Surmount

Posted:  Jul 01, 2024
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Review

Surmount was provided by popagenda for review. Thank you!

This review used an LCD Steam Deck. OLED details will be coming later.

If I had to describe Surmount in one sentence, I would probably say: It's like Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy but with more checkpoints and less infuriating controls. The checkpoints and easier-to-handle controls of Surmount! By using the shoulder buttons. Your character can grab onto various elements in the scenery or background, thus allowing you to navigate the mountain with a surprising amount of control. It also opens up a large amount of techniques that you can use to reach your objective.

SurmountStock4
You start off in a village at the foot of Mount Om. Here, you can accept quests and buy supplies.

But let's go back to why you're climbing in the first place. Surmount takes place in a village at the foot of Mount Om, a mountain that no one has ever summited, the tallest in the world. And as you seem to be some sort of climbing guru straight from the get-go, you're here to climb to the top before anyone else. There are plenty of quests to find at the village and points along your journey up Mount Om.

Mount Om is procedurally generated, so every player will have a different experience when climbing the mountain. However, when you accept quests, I believe the quest maps are hand-made, so everyone should be on the same level when it comes to those.

SurmountStock3
As you ascend Mount Om, you will reach safe points to suspend your current run.

While the procedural generation is a nice touch, it can lead to some issues. At launch, the generator sometimes created impossible levels. This seems to have been fixed at this point. But while I was playing, some oddities still existed, such as water being generated in mid-air. It can also make different "runs" up the mountain vary greatly in difficulty.

The climbing itself does feel good and is satisfying when you pull off a good move. Using the LB and RB buttons, you can grip the mountain with your left and right hands. By gripping with just one hand, for example, you can rotate the left thumbstick to start swinging your character in circles, and then letting go of the rock allows your character to use momentum to jump to another surface that you can grab onto, provided you swung correctly, of course.

The swinging technique was my most used move, and I think it's intended, as it's what the game teaches you to use in the tutorial levels, but there are other ways you can use momentum to scale the mountain.

This all can get a little infuriating if you mess up, though; you might lose a lot of progress. Although the game features handy little anchor points placed around the map, protecting you from most falls. Without these anchor points, the game would have frustrated me too much. As you can see in the image below, I'm attached to an anchor point, so if I were to fall off the platform, I wouldn't drop to my death but be able to suspend in mid-air and retract the rope to gain height.

SurmountStock1
You can find various objects on your path up the mountain, which could help or hinder you.

Your health and stamina in Surmount are the same. While you start with a full bar, falling from too great a height, swinging too hard into a rock face, or hitting obstacles like thorns or a mountain goat will cause you to take damage, lowering your max stamina and making it much harder to progress. Stamina gets used by holding onto objects with your hands, so less stamina means you have less time to make your moves and think things through. However, you can forage in trees and bushes to get food that restores some health.

You'll also have items to help you on your way. A grappling hook can help you traverse an area without easily climbing points. Chalk can help you grip onto passing climbable points when falling and help you stop quicker when you grab them. You can even use a rocket boost to propel yourself in a direction when you use it.

I'll be honest: Surmount isn't really my kind of game, and after playing it for a few hours, I still feel the same way, but if you're up for a tough challenge, climbing up the mountain using various techniques and items, or you just want a game like Getting Over It where there's a point to the game, then Surmount should be on your radar. It's pretty, and it would be a relaxing time if I didn't despair every time I messed up a swing!

Now, let's take a look at how Surmount runs on the Steam Deck because it's interesting.

Surmount - Steam Deck Performance

Surmount doesn't have a great deal of settings available for you to mess with, but it also doesn't need there to be a great deal of settings.

The game has excellent controller support, and all the menus and gameplay can be controlled with your Steam Deck. I imagine playing with a gamepad is much easier than playing with a keyboard in this case. We also have support for 1280x800, so we can run at the Steam Deck's native resolution.

I'm providing 2 settings presets today, both of which will target 60 FPS.

Recommended Settings - 60 FPS

In your SteamOS settings, set an FPS Limit of 60 FPS / 60Hz, and we'll set a TDP Limit of 9W.

In the in-game graphics menu, we're setting Video Quality to High and resolution to 1280x800. We're also removing the FPS limit and V-Sync, as they seemed to cause uneven frame times when I tested them. (You can set OLED to 60 FPS/Hz for these settings).

SurmountRecommendedSettings

Using these settings, the game was a fairly stable 60 FPS, there were a few bumps in the frametime graph, but overall it was pretty stable, and the experience was good considering that this lower TDP limit actually gives us a pretty nice battery life.

Power draw hovers around the 12W mark with these settings, so Steam Deck LCD players can expect a solid 3 hours of battery life, and Steam Deck OLED users could see 4 hours.

Temperatures were a non-issue, being around 60-65C, so the Deck stayed relatively cool and quiet.

Battery Saver Settings - 60 FPS

In your SteamOS settings, set an FPS Limit of 60 FPS / 60Hz, and the TDP limit we're lowering to 4W.

For this preset, we're lowering the Video Quality to Lowest, keeping the Resolution at 1280x800, and removing the in-game frame limiter and V-Sync. (You can set OLED to 60 FPS/Hz for these settings).

SurmountBatterySettings

Performance is similar to the Recommended preset above, if slightly less stable. But for the most part, you will be seeing 60 FPS. We lose some shading and finer details, but the game still looks pretty. We only save a little bit on battery life regarding wattage, but that does make a big difference to battery life at the end of the day.

The power draw is down to 8-10W now, which means Steam Deck LCD users could easily see 4 hours of battery life, and Steam Deck OLED users in excess of 5 hours.

Temperatures also dropped down to around 55C, meaning the Deck's fan is hardly running to keep the device cool.

High CPU Usage on Some Maps:

While the settings above kept the game at 60 FPS 90% of the time, there was one occasion where there were quite severe performance issues that meant I had to remove the TDP limit on the Recommended preset and raise the TDP Limit to around 11W on the Battery Saver preset.

This was on a randomly generated map, so I'm unsure if something generated was causing issues. Still, the CPU usage was very high, drawing a constant 7-8W of power from the Steam Deck's CPU on this particular map. It was also raining, and the only map I played was raining, so there may be an issue with the rain causing high CPU usage. If you encounter a map like this, you should turn your TDP limit off and then reapply it back to the recommended setting after passing the level.

Accessibility:

Surmount doesn't offer too much general accessibility, but it does offer climbing assists if you're struggling with the game mechanics. I didn't use these to test them out, but they're there if you want an easier time. They can range from disabling gravity, preventing damage, and swinging slower so you can time your swings better. I'm sure these will make the game less frustrating if you want a more relaxing time.

SurmountAccessibilitySettings

Conclusion:

I feel like Surmount is a game targeting a specific group of people. If you're into a challenge and want to have the satisfaction of pulling off precise moves to summit a mountain with little room for error, then this game will likely appeal to you. If you're a more casual video game player or can get frustrated with difficult games, you'll probably want to play this game with the assists turned on or give it a miss. Don't let the somewhat cartoonish look of the game fool you. Surmount is a difficult challenge.

Aside from the single performance issue mentioned above, Surmount runs very well on the Steam Deck, with the option of running at high settings for nice visuals or low settings for some great battery life. The controls are also as good as they will get on the Steam Deck, so I can't fault how the game plays on the device.

It's also worth mentioning that the game has a two-player local co-op mode, which I did not try. That could ease the game's more frustrating/difficult parts if you are playing through it with a friend.

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

Surmount generally runs well on the Steam Deck, with versatility between video quality and battery life. The controls are also as good as they're going to get.

Content

Gameplay: 
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Graphics: 
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Story: 
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Sound: 
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Fun Factor: 
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Build Score

Performance: 
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VISUALS: 
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Stability: 
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Controls: 
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Battery: 
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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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Steam Deck Compatibility
Current Price: 
$14.99
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Proton DB Rating
Unknown

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Other Builds
Battery Saver Settings
SteamOS

Limit

60

Refresh Rate

60

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

4W

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

9.0-1

Game Settings

Video Quality: Lowest

Resolution: 1280x800

FPS: No Limit

V-Sync: No

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

8-10W

55C

4 Hours

related Settings

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