limited numbered releases in wonderfully crafted boxes.