The Surge Review
Deck 13 gave us Lords of the Fallen in 2014, and while it had some cool ideas it was also bug-ridden and awkward. These developers have taken what they learned and molded it into something new with The Surge, ditching the gothic look for something a bit more futuristic in the process.
You play as Warren, a man looking for a brighter future as a worker for CREO, a corporation intent on fixing the planet and saving humanity from our mistakes. As per usual, nothing goes right for our hero in waiting, and you’re thrust into an apocalypse. People are acting crazy, security sees you as a threat, and you never even get a chance to cash your first paycheck.
Combat is similar to Lords of the Fallen in that it feels heavy and deliberate. However, some slight changes have been made and everything feels much more fluid now. There are two main differences: no magic, and no shields. You can block but it uses your weapon and the timing is kind of awkward. Instead of magic, you get a drone that can swap abilities on the fly to suit your needs.
“A lot of assets seem to be reused, causing some areas to look much too similar to other locations and making the map a bit difficult to navigate.”
If you’ve played LotF or any of the Soulsborne games, you can expect a bit of a twist on the reclaiming currency mechanic. You now have a timer that counts down once you leave the respawn hub, gaining more time as you kill enemies. At first it adds tension, but once you realize how quickly you can traverse the levels, it becomes obsolete. I died plenty of times, and only once lost my scrap because I was too slow. It’s an interesting concept though, and I think if the timer was a bit more strict, it could add a lot of stressful moments.
Visually, The Surge is alright. Some enemies look very similar to others, making it difficult to tell them apart at times. A lot of assets seem to be reused, causing some areas to look much too similar to other locations and making the map a bit difficult to navigate. Think Dead Space meets Doom meets Lords of the Fallen and then throw in a lot of machinery. I loved the aesthetics overall, with a lot of color and character standing out at times, but there are a lot of generic or bland segments in between.
Normally I don’t bother mentioning file size, but I was amazed at how small The Surge is. It’s significantly less than 15GB, meaning even people who are stuck with data caps can install it without too much worry. It’s probably achieved through the reuse of locations, but even treading through old areas is fun due to changing enemy placement.
While The Surge does a lot right, it still does a lot wrong. Leveling up is boring, as you just dump tech scrap into one category to upgrade your core. At first you unlock new slots of different implants, but once those are filled out there’s not much sense of progression. Your core power is used to unlock extra areas, but most of the time I couldn’t be bothered to head back and open previously discovered doors.
“There is no digging through your inventory for that extra elixir or bomb; if you can’t figure out an enemy’s pattern or weakness, you are dead.”
The crafting and upgrading systems are decent, with a fair amount of options for weapons and armor. You’re encouraged to strike the same spot on an enemy before performing an execution to hopefully remove and acquire that piece of gear, and this is definitely a very fun part of the experience. My only problem is that I felt gated when looking to upgrade everything by the additional material cost. At some points, enemies are going to chunk down your health substantially, but it’s still too early to find Mark III or higher upgrade materials.
Like most games in the same or similar genre, you kind of just have to get good and throw yourself against a wall of pain over and over again until you master whatever technique you need. Unlike Dark Souls or Nioh, these walls seemed to pop up much more frequently in The Surge. It’s almost a war of attrition at times, and without consumable items, you’re stuck with only your implants and equipment to get the job done. There is no digging through your inventory for that extra elixir or bomb; if you can’t figure out an enemy’s pattern or weakness, you are dead.
Overall, The Surge is a huge improvement on what Deck 13 has released in the past, and it makes me very interested in their future as a developer. The few bugs I encountered in 20+ hours of play were minor, like elevator triggers not activating. This is a huge step up from their last project which had crashes galore even a year after release.
If you enjoy action RPGs and don’t mind butting heads with enemies or bosses that will kill you in a couple hits, then check out The Surge. The few problems with it are certainly present, but they can be overcome through patience and perseverance. Just don’t underestimate the security forces, those guys are no joke.
***A PS4 code was provided by the publisher***
- Fluid combat
- Interesting story
- Tiny file size
- Difficulty spikes a lot
- Shallow level-up system
- Labyrinthine level design