Written by Derrick Smith
From the creative team that brought us Lords of the Fallen, developer Deck13 Interactive unleashes their next challenging action role-playing adventure, in the form of The Surge. Taken heavy ques from the Souls series and its imposing layer of inspired gameplay, The Surge takes place in a dystopian future where mankind has exhausted the world’s resources, leading to strained social service and environmental diseases. According to the developers, the game paints a grim portrait of the future where the evolution of technology in relation to society and the environment has led to a decadent era for humanity.
You are Warren, a handicap gentleman who cannot walk. Bound to his wheelchair, Warren wants to make a difference, and in order to have the impact he so desires, Warren must place his trust in CREO, the mega-corporation promising to remedy earth of the war and global warming crisis, as well as offering you the opportunity to walk again. Upon the promise of being able to walk again Warren ‘joins’ the CREO cause and quickly discovers that all is not so rosy. Sure, Warren can now walk, but at a brutal and painful cost.
Waking up to his new reality, Warren finds himself equipped to the bone (literally) in his new seemingly clumsy exoskeleton suit, which enables him to walk, among other things. Soon, after exploring his new surroundings Warren observes that there are other individuals cursed to his same fate, yet their coherency is not quite in tact, in fact, they attack you on sight like fanatical cyborgs. Everywhere you turn, from pesty attack drones to crazed CREO exoskeleton suit wearing assailants, Warren is safe nowhere, and there is no turning back. Warren must fully unearth all the that CREO throws at him and the further you go the more challenging it becomes.
The Surge is played across varying locales of CREO’s industrial facility, with each area offering unique and intricate pathways of discovery, all impressively connected together allowing you the convenience or making your way through the facilities by way of a trial by fire approach. Amidst this cold metal environment players are consistently greeted by enemies who become increasingly formidable. However, while each area of CREO’s facility does express a particular presence, after awhile you can get the feeling that you have been here before when encountering new areas. This is not necessarily a bad thing, yet what does betray each areas uniqueness is supported by the lack of enemy diversity. For the most part as you navigate your way through the facility enemies will often behave the exact same with some varying attacks depending on the enemies themselves. This does however maintain narrative consistency if we are nitpicking.
The Surge prides itself on raising the challenge bar by persistently beating you down, forcing you to retry and carefully examine your resources and familiarize yourself with your surroundings while playing it safe and wisely picking your battles. You quickly discover that this is not a hack ‘n’ slash adventure which allows your forward progress with ease. In fact, it is completely the opposite. After smashing a few heads in strategic fashion, eventually you will acquire bounties of useful scap, which must be stored within your safehouse before you die or else.
Speaking of smashing heads in, while the enemy types and their attacks left much to be desired in variety I still and thoroughly enjoyed the encounters. The Surge empowers players with an intense and absorbing combat mechanics, forcing upon the player a balancing act of concentration paid to your stamina, life gauge, surroundings, and devastating attack patterns of the enemies. As mentioned before, smashing heads in strategic fashion is supported by the games unique attack system which targets enemy extremeities, offering key weak points for faster takedowns, as well as valuable loot taken from your enemies exoskeleton outfit. The process of removing body parts in stylish fashion comes from building up your attack meter which introduces a satisfying and bloody slo-mo effect of Warren cutting off the necessary limb of his enemy as a way of piecing together his new an upgraded exo-suit.
The combat is founded on varying weapon types and their attributes. Keeping the combat fairly simple, your attacks, blocking and evasive measures are fairly easy to pull off. However, the challenge becomes how you manage your attacks while staying clear of enemy aggression, which is all tied to your stamina. Affectively, players become equipped with a multi-functioning attack drone, allowing you to express your power from a distance, in addition to being protected from enemy attacks via a useful sheild.
Ultimately, each area of CREO offers an imposing boss battle that could take some getting used to as the initial introduction to these powerful bosses can seem overwhelming. Going into these encounters I found myself needing to be as equipped and as ready as possible, so paying careful attention to their attack patterns and my positioning was critical. While boss battles took several attempts before besting them all, some far more challenging than others, upgrading Warren with the current environments best enemy equipment saved me a lot of headache, for the most part.
The more I died in these encounters the more frustrated I became at the idea that my restart meant I needed to begin back at my safehouse and find my way back to the boss while being confronted by previous enemy types who could deplete some of my important resources needed to overcome the boss.
Interestingly, the more you explore each area of the CREO facility before confronting the boss (highly recommended) the more you will begin to connect key areas, allowing you to travel through the facility much faster, like making your way directly to the boss with less hassle. While I understand why The Surge forces players in this way, after several unsuccessful attempts at besting a boss, the option of being able to begin right at the bosses lair would have been a welcome convenience, alleviating the monotonous trudge of getting back to the boss, despite the quicker route.
While I made use of all the weapons I found myself relying on mainly three types due attack speeds and damage and just as important the more use of the weapon the more the weapons proficency is raised, making your favorite weapons harder to put down.
Thankfully customization is founded on farming enemies for their parts, progressively turning Warren into a seriously dangerous anti-CREO operator, which impressively empowers the player. This along with the joy of overcoming the challenging boss battles kept me coming back for more punishment, despite the limited assortment of enemy attacks atop the games seemingly hollow yet highly detailed environments.
The Surge could seem like a grind after a while if you’re not used to playing game of this nature as it does not frequently hold your hand with narrative overtones driving the story forward. Fans of games such the Souls series, BloodBorne and even Nioh might want to give The Surge a try as you will be right at home even if the aforementioned games are of a higher caliber. The Surge does a great job fusing its ideas together making the increase in player power and gameplay the star of the show. Though I would have wanted a more fleshed out story running alongside the challenging encounters, The Surge is quite entertaining in its own daunting way.
I had a great time playing the Surge and hopefully Deck13 Interactive can improve upon the games slight imperfections. As a new IP The Surge truly has the potential of being something special.