Every time a game that’s considered harder than the norm, it’s likened to that now infamous trilogy, and while that’s a fair assessment if said game is genuinely difficult, it’s old hat now. Especially since there’s a new dog in town. The Surge is an action RPG, which forgoes the traditional fantasy settings for the genre, and instead takes on a science fiction setting, in the not too distant future. There’s plenty to see and do, and that’s not to mention plenty to kill you, over and over again until you learn and get good. The Surge is an unforgiving, brutal and strangely satisfying adventure and if you want to see it all, you need skills to make it in this cruel and harsh environment. From now on, if a game is giving you a hard time, then it’s The Surge hard, got that?
Set in a dystopian future, mankind has all but exhausted resources of our planet, and all is not looking good for humanity’s existence. Technology has been a main focus, and exoskeletons are popular among those who wish to improve their physical strength and so on. The protagonist, Warren, starts off on a train looking for a new path in life. He’s confined to a wheelchair, heading towards CREO, in search of changing his life and turning around his fortunes. CREO promises much, and it is here the game begins for Warren once the train arrives at their HQ. A short journey in his wheelchair, and you are given a choice between a light or heavy exoskeleton, and either will lead to the same outcome. A date with an operating table to attach the exoskeleton to Warren, which will allow him to walk once again, but it’s not all plain sailing, as once the computer voice announces that the patient is sedated, Warren realizes he’s in for a nasty surprise as the machinery begins its work to drill pieces onto his body.
After a very grim cut scene, Warren rouses to find a drone bot making an attempt to pick the pieces of his exoskeleton for scrap. Waking up in a scrap yard, with no idea how he got here, Warren grabs a weapon for protection, and it’s here that the game begins. You need to find your way through, and it acts as a tutorial that gently eases you into the games mechanics and combat. The first few sets of enemies are dealt with rather easily, and after a few swings of your weapon, you will dispose of these pesky drones. Once you reach your destination, it’s there that the Medbay and upgrade station will be shown to you, and it’s here that you’ll need to spend as much time as possible, upgrading parts of your gear. That is, once you’ve acquired them.
Combat in The Surge is important from the word go. Defeating an enemy will award you scrap parts, that is a currency of sorts which you use to upgrade weapons, armour and your core. The latter allows you to apply extra implants once the core power has been increased. When facing an enemy, which are people like you who are essentially feral now, you can not only lock on to the target, but also select a limb, head or their torso. Building up your bar, you can perform an execution manoeuvre and cut that part off your now fallen foe, and if you’re lucky, you will get that part. As with other games like Elex and Dark Souls, you can’t just charge in swinging your weapon like a fool and hope for the best, oh no. This is a sure fire way to get yourself killed and rather quickly, besides, if this does happen, you’ll need to head back to the same location and pick up all your scrap before it disappears forever. Highly irritating if this is in the thousands, and believe me, it does grind your gears.
As with Deck13’s previous title, Lords of the Fallen, playing The Surge will feel immediately familiar in many aspects. Although the setting is vastly different. What is it with German developers creating a game that can kick your backside into the middle of next week? I recently played Elex by Piranha Bytes, and that gave me a hard time, and now Deck13’s title has given me a pasting. Cynical developers? Probably not. I just see it as a case of them both creating a game that they want to challenge gamers, instead of holding their hand all the way, allowing them to get gear that will see off all that stand in their path. Fallout and Elder Scrolls can be accused of this, and if that’s what you want from an RPG, then go for it. I won’t judge. But if a sturdy challenge is what you want, and a brutal one at that, then go and grab a copy of The Surge.
Visually, there is so much going on, and it’s all very pretty. For the small file size, the amount of detail is amazing. Deck13 have really performed admirably in this area, and the lighting effects are also impressive. Animations and frame rate are smoother than a bottle of Bailey’s. Menu screens are detailed and thorough, and may look overwhelming due to the amount of information on display, but it’s clear enough and concise that you won’t feel lost when scouring for what you want.
The camera is a little awkward to use due to it’s highly sensitive nature, and may take getting used too, or if it bugs you enough, then you can change it from the default settings in the menu, so it’s not really pulling it up and criticizing it as the option to change it is available. Locking onto an opponent is as simple as clicking the analogue stick in, then selecting what part you wish to attack. Speaking of combat, and this is just a small point that could well be a big thing depending on your opinion. Is that the smaller foes such as other people trapped in exoskeletons are lethargic and slow, as they stagger about, only to launch into a fast moving lunge in your direction which does feel a bit out of place. Are they fast or slow? Easily dispatched of, but if you encounter more than a couple at once, then you’re in for a hard time. Health will disappear quicker than you can blink.
It takes a good few hours to grind out scrap and spare parts to acquire upgrades at the start, before you’re anywhere near ready to take on the first boss, which is something to consider as there are those that don’t want to grind for good stuff so early on in a game. On the other hand, there are those that will be happy to invest time grinding for good gear and loot in a game. The Surge most definitely requires this method to make you a little bit tougher than when you first start out.
Boss fights are far from easy, and like regular combat, you won’t be able to just wade in and attempt to dish out some ridiculous damage and stroll out the victor. Timing and strategy are vital to your success, as you will be outgunned from the first boss. Plan your method of attack, and in the name of all that is holy, keep an eye on their reach, and attack patterns. You will die, no question, and the learning curve is almost vertical.
Picking up audio logs is advisable for those that want a backstory, and these are quite easy to find in the game. Searching every nook and cranny for these along with other rewards is definitely the way to go, and anything will help.
Overall, The Surge is a game that’s not meant for beginners or casual gamers. Not that you can’t play it if you fall under these categories, but if you’re not prepared then you meet your death rather frequently. If however, you are a seasoned gamer and ready to put your skills to the test, then The Surge will be right up your street, and offering you a worthy challenge. Would I recommend it? Yes.
Overall Score: 8/10
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: 16th May 2017
Price: £49.99 (Physical copies available)
File Size: 5.85GB
Xbox One coy provides for review purposes
Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 & Steam