The Inherent Value Hidden in The Surge

I’m not sure anyone needed The Surge, but I’m certainly glad we got it. Games that are heavily influenced by another may be dubbed as clones upon announcement, but as Minecraft created a genre, so did Dark Souls; leading to the inspiration of games like The Surge, Dead Cells, and Nioh. All of which are characterized by leashed monsters that pace an area until they charge in your direction, and combat techniques that need to be memorized and dealt with in a particular way to be defeated. Initially thought to fall into a particular niche, Dark Souls’ reach has expanded exponentially, and rather than being viewed as the source material for a batch of clones, should be looked upon as a grandfather for the next generation of the genre’s offspring. The Surge is the next step in that genealogy.

The Surge implements a new take on these combat techniques without making it too complicated: with its horizontal and virtual attacks, a dodge and block mechanic, everything else is left up to skill. I’d be lying if I said that simplicity made the game easy – it doesn’t – but that observation doesn’t mean much coming from me. I was unable to get past the tutorial in the first Dark Souls, and I haven’t been able to play more than half an hour (combined time) in the genre since. But that doesn’t leave me unable to appreciate the beauty that Deck 13 has created.

How do you feel about creators, across all industries, shamelessly and unabashedly showing where their inspiration has come from? What’s the first thing that crosses your mind when you see a game that has clearly borrowed game mechanics from a better-known franchise? And does that initial opinion change based on the ultimate quality of the title? Comment below and let me know, I genuinely want to know what you guys think. 

This is an introduction to a multiple part series.*



That Incredible “In-Hand Feel”

I’ve heard it said more than once that someone simply loved the “feel” of a game. As if it was a new food against the surface of their tongue or a stone against their fingers, they explain the experience as if it was a visceral one. Despite Destiny’s objectively rough story and treadmill-like loot grinding, it is rare that you play an FPS that urges you to pull back on the shoulder button repeatedly, simply to, again and again, feel the satisfying recoil of the gun. It is the weight behind a melee attack in Halo that makes hitting someone with the butt of a rifle or knocking them back with an elbow so rewarding.

This is why, notwithstanding my statement on writing reviews, I had to sit down and talk about the shooting in Rainbow Six Siege. As a game with a history dating back to 1998, going into it would be beyond the scope of what I want to cover here, but within the first two minutes of purchasing the game, I knew it was a good buy. The developers did something that allowed me to, by even watching the game played on stream or in a YouTube video, experience the action of the rifle: the recoil as the bullet left the barrel and the slight kick-back as the shell is ejected and another round is pushed forward for the next shot.

Somehow small indie studios have managed to find the source of this wonderful game mechanic magic and implement it into jumping, sword swinging, and spell casting. A feeling that I once thought could only be experienced through the efforts of hundreds of people, is now being delivered by teams with less than a dozen.

So when I select a game for On My Radar or decide to dedicate time in posting continuous coverage of its development, not only do I think it innovative in its genre, that the devs poured gallons of their blood into it and deserve recognition, but somewhere in me I know that – like Rainbow Six Siege – those satisfying visuals allude to an upcoming incredible gameplay experience.


I later want to delve into what mechanics must be implemented and done just right to make a game feel good, but I know it’s going to take a lot of research so it will have to be after the features I’m already working on. 

Hollow Knight Standouts

  • After almost a two years Hollow Knight has finally been let out of its cage.
  • Self-proclaimed Metroidvania
  • “Interesting” gameplay mechanics. Satisfying when you win but may cause extreme grief if you feel the death is due to the game’s mechanics rather than your mistakes
  • Occasional frame rate drops.
  • Very combat heavy. More bug smashing than platforming. 
  • Provides quick-respawn points when you seemingly need them the most. 
  • When you die your soul along with all your Geo, the game’s currency remains. Forcing you to return to the scene to fight your soul and get your currency back. It’s a Dark Souls-esc game implementation, makes you think before you jump into a fight because you know what’s at stake. But when you wander into a boss fight in which you don’t belong, the game sometimes forgets to gate you from them, you end up with your soul in an area you can’t fight your way out of. You have 2000 Geo trapped in a lion’s den, and you can go and get your gold…but if the lion kills you, you’re at the same place you started. You have to defeat the lion to get your gold back.
    • It isn’t until later in the game that you have access to the resurrection shrine that summons your specter from wherever it lays.
  • Amazing soundtrack and sound design, but sometimes the repetitive cries from characters make you wonder how long you can stay in their vicinity before you go insane.
  • Simultaneously dark and vibrant art style.
    • Has gorgeous lens flares that occasionally disrupt you at inopportune times.



From Legacy to Monolith

In a few hours the game I’ve come to love and adore, that I’ve spent days of my life in and the jungle that I could Sherpa a class of blind children through, will be changed forever. Slashed and burned to the ground in order to grow anew, the creators of Paragon over at Epic Games have, in the true spirit of a beta, decided they have learned many a thing in the past few months, culminating in the creation of a new map.

“Travel mode,” the ability to traverse the map quicker after being out of combat for a certain amount of timed was ‘game breaking’ and made the game ‘nearly impossible to imbalance.’ Said by the Devs on numerous streams. But Legacy, the land I came to love, was too big to traverse without a motorcycle, or our beloved travel mode – so they were forced to gut it.

In the spirit of change, they reworked all of the heroes from what seems like the ground up: changing damage points, abilities (along with the cards that power them) movement speed – removing travel mode altogether – and giving us a fetus of a map called Monolith. I am voicing my salt not because I don’t trust Epic Games, but ’cause change is hard. But… I fell in love with a baby (the game is currently in beta). Going into it I knew that this child was not fully grown and I might not like the adult it became. But I put in time, effort, and lots of money to watch it grow. I’ve stuck it out this long, and even if it’s due to sunk costs I’m not going to kick ’em out before they become a teenager. I will wait until the tantrums arrive, the doors are slammed in my face, and I am driven crazy by this new perversion inhabiting the one I used to love before I decide I’m done with it. (You cannot legally abandon fully grown children at fire stations or hospitals, though.)

So, I will hold my judgment until I see how it goes. And like the people that didn’t vote for Trump and are scared out of their minds – we are going to have to trust the people that have now taken control. We have to sit back, relax, and wish them the best; because to wish damnation to the people driving your plane, well…that’s just stupid.

With Added Salt In His Tears,
Slightly Judgy Gamer


Why I Haven’t Finished the Last Four Generations of Pokémon 

I started Pokémon Sun minutes after it’s North American launch, and within 15 minutes of starting the game, I found myself texting my friend for some clarification. “Is Hau supposed to be my rival?”
“He’s less of a rival and more of a competitor.”
“Okay because he just showed up for a battle, with the Pokémon that is weaker (by type) than the one I selected.”

And my friend really didn’t have a response for that. Apparently, this rival turned challenger was something that had been changing over the years that I hadn’t really noticed. I was mesmerized by the new Pokémon and the new 3D nature of the game to realize that the challenge had completely evaporated. After talking to him, I remembered the days that I used to be terrified upon my Rival’s appearance. Seeing Red and Gary show up was always a stress-inducing situation, they had chosen the stronger type, in Pokémon’s rock-paper-scissor power structure, they were usually 2-3 levels above me, and blacking out and waking up at a Pokémon center was a risk that could not be overlooked with confidence.

Although wandering aimlessly looking for my next objective was borderline infuriating in Pokémon Yellow, it’s the first thing I miss upon encountering this game. Starting up my game, I am greeted with a little happy face on the map telling my exactly where to go – and for me, this is a problem. One of the reasons I could never put down the first few generations of Pokémon was because I literally could not put it down. Abandoning the game mid-objective would result in my starting the game and having no idea where I was, what I was doing the last time I played, and where I was supposed to be going. I had to power through the game or I may never complete it. Some of the newer games remedied this by adding a journal feature, telling you what was going on in-game the last time you played, but by then challenge had been removed in other areas and my interest was waning.

Off the bat, some may argue that I am playing a children’s game. That I’m expecting challenge from a game made for 12-year-olds, and if I want thought-provoking story and a challenging experience I should look elsewhere. But my argument to that is two-fold. Game Freak, Pokémon’s publisher, knows exactly who is buying their games. They know that nostalgia sells and that a big part of their player base is already into the second decade of their lives. And my second argument would be that the games used to be harder. It’s not just that I’m getting older, so I’m learning to play more efficiently, the game has changed. Whether it’s been dumbed down to have a lower barrier to entry, or because – well I can’t imagine another reason why a developer would remove challenge and by proxy, curiosity, from their game.

I haven’t even reached my first trial, so I cannot speak to the specifics of the game – if I reach that far I will do so – but I posted this because I wanted to know: How do you guys feel about Pokémon Sun and Moon? Do you feel it’s regressing in both story line and challenge? I mean, an Exp Share for the entire team? What is grinding a sin now? Or am I just imagining it, making it all up, and in need of a new fix?

Let me know, in the comments below.

– The lack of challenge in Pokemon has resulted in players no longer feeling accomplished once they’ve finished it, or being too bored to even get to the end.
– They’ve taken out the MacGuffin. With so many Pokemon, all of which are within reach, there’s no longer anything to fight for; no ultimate goal.
– Them lowering the barrier to entry has alienated the players that have been playing for the last twenty years, and ultimately: Pokemon has lost its bite. 

Affair in Agora

Every time my ‘PlayStation On” chime sings it should be accompanied by Paragon theme music. As someone with the shortest attention span in recorded history – whose only completed game is Pokemon –  the fact that I’ve put 7 days and 13 hours into this game is miraculous. 181 hours spent playing a video game can be looked upon with confidence and shame. As I writer I wish I could say I’ve spent 181 hours writing, but I am almost 90% sure I’ve come nowhere near close that number. But when I sit and think “I should have been doing something productive.” what does that mean? When a video game offers you reprieve from everyday life and makes you happy, what better thing could you currently be doing? Yes, writing for all that time would probably have helped with advancing my career, but in that time, what I needed was a distraction, and Paragon provided that.

Paragon is my first MOBA, so talking to me about the real merits and it’s improvements over things like Smite and LOL, and how it’s competent in some places but severely lacking in others – are things I just don’t notice. I have no idea how good this game is because I have no idea what the barometer is. I don’t know how someone calculates that certain kits aren’t balanced or that certain characters need a buff or a nerf, all I know is that I don’t need experience to know I’m thoroughly enjoying this game.

Like a 7-year-old watching Minecraft videos in anticipation of their parents buying them the game for Christmas, I devoured this game – but once I already had it. When I was hype and ready to kill, I played Paragon myself; when I was passive and wanted to relax I watched the top streamers and tried to learn from them. I consumed this game more than I’ve assumed any other, aside from World of Warcraft, but I would never have been satisfied sitting and just learning others play WOW as I am diligently studying and learning this game.

I might not know if this is a good MOBA, but I know this is an amazing video game. And I will continue to post about it until my passion fades.