I was so hesitant when starting The Surge last week, as a huge Soulsborne fanboy I didn’t think that anything could stand up to the impossibly high standards that the Soulsborne series had set. Over recent years however, this has only ever been reinforced with Lords of The Fallen being utter garbage followed by the successful Nioh being a little closer to the mark but just missing that special: SOMETHING that makes the aforementioned series my favourite of all time.
The Question is, Can The Surge pick up the pieces and show us that Hardcore Action RPG’s NOT made by FromSoftware can in fact be cut from the same cloth? Can Deck13 prove their worth and show they can create something a little better than the atrocious Lords of the Fallen?
So a quick roundup: The Surge is a hardcore Sci-fi action RPG developed by Deck13 interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive, with Deck13’s only previously notable game being the abysmal Lords of The Fallen (is it obvious how much is disappointed me yet?). In Short the aim for this is Dark Souls meets District 9. Fortunately for Deck13 it seems that their aim has gotten a little better in recent years with only a little splashback instead of them simply pissing all over the floor and hoping something sticks.
Shall we get to it?
So the story, I mean – if it was up to me I would just remove this section from the review. What are we expecting really? It’s a Soulsborne-esque game so the story is all but non existent. I will try to explain some things but this won’t really be very long!
In The Surge you play as Warren – A disabled employee of CREO, a company who is knocked out on the first day of work by a “catastrophic event”. After this you wake up and everyone around you is dead and being pushed into a Zombie-like state by the Exo Suits. Alongside this the machines that essentially ran the facility have gone haywire and, alongside the Exo-Zombies, want to kill you for unknown reasons.
This is about all the story there is in The Surge other than the odd survivor dotted around for you to find but they don’t really add anything to the overall plot except provide incredibly weird forced dialogue and give you fetch quests.
I get that this sounds like a complaint but it is anything but! I didn’t want a big arching story covering hours upon hours of gameplay – if I wanted that I would of turned Persona 5 back on – what I wanted from The Surge was to be thrust into a wasteland having to piece everything together from slight clues and fend for myself.
On that The Surge has delivered.
The character models featured in The Surge are some of the prettiest (can you call gritty things pretty?) I have seen in a while – you can almost see each right down to each screw of the exo suit flying off as you lop the limbs off the games many, many enemies.
I love a good dystopian wasteland in video games, exceptionally so when they have a sci-fi theme thrown in for good measure and the one in The Surge stands head and shoulders above most of the rest – with huge pieces of metal and machine strewn around the wasteland to create the gaming world, but I had an issue. No matter how good this wasteland looked in The Surge, it just paled in comparison to Nier Automata which was still so fresh in my mind and it didn’t matter how hard I tried – it just didn’t look as good.
About 10 hours into the game – the biggest flaw I have found with the game is that the enemy variation just isn’t up to scratch, while the bosses do indeed look impressive and strike a fear in even the most hardened souls player, once you have seen 25 grunts in exo suits you have seen them all. There are of course the harder machines to fight but I felt it was just not enough.
Now the bit we all actually cared about – The gameplay is where The Surge really shone through showing that Deck13 had learned loads from their previous failures with Lords of The Fallen, never did I feel the game was too clunky or did I feel funneled down a single path. I was put into the world and asked to fend for myself and I loved it.
As you progress through The Surge, as is normal with ANY GAME EVER, The Enemies get harder… but I have an issue with this. No matter how much harder the enemies got – I never really understood the levelling system so everything around me got harder but I felt as though Warren just stagnated and stayed the same. I never felt more adept to handle the world around me – which removed a bit of the feeling of being a badass that the Soulsborne games so often gave you and subsequently took away from you.
This isn’t a huge issue however, it just made me lose that HUGE feeling of accomplishment that the Soulsborne games perfected over the years just for beating normal enemies, instead leaving me with a feeling of unfairness and feeling cheated when a random grunt would wipe the floor with me.
It must also be noted that the guard function in this game is fucking useless. I found myself using it and still losing half my health – but unlike Bloodborne before it where there was something in place to counteract this forcing you to play aggressively and regain the lost health. LUCKILY the dodge function is perfect so I didn’t feel overwhelmed and fucked.
This was again reinforced by the bosses, though in a different manner. No matter how impressive the bosses looked – no matter how much fear they would force up in the players. Not a single one has taken me more than 3 attempts so far which just feels like a huge letdown – hopefully this is just in the early hours of the game or maybe I’ve just gotten too good for this now (cough no cough). Saying all of this though – In Soulsborne it was always usually the normal enemies that would dick me over.
The most notable mechanic in The Surge however is the ability to target specific body parts on your enemies, causing damage to these sections of the exo suit before lopping them off to collect them in order to craft them and customise your own exo suit – whilst I felt lost with the levelling system of The Surge this system filled me with absolute joy as I was able to craft new weapons and exo suit sections looking more and more badass with each passing hour. MASSIVE bonus.
No matter how much I refine my skills as a video game reviewer, the sound is always where I fall down because when it comes to sound design I just struggle to care about it.
BUT in The Surge I was caught off guard as I tuned my ear in to the clanging of steel against machine and feeling fucking glorious as I cut down all the exo suits in front of me, this was made all the more apparent but the ominous almost silence that would often precede is. This coupled with the whirring of the giant machines gave me a huge feeling of dread and did a perfect job.
Whilst it is clear that The Surge is not a perfect Soulsborne adaptation, it introduces enough new features to be a stand out addition to the hardcore action RPG genre that made me feel accomplished at times and utter despair at others.
Still with all these flaws, I had a blast with The Surge
and rate it a solid 8.5/10
Update: After writing review I have given even more of my time to The Surge I can say wholeheartedly that this is my game of the year so far – and yes, I’ve played Persona 5
Pick up The Surge. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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