The Surge Review
The Surge, developed by Deck 13 and published by Focus Home Interactive, is an action RPG that takes a familiar combat system and puts it into a completely different context, combining more RPG elements than the game on which it is based and pushing what seems to be a new sub-genre of APRG in a new direction. Deck 13 shows that they’ve learned a few things from another similar title they’ve developed, Lord of the Fallen, and plans to make The Surge excellent.
This plight proves to pay off as well. While not as refined as some other APRGs, The Surge is a fully fulfilling title that shows how this new genre will progress into the future.
One of the largest differentiating factors between The Surge and a game like Dark Souls is the context in which everything takes place. While Dark Souls does bring in lore (if you really look), The Surge puts some much-needed story in place before the game kicks off, giving an ultimate goal instead of just venturing into the dark (pun intended).
You play as a brand new exo-technician hire at a company called CREO. Warren, your exoskeleton equipped badass, must investigate the facility of CREO after a mysterious and catastrophic event has taken place. Fighting machines and employees have gone mad, you must transverse the facility and uncover the truth behind CREO.
While not insane in terms of story, the context applied by the beginning backstory gives an ultimate goal for Warren to reach instead of just throwing you into a world that lacks explanation.
The dystopian futuristic setting is a far cry from Dark Souls, freshening up the game into something completely different. While the game operates like Dark Souls (more on that later) it certainly doesn’t feel like it, the broken and overrun machinery bringing a completely different vibe to the world.
Overall, the story of The Surge proves to progress this newly created genre into a new direction. While a hallmark in past games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne is to put as vague a story as possible in place, The Surge pushes into a different direction, offering something to fight for in the process.
However, this is a double-edged sword. While the story does provide context and a goal, it leads to a familiar feeling that is lacking Dark Souls. The uncertainty is still there, to a degree, but the complete mystery felt in Dark Souls at the beginning of the game is absent in The Surge.
The Surge looks pretty good on PC, especially when the settings are cranked up. The textures are smooth, the framerates are solid, and the animations show Deck 13’s experience.
While the overall aesthetic of the game appears overrun, with dust and debris coming out every which way, The Surge certainly does not lack color. Your exo-suit shines when equipped with new gear, in bright shades bringing some life to a world that feels on the brink of death.
That isn’t to say that everything in the world sticks out and has space aesthetically. On the contrary, enemies often blend into backgrounds very easily, hiding them from view until you face-to-face with death.
While the intent behind this makes sense, to bring more challenge to the game, it was annoying trying to pick enemies out of the background, often causing me to sit and strain my eyes searching for them before entering a new space.
While the framerates overall are solid, there were dips in quite a few areas. On high settings with a 390X with free sync, the framerates mostly held true, but occasional dips (in unexpected places) sometimes jarred the experience.
Still, The Surge looks incredible and feels well-optimized for the PC platform with plenty of settings to tune the visuals to your taste (including scaling), all while not completely destroying performance.
From an audio standpoint, not much stands out about The Surge, literally. The lack of soundtrack in most parts of the game leads to an empty feeling, matching the desolate nature of the game.
Sound effects are punchy and clear, exploding in all areas of the frequency spectrum (especially on a pair of quality headphones).
However, it was disappointing to see most voice acting go out the window. There is voice acting in The Surge and perhaps that’s why this is so disappointing. As opposed to only putting a little voice acting in, it would have been nice to see Deck 13 progress the genre with deeper character development in this way.
Still, the A.I. voices sound great, with the acting hitting well above par. The story, revealed through this voice, feels natural. Well, as natural as a robot can sound anyway.
After the first few moments of The Surge, the majority of the game relies on the gameplay. While recognizable mechanics from Dark Souls are the focal point of The Surge, enough has been put in place to differentiate the two titles and progress the genre in a new direction.
The combat is the most familiar part here. Based completely on melee combat, The Surge features the same third person, hand-to-hand combat seen in Dark Souls.
However, what differs in the targeting mechanic. While you can just target an enemy overall, targeting and dealing damage to specific limbs will allow you to eventually execute the enemy while severing the limb.
When chopping off a limb, you stand to gain some loot or a body attachment if you’re really lucky. Much like Dark Souls (again), your body can be outfitted with weapons, armor, and more. However, The Surge takes this further, allowing you to pick up scrap metal and blueprints and craft items for your exo-suit including armor, weapons, and more.
This comes with tradeoffs though. You must balance all of your equipment with your core power. power is distributed among your equipment and in order to take advantage of it, you must upgrade your power core with tech scraps picked up from downed enemies.
All of this takes place inside the med-bay. This is your home base for each level, where you will go to spend tech-scrap, upgrade your suit, and craft new items. While exploration is fruitful, you must always find a path back to the med-bay to survive.
And survival is really what The Surge comes down to. This game, in Dark Souls fashion, is very difficult. While nicer equipment will give you a buff, nailing down the combat mechanics to effectively attack and block is the only way to make it through the dystopian hell.
For the Aficionado
The Surge is an impressive title from Deck 13 and Focus Home Interactive. The context provided by the story, solid visuals, and gameplay advancements are exciting for how this new kind of ARPG will progress into the future.
However, slight mishaps in the graphical department with a lack of separation and an occasional lack of mystery hold The Surge back from being truly excellent.
At full $59.99, I would wait for a sale (maybe even just a slight one) to pick up The Surge.