by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
Warren’s world is an unhappy one; it’s broke and on the verge of choking itself to death. Warren himself is unemployed. That is until one day he is offered a job as a salvage technician at CREO; a company actively trying to stave off ecological disaster. Now Warren is happy. He gets to wear an exosuit and cut metal things to bits and recycle them. On his first day on the job, though, something happens and he is knocked unconscious. When he wakes up again, Warren’s world is no more. We got a sneak peek at The Surge at this year’s Gamescom and although it may appear as a brainless beat-em-up-in-3D, it requires a surprising amount of thinking.
The game is a hardcore action RPG set in a dystopian near-future with a heavy focus on hand-to-hand mêlée combat. The combat system is stamina based and your exosuit allows you to dash in and out of close range to deal extra damage, stun your target, or get out of harm’s way should your foe be planning something mischievous. During combat, it is important to visually gauge your opponent. Some enemies will have unarmoured limbs or weak points which will be good targets and others may be wearing gear you will want to have for yourself.
The combat system allows you to target specific body parts and does not feature the almost-cliché light and heavy attacks we have become all too familiar with, instead featuring horizontal and vertical attacks. These will help you tailor your fighting style to the specific limb you are targeting. In addition to this, targeting a particular piece of equipment your opponent is wearing, say, a helmet you really think would go perfectly with your shoes, will allow you to remove that piece, along with the body part to which it is attached, and claim the blueprints of that item for your own, giving you the ability to craft it later in the game. Attacking an enemy’s strong spot in order to get the piece of equipment that makes it so strong renders the resulting sense of achievement when you finally chop that limb off and claim that tech for your own that much more satisfying.
Tech Scrap is the game’s currency and it allows you to upgrade your core, unlock implants, and craft whatever blueprints you have torn out of an unsuspecting enemy’s lower torso (blueprints can also be found during exploration, but I couldn’t think of anything funny about that). Operations Centers are hubs where you can regenerate your health and purchase all of the above mentioned upgrades. This will require a bit of balancing, though, as you only have one currency with which to do everything. Crafting something powerful will be useless if your core isn’t powerful enough to handle it and upgrading your core to max power would be pretty redundant if you then can’t afford the implants that would keep you alive.
Despite the demo only showing combat, there will be other entities besides yourself in the game with whom you can engage in dialogue and gain quest information as well as side quests. Narrative is important, but the developers have made sure that as much as possible of it happens in-game and in-world. The backstory is discoverable in the form of audio logs and other pieces of lore, and cutscenes do not take control of your camera in order to focus your attention on a specific spot, rather going for the Half-Life-esque storytelling style of having events happen in-game.
Throughout the game you will battle a multitude of enemy types, both human, robotic, and unholy mixmashes of the two. Environmental puzzle solving will test your brain and force you to explore your environment. Levels are interconnected with multiple passages to get from one to the other. Exploring, you may run into locked doors or passages you are unable to enter until you have a certain piece of tech or have reached a higher level. This may force you to backtrack quite a bit, but if the game design manages to make the backtracking feel rewarding, this may not be a bad thing. An example of how your setup may help you progress may be that you need a piece of armour that can light up the dark, or a helmet that allows you to breathe toxic gas. Experimentation with different setups of all the various weapons, armours, helmets, abilities, and other upgrades will undoubtedly prove to be a hoot-and-a-half.
No brainless action
While most hardcore action games serve mostly as stress release for players who prefer brainless action to slow, carefully considered moves, The Surge appears to present a challenge not only in the balancing of core power vs. implants and equipment, but also in the combat, during which you will have to visually analyse your opponent and decide how best to dispose of them. The game looks like an interesting take on the genre and we look forward to learning more as development continues.