Antonio
May 15, 2017
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Review platform: The Surge was reviewed on a standard Xbox One with code provided by the publisher
Release date: May 16, 2017
The Surge is German developer Deck 13’s second attempt at creating a Souls-like experience. Unlike the main gameplay loop of Dark Souls and Bloodborne which relies on you gradually getting more skilled as you learn to perfectly parry, dodge and interpret enemy movement patterns, The Surge is much more about character progression and experimentation due to a fantastic focus on combustibility.

Unlike it’s spiritual predecessors, The Surge focuses heavily on upgrading your character constantly by taking equipment from your enemies. This is done by targeting specific parts of their bodies, chopping them off your foe and stealing it for yourself. The traditional Souls games rely more on learning environments and enemy patterns and because of this some players can beat the same without ever leveling up. Enemies in latter parts of The Surge are much more of a damage sponge if you’re under-equipped and the ability to take whatever equipment you want allows you to always be prepared for a situation if you’ve taken the time to upgrade. This time around it’s less skill based and more stat-focused meaning that newcomers to Souls-like games can still have a pretty fun experience.



The Surge’s world is interesting but the narrative connecting everything together is a bit of a mess. You play as a dude named Warren, a new employee for the CREO mega-corporation who are trying to prevent the world from being uninhabitable. What originally starts as a tale of survival as you awaken in an overrun scrap heap quickly does a complete one-eighty and has you attempting to save humanity. Different areas are often connected through dialogue interactions with other survivors, just like Souls, but the stories they tell are often underwhelming and don’t make sense. They’re supposed to advance not only the plot but your gameplay experience by advising you where to go but they just don’t work as intended.

The only thing more confusing than The Surge’s plot is its level design. This is one of the biggest strengths of the series it’s attempting to emulate and Souls games have often have very well designed areas. Look at Undead Burg from the original Dark Souls, it’s an area that someone who isn’t even good at Souls can memorize perfectly. Every area in Undead Burg is perfected and everything is connected in a way that makes the area a joy to traverse. The Surge doesn’t have anything as memorable and most of its environments are similar looking factories with the same decorations throughout. Being a game so focused on backtracking and memorization, it’s infuriating when you get lost in a random part of a level because everything looks so similar. Without a map or even helpful characters to guide you along the way, The Surge’s levels are often tedious, confusing and frustrating.



Thankfully, The Surge gets one of Dark Souls’ qualities spot on: the combat. Deck13 have crafted a highly customization experience all thanks to the ability to take whatever part of an enemy you want and add it to yourself. This allows you to quickly change up your character’s build whenever you want to suit different situations, although you will have to work for it. Faster enemies can either be combated on equal ground or you could switch to a heavier, tank build to take them out in one big hit and vice versa.

You can also equip numerous implants as you progress through the game giving you much-needed stat increases. Unlike the permanent decisions of the Souls series, The Surge allows you to technically respec whenever you want if you have the implants for it. Stamina, damage, health and more can be upgraded and swapped whenever you see fit. This actually remedies some of the grinding found in the Souls series as you won’t have to farm for souls to increase a certain stat as you can just sacrifice another for the one you need.



Summary

The Surge is a fantastic starting point for those who may be intimidated by the likes of Dark Souls or Nioh. It may not be as polished or well designed as the games it’s trying to emulate, but it is more accessible for the mainstream audience. With satisfying combat and a unique dystopian setting for this genre, The Surge is still a good game regardless of its shortcomings.
Our score: 7/10

Good - A solid concept with wide appeal, good fun if you can look past the flaws.
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