The Callisto Protocol aims to make getting lost part of the fun
It may be more like 2018’s best game than 2008’s.
The Callisto Protocol is one of the most anticipated games slated to launch in 2022, especially after its impressive showing at Summer Game Fest. In a stream packed with nearly identical spooky space games, it stood out for gruesome combat, unsettling atmosphere, and its close connection to Dead Space. But as Glen Schofield — head of developer Striking Distance and creator of Dead Space — recently revealed, this latest bit of space horror may have a surprising link to more recent critical darlings than its spiritual predecessor.
It’s only natural that The Callisto Protocol would look a lot like Dead Space. Striking Distance has several members of Dead Space’s development team on staff, including its creator and executive producer. As a space horror game, it would also be hard to avoid any influence from maybe the most successful game ever in its genre. Ultimately, all of these games kind of look like Alien, right?
On the other hand, Dead Space was released in 2008, which is practically ancient history in the novelty-focused world of video games. A lot has changed in the nearly 15 years since, down to the most basic expectations of an action game. Tight, story-driven experiences like Resident Evil 4 set the tone for Dead Space and its contemporaries, but a very different trend dominates gaming today.
As Schofield told IGN in a recent interview, The Callisto Protocol won’t be as linear as Dead Space. Instead, it will take cues from games like 2018’s God of War or The Last of Us Part II and offer more ways to venture off the beaten path for optional content.
Specifically, Schofield said players can expect to find extra story sequences and side quests that will reveal more about the game’s characters. God of War is far from the only game to rely on optional paths to spice up an otherwise linear game, but it’s a notable example cited by IGN. As one of the most popular games of the last decade, God of War will likely serve as a source of inspiration for every third-person action game in the near future, Callisto included.
In what may prove to be a controversial change, The Callisto Protocol will also do away with the glowing trails that helped players find their way through Dead Space. Schofield’s reasoning for this makes a lot of sense. He says the intention is not to get players completely lost, but to keep them unsure of exactly where they’re going and wondering if they’ve accidentally gotten turned around.
For a horror game, whether it takes place in a haunted house or a space prison, keeping players on edge is a key part of the experience. The more players feel out of place and underpowered, the harder the game’s scares will land. From the looks of it, The Callisto Protocol will put some powerful weapons in players’ hands, so it’s important that it finds another way of overwhelming them that can’t be solved by pulling a trigger.
Given that The Callisto Protocol starts in a claustrophobia-inducing prison, turning its darkened hallways into a labyrinth seems like a natural way to build tension. It’s not all about torturing players, either. Without the UI guiding them to the next critical location, players are more likely to stumble upon The Callisto Protocol’s optional content, ideally making even getting lost a rewarding experience.
Dead Space and God of War are beloved for a lot of reasons, and just replicating their best features isn’t going to turn any game into a winner. From what we’ve seen so far, Striking Distance seems to be aware of that, taking inspiration from popular games but not seeking to just rehash their best ideas. The Callisto Protocol will fail or succeed on its own merits in the end, but learning from some of the best action games in recent memory is certainly a good way to start.