we’ve seen a lot of information regarding The Surge recently, much of which is from trailers and some streamed footage, but no one has really taken the time to dissect the game and make direct comparisons of each mechanic. Having played the preview build rather recently, I decided to take things a step further and really show people how it “actually feels” to play The Surge. I hope to impart a better understanding of what you are actually getting with the game and hope to make players make more informed decisions about their purchase. Please keep in mind that some of this is subject to change before launch, but much of what you see should remain the same.
Let’s get started with controls, these will be laid out for Playstation 4. These will be extremely familiar to players of Dark Souls, Bloodborne or Lords of the Fallen. R1 is horizontal attack, R2 is vertical attack, L1 is block, X is sprint/dodge and O is consumable. Lock-on is R3 and what makes this unique is not only the ability to target body parts to attack resulting in the opportunity to sever them for parts and schematics, but also finding the enemies weak spot, shown in blue. Hitting this weak spot will deal increased damage and can sometimes save you 1 -3 attacks per enemy to kill them, which is actually a lot because you attack slower than Souls or Bloodborne. Players can also do running attacks by hitting X + R1 that will send you lunging into the enemy at great distances or you can press X + R2 and do a slide attack, which has a wicked looking animation, that will allow you to attack from even further away. This is extremely useful for catching enemies off guard and striking them before they are aggro’d.
Having taken a look at the controls, let’s move to combat and dissect how it all works. Players will choose from one of five different weapon types: One-handed Weapons, Staves, Heavy-duty Weapons, Single-rigged Weapons and Twin-rigged Weapons. The difference between these weapons vary, but generally include attack animations, severing animations when you slice up enemies, speed of attack, range and of course damage and damage types. Players will gain proficiency in these weapon types when they defeat enemies using a weapon of that type. Increasing your weapon proficiency will increase your damage with ANY weapon of that type to a limited degree, with some weapons gaining more damage than others. Players will want to find the type that works best for them and stick with it. I myself am partial to the Single-rigged Weapons, as they deal a good deal of damage with an average attack speed.
Just like Bloodborne, this game favors offense. Not only can you stun lock enemies, but hitting their weak spots and then holding Square to execute a fatality-like animation is rather easy to do before they even attack when fighting average opponents. When fighting more difficult ones you will be dashing and dodging, striking with a running attack or two and then dodging once again. Hitting your enemies often is vital because you will build Energy which allows you to heal, again similar to Bloodborne’s Regain mechanic, but slightly different. It is a risk-reward system that tends to keep combat a bit more interesting than Lords of the Fallen and makes for some great action on occasions.
Weapons, Armor and Crafting
As mentioned above there are 5 types of weapons in The Surge, and they can be obtained by severing the limbs of enemies wielding these weapons. Once received, players can upgrade them at any crafting station, otherwise known as Gear Assembly, thus improving their damage. In order to do this, players will need to acquire materials from severing the limbs of enemies wielding similar weapons and by acquiring Tech Scrap. The higher the tier of upgrade, the more is required. Players can also obtain schematics from severing parts of enemies and these can then be forged at any Gear Assembly and used by the player. Again these require materials and Tech Scrap.
Armor plays an important role in not only protecting the player from damage, but also increasing the damage a player deals and providing other bonuses. Players will have to pick and choose the pieces they wish to best fit their play style. Some armor will increase your attack speed, so players preferring faster attacks will choose these pieces while others will choose pieces that reduce Stamina consumption. This will add an extremely fun element to the game that the Souls series is missing, and on top of that there are bonuses for wearing pieces of the same Set, so you will really have to min/max to figure out what is the best setup for you.
Character Leveling and Progression
Players “level up” by acquiring Tech Scrap from defeating enemies and then spending that Tech Scrap at the Medbay. Unlike Lords of the Fallen or Dark Souls, you do not get more stats for spending your Tech Scrap here, but instead get more Core Power. Core Power works a bit similar to the way Chips worked in Nier: Automata. The more Core Power you have, the more Implants you can slot, or more powerful implants. Additionally, each piece of Armor you wear increases your Core Power consumption so you will need to make some hard choices about which Implants to use and how badly you need that armor piece. There are a max of 8 Implant slots that unlock as you hit certain Core Power thresholds, so you can’t just stack Implants until the cows come home. All of this combines into complex and gratifying moments, where you just sit and try to do math at the Medbay. Have your calculator handy!
Like Lords, players can deposit their Tech Scrap at the Medbay, preventing you from dropping it if killed, at the expense of the multiplier you gain by keeping it on your person. You will have to decide if it is worth the risk or not, and whether you wish to respawn the map’s enemies, since using the Medbay will cause them to reappear. There is also a timer that begins when you respawn, forcing you to find your dropped Tech Scrap quickly before it is gone forever. While the initial duration is rather short, something like 2 minutes, every enemy you kill along the way increases the time left by about 20 seconds, so you should have time to make it back, even fighting your way there.
Level Design and Bosses
One of the most brilliant things about Lords of the Fallen, was the way they used their entire map many times over to make a larger game out of a smaller space. This is something I can already see from the short time I’ve spent with the preview build of The Surge. Instead of finding keys to unlock doors, now certain locations have Core Power requirements that you must meet in order to unlock areas. This makes it impossible for you to go to some places early on, but once you’ve progressed and leveled you can come back and open them, finding their secrets within. This is sort of an old school approach, like Lords had, with a unique implementation designed perfectly for the game. There are also many shortcuts and hidden loot for players to find and it makes exploring every inch of the map absolutely worth it.
The Bosses in the game will most likely be very similar to Lords of the Fallen, which is something I find slightly disappointing. I say most likely because there is only one boss in the preview build and it does not present much of a challenge, which is basically how most bosses were in Lords. While the setting and environment is impressive, it’s just not overly memorable and I really hope we see some better, epic mech battles in our near future!
Technical and Performance
One of the biggest issues plaguing Lords of the Fallen at launch was the numerous bugs and crashes that cast a grey cloud over the launch of the game. While I didn’t experience any of these myself, it was clear there were many players who did. I would imagine many of these players would be a bit apprehensive at pre-ordering The Surge based on that experience. I did experience a handful of issues with the preview build but once it got going it was for the most part a pretty seamless experience. Because this is a preview build, any issues I encountered may simply be issues with it’s incomplete state, but if you are at all worried or had problems just stay tuned as we will have an early release copy and will communicate any issues.
Performance wise I had almost no issues when playing the game itself. I experienced some weird screen tearing for about 30 seconds of the 4 hours or so I played and never had a crash or any other strange bug. The game is absolutely gorgeous, and just like Lords of the Fallen raises the bar for graphical standards in an Action RPG. There is simply no better looking Action RPG out there right now and I strongly recommend a good gaming PC or a PS4 Pro to enjoy it on, since both will take advantage of the hardware.
In our hands on time with the build, I found that the game started out slow and just got more and more fun the more I played, to the point that Fex actually pointed it out. I actually didn’t realize how much fun I was having until she said that. I am really excited to see what else the game has to offer and I really hope a few weeks from now we are writing a stellar review. The jury is still out with The Surge, but Deck 13 is heading in the right direction and if they don’t hit a home run with this game, you better keep your eyes open for their next one because I can almost guarantee it will be. The Surge releases for the PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 16th.
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