With the Dark Souls series being put to rest, at least for now, many gamers like myself are turning to similar games to sink countless hours into. Team Ninja had the first big release this year that tried to capture the Dark Souls 3 hype with Nioh, and although it was fantastic, it had its drawbacks. The second company trying to cash in on the hype is Deck13 Interactive with their new game, The Surge.
This is not the first time that Deck13 has tried to ride the Dark Souls hype train. Lords of the Fallen was released in 2014 and attempted to use the momentum from the Dark Souls 2 release to itself. Although not a terrible game, it was not able to capture the Souls magic. Three years later, the company seemed to figure out what was missing the first time around, because The Surge is everything I want out of Souls-like game and more.
The story of The Surge follows the typical dystopian future guidelines. CREO, an organization that states it will help build a better tomorrow through technology, is attempting to gain workers to test their new exosuit and implantation technology. The main protagonist, Warren, is handicapped and not able to use his legs. When given the opportunity to gain the exosuit and walk again, Warren applies to be part of the testing. When arriving at CREO, Warren is offered an application for two different jobs. After choosing a job, the surgery is shown and a few issues arrive. The first is that he was not sedated like he was supposed to be and was awake for getting all the screws and metal attached to his body. Ouch. The second issue, and the initial plot driving point, is that the central core for his exosuit has malfunctioned. Warren passes out at this point, and upon waking up sees that CREO has fallen into disarray. Warren is being dragged by a robot to be destroyed, and is getting attacked by other workers who have turned into zombie-like creatures. Warren, along with the few other sane workers that are left, is tasked with figuring out what happened to CREO and with surviving.
The first thing I noticed about The Surge is that it is absolutely beautiful. Deck13 was able to use its own engine to create one of the best-looking games of the year. The different areas range from bright and vibrant to dark and dreary. Deck13 brilliantly used both these extremes to the fullest extent. One of the first times going underground, the area is dark except for the light coming from your chest piece. The setting along with the soundtrack was able to create an extremely tense situation which was able to get my heart racing. Although each area is not overly expansive, they can still take loads of time to get through. This is done by weaving hidden items, NPCs, side quests, and shortcuts all over the levels. This kept me searching to find every hidden thing–I spent two hours alone on the first area trying to find everything that was hidden there, and this trend continued throughout the game.
Although the player is not able to customize the character, they can impact the way the Warren is utilized. There are different item sets ranging from light to heavy, and they have bonuses when all the pieces of a set have been equipped. Players also find different implants while playing that can change different aspects about them. This ranges from giving them more ways to regain health, to giving them more energy to perform finishers. There are five different weapon types, and players are able to increase their proficiency for each type through use. Benefits to becoming more proficient with the different weapon types include access to different attack patterns and increased damage due to scaling.
The combat system is one of the most unique aspects of The Surge. It is fast paced and plays a lot like Bloodborne in its dodging and attacking techniques. The biggest change from the norm of the genre is that the two types of attacks are not quick or heavy; instead, The Surge uses vertical and horizontal attacks. Although this seems like an odd choice, it makes sense in the system they built. For example, after locking onto an enemy, the player can scan his body parts to see what is armored and what is not. Finding and attacking the unarmored body part does more damage, but it takes away the likelihood of severing the targeted body part. Attacking an armored body part increases the likelihood of severing it, and then it allows the player to possibly use the forcibly detached weapon or armor. If you already have the armor or weapon, you can then scrap it for crafting material–more on that later.
When enemies die, they drop tech scrap, which is used as the game’s main currency, much like souls in Dark Souls; however, the way the this currency is handled is a lot like the system used in Lords of the Fallen: Scrap can be stored at the Med Bays (each area’s safe zones) to be used at a future time for leveling up, upgrading, or crafting, but there is a catch! The longer the player holds onto the scrap and keeps killing enemies, the larger the multiplier becomes for doing so. This adds a risk/reward aspect to the game when it comes to collecting the currency. Do you play it safe and bank the scrap, or do you retain it for a sick multiplier and a much bigger cash-in at the end? The choice is yours!
The crafting in this game is, by far, the most entertaining crafting system I have ever used. It is both simple and just plain fun to farm for certain items. Simply put, the player goes to whatever area has the level of crafting material they need. They then attack enemies and sever their limbs to get the materials they need. These finishing moves are both gory and beautiful at the same time. It kept me from getting bored while farming, and I wanted to keep seeing how many different finishers they have in the game.
The boss battles are fun but are nowhere near on the level of Dark Souls’ bosses. Each boss has their own little area and there is even a variant of the fog gate. Bosses all have a guaranteed unique drop, with more powerful drops depending on if the boss was beat in a certain way. They all make sense for what they are, yet they lack the energy and euphoria that Dark Souls’ bosses give when they’ve finally been defeated.
If you take one thing from this review, let is be this: DO NOT buy this game unless you have the patience and time to learn it–this game is crazy hard and unforgiving. Maybe I just didn’t put enough time into the game yet to truly understand the mechanics, but this game is by far the hardest game I have played since picking up Dark Souls for the first time. You will die many, many times. You will encounter hard enemies and take multiple deaths to finally figure out the best way to kill them. Most bosses will not be beaten in one attempt. Enemies are extremely ganky, and, until you learn where they spawn, you can, and will, die multiple times in each area. In short, you will bleed. As someone who likes the challenge, and has the time to put into the game, this adds another layer of excitement for me, but to the casual player, this may not be your game.
I am unable to say what the endgame is like firsthand, but it has been confirmed that there is both an NG+ and NG++. Even without having dabbled in much of what the game has to offer, it is easy to tell that this game is special. From the innovative combat system to its beautiful aesthetic, Deck13 was able to create an amazing game, and one that will surely rival the Souls games moving forward.
Overall The Surge is everything that I wanted out of a Souls like game and more. Between its story, combat system, and crafting system, The Surge is a game that you will keep you playing for hours on end.
+ The fresh take on the combat system keeps it entertaining.
+ Decapitating or severing enemy limbs to gain gear is lots of fun.
+ The game looks absolutely stunning.
+ Different implants and gear types allow for many different playstyles.
– Enemy variation is lacking throughout the game.
– The learning curve is extremely steep.
– Although not game breaking, there are some graphical bugs which should be addressed by Deck13.
Kevin Kapsiak is one The Geekiverse’s hardcore gamers. You can follow him on Twitter.