The Surge: This has been quite the odyssey. I’ve gone being 4 or so hours in and wondering if I could finish this game to being halfway through NG+. As the first Soulslike I’ve played in a post-Sekiro world, it has come through mostly intact with some reservations here or there. It’s not Sekiro good but its still an enjoyable experience.
The thing that changed the most was the combat. Initially it felt very slow and clunky. The game wasn’t doing what I told it to, attacks lingered for too long and I swear that attack hit that dude. But with time, trial and error the combat achieved a degree of fluidity and the false strokes became almost extinct. The Surge has 5 classes of weapons. Single rigged and heavy are akin to ultra greatswords and hammers. Twin rigged and single handed are akin to twin swords and straight swords and staffs are kind of like halberds.
Each type of weapon has a different move set and different attack speeds, which is good. Even better, they all have a suitable amount of thwack as they smash into enemies and the dismemberment system is great. You like that armour someone’s wearing? Hack off various parts of it to gain the schematics to make it. Heads, torso’s, arms and legs are all available for chopping and each extremity has its own dismemberment animation for each type of weapon. It’s hard not to love that kind of variety. You can also block, and a perfectly timed block will allow for a damaging strike in return.
Where the Surge feels weird is in the fact I adore fighting regular enemies, and the boss fights are, well, kind of trash. There are only 5 bosses as well, so it’s not a great look. If I’m being honest the regular enemies aren’t great either. Everyone is either someone in power armour or an incredibly generic looking robot. But, the combat sells the whole thing and learning how to navigate different weapons and their move sets. It does get a bit like Dark Souls where you wait for the enemy to attack and then hit them on cooldown but repeatedly targeting a limb and then cathartically removing it feels pretty damn great.
But the boss fights. The boss fights. 5 of them and not a looker in the bunch. The first boss fight is average at best. A big robot who you get underneath and knock it off balance. Unlock the camera and dodge the foot stomps. Easy enough. The second boss is a whirling mass of legs and flame vents. The Surge has an option that makes it so the camera locks on to the closest thing. Turn it off otherwise the camera just swings from leg to leg and it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with. The third boss is something along the lines of a mechanical Bed of Chaos only that the floor doesn’t give way. I have no idea why this exists. The fourth boss is a very cool security dude with a lightsabre axe of sorts who for some reason when a third of his health goes away runs away and you must fight three versions of the first boss in his absence. This needlessly drags the fight out and utterly ruins any rhythm that the one on one combat tries to establish. The saving grace is that you don’t have to fight all three of the first boss. You can end the fight early if you target a body part enough and remove it therefore killing the security man. And the last boss fight is a fight against a big hulking thing which is alright and then it turns into a one on one fight with a smaller dude and his potato AI is easily exploitable. Block and hit R1 until it is done. Coming off Sekiro the boss fights have been incredibly underwhelming. One cool thing about the bosses though is that if you kill them in a special way they give a unique weapon. That’s something I can get on board with. These boss weapons are rather powerful as well, so it’s worth while seeking out these kills.
The Surge doesn’t have stats. You level up but instead of stats it’s a power level. The higher the level the more advanced armour can be worn, and the more implants can be equipped. Implants vary from healing to damage boosts and everything in between. It’s a neat way of doing skill trees and skill points without doing a skill tree. The weapons operate on a proficiency-based system. While this seems initially annoying is works well because there are no weapons gated off by stats. All you must do is use a weapon and gain proficiency in using and that applies to every weapon in that class. I dig that. Although, it isn’t as beautifully simple as the Monster Hunter system of just picking up a new weapon and learning how they work. Oh, and before I forget weapons can be upgraded ala Dark Souls as well with upgrade materials. Farm this by yanking the arms off unsuspecting factory workers.
Also, like in Souls when you die you lose your levelling material and must go get it back. But now it’s on a timer for reasons. Killing things along the way puts the timer up but still, this strikes me as an unnecessary mechanic. Feels like difficulty for difficulties sake really. On the bright side at levelling stations (read: Fire Link Shrines) you can bank souls (read: Tech Scrap) so that it won’t be lost on subsequent trips. Also, if you stay out in the world longer and gain tech scrap you get a bonus modifier that stacks meaning you get more tech scrap and this only resets on visiting a levelling station or heading to a new area. That’s neat.
Accompanying the Surge’s combat and boss fights are the story and world design. The story is told through audio logs and the like and it’s good. Could even be great. The voice acting goes between good to great, and these logs do an exceptional job of telling the story of a factory and company that has gone on a journey of hope and prosperity to despair and unabashed madness. People here fell apart, and it’s harrowing to listen to. Certain character discoveries late in the game come out of left field but in a great way and further emphasise the absolute shit show this place has become. Then there’s the people who took matters into their own hands and those who went off the deep end, turning to extreme violence and worship of their own crafted idols. It all holds together exceptionally well. The Surge has a fixed protagonist, and luckily for us Warren is a good dude with some neat voice acting.
The world design is, well let’s split it into technical and aesthetic. Technically it’s very good. The short cuts are well constructed, everything links together logically and there are some legitimate eureka moments when one realises where the loop back has led too. In this regard the Surge has a very credible Soulslike world. Aesthetically though it’s rather dull. If you have a fetish for industrial piping then you will be happy but otherwise, it’s very monotone and sometimes it wastes the technicality of the world by having things look so samey that the genius of a short cut is sometimes wasted. Right near the end of the game it opens up aesthetically but by then it’s an opportunity wasted.
All in all, I’ve had a fun time with the Surge. With some better boss fights and a more varied world it would be right up there.
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin: Back in Drangleic. I would have left this game well alone but some of my favourite Let’s Players (RKG – formerly known as Prepare to Try over at IGN) are making their way through the DLC and there’s a part of me that didn’t want to watch them do it without my having done it as well. And with that, I’m setting out to kill all the bosses of Dark Souls II. I’m essentially playing the game out of solidarity and spite.
Because I still dislike Dark Souls II. And in the post-Sekiro world we live in the combat and movement feels even slower, even more unresponsive and a damn sight more clunky than before. You know, I’m going to link my previous thoughts regarding Dark Souls II because nothing has changed, nothing is going to change and once I’m finished with this game I’m not coming back. The only thing I might do is save scum the other endings to one I’ve gotten, or I could just watch them on YouTube.
I’ve got two bosses left, but they are both on the end of long and tedious runbacks. Which sums up my experience with Dark Souls II.