In case you have been living under a rock over the past few days, let me catch you up on the new, promising sci-fi souls-like which was just released on the 16th of May. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and is rumoured to have taken great inspiration from the Dark Souls franchise.
The developers, Deck 13 Interactive are based in Frankfurt, Germany and have evidently learnt quite a lot from their previous game: Lords of the Fallen. The previous game copied the Souls formula to the teeth, but The Surge aims to perfect the recipe and could have possibly surpassed it, though like in their previous game, the character, story and NPC developments are lacking. You play as a disabled protagonist named Warren, looking for a job at Creo, a mega-corporation that supposedly seeks to restore and heal the Earth. However, when you are about to have your personal rig installed, things go a bit wonky...
The Surge is a smooth and astounding game that provides near flawless and original gameplay with excellent graphics and performance that will not slow down below 60FPS even when your specs do not match the power of the recommended specifications. It certainly proves to be more challenging than the Souls series because it concentrates more on fighting common grunts and enemies (which offer a stable variety) rather than bosses; the enemies gang up on you and play dead, lash out at you from random directions, burst out from crates or ambush you from unexpected moments. Though there’s only 5 main bosses, the game presents these bosses in creative ways.
In the exact same way that the first Dark Souls presented the tail cutting feature, this game requires you to think and to play by the rules of the towering death machines you face across the immersive landscape. It also presents you with mini-bosses across the levels that drop items which you could believe to be meaningless, but actually offer pathways to secrets.
Jumping mechanics have also been perfected; it functions just like in Dark Souls except it works so well, that you can expect to be platforming and pulling out eyepopping assassinations by raining justice from above. The game also replaces ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ attacks with ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ attacks. A common complaint is that having horizontal and vertical attacks for all weapons defeats the purpose of having different weapon types. However, contrary to popular belief, I think that it compliments the fact that each weapon has a different playstyle by allowing different combos. The problem with Dark Souls was that it was hard to weave heavy and light attacks together, but this system allows it.
This is all handled astoundingly well considering they also managed to embed a unique combat system that has the player targeting specific body parts, which builds up an energy meter allowing them to execute a finisher. Finishers mix in with the crafting system because depending on chance, executing an enemy will drop a wrecked piece of the gear depending which body part you targeted and which you cut off.
The destroyed piece of gear is then salvaged for different crafting components; this allows upgrading of current weaponry and rigs and crafting of more. Some might choose to save the componenets for later. The progression, gameplay-wise, is also very different from what Souls fans will expect because you level up your rig instead rather than the protagonist himself. By leveling up your rig, you can reach new areas and equip more things and heavier items. It also affects movement speed. Implants are what replace stats and the quantity of implants you can equip at once depend on your rig level. Want extra health? Go for it. Need more attack damage? Sure. Resistance? This has you covered.
Moreover, the developers stated that The Surge allows for you to make your own combos. I personally vouch for that, but even if they lied to us, I can easily back up the fact that there definitely is a big variety of combos available to the player for each weapon.
A couple of flaws in the game are its story, the character development, and the lack of an FOB slider. The story drops it's 'post-apocalyptic' part halfway through and it just stops progressing. Instead, it starts telling a survivors story, almost as if the developers had trouble between concentrating on the main character or Creo. Couldn't they do both? This game will also have you packed in seemingly endless and claustrophobic corridors. While the camera works perfectly it can feel like it’s too close to Warren, our main protagonist, who for unexplained reasons is depicted as a sociopath.
Throughout the game, you will be playing as a pre-designed character. While it has downfalls, it allows the developers to create dialogue options and flesh out the character. However, they did none of that. NPC quests might as well be inexistent and the dialogue options are a joke because the only choice you have here is in what order you’re going to say what. NPCs show no humour, fear, or any emotion at all, and just talk like they were robots themselves; Warren also seems to be fine with the fact that after an non sedated surgery, he wakes up to the ruins of where he was, with a robot trying to chop his leg off and him having to go on a rampage to survive.
I also must say that the environment is absolutely fascinating and can even challenge that of Dark Souls. Yes, Dark souls offers more areas with wider territory. Yes, you can get lost there too. But what it doesn’t offer, is what The Surge offers. It’s so easy to get lost, in this intricate level design that will have you making quick decisions as you run away from the mobs chasing you. It felt to me like I was in the game, and like I was the person getting lost, not Warren. This would have been even better if we could design our own character, as then it would make sense for us to be immersed within ourselves, because the game doesn’t do a good job of immersing us through Warren’s eyes. Apart from that, I can't nitpick about anything else. No bullshit hitboxes either thanks to Physics based hitboxes!
It's so easy to get distracted through your journey by scouring for specific gear with the 'reap what you sow' loot system, farm for Tech Scrap, the equivalent of Souls, or just trying to find the hidden loot, secrets and mini-bosses. There is so much to do that I can't even put it in a list. The combat is bodaciously designed and the execution was nailed perfectly. Mix in all types of settings, that include the most basic things to settings that other can't even fathom to boast about like fully rebindable controller buttons, rather than having to pick from crappy presets.
All of that being said, the game has the potential to be something revolutionary, with it’s amazing lighting effects, graphics and gameplay. If they want to address this, I believe this would be an easy fix in upcoming DLC, by adding personality to Warren as he completes new objectives. Or just here and there have him say something flippant about the situation he’s in to demonstrate he’s actually pretty light hearted. But I can assure this game is a must buy for Souls Veterans and give it a 9/10.
I didn't kick!