With the Souls series having seemingly come to an end and Bloodborne 2 yet to be confirmed, fans of the tough-as-nails action RPG genre have their eyes peeled for their next fix. Deck 13’s previous attempt to join the genre, Lords of the Fallen, was a valiant effort that felt a little too derivative to be memorable. Thankfully, they were not deterred and have come back with The Surge, a more confident and accessible title, with scope to expand further if successful.
• Developer: Deck 13
• Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
• Also Available On: Xbox One, PC
• Release Date: 16th May 2017
The Surge opens with you in control of Warren, on his first day of work at CREO. The company is attempting to clean up the world after decades of ecological neglect and you join in the hopes of helping in that goal. Unfortunately, after you choose what department you’d like to work in, you quickly realise things are not as they first seem. An exoskeleton is painfully and gruesomely bolted to your body in a nightmarish sequence. After mercifully cutting to black, you wake up on a trash pile with dozens of aggressive machines all around you. Your goal is now simple; stay alive, make your way back to the factory and find out what happened to you as well as who is responsible for it.
As you begin your travels, you encounter a medbay almost immediately. This functions as your sanctuary as you progress from location to location. Here, you get to upgrade your suit’s power core and weapons using scrap you find on defeated enemies. It also functions as a temporary home with you returning here multiple times as you explore your surroundings and learn where you need to go to progress. After exploring an area, learning enemy placements, locked doors and discarded items, you will almost certainly stumble across a shortcut back to the medbay, making progression feel fruitful.
However, probably the biggest departure the game takes from its established genre is its focus on story. The medbay includes a communications terminal that allows you to communicate with the staff in the factory and find out what is going on. As you explore, you will also see the usual environmental story elements you’d expect, in this case, graffiti telling you things are not as they seem at CREO. You will also find audio logs that give you far more direct information and exposition, including a deeper look into the lives (or former lives) of your colleagues. These are all delivered well enough that not only is in-game progress a priority but so is advancing the story.
In order to advance though, you need to become proficient at fighting and that, as you may expect, is incredibly challenging. The combat itself owes a lot to its forebears, with stamina management and learning attack patterns being the order of the day. However, The Surge also asks you to fight smart if you want to improve yourself. Enemies will frequently be armoured but you can target parts of the body to help you. For instance, if an enemy is quick, attacking their legs will slow them down. Alternatively, if an enemy has a powerful weapon, attacking the arm holding it will make your life easier and possibly mean they drop it once defeated.
This system also gives you another thing to think about. As you approach an enemy, you may choose to target an unarmored part of their body for a shorter fight. Equally, they may have a weapon you could use on an armoured limb. Do you risk a longer battle for this? It is entirely up to you and this risk versus reward game-play appears throughout The Surge. For instance, if you die, you respawn at the medbay and must make your way back to your dropped collection of scrap. Similar to Lords of the Fallen, you must work against a timer to get to your loot – with enemy kills along the way adding time. However, do you risk facing the enemy that killed you to collect your scrap or play it safe and avoid the area until you have grown stronger?
As well as finding new items to improve your stats and abilities, you will also find schematics and consumables to build new or improved armour or weapons. Each notch on your stat page feels earned and rewarding, with a focus on allowing you to spec in your own way. Unlike Dark Souls, not only will you feel the advancement of your abilities, you will see it – with new items visible on your exoskeleton.
I was disappointed in the lack of multiplayer as my entry into the genre was through co-operative play. However, Deck 13 themselves have not ruled out adding the feature should enough people ask for it… so get asking!
The Surge is a superb entry in the Souls-like genre with enough of its own tricks to make it unique. From here, I hope the game sells well enough that Deck 13 get to revisit the game, with either campaign DLC or a multiplayer function. If you are sick of sitting on the fence, jump off and get that exoskeleton bolted to you right now.
…Err, maybe I could phrase that better.