Rip and tear into some fun sequels

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19839

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 14

Edited By Humanity
Rip and tear..into the Surge 2 - you've been tricked now you have to read the rest of this blog.
Rip and tear..into the Surge 2 - you've been tricked now you have to read the rest of this blog.

In the past few weeks I’ve been playing the sequels to two games I greatly enjoyed in the past few years which both incidentally involve the ripping and tearing of your foes in comically graphic ways. The two games in question - The Surge 2 and Doom Eternal. While very different in nature, I found that both games shared a lot of common traits of the proverbial sophomore slump. That isn’t to say I thought these were bad games. In fact I had a fair bit of fun with both of them. They just weren’t the sequels that I personally wanted.

The Surge is a game that I loudly champion when given the chance like a crazy man on a street corner while everyone gives me a wide berth, hurriedly passing by lest they catch anything from mere proximity. It’s a souls-like game with all the traditional trappings but also many unique and fun mechanics of it’s own. While I greatly enjoyed The Surge there were plenty of things I thought a potential sequel could do so much better. If only more people played this I thought! Well somewhat surprisingly the game did get a numbered sequel and after having played it I can safely say it was your typical case of bigger but not necessarily better. The original worked so well because of it’s clever way of interweaving the narrative into the gameplay. The fact alone that you start the game as not just your everyday Gordon Freeman, but someone bound to a wheelchair was a surprising little twist that I’ve never seen in a game before. There is something to be said about little flourishes that are inconsequential to the minute to minute gameplay, but add a great deal to the overall experience when you take a step back and look at the whole picture. You work in a factory so you get a powerful exo-skeleton. Your weapons are basically power tools very much like how Dead Space did it. Your enemies are other employees whose brain-chip got fried in the titular surge at the outset of the game. The levels are different areas of the factory which you must escape and your bosses are typically large industrial robots now gone rampant. It all just clicked.

We've upgraded to a full city in the sequel
We've upgraded to a full city in the sequel

The Surge 2 foregoes all this in favor of giving you more toys to play with. You’re now in a city and there are different factions you’ll inadvertently come to slaughter by the hundreds but the reasons for how and why aren’t as neatly buttoned up. Why do all the citizens of this city have extremely high grade industrial exo-skeletons? Where did they get all these flamethrowers and energized staffs with spinning saws? The city itself is more diverse than the very samey looking industrial corridors of the first game, but apparently the developer Deck 13 wasn’t up to the task of making it look actually interesting. At the outset of the story a plane with a nano virus crashes into Jericho City and after spending two months in a coma you awake in what looks like the aftermath of a nuclear fallout. Two months and the city is nearly in ruins, and this is BEFORE the nano virus properly activates. The repeating look of grey rubble is pervasive throughout your stay. It’s a cheap and easy way to not model an actual city, but it also means that despite this ostensibly much more interesting setting, you are actually just going through different biomes of devastation. The docks are rusty metal, the city is crumbling concrete and the sewers are darkened caves with the familiar sci-fi plating that spans Jericho from top to bottom. There is one park level that breaks away from the norm but even there you can’t shake the feeling of this limited asset re-use going on. The level design itself is quite clever with many twisting pathways and shortcuts that lead back to previous areas. But like I mentioned above, it seems to be more for the sake of more. There are so many shortcuts that half of them end up feelings absolutely superfluous. Oftentimes because everything still looks so very similar and without character, you’ll open up one of these shortcuts and not even recognize the area you’ve come from because unlike the Souls games there is very little instantly recognizable architecture to be found.

Pictured: Me ripping and tearing
Pictured: Me ripping and tearing

The combat which was excellent in the first game feels freshened up and faster in the second. Unfortunately a lot of the tougher enemy encounters revolve around a brand new directional parry mechanic. Parrying is a divisive tactic simply because you have to be actually really good at it to make it work, which is why a lot of people opt out favoring a more defensive strategy. A missed parry can have devastating effects and in a Souls like game this risk can be especially punishing. It doesn’t help that the parry here is tied to animation, which means it’s not just a split second button press. You need to anticipate both the incoming attack timing as well as your own characters physical response timing. These windows can feel wildly inconsistent across the varying enemies you encounter. There were some who I could parry 95% of the time with ease while others I struggled with to the very end. It’s a mechanic you could potentially ignore if not for the fact that nearly all the bosses in The Surge 2 require some form of parrying unless you want to really slug it out for a while. I should know because I was so bad at directional parries during my first major boss encounter that I decided to dance around him and take potshots when possible. After an incredibly long and ardous fight I felled the beast without engaging once with this essential risk-reward mechanic. Dozens of hours later I faced this same boss in NG+, now a lot more comfortable with bouncing attacks back at my enemies, and this boss was a breeze and much easier when tackled the way the developers intended. The big difference was not only the hours upon hours of practice I’ve had, but that my health and stamina pool both allowed me to engage the boss this way without it spelling certain doom if I messed up. At the beginning of the game you have so little health and limited amounts of healing that missing one of these attacks can literally lead to death. It’s scary. Now that I had a much bigger safety buffer, missing Little Johnny’s mechanical tentacle swipes cost me a tiny fraction of health compared ot my first encounter. Even if I got exceedingly sloppy I’d acquired an implant that gave me health back for sustained damage that let me easily build that green bar back up to full. During my final hours with the game I would parry quite often because I didn’t feel the danger of missing. I understood what the developers were going for, but I also saw how they were unable to perceive the shortcomings of this system for newcomers.

Those robots are kind of referenced in the lore..
Those robots are kind of referenced in the lore..

Which in a weird way brings me to Doom Eternal. The opinions on this game seem to sway in two polar opposites. Those who love it and those who feel at odds with the systems. At first I was leaning heavily into the latter. With time I’ve come to understand it’s mostly a case of a bad on-ramp. Eternal starts with all cylinders firing. There is a very short refresher course on what each button does and then the combat arenas begin in earnest. In no time at all the game introduces bigger enemies like the spidery Arachnotron and shows you their weak points to exploit. There is an overall very welcome transparency to the combat mechanics. Game director Hugo Martin even mentions in one interview or another that they didn’t really want the player to focus on puzzling out HOW to kill bad guys - they were going to show you exactly how to do it so you can go on have the fun experience of getting on with it. Yet many players felt constrained by these systems as if the game was actually limiting a lot of your options by forcing hard counters you needed to exploit. In turn many players that finished the game and loved it would argue that you don’t actually need to strictly adhere to everything the game tells you to do, that there is a lot of flexibility to the combat system and how you approach each enemy. This is true.. tt just takes a while to get there. At the outset you get a shotgun and a rifle and if you plan to survive you actually have to strictly adhere to the rules because you don’t have any other options. You’re not going to take out the flying Revenant with ease without taking out both his cannons with only the rifle and combat shotgun. You could lob a sticky grenade but it’s not ideal. This is a bit of a forced learning curve - the game is forcing you to do this knowing you have no other option in order to drill into the player the rock-paper-shotgun approach to combat. Later on I hardly ever bothered with this tedious scoping in because I would use my super shotgun and meathook right into a Revenants face. Similarly I stopped caring about a lot of traditional weak points opting out for weapons with higher firepower or knockback. The problem is you have to get there, and those possibilities all open up somewhere past the midpoint of the game. You’re fairly squishy throughout but especially so at the beginning. The first half of your demon slaying journey really feels quite frantic as you’re dancing around all these fiends with a limited arsenal. It’s a lot less fun and creative than the latter half of the experience where you get to choose how you want to engage the enemies and the “combat puzzle” becomes a lot more interesting with the additional puzzle pieces filling out the picture. You’ll annoyingly still take a beating from the most basic fodder types if you’re not careful, but getting out of bad situations is a lot easier as well.

The combat makes perfect sense when you look at it back from the perspective of a powered up beast you become by the end. There is actually a ton of freedom in how you tackle demons. Apart from the Marauder who forces your hand, you’re given so many options that there is always some way to make things work in your favor. So it’s understandable why a lot of folks get turned off early on when the game simply isn’t as fun. Having to run around wildly with just the combat shotgun in the first few levels doesn’t make you feel like a powerful demon slayer. The fact that you take so much damage from even the simplest imps similarly saps the power fantasy right out of Doom. And this is Doom after all. You’re meant to be an unstoppable power house but at best the Doom Marine feels like a glass cannon. Weapons and abilities should have been introduced much quicker so you can, as Hugo describes it, get quicker into the fun-zone.

By this point I was pretty tired of slaying
By this point I was pretty tired of slaying

That said, while the combat definitely picks up the further you go, I still don’t think this is a “perfect shooter” as some would say. Doom 2016 while slower had a lot more charm, a lot more character, and a smoother progression throughout. Eternal puts the pedal to the metal from the start and it unflinchingly stays in that high gear to the very end. The last act of the game starts to feel like a bit of a slog and the final boss quantifies this feeling by a hundred. If you weren’t feeling even a little tired of Doom, then that final encounter will try it’s hardest to wear you out. It’s not even a complicated or interesting challenge - you are presented with a towering meat bag that you have to dump copious amounts of ammo into, twice. You would maybe get some satisfaction from the absolute power fantasy of being able to use your insta-kill sword to your hearts delight if it weren’t for the length of the encounter. For the developer this was meant to be the final showcase of their really great damage tech that you’re witness to throughout the many hours of demon dismemberment. Perhaps they were a little too close to it all and forgot to take a step back to see that ultimately it wasn’t all that fun to play. Some other nitpicks is the level design which is now completely divorced from any sort of game-world reality and is just full on arcadey arenas with floating platforms and skulls throughout. It no longer feels like any one place but rather a collection of fighting pits. This was always the case with Doom but Eternal does nothing to mask it. The platforming while not ideal I didn’t really mind but the swimming sections with acid are all awful, not fun or creative in any way, and feel like someone lost a bet and they had to put them in somewhere. Thankfully much like the purple goop they show up very rarely. All the boss encounters are bad with maybe the exception of the Doom Hunter who becomes a regular enemy. The second to last boss is alright but homing rockets made the fight fairly trivial, but by that point of the game I welcomed the easy win. The lore, which I actually tried to study, is deep in the worst possible way and for all it’s wordiness is barely represented in the actual game. I kept waiting for some story twist, something, anything really.. but it’s very straightforward from start to finish. I can only imagine they will release the bridge between Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal as some sort of lost levels or worse yet DLC.

Not as complex but a heck of a lot of fun
Not as complex but a heck of a lot of fun

Yet despite all that there are those that love Eternal from start to finish. This made me wonder why someone would be so uncritical of these obvious shortcomings, and where have I seen this before? The answer is Devil May Cry 5. I’ve observed that there is a certain subset of players that simply love mechanics above all else. DMC5 was a game that some fans of the series loved and proclaimed the best character action title ever made. They didn’t see a problem with the level design being repetitious or the story, because those things don’t matter in light of the combat which they placed above all else. Doom Eternal is like that age old argument of DmC and DMC. While DmC might not be as nuanced as the canonical DMC entries, I found the overall package not only more compelling but also more inviting to play - in part because it wasn’t as complicated. People that love Doom Eternal love the combat and they will continue playing the game over and over because that is their main priority - mechanics, raw gameplaty. For those people I imagine there wasn’t a single second of the game that felt like a slog, because every new room, every new encounter, was another opportunity to engage in the fun of simply killing demons, and thats great. For those like myself that are never going to be that skilled or consumed with just gameplay, there needs to be more to fill out the corners and Eternal just doesn’t provide that. It’s one hell of a ride and I enjoyed large chunks of it, but ultimately it’s singular focus wore me out long before the credits rolled.

Avatar image for rorie
rorie

6429

Forum Posts

1163

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 3

#1 rorie  Staff

I definitely agree with the end boss complaints in Doom - it just felt like a super slog! But I'm really glad I powered through the first couple of levels and got some weapons upgraded; got a lot better after that!

Avatar image for relkin
Relkin

1361

Forum Posts

2492

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

I had been wondering about Surge 2; thanks for the read, Humanity.

Avatar image for jeremyf
jeremyf

480

Forum Posts

2925

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 7

Great read. I especially agree with your point about demon weak points. With the tiny arsenal you have at first it's a real pain to deal with. You have to slow down to target them, which means taking damage. A few hours later, you can just pump lock-on rockets into enemies until they're liquefied. I wonder if changing the order in which enemy types were introduced could have helped this. Still, it's an interesting system that could be refined in other shooters. I also appreciate someone doing due diligence on The Surge, because the setting intrigued me more than the usual fantasy one.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19839

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 14

@rorie: @jeremyf: Yah I really think a lot of the fun in that game hinges on having a full box of toys to play around with. I'm not quite sure how they could alleviate that issue because it would be rough if they threw all the weapons at you right from the start but even if you begun with the combat shotgun, rifle, rocket launcher and plasma right from the start it would probably feel better. Overall it feels like Eternal is like a movie that has gone through extensive re-shoots and despite the best intentions none of it still quite fits right. They obviously didn't want to waste any time so the action starts right away and in a sequel you don't want a long winded tutorial process, but ironically this hurts the pacing as you're dunked into the deep end of the pool and it takes a long while before you can get your head above water. It's a weird game. Definitely one of the best mechanically playing FPS games to date, they just need an editor or something.

@relkin: Surge 2 is really fun. Despite it not quite being the great improvement I wanted it to be the gameplay loop of severing body pieces to build up your own armor set is still very addictive. I had a really fun time just fighting the bad guys. I guess Deck13 is just a smaller dev or something and they tried to be a bit more ambition with the setting but couldn't quite pull it off. If you never played the original you might not even have any of the nitpicks I did because tonally it feels very different but the gameplay has been really tightened up.

Avatar image for ethanielrain
EthanielRain

1609

Forum Posts

45

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

#5  Edited By EthanielRain

You did trick me and I did read it :)

As someone who really values story & fun/neat/unique levels, I've avoided both The Surge & Doom Eternal; I might try Surge sometime, eventually. DmC though...what a great game. With DmC, Enslaved & Hellblade, I'm always excited for whatever Ninja Theory is putting out.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19839

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 14

#6  Edited By Humanity

@ethanielrain: Thanks for reading! I agree Ninja Theory make really interesting games - not sure what happened with Bleeding Edge but hey.. Apparently they’re working on some mental terror game or something which should be interesting but I really think they had a great thing going with DmC and they should somehow use the engine to make their own character action game. It was weird to see Hellblade be so simplistic in gameplay after how great DmC played.

Avatar image for therealturk
TheRealTurk

817

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#7  Edited By TheRealTurk

For me, Eternal's issue isn't necessarily rigidity in the sense that "you must use x weapon to defeat y enemy." I agree that particular criticism was largely overblown and limited to the beginning stages of the game. But I do think there is a rigidity problem that runs deeper throughout the whole experience that relates to the underlying gameplay loop that relies on, for lack of a better term, lying to the player.

Let me explain: I think most people would say that Eternal is harder than 2016. Enemies do more damage, take more shots to put down, there are generally more of them, and your ammo reserves are pretty limited. In other words, Eternal largely relies on scarcity to generate tension. In any given moment of a fight, you are always low on something - health, ammo, space to move around, etc. Because gamers have been conditioned for years to view "low" as "bad," the tendency is to perceive this scarcity as difficulty and therefore believe that Eternal is significantly harder than 2016.

However, I hit this point maybe 3 or 4 missions into the game when I finally realized that this scarcity is actually a critical part of the gameplay loop. You are supposed to be low on health to encourage glory killing. You are supposed to be low on ammo so that you use the chainsaw. So for every shortage, you always have an immediately available to way to remedy the problem. In other words, the scarcity is completely artificial. Put another way, the game is constantly "lying" to the player. Being low on health or ammo isn't the result of you playing badly, it's the way the game is supposed to work.

There are probably a lot of people who would say that's just good game design, and I guess I can't really argue with them. However, for me, it completely ruined the experience. If the scarcity the player faces is artificial, then the tension it generates must also be artificial. At that point swinging wildly between full health and almost dead is no longer thrilling, it's nakedly mechanical. It takes something that should be exciting and makes it kind of boring.

Avatar image for sethmode
SethMode

2438

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

#8  Edited By SethMode

@therealturk said:

For me, Eternal's issue isn't necessarily rigidity in the sense that "you must use x weapon to defeat y enemy." I agree that particular criticism was largely overblown and limited to the beginning stages of the game. But I do think there is a rigidity problem that runs deeper throughout the whole experience that relates to the underlying gameplay loop that relies on, for lack of a better term, lying to the player.

Let me explain: I think most people would say that Eternal is harder than 2016. Enemies do more damage, take more shots to put down, there are generally more of them, and your ammo reserves are pretty limited. In other words, Eternal largely relies on scarcity to generate tension. In any given moment of a fight, you are always low on something - health, ammo, space to move around, etc. Because gamers have been conditioned for years to view "low" as "bad," the tendency is to perceive this scarcity as difficulty and therefore believe that Eternal is significantly harder than 2016.

However, I hit this point maybe 3 or 4 missions into the game when I finally realized that this scarcity is actually a critical part of the gameplay loop. You are supposed to be low on health to encourage glory killing. You are supposed to be low on ammo so that you use the chainsaw. So for every shortage, you always have an immediately available to way to remedy the problem. In other words, the scarcity is completely artificial. Put another way, the game is constantly "lying" to the player. Being low on health or ammo isn't the result of you playing badly, it's the way the game is supposed to work.

There are probably a lot of people who would say that's just good game design, and I guess I can't really argue with them. However, for me, it completely ruined the experience. If the scarcity the player faces is artificial, then the tension it generates must also be artificial. At that point swinging wildly between full health and almost dead is no longer thrilling, it's nakedly mechanical. It takes something that should be exciting and makes it kind of boring.

I don't know about this. Perhaps that was your experience, but the better I got at the game (not just using its systems but switching seamlessly between weapons and being aware of enemy attack patterns/weaknesses) I went from low health to almost always having a supply of health and ammo in the tank. So if you can get better at the game and take less damage, then I think you CAN play badly at the game and it isn't designed that way at all. If anything, I would say the design is such so that players of a variety of different skill levels can still get through some of the harder parts of the game, because you effectively have safety valves for every situation that goes sideways.

For me, by the end of the game, when I was a powered-up wrecking ball, I could cut my way through huge set pieces even including Mauraders without taking much damage. The chainsaw option for more ammo is going to be liked or disliked no matter what, and it is one mechanic you absolutely will need from time to time, but honestly by the end for me it was more just a great thing I could do to breathe. Same with the Glory Kills. I would often use them when I didn't need them just for a moment where I could be damage free and sort of mentally regroup if things were bananas. Having said that, regarding the chainsaw, one change I really didn't like is the three levels of chainsaw fuel because it just seemed pointless. You could only really use it on non-fodder enemies when it had three (to my recollection) and the payoff was the same as using it on fodder. By the end of the game I was almost exclusively using the chainsaw on the fodder guys because using it on 3 of them is more valuable than using it on one Mancubus or something.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19839

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 14

@therealturk: @sethmode: I think that you are meant to be low on ammo and no matter how much you chainsaw the game will inevitably enact this shortage on you through design. Of course I agree that this is easy to mitigate when all the pieces are working correctly. Typically you are always swimming within clumps of fodder and in the later stages it's actually quite easy to randomly press the chainsaw key while flying through an arena and just happen to get a kill. The only times the game gets clunky is when, for whatever reason, you've gotten stuck with a tough enemy, you just burnt through all your ammo and the arena hasn't spawned fodder in a while. In this situation you suddenly are doing laps until you spot the shambling zombie that teleported in from around the corner. This doesn't happen often, I maybe experienced it a handful of times within 13 hours of play, but it can be jarring.

As to the illusion aspect of the argument that I think you might be overthinking things and just winding yourself up. Every game is mechanical in the very same way. You enter a level and have to deal more damage than you take. The part of the excitement comes from how well you play in order to maintain the balance. If you play real well you won't have to worry about health scarcity because you won't be getting hit. Similarly you won't have to worry about ammo shortages because you'll be killing things which give you ammo. I guess I just don't see the argument of how understanding the gameplay makes it less exciting to actually engage it.

Boredom for me usually stemmed from spongy enemies that extended encounters beyond what I considered a "fun period of time." Of course very good players will tell you there is no such thing as spongy enemies because everything can be taken down in seconds, and I've seen some amazing gameplay that proves this point. Personally I'm never going to be THAT skilled to do some fancy weapon quick-swap juggling in order to fire off three shots from 3 different guns in 2 seconds. Pain Elementals take longer to kill than seems "fun" to me. I don't know their names but the guys with the flaming claws usually need quite a bit of ammo to die. I've gotten decent enough at the Marauder to do the whole swapping trick of one shot from Ballista and then quickly another from the super shotgun but thats as complex as it gets for me. This is why the end of the game was a grind because that end encounter just drags. Maybe I was doing something wrong but using some of my most powerful weapons that healthbar was draining slower than I would have liked.

Avatar image for donutello
donutello

16

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

Wow, your final experience with Eternal is exactly like mine. Maybe except i liked the game a lot from the get-go. Well, up until level 9 it was more or less great. And then from 9 to 13 with that super boring boss at the end... i ended up so tired and disconnected with the game that during ending cutscene i felt just sadness and was glad it's over.

Avatar image for inevpatoria
inevpatoria

7627

Forum Posts

2136

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 6

I've been picking at Doom Eternal pretty lackadaisically. Kind of like someone prodding at a meal they're too full to eat.

Sometimes I really like Eternal and sometimes I'm just sort of fatigued, or even bored, of it. It really feels like a mood/and energy thing—a me problem, so to speak, not an it problem. There are days where I just don't feel like juggling the intricacies of the combat with the constant start-and-stop of exploring the game's nooks and crannies for alternate paths and hidden trinkets. Some times I just want to buzzsaw through enemies. Eternal just isn't that game.

But! There are definitely other times when I'm all for the game's meticulous rock-paper-scissors approach to firefighting. And when I'm in the right mood for the game, it's a lot of fun. I mostly don't mind the platforming, though I often find the level design to be illegible. Like, to the point where I'm deliberately failing jumps just to see what ledge or climby-wall or swingy-pole I need to aim for.

Not as impressed with Eternal as I was with Doom (2016). But I think I'll see it through.

Eventually, haha.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

19839

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 14

@inevpatoria: @donutello: Yah when I played it I remember playing every other day or so, and before starting it was more of a "ok lets knock another level off this thing" sort of feeling rather than genuine excitement. I actually grew to enjoy it more with time, but it never reached those same peaks for me as the previous title, specifically because I was never looking forward to what was going to happen around the corner as the game early on makes it abundantly clear that nothing is going to happen. More fights are going to happen sure, but thats it. Eternal is definitely technically impressive and the movement during combat feels real good, but like Inevpatoria said, didn't reach those same highs for me and as a result when it ended I really felt nothing apart from relief that it's over.

Incidentally I did the stupidest thing ever where I didn't really read up on any news and when the big patch was announced I installed it to see the multiplayer modes, played a few rounds and then decided to finally just uninstall the whole game altogether as I didn't feel like I was ever going to go back to it. Had no idea about the Denuvo stuff because then I would have probably never even bothered checking back in.