The Surge, the follow-up to developer Deck13 Interactive’s Dark Souls-inspired Lords of the Fallen swaps a medieval setting for that of a dystopian sci-fi future.
I didn’t like Lords of the Fallen and I can’t say that I particularly enjoy the Dark Souls games, either. It took a few dozen deaths in The Surge, I realised that this game was very much in the same vein. Unlike Fallen and Souls, I found The Surge to be quite enjoyable.
You are Warren, a paraplegic who has just signed up to work for CREO, a Tesla-like technology firm that says that it wants to revitalise the dying Earth. With the help of a CREO rig exoskeleton, Warren will be able to walk again. But, of course things don’t go quite to plan.
An excruciating sequence shows the unfortunately un-sedated Warren getting the metal rig harness drilled into his body and a neural implant inserted into his skull. On waking up, it would seem that the hapless Warren has been junked, left amongst other zombie-like cyborg cast-offs. Using salvaged equipment, Warren must fight his way through crazed cyborgs and robots to discover the truth about CREO.
The Surge is an action RPG and thus allows players to upgrade gear and weapons. This is all done from Operations, a hub with a med-bay for rig upgrades and implants and a gear assembly device for crafting new gear and upgrades.
The currency is tech scrap which you get from defeating enemies. You need this for crafting and increasing your core power- which is required to power your rig components and enhancements.
Combat plays a huge part of the game. I think it is the game’s clean fighting mechanics, clearly rewarding me for good tactics and punishing me for obviously foolish decisions, that makes the game so enjoyable. Not once, among many, many deaths did I feel cheated or annoyed.
The combat works by having you lock onto your target and them it’s individual limbs. Selecting an unarmoured limb makes defeating the enemy easier- usually rewarding you with the opportunity to trigger a satisfying slo-mo finishing move.
If you target a particular part, by repeatedly striking that area, you may snap it off as your finishing move and be allowed to take it. You need to be careful and getting attacked by multiple enemies can be catastrophic. It takes a while to learn how to bait enemies to take them out one by one or avoid them altogether.
The combat is melee-base, but requires a fair amount of positioning. You can guard, but you are best getting out of the way of hits. With the enemy targeted, you don’t really have to worry about keeping them in view, instead you can jump and slide around them for the perfect angle of attack.
The game’s levels are a bit of a labyrinth, with enemies respawning if you die, and you respawning back at the operation room. This happens a lot, but not only does it teach you effective combat, you still rack up tech scrape and experience. Be sure to regularly take your scape back to your operations base, as the you drop the lot if you die. The only way to get your scrape back is to go and pick it up where you fell within a time limit.
Over multiple deaths you soon get to know your way around. As you push forward, shortcuts open allowing for less of a trek back to store your scrap and perform any upgrades. The operations areas serve as checkpoints as all you need to do is make sure that your scrap is banked. Other than that, dying doesn’t really matter. And with the combat being so much fun, there’s not really any grind.
Each area is punctuated by a boss. I’m not a fan of bosses, myself, but with a bit of perseverance I didn’t have too much trouble. Again, repeatedly dying was good training for these harder fights.
It seems that publisher Focus Home Entertainment, a reliable, but usually not flashy outfit, have really upped their game with The Surge. The graphics look superb. Movement, combat and the general responsiveness of the controls are all very refined. The whole package is very polished.
The Surge isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, there’s a fair amount of fiddling about with upgrades and rig loadouts to ensure that you are ready to take on the enemies. Jumping headlong into fights will end in tears.
If you like playing deep, immersive action-RPGs you should get on well with The Surge. If you like Dark Souls, then getting The Surge is a no-brainer.