Deck 13’s The Surge aims to be a game like Dark Souls – a brutally difficult but not impossible Action RPG with mystery, choice, and excellent combat abound. Deck 13’s original stab at this formula, Lords of the Fallen, didn’t come quite close to meeting such lofty goals. But the love for the genre was there, even if the game itself wasn’t quite up to snuff. Fast forward to 2017, and a dystopian future where robots have revolted against the seemingly human-first corporation that created them. You’re Warren, a guy whose first day on the job just went from epic to terrible. This is The Surge – one of the only games in recent memory to try and top Dark Souls and succeed. This is our Surge review.
Warren’s first day on the job ad CREO was supposed to be a good one. Normally paraplegic, as Warren you wheel into the facility and get strapped in for your fitting of your own RIG – an exoskeleton that will not only let you walk but do superhuman things. Thing is, you’re supposed to be under anesthesia and that part of the process fails. You fall unconscious only to wake up as you’re being dragged to disposal by a drone. Thus begins your first day at CREO – a giant robotics factory that’s now under siege from the robots created there. It’s your job to find out what happened, fix it, and not die in the process.
But die you will – this is a Souls-like game, after all.
When the game’s beginning, you’ll pick between the Lynx and the Rhino rig (think light or heavy/fast or slow). But as you go through the game, you’ll get more and more loot to use, craft, tweak, and perfect your ideal killing build. There is a multitude of different weapons from the mundane to the unique (usually obtained off of bosses). Each one has its own proficiency too, meaning the more you use them the better you are with them. This can be a problem, if you find a new weapon type you enjoy later in the game, however.
The first three hours of the game may lull you into a false sense of security that the Surge won’t be difficult. They’re not super easy, but Souls veterans might feel that way. I died a handful of times on the first boss, as well as several careless times when I let my ego get in the way of my caution with regular mobs. Like Souls, you have OPS centers as save points, healing injector refill stations and crafting locations. As you play through each area, you’ll find shortcuts back to the OPS center that will come in handy since you’ll want to double back and bank your Tech Scrap (XP) before you die and drop it all. When you drop Tech Scrap, you can go back and pick it up if you get back to where you died before the timer expires.
After the first act, you’ll also unlock a deployable Drone that can take on a number of roles, but mostly it serves as a distraction from other enemies while you take on one. Like your Rig, it can be equipped with modules that increase or alter its usefulness too. There’s a lot of flexibility in how you deck out Warren, and that’s probably the beauty of the game and its combat. If you can’t find a build that works for you, it might be possible that the game’s just not for you. I’m usually mediocre at these games at best, but even I was able to make progress through the game’s harder acts for the purpose of this review.
If there’s any one thing I can really complain about with The Surge it’s that Warren’s jump skill isn’t as useful as the game seems to think. There are occasions when The Surge will task you with jumping to get a hidden item or some other doodad and to even do that you’ve got to get a running start and then Warren jumps all of a centimeter off the ground. It’s an unwieldy control scheme, but only for jumping. The rest of the Surge’s controls are on point and work beautifully. Targeting individual pieces of your enemies and hacking them off to then loot them for crafting is just icing on the cake.
I played The Surge on PC, in 4K on Ultra, and it still ran gorgeously. The Surge probably the prettiest depressing view of humanity’s future I’ve ever seen. Unlike other games in the genre, perhaps because of the setting, The Surge isn’t afraid to use color. It’s still dark, but the CREO factory wasn’t always in ruin. Like Destiny, the sleek metal veneer mixed with the disrepair and chaotic nature of the revolting machines make for a really unique look that’s all its own.
Final Surge Review Thoughts
As you break into the second act of The Surge, the difficulty spikes but that’s expected. The first boss and the run up to it is just a taste of what’s to come. You have to learn new patterns, how to defeat new enemies, and that means you’re going to die some more. But the beauty of The Surge is that when you die you don’t ever feel like it’s the game being cheap on you. You know it’s something you did or didn’t do, and you’re eager to get back and try again. That’s what Lords of the Fallen was missing, and what The Surge gets just right. When combined with the crafting, gear, and intrigue of the story, The Surge comes into its own as not “just another Souls-like”. This is a great Action RPG and one of the best of the year so far in an already crowded 2017. If you like difficult Action RPGs, The Surge is your next addiction.
Note: Our copy of The Surge was played on the PC with a retail code provided by PR.