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Intermission Music - The Surge

How a monotonus soundtrack can elevate the game experience

The Surge is an approachable souls-like game that is set in a post apocalyptic research complex. The scenery is gory and cold, mostly mechanical things that imply, the player is the only sane human in the world. The enemies in the game are all mechanical monsters. Most enemies are mindless humans strapped in mechanical exo-skeletons, or machines that were supposed serve other purposes before they decided to kill all humans

The atmosphere of the game is tense. The player is made to feel like there is something horrible on every corner. The eire sound design persists through the menus and wide open areas where the player has a bit of a breathing space. Through the game the player comes across small rooms called OPS centres. These rooms act as hubs where players can store your tech scraps (souls), and buy upgrades. These rooms are designed to break the pace and reward the player. They create a chance for players to collect their bearings from the horrors they witnessed on the outside 

During the 10 hours or so of the game the thing that annoyed me the most was the country music that played in the ops centres. The boring old country music with just vocals and a guitar got on my nerves after I died and re-spawned in the OPS center for the fifth time.I searched the internet on how to change this music and I saw that most players were getting irritated by this music and the devs made it very easy to change the music. While I was thinking what music would fit the best, I realized that the boring, irritating country music was already the best choice.

Between all the chaos and horror fighting against murderous machines = wrapped in a machine armor, ops centers offers players solace. In fact, the music in the ops center is the only thing that you can find in the game that is closest to good old humanity. 

The music is sung by a male singer with a very warm timbre. The singing is smooth and heartily. The lyrics fit the concept of the story and the emotions portrayed through the music mirror your character perfectly. Furthermore, the player hears the music through a low-pass, music boxy filter which both adds a nostalgia around the music, that focuses on humanity, and implies that the player is in a non-functioning world.

It feels like the whole game is built around this contrast. The player moves through the levels, searching for answers to the catastrophe that occurred, fighting through cold, mechanical horrors. The player is powerless against these horrors unless they use the salvaged mechanical parts, which means the player must risk turning into the same horrific mindless mechanical zombies that they were fighting. But time and time again the player is reminded of their humanity in the OPS centers with a warm somber sound of country music. 

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