I honestly had no idea about The Surge before I booted it up. I didn’t realise that Deck 13 was the same developer as Lords of the Fallen, nor did I know that both titles were Dark Souls-lite.
What sets The Surge apart from other titles in the action-rpg genre of recent times is the dystopian, science-fiction setting. Where Souls and Lords of the Fallen feature medieval environments and classic enemies (demons, dragons) The Surge is different.
Set on the dying earth less than 100-years from now, the global corporation CREO is attempting to save humanity through its program named RESOLVE. To make the program effective, CREO needs workers. This is where Warren comes in.
Ok, let’s just stop for a second and think about how terrible the name Warren is for a protagonist. Seriously, it’s no good. Anyway…
We’re introduced to Warren on his ride into CREO’s facility on the train. I was reminded of the opening of Half-Life which showed Gordon Freeman’s descent into Black Mesa. Similarly, Warren’s journey to CREO is just as uneventful and like any other videogame, everything goes to shit just after he arrives.
In an interesting twist, once the train arrives at its location and you’re given control over Warren you realise that he’s in a wheelchair. [perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”Like any other videogame, everything goes to shit just after he arrives.” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote] Warren is frail and broken. He’s unable to walk, vulnerable and not as capable as someone with full use of their legs. It places him in a sympathetic light when it becomes clear he’s only taken the job at CREO to be placed into a RIG.
CREO’s RIG is drilled and bolted onto Warren’s skeleton, allowing him to walk, run, lift heavy weight and fight. Not that that’s part of the job decription, though it quickly becomes necessary. On regaining conciousness and starting the game proper, anyone who’s played Souls will feel at home.
The basic gameplay focuses on gradual exploration, accruing
souls Tech Scrap to level up, unlocking shortcuts and battling deadly enemies and bosses. The Surge sets itself apart in a number of ways. Tech Scrap is spent on levelling up Warren’s RIG. It’s also spent on crafting new armour and weapons. Warren’s RIG has slots for head, chest, arms and legs.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”The Surge sets itself apart in a number of ways.” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote] Finding new armour blueprints requires removing the appendages from enemies wearing the armour. To do so, you’ll need to focus damage on said appendage and when prompted, do the finishing move. You’ll be rewarded with a slow-mo,violently graphic cutscene showing an arm or leg or head flying off. Oh, and a new armour blueprint. To build the armour, you’ll need Tech Scrap and components. Both of which you’ll get for killing and dismembering enemies.
Levelling up through Tech Scrap only really increases the RIG’s core power. Core power is used to equip armour and Implants. Implants are where you’ll power Warren up. Implants can increase health, stamina and energy. They can also provide injectable health vials, increase weapon damage and more. It’s a robust system that lets you customise Warren into a range of loadouts rather quickly and easily.
By using different implants with different armour and weapons Warren can be used for different scenarios. He can become a slow, hulking tank. A fast and nimble mid-range attacker or anything in between. The customisation is quite deep. To be honest though, once I’d found the weapon I liked I stuck with it. I was comfortable and it suited my playstyle. So, there was no need to change.
Another way The Surge differs is how it rewards players who refrain from turning in their Tech Scrap. The longer you stay away, the higher the multiplier rises. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”The more you kill the more you earn” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote] This means, the more you kill the more you earn. It’s a great risk vs. reward system that really ratchets up the tension when you get close to death. When you do eventually die or turn your scrap in, the multiplier, along with all of the enemies is reset.
Like Souls, when you die you have an opportunity to reclaim it, but unlike Souls there’s a timer in place. You start with two-minutes and thirty seconds to get back to your dropped scrap. Along the way, you can earn an additional twenty seconds for every enemy killed. It’s another great risk vs. reward system and a fine balance between playing it carefully or risking it all to earn a few precious seconds.
Unfortunately, The Surge doesn’t manage to reach the same glorious heights as Souls in either the combat or level design. It’s a shame because while The Surge is solid, it comes across as a cheap knock off. Combat is sluggish and often times Warren will be locked into a combat animation for far too long. Longer than you expected anyway. It’s also really difficult to understand the enemy attack patterns and respond appropriately. You’re able to block, but I only ever found one or two enemy attacks I could successfully block.
The level design isn’t awful, but it never feels as well connected, as labyrinthine as anything from Souls or Bloodborne. There are five self contained hubs which are connected by loading screens. Within each area there are shorcuts and backtracks to find, but by the time you’ve unlocked them all you don’t really need them. It does make it easier to get back to the boss when you die, but beyond that, it’s a bit too late.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”The level design isn’t awful, but it never feels as well connected, as labyrinthine as anything from Souls or Bloodborne. ” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
As for the bosses, sadly they’re the weakest link. There are only five in the entire game and one boss fight repeats one of the earlier ones. None of them are overly difficult and while they do require some puzzle solving they’re not anything close to any of the deadly encounters you’re used to if you’re a fan of the genre.
That being said, I had a really good time with The Surge. The universe and lore is really interesting. It’s really light on for narrative content, on the surface, but if you dig, there’s plenty to find. It does fizzle out a little at the end and there is a bit of a difficulty spike, but all in all I still think The Surge is excellent. I even managed to finish it twice before writing this.
If you’re jonesing for something to take the edge of your Souls additiction then The Surge will definitely do the job. The Surge is like a packet of Smarties whereas Souls is a bag of M&Ms. They’re both good, but one is defintley better, but in a pinch you’ll take what you can get.
The Surge was reviewed on PS4 using a digital promotional code provided to PowerUp! by Focus Home Interactive.
Game Title: The Surge
Game Description: The Surge is the Action-RPG developed by Deck13, the studio behind 'Lords of the Fallen'. Survive in a dystopian future during Earth's fall.
That Dude's RIG is Jacked - 6.5/10
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Brave New World - 7/10