Musings on The Surge

Musings on The Surge

I’ve been dabbling with The Surge this week, the new Dark Souls-meets sci-fi title from Deck 13 and Focus Home Interactive. It’s fun, but it also reminds me of why I don’t get along with the Dark Souls series. It’s just too damn hard for me to enjoy! This isn’t a Verdict, it’s just some brief musings.

I’m enjoying The Surge, it’s not a Red Mist, but I’m sure that if I stuck with it, I’d be looking towards awarding it a Headshot. The only trouble is, I’m not sure how much further I’m going to get with it. The Surge operates in broadly similar ways to the Souls series. You spawn at an Operations centre, run around and kill fools to earn the in-game currency known as Scrap. If you die, you respawn at Ops and have two and a half minutes to try and reclaim your Scrap. All the enemies respawn as well after you die, and there are big boss battles to keep you busy. For me, the Souls games, and similar, Bloodborne have offered me merriment and entertainment…right until the bosses arrive, at which point I get frustrated at the sharp rise in difficulty and skill required to defeat them. (Word to the wise, I’m not actually very good at games!)

Everything seems so normal when you start the game.

I managed to get past the first boss after watching a few videos to get my approach sorted. Even then, I just didn’t seem to marry up the timings of attacks and dodges in the right away to take him down easily. I powered through the second area, got to the second boss…and promptly gave up. I want to enjoy and make the most of games like this, but I just don’t have the patience (or skill) to make much progress.

Despite my own limitations preventing me from getting too far with the game, it’s certainly enjoyable. I like the loot system, it really feels fresh, and offers you some element of control over how you develop your character through the game. When faced with an opponent, you can switch your targeting around the body: four limbs, body and head. Anything unarmoured shows in blue, and will take the enemy down quicker than an armoured component. But, if you target an armoured component, you get the chance to slice or rip that body part off, and loot the relevant piece of armour. Take your goodies back to Ops, and if you have enough broken parts of an armour type, and enough Scrap, you can craft or upgrade the component. It makes for a fun combat dynamic, if you’re after more heavy armour, target the respective components on a heavily armoured enemy secure the loot, while saving your energy on lighter armoured folk by attacking their weak points. Simple, and fun.

The environment tells the story just as much as the audiologs.

The finishing moves to slip and rip body parts off are fittingly gory, suiting the game low-tech sci-fi setting. You start the game in a wheelchair, taking a ride to the CREO Complex. CREO is a mega-corp that is apparently trying to improve the world. Once you arrive, you choose one of two basic exo-suits, and from there things go to shit. Your character isn’t sedated during the installation of the exo-suit, and you wake up in the scrapyard with seemingly undead enemies in their exo-suits ready to rip you limb from limb. While it isn’t immediately obvious why and how the revival mechanic is meant to work, I enjoyed having some background and context to the unfolding disaster.

Most important, you aren’t alone in the game either! A character from the “Executive Levels” appears via the holographic messaging system to offer you brief guidance, while there are survivors dotted around the facility that you rescue, and who will hang around in some of your Ops areas. Their side of the conversations are interesting enough, but unfortunately, your own character has the personality of a gnat. It seems to be a poor combination of writing and voice-actor, but I really lose interest during his part of any conversation. This isn’t a story-driven game, but it certainly isn’t as greedy with letting you know what is happening as the Souls games are. Various audiologs are dotted around to provide further insight and context into the unfolding disaster.

Gore!

So yes, all in all, I have had fun so far with The Surge. It’s just the damn boss battles which get to me. If you have played and enjoyed Dark Souls or Bloodborne, then this will be a nice sci-fi twist on the formula you are used to. I just wish I was better at it.

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