I am a Dark Souls fanboy first and foremost and with that in mind, with no sequel to Dark Souls or Bloodborne on the horizon, I have been aching to scratch that kind of itch only a Soulsborne games knows how. Enter The Surge, a fast-paced action RPG in the vein of the Soul’s series. With one glimpse you may see this as a hollow cash-in on the Souls formula, but if you take the time to delve into The Surge’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi world I think you may be left pleasantly surprised.
The premise is that you are going to begin working for a global organization that tonally resembles something like Facebook but is all about saving the world. You begin the game by applying for one of two jobs (starting class) and soon enough things go extremely bad for you and your body parts. When you wake up the action really begins as you are led by the hand through a small tutorial zone that teaches the basics of The Surge’s combat and then sets you free in the opening zone.
Instead of a light/heavy attack style, Deck13 Interactive, the developer has instead opted for horizontal and vertical strikes which soon becomes very important as you are taught to slice off certain limbs of your enemies to gain schematics (and then crafting parts) so you can utilize these things to equip yourself and upgrade. The combat is visceral in nature as a fight cuts to you executing enemies in a rather grotesque and satisfying manner. Every move you make has a weight and feel to it much like in Deck13’s previous outing, Lords Of The Fallen, but it feels much more suited to the setting of The Surge.
Alongside the somewhat deep fighting mechanics, you then have inventory management and your collection of implants which you can find all over the world of The Surge, that range from flat health boosts to an implant that lets you convert energy (which you build up while fighting to do execution moves) to health.
Another trait we as a community have grown to love in Soulsborne games is the challenge, and The Surge again doesn’t disappoint with traps around every corner and a scaling difficulty as you progress through that becomes almost too unforgiving in the late game, with enemies that can one-shot kill you before you even move into attack. Apart from this certain enemy I never really felt like the game was being cheap with me and that when I died it was because I had over-extended on a combo or didn’t dodge at the right time.
Enemy types and design is probably The Surge’s weakest area as they are severely limited by making the game a more real life setting, and only having mostly humanoid and robotic enemies (not including the late game where things get a little crazy).
It sometimes also felt lacking in the types of places you visit as most are based inside a futuristic factory-type setting which led to the areas you go to getting a little repetitive. But for what it lacks in level amount this game makes up for in level design with countless shortcuts back to previous areas and always another secret to be found.
As a follow-up to Lords Of The Fallen I think The Surge really does improve in every way from the level design to the feel of the combat and, if anything, you owe it to the Soul’s fan in you to give this hidden gem a try. At times, it may make you want to throw your controller at the nearest destructible object when you are reattempting a boss fight for the 9th time, but I have no doubt you will be smiling by the end of it.