The Surge is an action adventure game from studio Deck13 Interactive, the studio who previous had a similar styled game Lords of the Fallen. This latest title has a very different setting from the previous outing, where players are not fighting mythological beasts in a fantasy setting, instead fighting man made constructions in a futuristic setting.
Centred on the protagonists looking to regain the use of his legs, he volunteers his body to be fitted with an exoskeleton. When the grafting of the device goes wrong, players then left wondering what happened and why you have been discarded like a faulty piece of machinery.
The games industrial futurist world is something pleasantly different and yet extremely drab, this combination may seem confusing but I feel it creates an extremely “Marmite” feel to the game. Players will find this extremely comforting and new and other people may find this off putting and out of place for the games mechanics. I am in the earlier category; the crumbling future theme that is mentioned throughout the game is not a slow and sad reminder about the possibly state of our own planet.
The Post-Apocalyptic setting has had many iterations and outings within games in recent years, yet the industrial setting of The Surge appears to show a world in which humans are the main reason why the world has gone to hell and not some alien life forms or natural disasters.
Combat is probably the largest focus of The Surge, where the game cannot be described as anything other than Souls-like at its core concept. The player is put into a combat scenario where you are pitted off against enemies in a calculated and methodical series of levels and enemy placements.
Where the game comes into its own is during the combat itself, the player locks onto the enemy in a fashion exactly the same as a Souls game. Yet once locked on the player can target specific limbs; blue limbs are unarmoured and can be hit to take down enemies very quickly, yellow limbs are armoured and dismembering these limbs causes resources to drop which in turn allows you to craft new armour for yourself. The game rewards players for taking the risks and drawing out battles with enemies, making this gameplay mechanic very intriguing and probably a unique selling point for the title. The new armour sets are all obtained by taking on the new enemies and making sure your combat prowess is worthy enough to obtain the better equipment. New weapons can be obtained by searching areas within the game or defeating boss enemies, allowing players to change their play style mid game and try new things.
One of the bigger alterations made to this title over the previous game LotF, all enemy attacks can be avoidable if you are willing to spend that little amount of time watching enemy movements and waiting for the openings. Though the game balances the stamina and energy gain potions of combat very well, though it took me at least 6 hours into the game to understand the energy gain mechanics of the title. Players can only use the dismember ability if the energy gain requirement is filled to a certain level, this also allows you to use specific healing items and drone attacks.
The game allows players to customise their characters with the use of implants; these in turn allow you to modify the characters health, stamina and energy usage/gain. The implants are also used to fit your character with health regeneration or health packs, all of which can be limiting for the finite about of implant slots you have.
Players are forced to be a lot more tactical in their exploration of levels, and making sure a plan is in place before running head first into a brand new area of the game.
One of the biggest features of Dark Souls games is when you die the undead curse brings you back to continue your cursed journey, and resting at bonfires brings back all your enemies as well. The Surge delivers the same gameplay mechanics when you enter your medical bay safe zones, and yet I can see no reason as to why this is actually a thing in the game. It does really well at creating an environment in which you fight exoskeleton enemies who have malfunctioned, yet gives no explanation as to why you and all the enemies re-spawn every time you die?
Maybe I am looking too hard for an explanation when there is not one available, I just feel this is something that does not fit with the games styling.
Level design has been taken from the Dark Souls/Bloodborne handbook where all the levels are interconnected and opening shortcuts are the secret to navigating and surviving levels. The intricate levels are built almost on a multilevel design and elevators and locked doors can turn a half our section of the game obsolete once the player has opened the correct shortcut. It is certainly a nice feeling when you fight your way through a massive group of enemies and worried you do not have the resources to carry on, only finding a door opening from your side unlocks the door you passed previously and opening a nice shortcut back to safety.
The game does have a story in there somewhere, I am not saying it is terrible of memorable; I am just saying there is a coherent narrative delivered which provides the purpose of running through this hell and pushing you forward to the end. The players struggle is met with many different types of enemies and environmental obstacles that the setting is simply perfect for the game.
The hardest thing The Surge will ever have to do in its entire lifespan is shaking off the stigma of being a “Dark Souls” copy. Though the Souls series games have planted a massive flagpole in the gaming ground, the back to basics gameplay and play-style are harsh, fun and frustrating. The Surge is a game that manages to capture the combat styling of the Souls games very well, though it manages to create its own iteration of the formula and is truly a game on its own merit and not just a clone.
Players will feel rewarded and proud of themselves when taking down enemies without the aid of others, the biggest victories in this game come from observation and patience. This in turn is the key to beating a Souls game, this is what Deck13 have learned and implemented in The Surge.
You can buy The Surge on Xbox One from the Microsoft Store.
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- Fantastic part-harvesting upgrade systems
- Brutal combat feels at home in dystopian, cyberpunk future-land as it does in ravaged medieval villages
- Slightly generic sci-fi art style
- Awkward controls are a minor but persistent annoyance