When the Callisto Protocol launched with a $20 season pass on December 2nd, those who purchased the pass were immediately disappointed to find out that none of the additional content that had been announced would be available at the point of purchase. At the time, there was very little information provided that even suggested the various modes and skin bundles included would not be available for several months and, in fact, the Steam, Playstation, and Xbox stores that sold it had no information that explained this to season pass buyers.
At the time of launch, this was the least of players’ issues. The game itself was buggy on all platforms, particularly on last-gen consoles, featured extremely ugly texture pop-ins that would sometimes take minutes to fully render; weird difficulty spikes, unresponsive weapon switching, and a host of gameplay and mechanical decisions that made no sense for the type of game that the Callisto Protocol was supposed to be – mainly a dodging mechanic that only works when the player was directly facing a single enemy, despite the game pitting you against full-on enemy groups later in the game.
The dust has now pretty much settled on the disappointing launch state of the game, and many of the issues mentioned above have now been patched out (although some new bugs have been introduced, like a main menu that features no text on last-gen consoles). The thing is, we’re now 3 months into the Callisto Protocol’s planned ‘6 month content roadmap’, and season pass owners have yet to receive any worthwhile content in their $20 pass.
The Callisto Protocol launched with three difficulty modes, these were minimum security, medium security, and maximum security, all of which did very little but change some damage numbers in the background. As part of a free content update on february 7th, the developers added a New Game + and Hardcore Mode, which also added very little but a few background number changes and a limit on health/ammo drops for hardcore mode – both of these difficulty settings are fairly standard for most games these days, and even 2011’s Dead Space 2 featured a New Game + mode on launch.
The release of these free modes was also meant to coincide with the first batch of paid season pass content on February 7th in the form of the Outer Way skin collection, which did not actually appear for most season pass owners until March – Game Observer even reached out to the developers regarding this issue multiple times, but received no response.
Despite the skins being missing on the advertised date, players eventually began to see the Outer Way skin in their main menu settings following the release of the Contagion Bundle in March, but what they were given was an extremely disappointing, low effort reskin.
The Contagion Bundle
The Contagion Bundle arrived in early March. To be fair to this release, it provided players with exactly what was advertised in the roadmap, but the problem here is that this is now the third difficulty mode update in 3 months, and none of these updates have made the game any more enjoyable.as a result. The contagion bundle contained 1 new skin set, 14 new death animations, and a permadeath setting that only actually takes players back to the beginning of a chapter upon death, rather than the beginning of the full game.
Permadeath modes are a nice addition to many games, but the fact is that unless the developers add in specific unique modifiers to a permadeath mode, they aren’t really adding anything into the game that can’t be achieved by manually quitting out and starting a new game upon death.
The biggest change the Contagion bundle adds is the 14 new death animations for Jacob. Some of them are genuinely brutal, but if you watch all 14 in sequence they are essentially just variations of the same ‘head tearing’ animation that was prevalent in the release version of the game – someone at Striking Distance really likes seeing Jacob’s head being ripped in half just above the jaw (seriously, if you watch a YouTube compilation, an overwhelming amount of these animations end in the exact same way).
This low effort selection of season pass content is doing very little to assure players that the ‘Riot Bundle’ and story content, planned for release in spring and summer respectively, will be of a high enough quality.
Are Striking Distance Motivated to Create Great Content for Callisto Protocol?
The Callisto Protocol received fairly middling reviews across the board when it launched. The game was considered an overall disappointment, and from my own personal expectations and experience with this game, I strongly believe this is partly due to the pedigree that Glen Schofield brought to developer Striking Distance.
Back in 2007, when the pre-release hype train was in full swing for the original Dead Space, there were a lot of reveal trailers, interviews, concept art, and videos of old ladies being horrified by the game’s death animations, to promote Dead Space prior to its release in February 2008. One such video was a short interview with Glen Schofield, in which he explains how the original pitch for Dead Space was for it to be set in a prison on the moon, an idea which was then adapted to becoming the necromorph-romper stomper that’s so fondly loved today.
It was clear from the outset that the Callisto Protocol was another adaptation of this story, and that Dead Space-loyalists would naturally purchase this game. But the reviews and sales reports that followed the Callisto Protocol’s release do not tell an encouraging story. In fact, publisher Krafton, after first describing the game as a ‘Quad A (AAAA), All day!’ (whatever that means) in their Q1 2022 investor relations report, and estimating the game to sell 5 million copies before 2023, they would later go on to adjust this sales target to 2 million copies before 2023, which lowered the overall stock price of the entire company.
So, it would seem that a sequel to the Callisto Protocol is fairly unlikely at this point, unless the planned Riot Bundle; which includes a horde mode ‘set in a new area of Black Iron Prison’, and the story content planned for summer 2023, are of such a high-quality that they manage to both claw players back, and produce an entirely new fanbase for the game, but right now there isn’t much hope for a sequel.
The problem here is that Striking Distance is now faced with 2 very different options to produce this planned content. There’s no way around it, the season pass has already been sold and bundled together with collector’s editions of the Callisto Protocol, which means that Striking Distance are legally obliged to provide season pass holders with the advertised content. They are not, however, obliged to put any real effort into these content updates – they must simply release them.
Their options then, are to either fire into action mode and put a plan in place to save this game from the bargain bins of the future, by creating truly quality content that will begin a redemption arc for the Callisto Protocol, or simply do the bare minimum and fulfil their obligations to create a ‘horde mode’ and new story content.
Unfortunately, because of the vague language included in the season pass announcements, they could easily get away with taking the latter option.
That’s not to say that this will happen, Striking Distance could redeem this game by putting effort into these expansions and listening to player feedback. Admittedly, when I first heard this game would be getting a horde mode, I was baffled by this idea as the game doesn’t seem well poised for fighting multiple enemies at once. The dodging mechanic only works face-to-face, doesn’t account for enemies with long-range attacks (which basically requires the player to do a very video gamey strafe to avoid missiles), doesn’t let the player know if enemies are behind them, and doesn’t feature a quick-turn system (which it desperately needs). However, these are all issues which could be remedied in the new horde mode, and in fact, they actually need to be fixed in order for a horde mode to work well.
Equally, the story itself was ok in parts. It went in a fairly obvious direction from the moment we set foot in Black Iron Prison, and ended in an extremely predictable manner, but the saving grace of this part of the experience was the brilliant cast of voice actors.
The core cast of Jacob, Dani, Elias, and Captain Ferris were all acted and presented brilliantly, and could very well provide the best opportunity for this season pass to redeem the game. It is plausible that the new story content could truly be the segue that this game needs to become something great. Players love a redemption story, and not only that, they also love knowing that their feedback is listened to and implemented in the games that they love. If Striking Distance decides not to let this game die, there is still a chance that we could get the experience so many of us were hoping for.
Is the Callisto Protocol Worth it?
In its current state, if you can get hold of a copy for less than $30, then this 12 hour horror campaign has enough meat to be enjoyed in 1 or 2 sittings.
When I first played this game I was extremely disappointed. In part because of the huge love I have for the entire Dead Space franchise, but also because of the promises made prior to the game’s release. I played the Callisto Protocol on PS4 over the course of 2 days, and found it unusually difficult on normal mode due to quite a few technical issues and baffling design choices. However, when playing the game again in preparation for this review, I actually enjoyed it considerably more than the first time. This was, in part, thanks to the many bug fixes that have been implemented in the three months since the game’s launch, but also because I was no longer going into this game with sky-high expectations. I knew what I was getting into, and it allowed me to enjoy the game a lot more on a second sitting.
Underneath the bad reviews and missed opportunities, there is still a good game here. The Callisto Protocoll has the potential to be something good, and if Striking Distance can stick the landing on the last few pieces of season pass content, then it could become something great, and hopefully open up the possibility for a sequel in the future.
For now, we just have to wait until summer 2023 to find out what the story content will be all about, but as it stands right now, buying the Callisto Protocol season pass is not recommended.
Enjoyed this article? Why not check out our list of New Games Launching in 2023.