The Surge is an Action-RPG developed by Deck13 who could be most known for their work on Lords of the Fallen. Following our protagonist after a catastrophic event causes the machines of Creo to go wild, along with the augmented workers within. In a style akin to the Souls-Bourne franchise you will be facing insurmountable odds as enemies can kill you in 3 hits, sometimes one-shotting you if your gear is not up to work standards.
The game starts off as our character Warren sits on a train, inbound to Creo, driving him to his new career and his new life. Docking into the station, Warren goes to get his exosuit fitted and put to work, however the machines go wrong and fail to sedate him, forcing him to experience the painful grafting surgery. Awakening quite some time later, Warren finds himself in a scrap heap, being carted off to be recycled.
As if the beginning to his work schedule wasn’t rough enough, the next task on the chart is to figure out why his would be co-workers are out for blood and why the machines are after him. Finding little in the way of sanity, Warren must rely on the people he comes into contact through the comms and hidden within the rooms of the facility. Carving a path through the facility is Warrens only chance at survival, and he must do it alone.
Being purely focused on Action, The Surge gives you horizontal and vertical attacks, combining these together to string up combos. You can block, but this will deplete your stamina heavily and is rather difficulty to pull off against heavier enemies. Dodging around can prove useful, but plenty of attacks are telegraphed to your character, ending up with lower stamina as well as health.
You don’t have a set amount of health packs, rather allowing you to install implants that give you a certain amount, if you are lucky with the drops you can end up with 9 health injections right off the bat, or be limited to the standard 3. Besides the health injection implants you can also use implants that increase your maximum health, stamina and energy. You can only hold 4 Implants to start, but you can unlock slots as you “level up”.
The Surge doesn’t feature a mainstream levelling system, rather you upgrade your suits core power by 1 by spending tech scrap. Each point of core power will increase the effectiveness of the boost implants as well as unlocking a new slot every 10 or so power. Suit power is also required to access new areas and chests. Implants and rig pieces will cost suit power to maintain, with some customisation thrown in to boot. You will have to find the right setup if your power is too low or level up to allow you the best gear.
From both the level setup and feel, The Surge seems very inspired by Dark Souls, as well as their previous game Lords of the Fallen. As such this game is incredibly hard when compared to other games on the market. You will only be able to take 1-3 hits before death, with health injections healing you for a certain amount and respawning when you rest. Bosses are huge and terrifying, while normal enemies will keep you on your toes.
The main upgrading system of The Surge is taking parts from your enemies, rebuilding them and attaching them to your own rig. If you like the look of someone’s arm piece, slice it off and scavenge it. With 2 Arms, 2 Legs, chest piece and head gear you will be doing plenty of dismemberment to get the blueprints and scrap to craft your own gear. Using a modular design, you can freely mix and match pieces to get the buffs and defence you want.
Overall thoughts and feelings
Going for an atmospheric approach to music and sound design, The Surge mostly relies on ambient sounds and that of radio speakers. Immersing you in the environment is all well and good, but the game can sometimes feel empty and boring when you have to resort to grinding with only the sounds of metal clinging to listen to. The music does kick in for the boss fights, but most of them kind of fall into the background whilst you are concentrating on the fight. While it could be argued that the silence of the world fits with the themes of the game, other games have pulled it off better.
Difficulty in games can attract varying audiences, but getting a good combination of enjoyment, reward and difficulty can be a hard task. The Surge is brutal, punishing and demonic in its difficulty curve and starting difficulty. While it does well to alleviate this within the first area it drops off harshly afterwards, with plenty of hidden enemies, death traps, narrows corridors, boss AI and design and more, it just feels difficulty for the sake of being difficult. I am a big fan of the Souls-Bourne franchise, and while that hasn’t always been the best for balancing difficulty and enjoyment, it does it leagues better than The Surge does.
The story is poorly implemented, swapping out softly spoken NPCs for med addicts, people looking for weapons and someone over the comms. The whole facility is meant to have gone haywire, but almost all the NPCs you find either know nothing or are not concerned with it. You even come across security guards, with no option to talk to them about what’s happening. The story basically just becomes a goal, you need to stop this so go to the next area.
Overall The Surge gets a 6/10, the story is boring and unenthusiastic, the gameplay can feel sluggish and slow with plenty of the weapons having too much weight to them. Bosses can be quite a challenge and have their own tactics to beat, with general enemies still causing concern. The upgrade system is simple, straightforward and slightly unique in the genre, though it does seem gated to the levels themselves. The modular armour feels great, but it’s hard to see the statistical difference in combat. Somewhere along development, I feel like the ball was dropped. At some times it feels like it has Horror elements, but these are just bad in general, others it’s about building up your survivors, which feels underdeveloped, and others it’s just confusing. It is commendable to try all the new things in this game, but the focus is all over the place, I only really liked the limb combat and armour crafting.
Like I have said before, I am a Souls-Bourne fan, and this game tries to emulate a lot of that franchise’s mechanics and themes. But it just forgot what it was along the line. 1 Step forward, 2 steps back.