Hyper Light Drifter – I have no idea what is going on and I love it.

I wrote this a while ago, but this game is pretty damn memorable…


One of the first console games I ever owned (read: probably pestered my dad into buying) was Legend of Zelda on NES.  It remains one of my favourite games to this day.  In fact, I still own it and the memory on the cartridge is still in tact with my childhood saves on it.  Happy days!  Some of you will also know that I really enjoy the Souls/Borne series for their challenging gameplay and detailed world.  How happy I was to find out that Hyper Light Drifter, a game that I feel fuses these two series, was on offer for £8!  Cheap and very, very cheerful.

Hyper Light Drifter
A rather gorgeous background. Pretty sure I didn’t visit that city in the game, but I’m not sure.

We begin with…well…I’m not sure.  We have a cut-scene with a door and some Egyptian style dog statues (Anubis!) followed by the Drifter standing on a mountain with some giant killer robots.  Then there’s an explosion and the robots melt and the Drifter is wrapped up in some sort of black slime.  And that’s about it.  I have no idea what’s going on, but it looked damn cool!  It was like watching an anime with the sound turned off.  At any rate, the Drifter waking up on a mountain top and the adventure begins.

Hyper Light Drifter
The results of a successful battle…after my 4th attempt.

The world is split into 4 regions in which a number of nodes need to be found and activated to unlock the path to the area’s boss.  Defeating the boss will raise a tower and once all towers are raised, the path to the final boss will be opened.  One of the first areas we find is a town that acts as a hub for the main areas, as well as having shops to upgrade your items and abilities.  We can choose to travel North, East or West (South is locked to begin with).  Much like Dark Souls, the choice is yours and you’ll be given no direction, but you will likely find that some areas are too challenging early on.

Hyper Light Drifter
Incidental details like this are all over the place. They aren’t part of the gameplay, rather they add to the game’s excellent world building.

The game plays much like a top down hack and slash RPG, just much more methodical and deliberate. You can (and will) die very easily if you’re careless. You have a sword attack, a gun (several by the end of the game), a grenade and a dash/dodge. All of these can be upgraded by finding gear bits to spend in town. Combat is similar to Dark Souls in that you need to learn your enemies attacks and time a counter well. There are a good variety of enemies, from close range brawlers who lunge in to attack to long range rocket firing gits who will ruin your day. Deciding who to take out first is a key part to most encounters, especially later in the game when enemy combinations become more complex.

Hyper Light Drifter
Battles tend to be fast paced and messy.

There are, of course, bosses throughout the game who will test your ability at the end of each region. You will often need to combine your sword and gun skills with care, whilst dodging constantly to emerge victorious. All of them are thoroughly different and offer their own challenge, often based on the enemies you have faced in the run up to the encounter. Death, whilst frequent, does not set you back far, meaning that defeat in a boss encounter won’t cost you as dearly as in a Souls game. You will normally appear back at the room entrance, ready to challenge again. I found each one very enjoyable (in spite of losing constantly in the final battle) and never felt like quitting and giving up. The battles are hard but fair, and most (not all) losses feel as though they are due to your own mistakes.

Hyper Light Drifter
Part of the bonkers intro. It’s like Attack on Titan by way of Akira.

I say most as I found the controls a touch slippery at times. Occasionally a dodge wouldn’t register, or a grenade wouldn’t throw as fast as I would have liked. Perhaps the game needed to finish the previous animation before beginning the next one, I’m not too sure. But I did suffer the odd death because of this. As I mentioned though, death isn’t a huge setback unless you are going for the no-death achievement.

Hyper Light Drifter 6
A boss. Yes, it is exactly what it looks like.

The world looks absolutely beautiful. There’s a lot of pixel art games around these days but this one uses it so well, with gorgeous and varied environments populated by different characters and monsters. The backgrounds are phenomenally detailed in spite of not being entirely relevant to what you’re doing. This is rather important to the world though, as the world building this game does without a word of dialogue is amazing. I still have no idea what the actual plot was, but the use of imagery in the backgrounds, the destroyed environments that point to a historic war and the picture based conversations with other characters paint a picture of the world and its residents in a fascinating way. Finding a giant corpse with a blood train means very little, but the pictures another character offers up later seems to tell the tale of killing that very creature to rescue two other people. I love this kind of story telling, even if it doesn’t really tie into the main plot. I understand that the game’s collectibles offer up more story on the world’s history, but I didn’t have the time to find them all sadly.  There’s so much depth if you’re able to find it.  You can even play football, find different clothes and befriend a snail if you really want to.

Hyper Light Drifter
There is a good pace to the game, with some pleasant down time sections between battles.

Hyper Light Drifter was developed by Heart Machine. I played the game on XBox One and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Souls series or top down adventure games. Just don’t expect to have a clue about what is going on. Even the magic halo dog couldn’t explain it to me.

Floor Kids

Can I find a floor in this game?

I’ll go on record as saying that my knowledge of breakdancing is limited to Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo and whatever nonsense X-Factor puts out each year. I do, however, consider myself rather well versed when it comes to rhythm games (in spite of having no rhythm). I spent far too much time playing Rock Band and its ilk, putting numerous hours into Audiosurf, and I consider Gitaroo Man to be brilliantly mad. I’m always on the lookout for new, interesting rhythm action games, and I found myself immediately drawn to Floor Kids for its interesting art style and the fact that breakdancing games are rare at best.

Floor Kids
Sweet moves!

Read this rest of this review over on BigBossBattle!

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The Evil Within 2

Nothing says “festive” like muderous corpse monsters.

I shouldn’t have played this.  I mean, look at how much I disliked the original game.  With its wonky controls, broken mechanics, and wild difficulty spikes, I found it to be an experience I couldn’t enjoy in spite of the occasional successful horror moment.  So I shouldn’t have bothered with the follow up.  Not only that, but I heard that it had one of my least favourite things: open world gameplay!  But I heard positive things about it, and it was on sale for half price only a month after release, so I slapped down my cash and gave it a go.

The Evil Within 2
There are some nice visual tricks played here and there.

Sebastian Castellanos returns as a down-and-out former detective with an alcohol problem (because you’ve got to hit those clichés!) and finds out that his dead daughter may not be as dead as he thought!  His former partner Kidman returns to put him back into the STEM system, a digital world in which people connect themselves to the mind of a host.  Or something.  The original game really wasn’t terribly clear.  Anyway, it turns out this digital world has PSYCHOPATHS IN IT!  And their brains are really powerful apparently, so they can manipulate the world.  Which means there are monsters everywhere for some reason.  Anyway, killing the psychopaths is the main task this time, as you search for your missing daughter.

The Evil Within 2
The visuals are excellent, if a little nasty at times.

Ok, so the plot isn’t all that bad this time, but there are a lot of things that feel like they happen because they’re convenient rather than because it fits in with what’s going on.  The gameplay though, works much better this time.  At it’s core, this is a third person shooter in a semi-open world.  You’ll find yourself in a town that can be explored to advance the plot or simply discover secrets, complete side quests, or rescue people from death by monster.

The Evil Within 2
This gave me some Twin Peaks vibes. There were a few sections that felt influenced by the TV show.

The town is crawling with said monsters that can kill you rather easily if you let them gang up on you (or if you’re carless to be fair as they hit pretty hard), so stealth tends to be the order of the day (at least early on), and by god does the stealth actually work this time!  In the last game stealth kills would sometimes simply not work, or monsters would see you through the backs of their heads.  This time stealth feels like a genuine option for most of the game, with a variety of ways to approach most situations, and always the option to run away if you find yourself overwhelmed.  The enemy AI is fairly stupid most of the time (which is fitting with most enemies you face) and you can hide fairly easily if things go wrong.  Gunplay still feels a little loose for my liking, with aiming being not nearly as sharp as I’d like it to be.  Thankfully the shotguns seem to be very powerful this time, and the ability to craft ammo mid fight really helps when things get a bit messy.  The weaker AI, greater array of options, and more open environments make this game feel a fair bit easier than the first (which is a good thing to my mind).

The Evil Within 2
There’s absolutely not going to be anything nasty at the end of that hallway.

The enemies themselves are interesting, but there is a lack of variety.  The standard enemies are absolutely everywhere, and it’s only occasionally that you’ll see one that’s a little different.  Most will charge at you, or throw hatchets, but there are huge corpse monsters, exploding zombies (obviously) and the very creepy looking smoke monsters.  The bosses are fairly interesting in how they are presented (some of the imagery is great) and one or two have interesting mechanics during the confrontations.  The whole game took me about 15 hours to finish on Survival mode (medium difficulty) with a few deaths here and there, mostly during the boss battles.  The difficulty was spot on for me on this setting, and much more enjoyable than the punishing (read: frustratingly cheap) challenge of the first game.

The Evil Within 2
The look of these ones wasn’t nearly as unsettling as the sounds they make.

Visually, the game looks great, which is no real surprise considering the first game.  The environments aren’t as varied this time, but they do make a great deal more sense.  The world has some really interesting things going on in it if you look around the environments.  The characters are voiced very well for the most part (although the first main villain feels like he could be Goldman from House of the Dead 2), and the music is quite fitting, although not all that memorable.

The Evil Within 2

Now, the horror element is kind of important in a horror game.  Just like the first game, the focus is often on body horror here, with blood and gore flying all over the place.  The open world sections don’t have a huge amount of horror going on, but the feeling that you could be attacked from any angle does keep you on edge, as do the noises of creatures that are just out of sight.  During the more linear sections, the developers have done a good job of building tension through sound rather than visuals.  The more connected world this time means that there are fewer opportunities for bizzare and unsettling visuals, but the game does try from time to time.  I still wouldn’t call it horrific, but it does a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere in certain sections.

The Evil Within 2
There are some very creative visuals in some sections of the game.

The Evil Within 2 was developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend this one over the original game.  Whilst playing the original would probably help you have even the slightest clue about what’s going on, this is by far the better product.  I’m glad I looked past my preconceptions on this one.

Resident Evil 7 – It’s Res Jim, but not as we know it!

Zombies and stuff.

No spoilers here!  Read with confidence!

But it’s not Resident Evil!  It’s in first person!  It’s not about zombies!  Where’s Umbrella?  etc.  I know, I’m a couple of months late to the party, but I’m glad I finally turned up because this is the most Resident Evil Resident Evil since Resident Evil.  Yes, that was a real sentence that I wrote.  This is the latest game in the venerated series, and whilst its perspective may be different when compared to most of the games in the series, this is without a doubt a Resident Evil game.  The atmosphere, environment and puzzles call back to the classic and tries to shake off the bad taste left by the more recent entries (I’m looking at you 6!)  You’re running around a mansion and it’s grounds, fighting monsters whilst conserving ammo and searching for keys to bizarre locks.  That’s pretty Resident Evil if you ask me.

Resident Evil 7
The initial walk to the home is similar in style to the opening of a lot of first person horror games. Very pretty to look at but with an edge of foreboding.

You are Ethan, a man who’s wife, Mia, disappeared 3 years ago.  Ethan receives a video message from Mia hinting at her whereabouts and he sets off to find her in a mysterious old manor house on a plantation in the middle of nowhere.  If you’ve played the demos released during the (well put together) marketing campaign, you’ll recognise some of the early locations you travel through before you gain access to the house proper.  Before long you find yourself stalked by the seemingly psychotic members of the family that live there and the “molded” – black slime monsters that grow from the walls and ceiling and seek to pull your limbs off.

Resident Evil 7
At times like these it’s always good to see a friendly face.

You means of defence are severely limited at first, with a knife and handgun being pretty much all you have for a while, along with some healing items that have some interesting properties.  Other weapons can be collected along the way, expanding your defensive options and giving the occasional nod to previous games in the series (particularly the first entry).  Most of the combat is against the molded and tends to be rather slow paced and methodical as you try to keep them a safe distance whilst you chip away, minimising you use of ammunition (or maybe running away from them altogether).  In this regard, the game is very much like the first Resident Evil, with resource conservation and avoiding conflict being essential early on.  The family also stalk the corridors, ready to pursue and attack you if spotted.  They can be fended off for a time, but only if you’re willing to spend your resources to do so; better to avoid them or make a heart-pounding escape through the corridors in most cases.

Resident Evil 7
The now iconic dinner scene that has been all over the promotional material. I would expect VR to be especially effective here.

Boss encounters are great exclamation marks to the growing tension in each area with each one becoming more grotesque.  Compared to being swarmed by regular enemies though, they tend not to be all that challenging.  The only exception was the first proper boss (the second one you confront), and that’s more due to the control scheme not being all that suited to the combat style you end up forced into.  Most bosses requite plenty of ammo and a good few healing items (at least they did for me) and good inventory organisation helps in ensuring you have what you need at any point in time.  Whilst not entirely challenging, they are entertaining and varied with the exception of the final battle which was big in scale but small on interaction.  It was a little disappointing when compared to some of the other encounters.

Resident Evil 7
The shotgun is a bit of a pain to get early in the game, but it a god send if you do.

The only other thing I found really irritating was something that also annoyed me about The Evil Within: traps.  Whilst only in the game occasionally and not as obnoxious, I find tripwire based traps and exploding item boxes an annoyance rather than an increase in challenge.  They make sense being there in the context of the character who places them, but that doesn’t make them any more fun to trip over.  I understand that this is meant to be a slow game (the controls make that obvious fairly early on), but the exploding item boxes are especially aggravating.

Resident Evil 7
I spent about 80% of the game with blood smears on the screen as I never wanted to use my healing items.

I have not sampled the VR mode of this (hey, I’m not made of money) so I can’t really comment on its implementation.  It’s fairly clear when playing where the VR is meant to have its greatest impact though.  There are a number of times involving characters and items being right in front of your character and I imagine it would be quite effective when wearing a headset.  Playing on a TV is fine though, and those moments don’t stand out unless you’re looking for them.  The visuals on the whole are excellent throughout and I noticed very little that wasn’t extremely well polished.

Resident Evil 7
More VR fodder.

Most importantly though, Resident Evil 7 is fun to play.  It’s not terrifying by any stretch, but the atmosphere works very well and creates an unsettling feeling throughout.  It doesn’t rely on jump-scares but gives a feeling of unease through vulnerability and a lack of preparedness for what may come walking around the next corner.  I loved that sense of threat , and found the level of challenge spot on when playing on normal.  I’m not going near any higher difficulty though.

Resident Evil 7
There’s DEFINITELY nothing bad behind that door.

Resident Evil 7 was developed and published by Capcom (using an excellent in house engine I should add).  I played the games on Xbox One and would recommend it to anyone who likes the classic games in the series or someone looking for a solid, well made horror game.  Now here’s hoping Capcom can capitalise and rescue the series long term!

Get Even – Because odd numbers just won’t do.

If Inception were a horror movie, it would probably be like this.

Did you know that one of my all time favourite games is Deadly Premonition?  An utterly insane story of murder and supernatural obsession wrapped up in a buggy, ugly, sloppily made game.  But in spite of all that I loved it.  The story was brilliant, the characters were simultaneously tragic and hilarious, and the world had so much to find.  It was as though Swery65 watched Twin Peaks, then played GTA and decided to glue them together without understanding how GTA‘s gameplay worked.  But still it was a wonderful experience and one that I remember to this day.  It’s also, to my mind, evidence that sometimes a well crafted story, told in an interesting way by well written characters can overcome a game’s mechanical shortcomings.  And here we have Get Even.

Get Even
I looks pretty enough to start with, but it doesn’t stay that way.

Get Even feels as though someone watched Inception, then played Call of Duty and decided to glue them together without understanding how Call of Duty‘s gameplay worked.  And whilst I don’t think it’s something that will stay with me as long as Deadly Premonition has, it’s another game in which its story manages to overcome those mechanical failings.  It plays part FPS, part Walking Simulator with influences in Condemned and tells the story of Cole Black (good choice of name their, guys) as he awakens in a seemingly abandoned mental asylum.

Get Even Pandora Device
This is what ends up being attached to your face. It looks like something Jigsaw would play around with.

I’m going to keep it light on story elements, but the game opens with Cole attempting to rescue a kidnapped girl with a bomb strapped to her.  We are introduced to Cole’s use of his phone for a map, UV light and evidence scanner (hence the Condemned comparison) as well as use of a gun and stealth takedowns.  Cole finds the girl, and then wakes up in the aforementioned asylum, with the Pandora device strapped to his head that allows him to access and re-experience memories through photographs.  He is guided by a man calling himself Red via video screens to proceed through the asylum gathering evidence of the events surrounding the kidnapping to get to the bottom of just what happened.

Get Even
Just one of the inmates you come across. Seems friendly enough, did I make a good decision earlier on that lead to this?

There are other characters in the asylum, all with their own Pandora device.  Some are hostile, some less so, and how you interact with them will lead to different events later in the game.  Do you release this inmate or leave him in his cell?  Maybe he’ll return to attack you later or perhaps he will kill other inmates.  You will be reminded often that your actions (not always choices) have consequences, and your behaviour both in and out of your memories will impact events later in the game.

Get Even
A nice little Twin Peaks reference there.

The asylum has a wonderfully creepy and threatening atmosphere with the occasional puzzle to solve, but the bulk of the game takes place in Cole’s memories and this is where the gameplay lets itself down somewhat.  You are encouraged to be stealthy, using silent takedowns and your map (which shows enemy visions cones) to avoid conflict.  I found the stealth somewhat cumbersome and tended to get spotted by enemies way outside of the map’s range.  The combat is passable, with standard pistols, assault rifles and shotguns making up the bulk of your tools.  You also have the Cornergun, which uses Cole’s phone’s thermal imagine to aim around corners to take out enemies.  I found the framerate dropped quite a bit when using this which was rather irritating, but it was a neat inclusion that aided stealth.  If you do get spotted, everyone in the area will instantly know where you are and make a beeline for you resulting in death more often than not.  What was pretty neat was that the game explains why these enemies exist in the story’s context.  Whilst I won’t say more, it’s elements like this that allowed me to overlook the weak combat and concentrate more on the story.  Around two-thirds of the way through the game, the plot shifts considerably and gives you new abilities to play with.  But again, I’ll say no more.

Get Even
Scanning certain items gives you little flashbacks like this to advance the story, as well as progress your current memory.

It’s very hard for me to explain why I enjoyed this game so much in spite of the slightly off combat without spoiling the story.  But it genuinely is well worth playing.  A wonderful atmosphere with fantastic music and a story full of twists and turns in which you can’t be sure who or what to believe.  It plays with your perception in ways I rarely see (Layers of Fear came to my mind on more than one occasion) and uses the unreliability of memory in an interesting fashion to progress the plot and alter the game world (think Call of Juarez: Gunslinger).  This is one of those games that I feel too many people will overlook due to its generic name and outdated visuals, but if you’re interested in stories in gaming and can look past some slightly off combat then you’ll be in for a great experience.  I realise that I’ve not given you much to go on, but I implore you to check it out and give it a chance.

Get Even
What’s my fault?!

Get Even was developed by The Farm 51 and published by Bandai Namco.  I played the game on Xbox One and encourage you to check it out for its story.  I’ll give Bandai Namco a lot of credit for taking a risk on this one, it very much paid off in my mind.  Let me know what you think if you give it a go!

Party Hard – Andrew WK not included

Neighbours’ party keeping you awake at night? Better go murder them I guess.

Picture the scene.  It’s 3AM, you have work in the morning and you’re shattered from staying up all night playing video games (this is essentially every day for me).  You can’t sleep though because of those damn neighbours having a raging party next door!  So what do you do?  Well I’m sure you’d do what every well adjusted adult would do: grab a hockey mask and a knife and go murder them all.  Then decide that everyone that ever has a party needs to be murdered.  And that, dear reader, is how serial killers are born.

Party Hard
Enjoy your meal. Yeeees, enjoy it. Especially the poison.

Party Hard is a puzzle game in which you need to murder everyone at a party without getting arrested or killed.  This seems like an odd theme for a game (because it is) that would surely annoy the Jack Thompsons of the world.  Each stage takes up a single screen and is filled with revelers who need to die in whatever way you see fit.  You could knife them, throw them on a fire, run them over or chuck them off a tower block.  Y’know, normal every day stuff.  The murdering isn’t the draw here though.  Killing the other characters is really the puzzle solving mechanic.  You need to carry out that mechanic without getting caught by the cops or killed yourself.

Party Hard
Finishing the game unlocks remixed levels like this one that looks more than a little Blade Runner.

If anyone spots you doing something you shouldn’t, they’ll call the police to arrest you, so remaining hidden and luring party goers away is often a good move.  You can do this in a variety of ways, such as setting off a steam vent or dancing so badly everyone leaves the room.  Once you have a victim alone, you see them off however you see fit and hide the body if possible.  If a body is spotted, the police will once again get called, but they may not suspect you meaning you could get away with it if you’re lucky.  Some people are a little braver and may attack you (or sometimes just because they don’t like you – more on that in a bit) leaving you unconscious for a few moments and vulnerable to being chased down.

Party Hard Zombie
Having a (party) hard time? Why not invite a zombie horde to take out some of the crowd.

It is possible to escape the police thankfully, either by keeping away from them for long enough or setting off a trap and killing them.  Killing the police can cause the FBI to arrive who remain for a long time trying to find out who you are and catching up to you immediately.  Generally it’s smart to avoid having the police turn up at all by making use of environmental kills and keeping bodies out of site by hiding them in sewers or (seemingly infinitely large) bins.  This core gameplay loop is fairly simple (most stages take between 5 and 15 minutes) but in practice can be more difficult and occasionally frustrating.

Party Hard
You can unlock different characters, like this chainsaw nutter.

The thing is, the game doesn’t work quite as well as it needs to from time to time.  Sometimes someone will accuse you of being a murderer without having seen you doing anything, resulting in your arrest and a level restart (no checkpoints here, folks).  Occasionally a bouncer will decide that they don’t like the look of you and will beat you up which, unlike a normal assailant, will force a restart.  Another murderer might show up and kill you, or a zombie horde will arrive, or a limo full of additional party animals will turn up to add to your required number of kills.  All these random elements keep the stages fresh, but they can be incredibly frustrating if you end up having to restart over and over.  And that’s if the game doesn’t decide to throw a bug in the mix that causes a character to not die or you to become stuck in the scenery.

Party Hard
For some reason no one seems concerned when I start throwing sleeping party-goers off the roof.

But in spite of this, I found myself having fun.  Going in, I didn’t expect to enjoy this much (I’m not big on puzzle games) but I found it strangely compelling despite the flaws.  The combination of Hotline Miami‘s control and presentation with Hitman‘s murder and social stealth worked surprisingly well to my mind whilst the short level length made me willing to restart after failure.  Whilst you do need patience at times to get people on their own, once you have an idea of how a level works you can piece it all together and come out on top.

Party Hard
Not even the party bus is safe!

There is a story (how I started this write up is pretty much how the game starts) that develops through between level cutscenes and has quite a satisfying conclusion that sets up (I assume) for the sequel which is on the way.  The music is also pretty good, which makes sense considering the theme of the game, although it can get a little tiresome on your 8th attempt at a stage.  Graphically, it has that retro pixel look that so many games in the past few years have gone for.  It looks fine and can have a lot of characters on screen at once, but your character model can get a little lost in the crowd sometimes, especially if you use a shortcut.  This can be an irritation if you’re trying to get away from the police.

Party Hard
Can you spot where I am? It can be difficult at times when there are large crowds running around.

Party Hard was developed by Pinokl Games and published by tinyBuild games.  I played the game on XBox One and would recommend you give it a look as there isn’t really anything else quite like it out there.  It’s a genuinely unique puzzle game that, although flawed, has a lot going for it.  If you’re able to overlook those flaws and have the patience for it, you’ll probably have a good time.  Just make sure you keep the volume down on your TV.  You probably don’t want to wake the neighbours…

The Surge – You got robots in my Dark Souls!

Robo-Souls? Dark-Bots?

Have I mentioned that I like Dark Souls?  I’m pretty sure I’ve said I like Dark Souls on at least 804 separate occasions on this blog.  Which is impressive considering I haven’t posted that many times.  That’s one of the reasons why I eagerly picked up Deck 13’s Lords of the Fallen when it was released in late 2014.  And whilst it certainly had a lot of similarities (read: had no identity of its own), it was unpolished and bland.  Since then they’ve…well they’ve not done much.  Anyone heard of TransOcean 2: Rivals?  But they have attempted to return to the Souls-like sub-genre with The Surge, and I’ll be damned if they haven’t made a pretty damn good go of it this time.

The Surge really is sci-fi Souls with a couple of little twists.  The combat system is similar with a couple of additions, scrap is used for leveling up and is handled in a similar way to souls, and equipment is improved by gathering the necessary resources and enhancing it at your bonfire equivalent.  Whilst it may not be terribly original in mechanics, it does just enough to differentiate itself from its source material.

The Surge
Unlike Dark Souls, you can find audiologs (because you gotta have those collectibles) that fill in some of the lore.

You play as Warren, arriving at his first day of his new job at Creo, a (totally not evil) company with plans to save the Earth’s atmosphere, where he will be fitted with a powered exo-skeleton (think power loaders from Aliens if you like).  The intro played with my character expectations nicely, although Warren’s apparent reason for wanting an exo-suit isn’t referenced again until the end of the game.  Anyway, Warren gets fitted for his suit (in a somewhat harrowing scene) but his neural interface that connects him to Creo fails and he is cast out on the (literal) scrap heap to fend for himself.  It seems that the neural interface has screwed up a lot of people in their exo-suits, sending them utterly insane and causing them to attack anyone who isn’t connected.  And so Warren is sent to find his way to the centre of Creo to find out what’s going on and to try to stop it.

The Surge
Most of the enemies shamble towards you before striking, but some will charge you down with surprising speed.

Even the plot plays out in a Dark Souls fashion, with snippets of information passed on by NPCs (many of whom have little side quests) that don’t give too much away.  The movement and combat mechanics are also very similar, with dodges, blocking attacks and running consuming stamina that regenerates over a short time.  Combat is very slow and deliberate, with committing to an attack at the right moment being crucial lest you suffer an enormous amount of damage from a single strike.  Weapons come in an array of shapes and sizes to suit your taste, from quick two handed weapons to slow, powerful hammers.  My personal favourite ended up being the staves (bit thanks to Drakulus for suggesting them to me!) for their ability to stagger enemies and knock them off their feet.  Armour also comes in lighter and heavier varieties that will alter your damage and stamina consumption in various ways.

The Surge
Whatever’s behind this door is bound to be friendly.

So far, so Souls.  But the selling point here is how you acquire new weapons and armour.  During combat you can target specific limbs of the enemy, and each hit fills an energy bar.  Once a certain amount of damage is done and you have enough energy, you can perform a finisher that will sever the selected limb and unlock the armour attached to it for your own use.  This is also how you gain resources to upgrade those armour pieces.  It’s an interesting approach that forces you to not hit too hard lest you kill the enemy and lose the equipment you wanted.  The energy bar also allows you to use certain buffs as well as your drone to attack opponents from range.  It’s an additional meter to manage, but its addition is an interesting one, as it drains very quickly when you aren’t attacking thus promoting an aggressive style of play more akin to Bloodborne.  A thumbs up from me on this addition.

The Surge
The finishing moves that sever limbs look impressive and are pretty quick so tend not to get old quickly.

Scrap, your souls equivalent, is collected by killing enemies and lost upon your death.  Like in Souls, you can reclaim them by finding your body, only this time you have a time limit to reach it.  Killing enemies on the way extends this time limit, but I rarely found myself running out of time.  These are used to create and upgrade equipment as well as level up your power core.  Rather than level up specific stats, this allows you to plug in more powerful augments to define your character.  The augments you can install are limited by your total level/power, meaning you can’t just jam in all the most powerful ones.  You may only be able to afford a few low level ones or one high level one and this creates an interesting balancing act.  You probably want some healing items to take with you, but that means you may not have enough power to install an upgrade for your stamina.  Each augment will increase in effectiveness (up to a limit) based on your over all core power so you can still get a decent buff from weaker options.  I really like this feature.  Not only does it force you to make some difficult choices, but it also allows you to completely respec whenever you return to the Medbay (your bonfire equivalent) as you can slot augments in and out as you see fit.

The Surge
These ones killed me so many times. I found the standard enemies more challenging than the bosses at times.

The environments suit the game well, but after the opening area (a gorgeous, open scrapyard area) it becomes little more than industrial areas with a slightly different colour scheme.  There are a couple of nice changes towards the end, but on the whole the game was rather stuck with what it could offer.  It does allow for some rather tense moments journeying through tight, dimly-lit corridors in which an enemy with a flame thrower could ruin your day at any moment.  These corridors often act as shortcuts that lead back to the Medbay when needed most which is a good thing considering how large some of the areas are.

The Surge
Get used to these sort of environments. Sci-Fi games can suffer from this, as there are only so many ways to do “industrial” locations.

Enemies aren’t hugely varied, with many of them being people in suits of lighter or heavier armour, wielding one weapon or another.  The occasional ranged drone or annoying pouncing walker will show up, but for the most part you’ll be fighting the same few enemies until the final area.  The showpieces are the bosses of course, of which there are 4 (5 if you count an upgraded form of one of the ordinary enemies).  Whilst these certainly look interesting, they aren’t all that challenging.  In fact, I managed to defeat 3 of the 5 (including the final boss) on my first attempt which was a little disappointing.  I get the feeling that The Surge wanted the journey to the boss to be the big challenge, as I died during my exploration of areas far more.  Sometimes these deaths felt a little cheap as I would dodge back and end up passing through barriers and falling to my death.  These little moments indicate that this is a little less than polished in places which is a pity.

The Surge
Some of the bosses have impressive scale, but they really aren’t all that challenging compared to the series it tried to imitate.

However!  I enjoyed The Surge rather a lot.  It may be a little bland in places and lacks the polish of its source material, but it really did scratch that Dark Souls itch for me.  The change from light and heavy attacks to horizontal and vertical strikes forces you to learn the best move to use to damage each body parts and the overall combat feels weighty.  Whilst this isn’t one I’m going to be rushing back to straight away, it certainly is an adventure I enjoyed for its 20 or so hours.

The Surge was developed by Deck13 and published by Focus Home Interactive.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend it lovers of Dark Souls and their ilk.  Whilst unpolished, it provides good, tense fun throughout its campaign.  Well played Deck13!