I had a fun time playing through the dystopian tale that is The Surge. It’s like….well, it kinda….it’s like DarkSouls ok, I said it, are you all happy now? It doesn’t come as much of a surprise though. Developer Deck13 tried their hand at the souls like back in 2014 with Lords of the Fallen, but the setting steeped in Norse mythology was probably a bit too close to DarkSoul’s fantasy setting to really grab anyone’s attention. The Surge, however, sets itself apart with its more brightly colored Sci-fi setting. Don’t get me wrong, the setting is sort of bleak, but the generally brighter color palettes drew me in. The Souls series has a great, dark aesthetic, but it’s one I’m tired of.
The Surge has some pretty compelling narrative if you’re willing to look for it. The game is set inside CREO, a tech company to the stars that prides itself in its Zuckerberg wannabe CEO, and strapping metal exoskeletons to its employees. You play as the wheelchair bound Warren, who starts the game off to start a new job opportunity at CREO. More important than the job, however, is CREO’s promise that their exoskeleton tech will allow him to walk again. The attachment of said exoskeleton is a bit..uh..over invasive, and when Warren wakes up, CREO seems to have gone to Hell real quick. Everyone else strapped into an exoskeleton (called Frames) appears to have gone completely nuts. You’ll have to traverse CREO headquarters section by section to uncover the truth, and they’ll be plenty of death along the way.
For the most part, The Surge plays exactly like its clear inspiration, Darksouls. In lieu of souls, you’ll collect tech scrap from enemies. Weapon scaling is another feature to keep an eye on if you’re into that sort of thing. Combat is that same dance; it’s all about dodging or blocking and waiting for that opening to strike. If you want to succeed, you’ll have to watch your stamina and energy meters as well as your health. Stamina is expended for every action you take from striking an enemy to dodging or blocking. Shields aren’t present, so you’ll block with your equipped weapon. Dodging seems to have an easier flow, but a well-timed block results in a powerful counter attack. The energy meter builds up as you attack and can be expended for things like finishers or even restoring health with particular builds.
Where combat stands out in The Surge is the limb targeting mechanic. While attacking an enemy, you can target a particular limb, torso, head, right arm, left leg, etc. doing so, especially if you hit the enemy with a finisher which usually is some form of dismemberment will likely result in them dropping a broken piece of the gear equipped to that limb. You can use these broken bits to manufacture this gear for yourself at The Surge’s bonfire equivalent safe points called Medbays. In addition targeting unarmored limbs will deal more damage. It’s a small feature, but it makes it easier to grind out for bits of gear you need or even just like the look of.
Equipping gear and implants is key to survival in the world of The Surge. Gear is basic armor you can make at Medbays and equip to your Frame(exoskeleton). Implants grant you abilities like health recovery or damage boosting and can also be made at Medbays or found in the environment. In order to equip gear and implants, you’ll need to balance your Frame’s energy consumption. You can increase your energy level by dumping tech scrap into upgrading your Frame. You’ll also need tech scrap in conjunction with broken parts to manufacture gear and implants, as well as upgrade them, the same goes for upgrading weapons.
The Surge gives you more of a reason to stick around than Deck13’s previous attempts at this genre, but the game’s boss count is startlingly low when compared to that of a Souls title. The segmented areas, as opposed to a more open sprawling world, also make the title seem a bit too linear. If nothing else, The Surge’s bright spot is bringing the brutal, unforgiving gameplay of a Souls like to the realm of Sci-Fi. The game still has a gritty and dark look, but it’s refreshing to see robots and factories in place of knights and castles. You can pick up The Surge now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.