The Surge is the latest in a line of Dark Souls-inspired action RPGs. But unlike so many of the also-rans, The Surge actually happens to be good. We’ve spend the better part of the past two weeks dabbling in Deck13 Interactive’s new adventure, and are happy to report that if it stays on target it’s going to be a new addiction for fans of the hardcore action RPG genre. Deck13 are clearly fans of the From Software series, and they’ve just about nailed the formula with The Surge.
The game begins as you awaken battered, bruised and without your exosuit in the middle of what seems to be a facility overrun by machines. You work for CREO, a mega-corporation that’s supposed to be working on climate control. If you remember the 1990’s fighting game, Rise of the Robots, Deck13 took inspiration from that world and the Souls series to make a dystopian future where humans have lost their decadence and might to the machines they created. As you progress through the story, you’ll uncover the mystery of what happened at your factory and to humanity in general.
To do any of that though, The Surge also takes inspiration from the ill-fated but high concept “Too Human” from Silicon Knights. While you don’t create your character (everyone plays Mr. Dude Guy Grizzled Face or “Warren”), you’ll customize him in nearly limitless ways with a fantastic loot and crafting mechanic. Basically, any enemy that allows you to target specific parts of its body and lop them off to use yourself. See a bad guy with a killer electrified sword for an arm? Make sure you cut it off and you can make it yours.
Combat is very Dark Souls-ish, and that’s a good thing. Timing of swings, parries, dodges, and blocks are all necessary if you’re going to survive. What’s more is that enemies often spring out of nowhere when you’re fighting someone else, so you’ve got to watch your back. Or at least learn where they are for the next time. Like Souls, you lose your “XP” when you die, but you don’t lose the power of your character, or the knowledge of the area you’ve accrued. For this reason, Surge seems more forgiving than Dark Souls and even Bloodborne, but no less difficult – just less punishing. And, like Souls, Surge doesn’t feel cheap. You know it’s your fault when you die, and you feel eager to get back there and try again.
I’ve been playing on PC with both Mouse and Keyboard and my PlayStation 4 controller. I’m happy to report that either or works well and the UI on PC is clearly designed with PC players in mind. No rushed port jobs here. That said, maybe it’s just my experience with these sorts of games in the past, but The Surge feels best on controllers. The vibration, the dodging, and the movement all feel more natural.
Graphically, The Surge is a beast too. At 4K on my PC, shining on Ultra, this thing looks good. Animations, shading, lighting, and the whole Elysium starring Matt Damon vibe are pulled off excellently. Voice acting is on par with the industry standards, but not quite memorable because there’s not too much of it really except during the occasional cut scene.
There are save/progress spots spread throughout the game as well, where you can safely craft and tweak your exoskeleton to your own preferred methods of robot murder. It’s here that the “intercom” voice of the factory itself, sort of its own Siri, shines with the one liners as you leave – “Watch out for your coworkers, they’ll be watching you.” Which is true, because the only ones you’ll meet have been overtaken by homicidal machines, and you thankfully have not… doesn’t mean they won’t try to stab you until you bleed out though.
All in all, I’m really enjoying my time with The Surge. I’ve been craving a Dark Souls game that’s not Dark Souls or Bloodborne. None of the recent entries in this genre have really come all that close to the magic formula of “difficult, but not off-putting, and deeply engrossing”. Deck13’s Lords of the Fallen was probably the closest case, and I did enjoy that game. Change the setting, diverge the mechanics a little bit, and It only makes sense that on their next try, the German studio would get even closer to that sheer sense of enthrallment one feels with the Souls series.
The Surge is a great game so far. I can’t wait to finish it, if I can, and to see what you and other gamers think when it launches on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on May 16th. If it keeps getting better, and playing this well, the Surge could be the hit Deck13’s always wanted.