Tech News on G4
The Surge is the jolt we need
May 16, 2017
By Alexander Cattani - G4 Canada
Like many others, I’ve often pondered what the future of technology could potentially hold. But just as interesting of a query to me, is what the subsequent effect of technology's evolution on humanity will be. Will the lines between man and machine eventually meld? Will 100% organic humanity ultimately be a thing of the past? There is a myriad of titles across almost every medium that tackles these potentially immanent questions. The most recent being Deck 13's The Surge.
The Surge is an action RPG that borrows key elements from the Dark Soul's series of games, but also manages to include some unique mechanical variations of its own. Games inspired by Dark Souls are increasingly more and more apparent in recent times. With this sub-genre becoming increasingly crowded, doing something beyond the rote and nearly seven-year-old formula is vital to gain any type of status.
On a very base level, The Surge manages to differentiate its self from its inspirations. Combat plays as you would expect. Light attacks and heavy attacks can be chained to pull off devastating combos. But spamming these attacks is a fool’s errand, as stamina preservation is essential for success. Weighing the risk of going in for another attack instead of dodging and recovering stamina is an ultimatum I was often faced with time and time again. Death is almost always your fault, and each defeat only serves as a lesson.
A slight nuance introduced in combat is the ability to target the specific body parts of enemies. For example, focusing attacks on an enemy’s unarmoured leg is quick way to ensure a bigger damage output, but in doing so, lessens the chances of worthwhile loot drops. On the other hand, prioritizing an enemies’ particular appendage will result in a tougher battle, but will yield greater rewards. This mechanic is a nice addition and adds an appreciated, albeit slight layer of tactically to combat. With this said, narrative and aesthetic are what really separate The Surge from its genre contemporaries.
In the near future, a multi-million dollar company aims to fix the plights of the world, as well as the people who inhabit it. Body modifications that bring the physical capabilities of humans to an unparalleled level are the norm, thus making physical ailments a thing of the past. You play as a wheelchair-ridden man seeking a new beginning. Fast-forward an unspecified amount of time, cue catastrophic malfunction and you have The Surge.
The Surge's narrative slowly unfolds via strewn about audio logs, NPC chatter and many other underhanded methods of story telling. Much like the Souls' series of games, don't expect regimented cut scenes to fill you in. Instead, The Surge rewards those with a penchant for exploration in the form story tidbits that flesh out the game's universe. Story hungry players better be on their A game, as finding every audio log in the labyrinthine level design isn't an easy task.
My favourite part of The Surge however, is its unique aesthetic. Think Neil Blomkamp's "Elysium" crossed with a modern industrial backdrop. The futurist-industrialized environment is a welcome change of pace, than opposed to the typical medieval iconography that usually accompanies games of this genre. Exploring the circuit laden metal corridors of a massive factory with your dimly lit exo-suit light evoked a claustrophobic exhilaration that kept me on edge. This was also due to the now famous mechanic that is having your hard earned currency lost upon death. In terms of distinction, The Surge's environment is easily its biggest point of difference.
Truly speaking, only three things detracted from my time with Deck 13's latest. Poor voice work, a finicky lock-on system and an at times unruly camera. The former is admittedly a nitpick, but the two latter complaints detracted from my enjoyment of the title. During combat, each move must be carefully executed, thus making good timing essential. Even less room for error is given when engaging with multiple foes. More often than not, my commands to switch between locked-on targets went ignored, and thus left me focusing on an enemy that wasn't in my immediate vicinity, which resulted in several unearned deaths.
I eventually knew how to work around the antiquated lock on system's faults, but doing so still added an unnecessary amount of annoyance. In addition to a poor lock-on system, the game's camera would occasionally spaz out at seemingly the worst instances, especially one in particular. During a boss encounter at about the campaign's midway point, there is a specific small window of time the player must take advantage of, to inflict damage on said boss. For some reason, when I'd sprint towards the enemy, the camera would decide to do an almost nausea-inducing slow pan away from the focal point of the confrontation, thus making the particular fight harder than it needed to be.
When all is said and done, The Surge is a good souls-like action RPG. It certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel, but its unique look and tight combat make it a worthy entry in the popular genre.
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