The Surge Review
I remember when Deck13 Interactive’s Lord’s of the Fallen came out, the game was a dud for me. The character movement and combat felt incredibly clunky and less polished than that of the Souls series it was trying so hard to emulate. Fast forward roughly 3 years and here I am diving into the second attempt by Deck13 to create another ‘Souls- like’ title in The Surge. *If you don’t know what a ‘Souls – like’ game is, basically the main components are: combat, loot, resource loss on death, exploration, and death, lots of death.* Does the Sci-fi setting help The Surge? Here is my The Surge review.
What is The Surge?
The Surge, developed by Deck13, is a “Souls-like”, action, sci-fi game, which tells the story of Warren. Warren enters the Creo’s labs a broken man. Literally. The opening sequence has you maneuvering around in a wheelchair. You come to Creo to get a job. This entails having an exoskeleton attached to your body. Unfortunately, things during the procedure don’t go too well. Warren passes out and wakes up in what appears to be a scrapyard. From here, Warren travels deeper inside the CREO facility in order to figure out what exactly is going on.
Before we dive into things like gameplay, storyline and graphics, I need to give props to Deck13 for The Surge’s settings. There are a ton of settings for players to tweak. This is a wonderful move by Deck13, as it gives players control over tweaking their experience. Want to change things like the Finishing Sequence Rate? Highlighting Body Part Names? Camera pitch and yaw? The Surge has you covered. In a time when developers are removing settings from the PC version of games, Deck13 does the opposite and should be praised.
The Surge looks and runs good. I had no issues with the game’s graphics and could tweak settings to get to that optimal point. Really not much else to say here, the graphics are good and the game runs well.
Sound in The Surge is not quite as good as the game’s graphics. While I had no major sound issues, I didn’t really find the sound design to be all that good. Easily the highlight is the ambient sounds. On the more negative side, there is a really obnoxious country song that plays inside every Medbay which you will hate after about an hour in. Alongside that, there is a strange lack of music in The Surge. I also found that the sounds sometimes stack over top one another which can be annoying. Overall I would say the sound design is pretty mediocre.
As mentioned in the What is the Surge? section, the storyline in The Surge, follows main character Warren. Warren gets a new lease on life thanks to CREO, but it occurs at the worst time. Many of the other RIGS around CREO have gone crazy and want to kill you. As you delve deeper into the storyline, you will uncover more of the mystery of what happened at the CREO facility.
Like ‘Souls’ games, The Surge shrouds much of the narrative in mystery. Players could potentially playthrough the game and have little idea as to why things are happening. Those players who look in every inch, corner, and read every weapon/armor text, will be able to piece together way more of a story. Alongside the more ‘Souls-like’ narrative approach, are more conventional elements like audio logs, npcs, and player audio.
Deck13 is really wants to create an iconic character. In Lords of the Fallen, players were forced to play as Harkyn the bruting, bald protagonist. In The Surge, players are forced to play as Warren. I have no problem with a fixed character if that character is interesting. In The Surge, Warren is not. Warren is bland and uninteresting. The voice acting is bad and his story arc is pretty bad. I wish they would have either let us create our own character, or make an interesting character.
The same complaint can be made for the other NPCs you find within CREO. I never met any iconic NPCs like a Patches. Again, it feels like just a subpar this area. It’s unfortunate that Deck13 couldn’t create more iconic characters. This would help the story and make the available side quests feel more interesting.
The Surge sticks to the wheelhouse of ‘Souls – like’ storytelling, but doesn’t quite nail the execution. There is a lot of things to discover, but the main character and NPCs are flat and uninteresting. This approach creates a nice enough story, but I don’t know if there is enough here to be as deep or rewarding as games in the Souls Series.
Like other ‘Souls-like’ games, The Surge places emphasis on exploration, combat, boss battles, and dying. These pillars of gameplay make up the core of The Surge. My opinion on The Surge’s gameplay is pretty mixed. On the one hand there are a lot of ‘Souls – like’ elements which are well implemented, but on the other hand there are some strange design choices by Deck13. I will say that I enjoyed The Surge better than Lords of the Fallen, but it still didn’t quite reach the heights of a Souls game for me. Below I will explore some of The Surge’s major gameplay elements.
In The Surge, you spend a lot of time exploring. CREO is a sprawling complex which has you exploring both interior and exterior locals. For the most part, the environment and exploration feels pretty bland. Many of the areas feel very samey in design and I would have liked to see Deck13 really flex their design muscles. With that being said, I don’t think the environments are terrible, they just act more as a backdrop then having their own character. I never experienced an Irithyll of the Boreal Valley like ” wow ” moment in The Surge which is unfortunate.
The main focal point of The Surge is the game’s combat. Like the general gameplay, I’m not 100% on board with how The Surge’s combat works. In The Surge, combat is centered around single encounters, with emphasis on limb targeting and combos. Enemies have weak areas (unarmored) which you can focus for higher damage. Focusing on armored areas will result in lower damage, but is how you access loot in The Surge (I’ll get into to this later).
I enjoyed elements of The Surge’s new take on combat. Introducing limb targeting is interesting and makes encounters feel fun and more complex than simply walking up to a trash mob and spamming R1. Tying the mechanic of limb severing to loot makes you actually want to fight enemies (instead of running past like in Souls). Attacks feel weighty and heavy which is a nice feeling, and the executions are pretty awesome to watch. Unfortunately, not all of the combat decisions work well.
Combat takes the form of a combo system based on vertical and horizontal slash inputs. This is a really strange design decision to me as the combo system completely locks your input and has no form of animation cancelling. I found this incredibly frustrating at times as I would accidentally trigger a combo, only to then watch helplessly as I was one-shotted. There should be some form of action cancel. In a game that is difficult and relies on skill, locking out player input for short periods is completely unacceptable. This decision really hurt my enjoyment of the combat.
Further hindering the combat is The Surge’s strange hitboxes. Often times you’ll be out of danger only to take a bunch of unexplainable damage. Again, given the game’s difficulty, you want to feel like deaths are your fault and not the game’s. Often times it felt like I was fighting not only a boss, but also bad game design.
Combat in The Surge is promising, but not quite as polished as I would have liked. Changing up how players approach enemies via the limb severing/targeting is a welcome change to the genre. Unfortunately the game suffers from a lack of polish. I shouldn’t have to fight against the game. Unfortunately, things like hitboxes and the wonky combo system, hold the combat back from really being exceptional.
There are a nice selection of enemies to fight in The Surge. You will face off against other RIGs, different types of robots, and drones. Each enemy has there own approach to fighting and helps the combat stay fresh. While the enemies in the world are well designed, the bosses are pretty boring.
The Surge is relatively light on bosses. In total, you will face 5 bosses in your play through and none of them are very memorable. Again it feels like Deck13 should’ve spent a bit more time developing this aspect of The Surge to really get it shining.
Levelling in The Surge is a bit unique. Instead of going the typical rpg route, The Surge emphasizes loot and implants. Implants act as a sort ‘rings’ from other games. Implants increase things like health, stamina, healing items, weapon proficiency, and so on. To equip more implants, you need to increase your RIG’s power core. Increasing the Power Core improves implant slots as well as health, stamina and energy.
The worst part of The Surge’s levelling changes is the introduction of weapon proficiencies. Like in games like Morrowind, the more you use a weapon, the more efficient and better you get at wielding it. The problem with this system is that you quickly become proficient with one class of weapon and can’t really use other classes. This is especially noticeable as you venture further into the game and the enemies get harder. As there is a broad range of weapons in The Surge, the idea that you can’t effectively use 95% of them by endgame is very strange. This choice is one of the more glaring problems I had with The Surge.
By far the best part of The Surge is the Loot System. Loot in The Surge is gathered through combat. See an enemy with loot you like? Cut off that limb and collect it! Collected loot can then be crafted and worn. This design choice is super interesting and fun. Deck13 deserves praise for shacking up the genre. My only real complaint with the Loot is that I wish there was more of it! I also wish they had projectile weapons. Overall, I had a blast with the Loot system and feel like it is the best thought out and designed aspect of the game.
Deck13’s decision to place the ‘Souls’ formula in a Sci-fi setting is a welcome change. If anything it shows that the ‘Souls’ approach to games can translate into other settings which is pretty promising for fans of these types of game. In my experience, The Surge attempts to bring a new twist to the formula, but only half succeeds. Certain changes like combat and loot, work really well. Other decisions, like weapon proficiency, bland environments, and uninspired boss fights feel like a step backwards. Overall, Deck13 has created a solid, but unpolished, Sci – Fi ‘Souls – like’. While not blown away, I am intrigued to see what Deck13 produces in the future (a definite improvement over Lords of the Fallen).
What I liked
+ Combat – The limb severing is pretty interesting
+ Loot – I like the loot in The Surge
+ Settings galore!
+ Game ran smooth and stable
What I didn’t like
– Combat: Weird hitboxes and the combo system
– Bland environment
– Bland bosses
– Characters are boring and so is the writing
– Weapon Proficiencies