Familiar Game
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Just about passable

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    The Surge

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    Just about passable

    I’m all for games wanting to copy the Dark Souls formula. After a brutal introduction to the series, I learned to love those games, and they are now among my favourites.

    I even thought Deck13’s first effort, Lords of the Fallen, was a pretty good go at replicating them. It lacked the polish and intricacy, but I enjoyed it for what it was and thought the world was nicely designed.

    The Surge, however, falls way short of the standard. It tweaks the formula slightly, as instead of levelling up specific stats, you increase the core power of your suit, which then allows to you equip better equipment and more effective implants that give you certain bonuses. Being unable to build a character exactly to my design in the typical strength/dexterity/vitality etc mould threw off slightly to start with, but once I got to grips with the system I wasn’t opposed to it, and thought it was something that could work.

    It also preserves the idea from Lords of the Fallen of having a multiplier that grants you bonus scrap with each enemy you kill, and is then reset when you choose to spend/bank any of it. Another pretty interesting deviation to differentiate it from the Souls games.

    However, whereas Lords of the Fallen embraced the incredible level design of Dark Souls, and made a beautiful, interconnected world that opens up as you advance the game, The Surge goes more level-based with a train system (i.e. loading screen) that connects them together. Granted, the levels themselves do weave around and loop back via shortcuts, but it’s overly convoluted as there’s only ever one med-bay (your base) per level. So then that safe zone has to have about six or seven different routes leading off from it, and it can become incredibly difficult to remember which direction leads where. Then the med-bays are often no way near the trains you catch to link to another area, so going back to a previous point for a side-quest/sub-area I found usually to be more effort than it was worth.

    The combat too was less than impressive. It tries to go more down the Bloodborne route of having no shield and being about fast-paced attacking and tactical dodging. But the attacks are very slow on a lot of weapons, and I found myself spamming a slide attack that I could utilise because the standard attacks were laboured and ineffective. And whereas healing in Bloodborne can be done in the heat of combat to keep the pace and not interrupt the fights, The Surge will give you a message saying healing is unavailable until you step back and withdraw from combat for a second. Needless to say, that led to countless deaths when I had pressed the heal button, but because the attack animation hadn’t finished I was informed that I couldn’t heal yet, instead of just delaying the heal and then automatically applying it when possible.

    There’s a system within the combat where you attack certain areas on an enemy to hack off their armour piece by piece. Attack their left leg, and you’ll receive the blueprints for that bit of armour. To get the full set, you’ll need to attack the arms, body, and head too. This also grants you access to certain weapons, and brings an interesting element to boss battles. Which, just fyi, are few and far between, and not especially memorable. But the idea is there, and for the fashion-souls people it gives them extra incentive and challenge when collecting armour they like the look of.

    There was potential there with The Surge, but nothing about the story particularly grabbed me, and the gameplay was just tolerable more than enjoyable. The real, killer was the horrendous level design. There’s not enough diversity, and the already confusing layout becomes even more so when every corridor looks the same. A seamless world with more med-bays to rest at, more variety as you progress, and shortcuts looping back to previous areas would have worked much better.

    It’s a shame Deck13 went this way after a promising start with Lords of the Fallen. I feel this is them trying to stamp down their individuality on a game instead of being known as copycats, but they changed a couple of the best aspects of Souls games, and were never going to reinvent the wheel in terms of replacing them. Hopefully on their next go, they can focus more on the interesting power core/combat multiplier/limb-attacking style innovations instead of trying to fix what ain’t broke.

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