There's no denying that Deck13 was influenced by FromSoftware's fantastic Souls series when they created Lords of the Fallen. Now that they took the formula and applied it to a futuristic setting, does The Surge have what it takes to be a worthwhile action RPG?
The Surge takes place in a dystopian future where a dubious corporation known as CREO prides itself in its world-saving technology. Shortly after you begin your first day of work there, you're knocked unconscious and awaken to realise that you no longer need a wheelchair. The bad news is that everyone now wants to kill you. You'll fight everything from zombie-like humans wearing exoskeletons (similar to your own) to robot work machines. Just what the heck is going on? I guess you'll have to play through it to find out...
As a side note, I'm a huge fan of the Souls series and have thought for years that FromSoftware should make a science fiction game with a similar formula. The concept of having the same difficult action RPG gameplay while exploring futuristic settings is definitely intriguing. Therefore, when I first came across The Surge, I just had to review it. But enough with the introduction, let's see if The Surge lives up to my idea for a sci-fi Souls.
To be clear, The Surge isn't just another Souls clone as it features some unique aspects that help make it feel like a fresh experience. For starters, you can target specific body parts on enemies while battling them. Doing this grants you one of two advantages: targeting unprotected parts will make the fight easier while damaging the enemy's armour may grant you parts that you can use to craft your own armour. This system is fantastically implemented and makes The Surge's combat great fun to experiment with.
The Surge's campaign is broken up into a handful of stages each with one hub area where you can level-up and such. As a result, the basic game loop goes like this: explore a stage while unlocking shortcuts and occasionally improving your character at the hub, find where the boss is hiding, get your ass kicked, grind for a long time so you can beat it, and then move on to the next stage. It feels much more linear than a Souls game but the stages themselves are surprisingly intricate complete with tons of unlockable shortcuts and goodies to collect. The character growth can be incredibly satisfying, too, as you select from a variety of enhancement chips, acquire a specific set of armour pieces per stage (as well as a few different weapons), upgrade equipment, and raise your core level.
Although I have nothing against challenging games, The Surge unfortunately has a very steep difficulty curve. Getting past the first stage requires a bit of grinding then the second boss is ridiculous and it only gets crazier from then on. After playing it as much as I did, I can't help but feel the skill factor that's present in the Souls series has been replaced by mindless grinding here. I'm sure a select few can beat The Surge's bosses with minimal grinding but even the most hardcore gamers will have great difficulty. Also, seeing as there are very few pieces of equipment to experiment with, you're forced to obtain each stage's armour set if you want to stand a chance.
Another huge problem is that it's extremely easy to get lost within The Surge's overly complex stages. If one game desperately needs a map; it's this. I don't mean to constantly compare this to Dark Souls but that series has beautifully detailed stages that you can easily distinguish and navigate through but everything here just looks the same. It all blends together to make one convoluted mess.
Finally, The Surge's lack of variety when it comes to enemies and gameplay is a huge letdown. Most of the enemies consist of the zombie-like humans in exoskeletons. You will run into the odd drone or hulking machine every now and then but it isn't nearly enough to break up the monotony of slaying these human-robot things. You also won't find any situations that make you think. Just run around and attack foes and that's all there is to it; no puzzles or tricky situations to overcome.
The Surge is one of those games that shows a lot of promise but the experience itself just doesn't live up to its potential. You may have some fun within the first 5 hours or so but everything after that slowly evolves into nothing more than a tedious grind.
- + Focusing on body parts during combat makes for a pretty cool dynamic
- + Exploring the intricate stages is rewarding
- + Satisfying character growth
- - Difficulty curve becomes far too steep as it requires loads of grinding
- - It's incredibly easy to get lost
- - Lack of enemy and gameplay variety