In anticipation of Deck13 and Focus-Home Interactive’s upcoming followup to 2017’s industrial/sci-fi action RPG The Surge, I recently got into contact with their head of social media and PR Phil Pradel to talk about my most anticipated game for 2019, The Surge 2.
Q: If you wouldn’t mind, could you introduce yourself and explain a bit about your position at Deck13 as well as how it relates to The Surge 2?
A: Hi! My name is Phil Pradel and I am the person responsible for social media management and PR at Deck13. I’m not the one programming the engine, I am not designing cool concept art, I am the one who gets engaged with the people out there and post some memes. The closest I get to working at the game is when I am creating the newest Deck13 Inside episode. That’s a weekly dev blog we do on YouTube to show our audience what working at our studio feels like and to get them a good feeling of how much work and passion it requires.
Q: It’s no secret that comparisons are frequently drawn between The Surge and From Soft’s Dark Souls series, often referring to the game as “sci-fi Souls” (though personally I much prefer the term “industrial Souls”, then again that “sci-fi” moniker does feel more fitting given what we have seen of Jericho City and the environments we will be exploring in The Surge 2). The Dark Souls games are quite the acclaimed series and are one of many games these days that often find themselves compared to either by the development team, the media or just fans. How do you feel about this comparison? Do you feel it is fair to simply call something X Souls or a Souls-like and leave it at that? Does it perhaps preset expectations that may color how the game is ultimately received or perhaps prevent the game from shining on its own merits as it has to live under this sort of shadow simply for sharing certain design sensibilities or gameplay mechanics?
A: The question if it is fair cannot really be answered. It is obvious that players will always compare games and we accept this. We think that The Surge and The Surge 2 even more can stand for themselves. Already in the first installment we had quite some unique mechanics which set it apart from other games in the genre. With The Surge 2 we went even further.
Q: Were there any particular critiques that The Surge received either from reviews or fan feedback that were given more focus as development began on The Surge 2?
A: While many liked The Surge, it received three major criticisms. Players often loved our general approach at combat but sometimes felt trapped in animations. We made sure that this was no issue for the second part of the series. Another thing we noticed was that some were missing more visual fidelity. While much of the game takes place inside the CREO plant and the areas differentiate quite a bit visually, some players were looking for more extreme variety. We tried to give them what they were looking for with the A Walk in the Park DLC. This piece of content was also a good place for us to prove that we noticed the criticism directed at the paths in some levels. Although we are pretty proud of our general level design we noticed some ways to improve it even more. These lessons all translate to The Surge 2.
Q: What would you say are the biggest changes or additions going from The Surge to The Surge 2?
A: The general idea for The Surge was to build upon the good parts and improve the gameplay areas players didn’t enjoy as much. “NPCs and side quests are cool, but can we have more with a deeper story narrative?” Yeah sure. “The exploration was neat, will there be more?” Yeah sure, take some tools for vertical exploration with you. “I liked the combat, how can you make it even better?” How about you take this combat drone that’s a bigger part of the core gameplay, four new weapon classes so we reach nine in total and we make the combat smoother in general?
Q: Are there any elements in particular that you are the most proud of or like the most?
A: Generally speaking I am a big fan of the limb targeting system. It’s just so rewarding to fight a tough enemy and get his weapon and armor as a reward. In regards to The Surge 2 I am personally a sucker for exploration that isn’t shackled to the ground. So the implementation of the exo lines is just one big plus for me!
Q: So something I have frequently brought up when talking about The Surge is this sort of underlying theme of risk versus reward that ties into so many of the game’s mechanics. From the combat and how targeting armored limbs in order to get schematics or crafting and upgrade material offers higher rewards while going for unprotected limbs allows you to dispatch enemies quicker and often more safely, but doesn’t give near as much of value to the player. Or the multiplier that builds the longer you go and the more enemies you kill without making use of an Ops center. The alternate/hardcore method of defeating a boss (does this have some sort of official name by the way?) that generally makes the fight more difficult or adds an extra layer to it, but grants an improved or sometimes entirely different weapon as a reward than if you just fought them normally. It is such a pervasive element, am I just crazy for seeing this pattern or was this all a conscious design decision while developing the game?
A: Being aware of your own capabilities and limitations is essential for beating the game. I think it’s the essence of skill. So besides managing stamina and health, it’s also a game about managing risk. Risk versus reward is one of the biggest themes of the game. To illustrate it better, just think of trying to beat a tough enemy miles away from the MedBay. You really want to get that piece of armor, but you are one hit away from dying. The way your energy ties into this situation makes things even worse. You could heal once, so you are on the safer side of things. But healing would also mean that there is no energy left to cut off that last piece of armor you so desperately wanted. You are forced to decide in the blink of an eye. And for the most part you won’t even consciously think about it. It just gets natural and that’s one of the things I enjoy the most about this game.
Q: I’m just going to lump these all together here and if it’s not something you can really give an answer to or need to be somewhat vague about I totally understand. What is your favorite weapon/boss/enemy in The Surge 2?
A: I am a sucker for fast weapons! I was a big fan of the staff in the first Surge so naturally I am quite drawn to the spear. Sticking enemies with the pointy end is just so much fun and simultaneously adds a new way of attacking.
Q: If you could change any one thing from the first Surge title, what would it be?
A: Remember those robotic dogs? Damn, they really gave me a hard time. Still need to find out who at this company designed them so I can plan my revenge. They were not badly designed, I was just too stupid to learn how to counter them. So just to find my peace, I would remove them retrospectively
Q: It has recently come to my attention that Stumfol’s “Prisoner”, a very iconic little earworm with quite the fun anecdote of a backstory to its inclusion as I gathered in a conversation I had on Facebook, will not be featuring in The Surge 2. First of all, who was the madman behind the decision to not include it and why have they not been fired for it yet? Second of all, given the actual reasoning behind its inclusion in the first game, is it just some crazy coincidence how well it actually ended up fitting the game or am I just crazy and making connections that aren’t actually there?
A: This song became super iconic and closely connected to pain and suffering. It will always remind me of all the times I died because I played too greedily or fell down some platform. From what I’ve read, people really got attached to the song. But not everyone. I specifically remember a message I got a few weeks ago. Somewhere on the planet is this lad, always playing the game when his wife is around the living room. To be quite frank, he doesn’t seem to be an extraordinary player, he wrote that he dies very often. Every time he’s sent back to the MedBay, the song starts playing again. It got to the point where his wife always gets pissed when he dies, because she just can’t listen to this song anymore. So yeah, not putting that song in the second part might be comforting for someone’s marriage
(Note: You can give Stumfol’s “Prisoner” a listen here on his official YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmR1ehmmwkc)
Q: Are there any last comments, remarks or tips you have for everyone? Thank you so very much for your time, really really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.
A: The Surge 2 comes out on September 24th on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Charge your rig, suit up and prepare to git gud. Jericho City is waiting for you to explore it!
Again, I want to give a big thanks to Phil and the rest of the folks down at Deck13 for their time. I’m really excited for the game, it’s really shaping up to be something special. You can look forward to my full thoughts on it sometime within the next month or so. If you haven’t already, go ahead and hit them up on Facebook either at Deck13’s official page: https://www.facebook.com/deck13.interactive/ or The Surge’s page itself: https://www.facebook.com/TheSurgeGame/ They post all sorts of great news updates, articles, as well as the weekly blog Phil mentioned earlier (which is also available here: https://www.youtube.com/Deck13).
(Editor’s Note: Pradel is a native German speaker and his responses have been edited for clarity only at his request; content and information have been untouched.)
(Extra Editor’s Note: Phil, your English is excellent and I hardly had to do a thing.)