The Surge is Dead Space and Dark Souls rolled into one and I'm all in

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Posted by Humanity (19046 posts) -
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It's the gaming drought and I've been looking for things to play. A lot of advertisements had recently sprung up about The Surge 2 showcasing some gameplay videos and a cinematic trailer - even our very own Giant Bomb gave it a shot on a UPF or something a while back. So I checked and it was on Game Pass - man I love Game Pass - so why not?

Turns out I really liked The Surge.


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Many years ago I remember getting a fairly bad game from GameStop and I knew someone working there so they told me they can exchange it for something else they had on hand at the moment. Anything was better than what I had (title of the game escapes me) and when I saw him the next day he handed me Dead Space which had just released at the time. Now I wasn't all that enthused - I don't like scary games and I enjoy survival horror even less. I vaguely recalled the advertising campaigns for Dead Space touting it had amazing sound design and was incredibly scary. The game sat on my shelf for a while until a friend came over that wanted to play it. I let him go at it and sat back watching - when he left that day after getting a few hours into it I knew that a) it looked amazing and b) I had to play it for myself. The amazing design and clever innovations in the already established survival horror genre were able to help me play this title that I would never give the time of day otherwise. Sure I still cringed at all the monster closets, but no longer was I repelled by having 2 bullets and slowly walking around, turning in place using tank controls and clumsily dispatching slow zombies. A great game is just a great game, no matter what genre it occupies.

Dead Souls

The Surge reminds me a lot of that time. A big difference is that I am already a fan of the Souls games, and Bloodborne is probably my favorite one-of-those, so I didn't need to force myself outside of my comfort zone. What the Surge does is take this existing formula and much like Dead Space did with survival horror all those years ago, it adds new systems and evolves some of the already established mechanics. More importantly it brought the Souls experience to a sci-fi setting which is very much my jam. Being in the future means that a lot of the things that were typically just fantasy magic mumbo jumbo all of a sudden have more or less logical explanations which actually goes a long way in increasing the immersion factor. Ironically it helps to ground the experience in some sort of reality which in a way helps you relate to whats going on around you. You're not walking through ruined castles or bogs, you're in the R&D department of a corporation where gross experiments were taking place. You're using a welding device attached to your exo-rig which increases your strength and speed so that you can work at an assembly line better. Your abilities are implants that draw power from your suit.. it's all very industrial and very cool. I even enjoyed the corporate PR you constantly encounter throughout the game, with a future Mark Zuckerberg letting you know how great Creo (the fictional corporation you work for) is both for you and for the world around you - without getting into spoilers you do get to meet this man and it's a really interesting encounter.

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Then of course there is the dismemberment. This system where you cut off the limbs of your enemies in order to get the gear they are wearing is extremely fun. Not only does it look cool, but it helps the combat not get stale. Very rarely was I ever just mashing my pneumatic drill at an enemy. Each encounter is a little different because enemies will have different weak spots and depending on the situation you might want to go for a faster kill or you might want to prolong the fight a bit to gain energy so you can engage a heal. The energy meter you gain through consecutive attacks adds that one extra layer of strategy to combat encounters in addition to simply managing your stamina which makes a world of difference.

Similarly I love the skills system in the form of implants that you can slot in and out at will. Everyone knows the pain of playing through a Dark Souls game, increasing a stat for 15 hours only to find the perfect sword.. that uses a completely different stat. You can use items to re-roll but it's kind of a pain. The Surge presents you with implants that have either passive or active buffs, and you can mix and match them at will as long as you have the energy to power them. You're never locked into one "build" because you can always switch things up. You can even stack a bunch of the same implant that gives you bonus experience for each kill and go farming for a while, then switch in all your implants for exploring an area and keep on truckin. A boss too difficult? Slap on a bunch of extra heals so that you can use a "flask" 12 times. The freedom to play as you wish and the many choices you have at your disposal is a wonderful change of pace from the typically enigmatic and static way the Souls games handle this. The Surge doesn't really obfuscate anything - there aren't any items that "might bring a wanderer luck" or something equally vague. It still manages to be interesting and a lot of fun while being absolutely transparent with it's systems and options. There are some fun things to discover on your own, like for instance there is an entire combo system that executes different moves depending on the sequence of attacks you choose. There is a special way to kill every boss that will reward you a better version of the boss weapon afterwards. It's just enough to be interesting but not too much to be a nuisance.

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Which is not to say that everything is great. The worst thing about the Surge is hands down their level design, which is a little drab and at times incredibly confusing. For all the cool innovation and awesome looking bosses and tech, the areas you traverse are quite boring, often looking very similar from zone to zone, always using the exact same maintenance corridors that twist and turn, going up and down until you no longer know where you are. While games like Bloodborne or Dark Souls were typically excellent about showing you the places that you're going to go to, so that once you get there you could kind of marvel how they cleverly tied everything together, in the Surge you go into these dark corridors that spit you out the other side and you have zero context for where you went or where you ended up. It's a real shame because it's the one element that really drags the entire experience down a whole notch.

If you have Game Pass, and are looking to kill some time until the next big thing comes out (this would be CONTROL next week) annnd you like the Souls games.. then hey check this out. At the time of release it got a somewhat lukewarm reception but I do think it's really doing a lot of interesting things with this new genre we got on our hands.

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#1 Posted by Rahf (544 posts) -

Putting this on my to-read list. My post exists so I can find my way back here.

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#2 Posted by SilverSaint (100 posts) -

The DLC and numerous patches really helped the Surge, it was pretty terrible on release. Even with all of that the base game still heavily suffers from the horrible level design / aesthetics.

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#3 Edited by inevpatoria (7487 posts) -

I really disliked the team's debut game, Lords of the Fallen. Beyond being a Souls-like, the game suffered from some really gummy controls, frustrating balance, and rough performance. As a result, I pretty much dodged everything regarding The Surge from the get-go.

Maybe I'll finally give it a shot. Though, after Sekiro, I'm a little burned out on these kinds of games.

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#4 Posted by Rorie (5923 posts) -

I've always liked the LOOK of Surge but I haven't given it a whirl yet. I might just go ahead and try Surge 2 when it comes out because I'm sure (or I sure hope) that it's fixed whatever issues cropped up with the first game.

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#5 Posted by Humanity (19046 posts) -

@rorie: @inevpatoria: I never played Lords of the Fallen but I hear it was not great. As someone that beat all the Souls games, Bloodborne, Sekiro etc, I do think this really stands on it's own. The combat is a lot of fun and even though as mentioned above the levels can get a little samey it's not a deal breaker. I guess the fact that I absolutely love sci-fi stuff and these exo-suits just look pretty damn cool kept me coming back for more.

The second game is looking interesting although I can't help but feel that by taking place in a I guess? It's kind of hard to tell.. it will lose a lot of that flavor you got from being stranded in a factory and having all this corporate promos hanging everywhere.

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#6 Posted by Onemanarmyy (4597 posts) -

yeah this is definitly a game i should play. I'm pretty sure i will like it.

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#7 Posted by ThePanzini (752 posts) -

As someone who isn't a big Souls fan I really liked the Surge its moment to moment gameplay is terrific the limb system is quite addictive, every new area you enter is like shopping for body parts. The only thing its missing is the visual/audio splender from Souls.

I've only played Bloodborne but the wonder from exploring the world, or the many times the game tries to trick the player by baiting items and chests and the epic music during boss fights. Bloodborne is not only a good game to play but has a lot of moments that I still remember years later, The Surge doesn't have enough of these moments its just a good game to play.

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#8 Posted by bybeach (6392 posts) -

I played The Surge up to/not including the final boss. I liked it a good bit. I would have to say there was a bit of a story buried in it , also. I felt a little bad The Surge 2 isn't a direct continuation.

But we will see where things go, and what they have learned.

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#9 Posted by cikame (2953 posts) -

I love everything about The Surge except the design of a lot of its combat encounters, i had the same problem with Lords of the Fallen.
I like them for around 5 hours, then the difficulty increases but not in a fun way, enemies you've fought before are shoved into rooms with other enemies to make really dumb combinations, attack patterns overlap in ridiculous ways, for as hard as Dark Souls can be it's always been something i can overcome and i don't feel cheated by awkward or just dumb encounters. I get the feeling the developers run out of ideas or just get lazy and then i lose all desire to keep playing. The boss fights are completely terrible and consist mostly of finding ways to cheap out or break the ai.
I want to be excited for The Surge 2, but unless i get the impression they've changed how they design their encounters i'm totally out.

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#10 Posted by ArbitraryWater (15756 posts) -

The Surge is solid, and I think the devs at Deck 13 are one or two games away from making something really amazing. For a sophomore effort, it's a pretty serious step above Lords of the Fallen (a game I'd generously describe as "Eurojank Knock-Off Souls") and starts to carve out some of its own identity with all of the sci-fi exoskeleton dismemberment megacorp trappings. I only got around 10 hours in before I got distracted by something else, but I liked what I played.

That said, I don't think it entirely breaks free from some of my problems with Lords of the Fallen. The movement is a little too sluggish and a little too momentum based for my liking, and a lot of the encounter design suffices with throwing like 3-4 guys at you at once in a cramped room. To give it a label that seems dangerous, I think it's a pretty great example of the kinds of mid-budget, interesting-but-flawed "B" games that aren't especially common these days.

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#11 Posted by Humanity (19046 posts) -

@arbitrarywater: @cikame:I have just finished playing through all of it and even out of boredom have started going through NG+ and I gotta say I didn't really experience the bad enemy placement you guys mention nearly as much. I would even say that full blooded Souls games in my recollection had way worse "fuck you" rooms than anything I encountered here. Typically it's 2-3 guys, usually 2 and rarely more than 3. The AI is very basic so kiting them one at a time is extremely easy which is maybe why I didn't ever feel that overwhelmed.

One of the issues I had was that nearly every enemy has this extremely long range dash that really homes in on you and does a lot of damage - the three legged robots with a tail are a great example of this. Blocking seemed really weird and inconsistent, like some attacks you think you could block and counter you couldn't while others you did. On NG+ I can no longer block the enemies that I was blocking before, maybe because they take way more stamina to block? Also even on a regular playthrough every enemy hit REALLY hard. There isn't that much enemy variety but I think every single humanoid hit like a dump truck which make encounters really tense and not always in a good way.

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#12 Posted by Dispossession (159 posts) -

It took me getting to the dlc and finishing that for The Surge to get it’s hooks in me and I grew to really like that game despite the executive area and the final area. The final boss also was lame in my experience so I never finished it which sucks cause I really wanted that boss drop.

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#13 Edited by DecoyOctopusX (103 posts) -

The inherent level of fear induced from a game will vary from person to person, but it did not scare me in the least which was rather disappointing. Though the moment to moment action was quite fun, yet it got boring after a while. Then again having it on game pass changes things a bit. Even if you don't beat it you can still have fun for a few hours.

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#14 Edited by NTM (11905 posts) -

I don't have much to say about this really, but yeah I liked The Surge a lot. I played through it last year. It's not as good as Dead Space nor the Souls games, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and it has its own unique thing going for it with the dismemberment aspect. The game isn't really a horror game necessarily. There are times when there is a dark area and a dude will jump out at you, or the time's when multiple enemies are around all at once can be tense. The art behind the tech in the game is kind of generic-looking, but I liked the relatively clean look to it all juxtaposed with the dark side of it all. Two isn't my most anticipated game from this year, but I definitely have my eye on it and so far I'm leaning more on the 'definitely going to get it' side then cautiously optimistic. I didn't get the DLC even though I was somewhat interested; I was weighing the options and felt I should spend the money elsewhere.

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#15 Posted by grandCurator (238 posts) -

I played through a good chunk of Lords of the Fallen and GOD that game sucks. So going into The Surge, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Especially all the cool little things you can do like having weird kill conditions on bosses to get enhanced versions of their weapons and stuff like that. It just adds more to the replay value of it.

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#16 Posted by HerrHeimlich (95 posts) -

I was definitely pleasantly surprised how much I like the Surge. I really liked the systems the game laid in place.

The only miffs I had was the hop/blocking mechanics that was awkward for me to use. I am hoping they improve on the ease of use in the Surge 2 since they decided to keep it. The other being the constant thought of "Why is the security forces are not using guns like at all?" I understand in the gameplay perspective, but just in a logical sense I had to shove that thought out of a window when playing.

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#17 Posted by NickMitch (29 posts) -

Played this a lot with support from a Youtube walkthrough. Found it to be really good but also quite challenging. Dropped of for a while and started it up again last month. Did not know where to go, so i went into the DLC area - did not find that enjoyable at all.

On the negative side i think the weapon and armour diversity/amount was a bit lackluster.

Looking forward to the sequel.

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#18 Posted by Gundato (368 posts) -

Surge 1 is apparently on super sale right now. I think the game is in a free weekend on steam (maybe elsewhere) and you can get the game and all DLC for 20 bucks on steam (maybe elsewhere)

Been having a hankering to give this another go so I'll probably pick up the DLC when I get home and start a run

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#19 Posted by Humanity (19046 posts) -

@herrheimlich: Yah the hopping was kind of useless really. I saw it used in a few videos to jump over sweeping attacks but it's such a high risk when you can just as well dodge out of the way that I never bothered to use it. Surge 2 has directional counters in place of the hopping which seems like a better risk/reward mechanic. As for the guns I think that it makes sense if you think of Creo as like a big Ford factory or an office building - those have security but they usually don't carry firearms. Instead they typically have clubs or maybe tasers. So in a really roundabout way it makes sense that what is essentially a factory for making rockets would have security officers with beefed up armor in case your mechanized workforce got out of hand, but armed with "riot" gear instead of live ammo. Of course that head of security guy has a 2 handed axe that sends energy shockwaves so.. you know.

@gundato:I haven't played the DLC mostly because I read that once you beat the game your gear is so much better than anything found in the DLC that it's hard to go back to - I guess you can upgrade it but at NG+ and such the upgrade costs start getting steep. So going into the DLC from the start seems like the way to go. This is A Walk in the Park cause the other ones are more like arena combat things from what I hear.

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#20 Edited by Gundato (368 posts) -

And now I remember why I bounced off of this a few months after launch:

In theory, it is a really cool game. I like the Lords of the Fallen style soul decay and I think the streamlined leveling up is something the Souls genre has needed for a long time

But random enemies have way too much health (how the fuck is the floating drone the scariest enemy in the first few hours of the game?) and the game and you have to spend too much time kiting everyone to not get ambushed. Not to mention the devs thinking "pitch black area where you can only see with a flashlight that swings wildly while you attack" is a good idea

In a lot of ways it reminds me of Demon Souls. Except whereas Demon was fairly "unique" this just feels a lot like Lords of the Fallen: it tries new stuff but doesn't learn anything from the games that came before it and codified the genre

Maybe I'll get in the mood for it again some time down the line and it isn't bad enough that I am annoyed at spending money on it. But here is hoping The Surge 2 is a LOT better

Still, I do think this will be one of those games we look back at in a decade and see how the Souls-like genre has evolved. It tries a lot of cool stuff but it just never really succeeds at any one thing. I kind of see something of a Far Cry 2 vibe where it came and went but a lot of the elements went on to become staples of the genre. And in a decade or two someone will make almost the same game with a different theme and be in the GOTY running at multiple outlets.

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#21 Posted by stryker1121 (2172 posts) -

I picked this up free with PSPlus and enjoyed the hell out of it, despite its flaws, e.g. not much reason to experiment with armor and weapons. What the sequel needs badly is an in-game map, particularly if there's going to be the same amount of backtracking as the first game.

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#22 Posted by someoneproud (669 posts) -

I keep toying with the idea of jumping in to this game but I'm not quite there yet for some reason. I got it on PS+ as well but something's putting me off.

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#23 Posted by AtheistPreacher (121 posts) -

I was pretty surprised when I learned that The Surge was getting a sequel, since from what I understand it really didn't do very well sales-wise. I think that can be chalked up largely to the fact that this was Deck13's next game after Lords of the Fallen, which as people in this thread have already noted was... well, pretty bad, honestly, which scared people off their next Souls-like project. Certainly The Surge was a much better game, and I'm glad they're making a sequel despite the fact that it seems like no one played the last one.

They did some pretty cool and smart things, design-wise. I liked the idea of a timer to get your bloodstain back that would add time for killing enemies... it meant you either had to be fast or kill some things on your way, kept things moving. I also liked that the whole implant system; it was very smart and flexible. Levels gave you more points for better implants, which could be freely switched in and out, but at the same time you were limited by your number of implant slots, which was gated by story progress, so you couldn't get stupidly powerful merely from grinding out levels forever, you had to at least get the next rig with more implant slots (this changed a bit with the final DLC, which provided some pretty stupidly overpowered implants if you had the capacity for them). I liked that you could bank your scrap. I liked the lack of many "bonfires" in favor of unlocking lots of shortcuts. I liked the humor that they showcased in the theme-park DLC. And of course the whole limb-cutting system was pretty neat.

Certainly there were areas that could have used improvement. Your robot companion wasn't good for much other than pulling enemies. Some of the weapons had multi-hit animations for a single button press, which made them way more unwieldy and less responsive than you'd like. The levels throughout the game looked kinda same-y. It could use more weapon variety. I kinda disliked the idea of weapon type mastery because it discouraged experimentation when you'd already leveled on of them a bunch.

But overall, I had a very good time with the first one. Such a good time that I played it through twice, saw that a new DLC was coming, waited for it to come out, then started over again from scratch and played it through four more times (which is the number of times you have to play through to max your gear). That isn't quite as insane as it sounds, since when you've played it through once and know where you're going, the whole thing can be beaten in a couple of hours, which I actually didn't mind.

I don't pre-order many games nowadays, but in the case of The Surge 2, I feel like I want to support the developer. The original game deserved more success than it got, and I myself got it late and for cheap, so I'm happy to pony up for the new one.

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#24 Posted by Humanity (19046 posts) -

@atheistpreacher: Yah pretty much agree with everything you said. Lots of clever design and great systems with maybe a somewhat lacking world design.

Excited to see what they will do with the next game since it seems to be opening up the game a whole lot.

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#25 Posted by AtheistPreacher (121 posts) -

@humanity: While I have you here, it occurs to me that there's one clarification I'd make about the level/world design, and I'd be interested to hear if you'd make the same distinction here or not.

I think that in terms of the look or visual design, the levels tended to be a tad on the bland side, and--more problematically--at times there was a lot of that exact same narrow vent/corridor thing close together, so it could be difficult to tell where you were (the last stage of the game was particularly bad this way). They weren't great at providing you with distinct landmarks to orient yourself. And this for a game that (unless my memory is failing me) did not come with any sort of in-game map to look at. That part wasn't great.

But as I mentioned briefly above, I really like how they doubled down on the levels looping back around on each other. In a Souls game it was pretty usual to unlock a single shortcut back to a bonfire at some point, but with some rare exceptions it was usually only one, if it was there at all. In The Surge, there was only one "bonfire" per area, and as you played through it, you were unlocking multiple shortcuts back to it. That part of the level design was pretty great.

In short, IMO the "level design" in terms of the actual routes you're traveling along was good, but the visual design and differentiation was bad.

Anyway, I do know that The Surge 2 is adding more weapons, a more robust block/parry system, and making your companion bot more useful, which would seem to address a lot of my concerns already. Really looking forward.

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#26 Posted by Humanity (19046 posts) -

@atheistpreacher: There indeed was no map as is typical for these sort of games. As you said the design of the levels wasn't particularly inspired both from a technical and aesthetic perspective which made traversing them feel like an actual maze. Perhaps this was the design intent in order to somehow artificially pad out the game time because much like yourself I played some of NG+ - I'd say about 3/4 through - and once you know where to actually go the game flies by rather quickly. That said some places were a real mess, that last area in particular. That said I can't tell if they had all that many more shortcuts than later stage Souls game and Bloodborne especially which I would mostly liken the Surge to.

What I think they did was establish mid-level shortcuts if that makes sense. They were doors that led back to an earlier part of the level but not the beginning. I recall a few instances where you could take a shortcut to what seemed like a hub, where you could branch off to another place - the R&D area with the glass display cases on the ground level was one such place where the elevators just because a mess. I think the problem partially stems from the Surge taking place mostly inside a facility rather than an open area. In Bloodborne I specifically recall feeling awe each time I unlocked a new shortcut because of the way it cleverly looped around, and this was achieved in no small part because you instantly knew where you were after unlocking a gate or ladder. In the Surge you are running through these identical looking hallways and can't see whats going on outside which makes you lose your bearing very easily. The way they make you ride up and down the elevators doesn't help either. If those corridors had windows or color coding it would go A LONG way in helping you keep some semblance of a map in your head. It feels like when they were laying out the maps the main areas were these big blocks and then they just drew a bunch of twisty, scraggly lines connecting them.

All that said I did actually enjoy the overall corporate look. I wish some of it was more interesting, and maybe this is just me liking the systems so much that I'm turning a blind eye to how monotone the look actually was, but after I while I grew to kind of appreciate it.

Likewise I am looking forward to the sequel quite a bit. The directional parry seems like a great addition. The first game felt very much like it was meant to be played aggressively and apart from dodging and a counter that work on some enemies it felt like my toolset was a bit more limited when faced with having to stay on the enemy. I just love the look and the systems they created - September is going to be pretty stuffed with cool games!

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#27 Posted by schindigg (180 posts) -

As others have said; the game was decent but the map design was bad and felt like running through a maze cause everything looked the same. Everything else about the game was completely passable and showed lots of promise. Fortunately it seems they took some time and read forums and have completely fixed the world look/design problem in the upcoming sequel which comes out, pretty soon!! Definitely Ill be interested to see how it shapes up!