PC, PS4, Xbox One
Lords Of The Fallen may have been heavily indebted to Demon’s Souls, but it built on From Software’s formula in a number of memorable ways. The best of these was the introduction of a multiplier that saw the potential XP you could reap from fallen foes increase the longer you resisted saving at a checkpoint. It was such a good idea, in fact, that we can’t help but feel disappointed by its absence from The Surge.
That’s not to say the studio’s sci-fi twist on the Souls template doesn’t have plenty of new ideas, however. Here, XP becomes scrap metal – collected from fallen enemies as well as crates and dark corners – which you use to upgrade your rig and build new weapons and equipment. Predictably, if you die you’ll leave a pile of your accrued junk at the location of your demise and must return to the spot to collect it, without dying again in the process. But here there is also a two-and-a-halfminute time limit, after which your misplaced stockpile will disappear – though it can be extended by a few seconds with every successful kill. It’s a smart mechanic that can pressure you into rash decisions en route if you’re not careful, especially given that there are no regular checkpoints in the large section we play, just a central operations centre in which to save your progress.
There’s further risk and reward built into the mechanics of the game’s combat. Once locked on to an enemy, you can target their limbs, head or torso. Striking unprotected body parts will inflict more damage, and have a greater chance of staggering your opponent. It’s a guaranteed way to end a low-levelenemy encounter quickly, but you’ll only walk away from the fight with a handful of scrap. If a particular piece of armour or a weapon that
they own takes your fancy, however, you’ll need to focus on the relevant, betterprotected part of your opponent. This means prolonging the fight as you try to wear them down to the point that you’re able to sever a limb and collect the now-wrecked piece of kit.
Doing so unlocks a schematic for a less dented version of the tech, which you can then build back at the operations centre in exchange for scrap and some specific rare parts. Every piece of armour – which will offer varying amounts of defence against elemental, slash, thrust and crush attacks – and weaponry can also be upgraded through four stages, each one costing additional resources. Protagonist Warren builds a performance-enhancing affinity with each piece of kit the more you use it, as in Nioh.
Despite the weight of the metal machinery adorning Warren and the game’s enemies, combat feels pleasantly snappy. Rather than heavy or light attacks, the right shoulder buttons are mapped to vertical and horizontal swipes. While the vertical strike still feels like the heavy option, taking longer to wind up and dealing a little more damage in most cases, you’ll still need to pay attention to the direction of your swings to maximise their effectiveness – a vertical strike to the head is better than a horizontal one, for example.
Warren will chain moves together as you tap the two buttons to form basic combos – a punch, followed by two hits from the elbow before a spinning kick, say – and when enough damage has been done to a particular area you’ll be prompted to hold a button to trigger a special attack. While these are primarily there to allow you to sever limbs and net some loot, they also function as finishing moves, which you can use to your advantage to speed things along while farming for scrap. You’re invincible for the duration of the move’s animation, too, which makes it a particularly useful option when facing groups of enemies, like a Dark Souls backstab.
The Abandoned Production area we explore is mostly populated by former employees of scrapping company CREO, who now lumber about like robotic zombies in their exosuits. However, there are also a number of drones floating about, which deploy a variety of attacks – ranged laser beams, for instance, and a close-range EMP blast, which instantly drains your stamina bar, leaving you vulnerable – and two larger machines. The first of these is some kind of huge yellow digging unit, which promptly sits on us, fatally. We elect not to return. The second is a fast-moving, bipedal security droid which has featured in trailers for the game. Its long reach and ability to leap about the arena makes it a formidable combatant, and the fight serves as a clear demonstration of Deck13’s belief that the term ‘robotic combat’ needn’t mean clunky.
Protagonist Warren builds a performance-enhancing affinity with each piece of kit
Melee kills sometimes play out in slow motion, showing off all of the grisly detail
ABOVE You make contact with a CREO executive early on, who offers to help you. We’d rather go it alone than endure any more of the game’s voice acting
LEFT This security-robot boss attacks with plasma cutters, stamping and kicking feet, and a barrage of rockets. Taking cover underneath it when the projectiles hit puts it out of commission briefly.
BELOW We’ve yet to find any guns, but have come across various saws, cutters and pipes. Combat is brutal
The abandoned section of Creo’s factory we explore is an imposing, but rather colourful construction