A central theme in the games is the fictional cult religion Unitology and its fanatical followers, who believe that information about an alien artifact called the Marker is being suppressed by the Earth's government. Their primary goal is to use this Marker to bring about the so-called "convergence" or "unification", with the Markers being the source of the undead monsters encountered by the series' protagonists. The Dead Space video game series has been positively received; the first game in particular won a number of industry awards for the varied elements of its gameplay and development, and is often regarded as one of the best video games of all time by critics. After the financial disappointment of 2013's Dead Space 3, no further media for the franchise was made for the remainder of the 2010s. Work begins to reverse engineer the Marker on various research stations across the colonies, but they are forced to use bismuth instead of an unidentified alien material, resulting in these duplicates being colored red instead of black as the original. The project was highly classified, but the lead researcher Michael Altman leaks its existence to the world. EarthGov assassinates Altman hoping to quell the news, but it is too late: Altman is seen as a martyr, and his belief of what the Marker means for humanity form the basis of a new cult-like religion, Unitology, that rapidly spreads across Earth and the colonies. They also believe that the Marker grants eternal life and will help to unify humanity, as to "make us whole", in an event known as the "Convergence". The EarthGov researchers also discover that the electromagnetic fields sent by the Marker and its duplicates cause living people to suffer paranoia and hallucinations, while also causing the dead to reanimate, becoming "Necromorphs", biological monstrosities which rise to attack the living. EarthGov immediately terminates the Marker project and abandons all research stations where the work had been done, covering up their locations, knowing as they do that the followers of Unitology would desperately want to seek these Markers out in order to advance their beliefs and bring about Convergence. In the 26th century, a planet-cracker vessel mining the world of Aegis VII called the USG Ishimura discovers a Red Marker buried near an abandoned colony. The Ishimura captain, a devout Unitologist, ordered his crew to bring the Marker aboard the ship, which causes the crew to become paranoid, turn on each other, and leads to a Necromorph infestation onboard the Ishimura. Among the crew of the Ishimura is a medical officer named Nicole Brennan, who sends a cryptic distress signal to her significant other out of desperation. Systems engineer Isaac Clarke joins a search and rescue team for the USG Ishimura, which had gone radio-silent, after receiving a message from his girlfriend Nicole. Their ship suffers damage when attempting to dock with the Ishimura; while the rest of the crew assess the situation and search for a means to leave the Ishimura, Isaac explores the ship to look for Nicole.
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