The “Souls-like” term has been thrown around a lot when describing a particularly difficult game. It’s as if “Souls-like” has become its own genre and any game that is abnormally difficult is compared to the Souls franchise. There have been a handful of titles that’ve released with such high difficulty levels, but outside of this year’s Nioh, none have really matched the greatness established by the Souls franchise. After their success with Lords of the Fallen, Deck 13’s newest title certainly aims to challenge and takes us into the future where machines have gone on a rampage and the world is at stake.
The Surge begins very promisingly with our protagonist arriving at CREO, a company trying to save the world from depleted resources and the inevitable death of our planet. Arriving on a train station, I was taken by surprise to find out the character I was controlling was a paraplegic. Riding my wheelchair I was guided to my work area where I was fitted with an awesome mechanical rig. After watching Warren go through a rather painful process of being augmented with the mechanical rig, he passes out and awakens outside being dragged by a small robot drone.
After a small battle with the drone, Warren realizes he is able to walk again thanks to the mechanical rig and sets off to find out what has happened in the CREO facility and why all the machines are trying to kill him and everyone else. It starts out as an intriguing story but doesn’t really go anywhere from its initial introduction. Even past the halfway point I was still never presented with an explanation about what had happened in the facility and why everything was trying to kill me. It’s a shame because the mystery was intriguing to me and the world seemed interesting at least in the first few hours of playing.
Being a “Soul’s” action game most players will know what the experience will be with The Surge. Enemies can be tough to take down and death is almost certain at every corner. Where the Surge surprises is in its actual combat. Using both the R1 and R2 buttons to fight you can combine some great combos and The Surge look will feel like an awesome action game. The problem as I discovered when getting past the initial starting area, is that all those awesome combos will get you killed faster than running into an avalanche. The problem with the cool flashy combos you can pull off is how much stamina they drain by the time you finish a combo, and you won’t have any way to dodge or block enemy attacks, which pretty much means you will die a lot because of those flashy combos.
An awesome concept in The Surge is allowing me to select which body part of my enemy I want to attack. Enemies come equipped with their own armor which are highlighted in a yellow glow. By attacking a specific body part, in particular one with armor on it, Warren will build up an energy bar. When this energy bar is at least halfway full and you have done enough damage to a designated body part, Warren is able to full off a finishing move by cutting off that specific body part. The benefit of doing so will allows Warren to receive a blueprint of that specific armor piece. To make it simple: if you cut of the head of an enemy while the armor is still on their head you will get a blueprint of the head armor the enemy was wearing.
On the other hand constantly striking the armored parts of enemies will take a while to drag their health down. A lot of the enemies also have body parts highlighted in blue. These are unprotected parts of the enemies and allow Warren to do severe damage to the enemy. The downside to attacking these exposed areas means you won’t get many crafting material drops and you won’t get any schematics at all. The limb targeting system was something I enjoyed tremendously early on in the game but I quickly realized just how grindy the game would get.
The Surge gets hard, and I’m not talking about some gradually increasing difficulty, im talking about skyrocketing just a few hours into it. The enemies become so unfairly difficult to defeat that I constantly felt like I was missing some sort of mechanic I was supposed to have learned. It’s hard enough when facing off against one enemy that can kill you from one simple mistake but when you have to face off against three enemies accompanied with support drones that create shields to protect the humanoid enemies it’s just a slap in the face. What’s worse is most of the regular standard enemies you face later in the game will kill you in one simple hit. When I have the best possible armor that I can craft with the highest upgrades that armor can get and i’m getting killed in one hit, something’s definitely wrong.
Crafting in The Surge is actually quite fun, but it can get a bit grindy a tad to fast. In order to craft new equipment you must first acquire the schematics to the armor piece you wish to craft by cutting of an armored part of a humanoid enemy. Once you’ve acquired the schematic you must have enough scraps which you get from defeating your enemies much like souls from the Soul’s franchise and specific material. The material also depends on the piece of armor you want to craft. In order to craft a new helmet you have to have enough helmet materials required to craft it. In order to acquire that material is to constantly go out and perform head executions on enemies with helmet armor equipped. Upgrading your armor works the same way where you simply require enough scraps and crafting material of that specific armor piece.
The Ops Center is where you will spend most of your time upgrading Warren and the rig. By collecting scraps you upgrade Warrens rig which allows him to equip better mods and higher quality gear. Mods work in a similar way to Nier: Automata. Equipping mods allows Warren to see his enemies health bar, add elemental damage to his weapons or even allowing him to carry more healing items. Everything runs on Warren’s rig and how much power his rig can hold. By using the scrap you collect from defeating enemies you can level up your rig allowing you to equip more energy consuming armor, weapons, and mods. I also ran into consoles that required my rig to be at a certain level to access to find hidden weapons, data logs, and even better shortcuts.
One of the worst things about The Surge is its level design. Almost every location indoor looked bland and uninspiring. Corridors looked way too similar throughout the adventure and everything looked so mechanical that I thought I was on Cybertron. I ran into so many shortcuts that I easy got confused and lost as to which shortcut would lead me where. It doesn’t help that the objectives in The Surge aren’t really displayed in anyway and the destination that you’re told to go to is so vague that I was left wondering around for hours trying to figure out where to go next. A map would have been really helpful in such confusing level design.
Bosses in The Surge are actually fun, and I enjoyed the puzzle like aspects when it came to finding their weaknesses. The boss battles themselves were as tough as I expected them to be but nowhere near as tough as facing off against multiple regular enemies. The only thing that really hindered the boss fights for me was The Surge’s lock on mechanic which saw the camera swing and sway all over the place constantly putting me in danger and making Warren dodge attacks in the wrong direction. Actually this was a problem throughout The Surge while locked onto an enemy because of how the camera would position itself after an enemy attack. I would constantly see Warren dodge an attack by jumping closer to an enemy rather than away from them.
I tried to enjoy The Surge as much as I could, but the satisfaction from defeating that super difficult enemy I should have is instantly taken away when you discover that an entire level is filled with that same enemy that took you six tries to kill. Outside of its unique limb targeting system and easy and satisfying crafting, everything else in The Surge has been done better in other games.