Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 28th May 2017.
The Surge (PC, PS4, Xbox One, £44.99)
IF you are up for a fight then you will have a surge of affection for The Surge. It is second time lucky for Deck 13 Interactive as their first attempt at a Souls-type game – Lords Of The Fallen – did not exactly hit the mark when it was released in 2014. But The Surge is a different story – albeit with a similar gameplay core.
You are in a future where humanity has burned out the world’s resources. A huge company called CREO is trying to save the day ….but, sticking with true gaming laws, things are not as they seem. You are wheelchair-bound CREO worker Warren. He gets an EXO suit which should help him walk again. Again, in true gaming tradition, the op goes wrong and you are labelled defective and are shipped off to a scrapyard. It would be a short game if that was that, so you wake up and have to fight your way to the bottom of a pretty standard sci-fi tale – a double-crossing company full of shady deals. It will keep you occupied for at least 20 hours before you see the credits roll – double that if you do all the side missions.
The story never really does anything special but it does set the stage for the gameplay which is the real star of the show. It sits somewhere between Dark Souls and Bloodborne and focuses on you beating seven bells out of anything that moves. You’ll generally face off against one or two enemies at a time and fights are split between timing and managing your stamina bars by picking vertical or horizontal strikes. But you have to think smart to survive and the rise reward style is very addictive. Fights are meaty affairs as you lumber around and swing whatever metal bar is strapped to your arm. You can customise your look and that is key to how powerful you can become. A neat trick is being able to target enemy body parts in battle then use them to upgrade your EXO suit along with buffs you’ll discover along the journey.
The developers have created a good look. It starts off grimey but changes into a more clean tech-driven look as you progress. The same goes for you and your suit -you start with beat-up thrown-out tech and end with new shiny tech by the end. The soundtrack carries a good sci-fi beat and the voice acting is well handled, with Warren solidly voiced among enemy screams. You may become addicted to this game, but it is tough. Real tough. You expect that from a Souls-like game, but it can become frustrating. The world also gets a bit samey as you fight through scrapyards. But it is just different enough from the pack to make you glad you shelled out your hard-earned pounds.
Surge Blurb… Dev Interview
GAMES are often a voyage into a fantasy world but the guys at Deck 13 Interactive have flipped that on its head and used real-world inspiration for The Surge. In an exclusive chat, design chief Adam Hetenyi has revealed that they looked at the real experiments being carried out at high-tech firms and used that to forge the game.
“There are a lot of companies that are moving in the direction of movement mechanics as well as theme. We are seeing more real-world companies experimenting with tech like EXO suits that double your strength. It’s a really interesting new technology because people always have the ‘how can I become a superman?’ dream. So, in a videogame you want the movement to be powerful and, if you’re not doing a SIM game, you want it to be over the top. EXO suits are perfect for that in terms of power and speed. It could easily be a fantasy game with magic, but we wanted to have it grounded in possible tech.”
But the key to success was always going to be the battle scenes and Hetenyi admits his team again stepped up to the plate because there is so much competition in the market. He said:
“This is a sort of game that we at the studio really enjoy so it was something we loved working on. But we like to put our own twist on things. Lords Of The Fallen was a good game – but we are just trying to take things to the next level with The Surge. So the combat is a lot more responsive and fast and you are not as strong in the attack. That means you have to be fast on the defence. We have added a new layer on top of that to let you knock off body parts to make amour or help you damage the enemy. As for the setting, we took some mechanics that people understand and then went a step further. The setting is very grounded on near-future earth. But there are lots of different story elements and games that don’t really have a sci-fi setting. We think we may be the first. Even though it is sci-fi, it still very recognisable so you see a lot of industrial machinery which has been made into armour and weapons. The world is new but it has familiar elements and it feels it could grow out of today.”
“The game is definitely on the melee side but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ranged attack. You have a combat drone that is with you all the time. You get that early in the game and you can tool it out with different abilities to suit the way you want to play. The focus is on the tactical melee but there are options to deal with any challenges you may face.”
But no game can be a hit without mega boss fights. Hetenyi laughed:
“We talked about the body-part targeting and the bosses have a lot of mechanics that work round that. Most times it’s a huge piece of machinery that’s gone haywire and is trying to stop you. You’ll find these giant machines that had jobs in the world but are now trying to smash you but, most of the time, they will have parts you can target to get some cool upgrade gear. At the same time, we keep the core mechanic of looking for their weak spots.”
The one shock is that there is no multiplayer element but that is for a reason. Hetenyi admitted:
“It’s something that the team are big fans of and we’d like to look at it in the future but the Surge is a single player-focused game so we made it a bit more cinematic and had killing sequences which would never work in an online game.”
Enter The Gungeon (PC, PS4, Xbox One, £10.99)
IT is always fun to go gun-ho in a game and Enter The Gungeon will sort any fix you need. Before we start – Gungeon is not a spelling mistake. It’s a dungeon and there are guns. See what Dodge Roll did there? The game has now made it on to the Xbox One platform and the result is a really addictive, polished piece of work that will fully test you because it is uber tough.
You can be one of four characters at the start. Each one has its own backstory and skill set even if they are all trying to do the same thing. You are on a planet inhabited by living bullets – as you do. They have built a fortress that houses a gun so powerful that it can kill your history. And that is the aim for the four brave adventurers. They want to steal the gun and change their past. Yes, it’s a bit off-the-wall and the story gets a little lost once you are caught in a 1,000-bullet hailstorm but it sets the stage well.
The gameplay is the star of the show. Enter the Gungeon is in the same vein as The Binding Of Isaac or Nuclear Throne – you work through the different levels of the gungeon. But they are all procedurally generated so no two playthroughs will ever be the same. It is a steep learning curve. You start with a pretty weak gun and you need to find something more powerful very quickly. There are a huge number to find but they are random so you could get shotguns and rifles or more fantasy-based fire-and-forget guns or musical wind-up guns. It all adds up to a very additive package but the difficulty level goes through the roof fairly soon after the start as the bullet hell takes over. You’ll be rolling and dodging as much as you are shooting. There is a heart system, so one hit does not mean automatic death, which helps when there is so much going on around you.
At the end of each level you face off against a boss – they can be big bullets with guns or chain gun-wielding hulked-out pigeons. Each one needs a different attack. Enter The Gungeon has a real retro charm with some great pixel art. The bosses have a stunning look and the soundtrack is really good but fades into the background once the firefight breaks out. But all credit to the theme tune – it will make you crack a smile in seconds. The only real issue is that the level design can be a bit boring at times but it is just a back-drop to frame the bullet-dodging. The biggest problem is the chance effect on the guns. Get a bad one to start with and it is a real pain. But it won’t stop you coming back for more time and time again.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…