Playing as the sci-fi version of Dark Souls, The Surge is a challenging and grindy melee brawler in which the player tries to make a living on a dying world by using the scrap of fallen enemies. As an obvious follow-up to Lords of the Fallen, Deck 13’s previous work, this action RPG lacks any type of cohesive story but tries to compensate by implementing unique battle and leveling up mechanics.
Like Dark Souls, each battle could very well be your last even against the common grunt. Playing as some dude with a newfound ability to walk thanks to an implanted mech suit, the gimmick behind battle is targeting specific areas of the enemy’s body. With enough damage, the enemy will fall and leave behind loot in which the player can use to grow stronger. Like the V.A.T.S. system in Fallout 3, targeting certain limbs is a choice but happens in real time. Attacking an armored section will take much more damage but could reward the player with that special piece of gear. Or, do you attack the open area of the body to drop the enemy much faster but without loot? The problem with combat is the high learning curve and loose limb selection. Flicking the analog stick will highlight one part of the enemy’s body but cycling through is random at best, something that is cumbersome in the heat of battle. Fighting two or more enemies at the same time complicates matters even further. The stamina meter also adds a layer of complexity.
With each death, the player learns something new and can yield satisfying victories if you are into this sort of game. For example, I died a half dozen times on the very first enemy before I realized that I need to take things slow and chip away at the enemy instead of button mashing God of War style. Each death, however, becomes a stressful situation as all gear is dropped upon death. The player has the ability to reclaim the fallen gear but only if the player rushes back to the point of death before the items disappear forever. While this all-or-nothing element is a bold game design choice, it is not always fair to the player as I had my dropped loot get stuck on parts of the environment or not even show up at all. No matter how you look at it, playing through The Surge requires tenacity and dedication, something not all players might be willing to sacrifice.
If you mastered the Souls games, Nioh, and Bloodborne, The Surge would be the next game on the list. While there is enough flare and gameplay differences to separate it from the rest of the games in the same genre, The Surge doesn’t contain the same level of polish that fans might expect. With the lack of any sort of compelling story, an overly complicated menu and user interface, and tiny text that is near impossible to read, this combat-based action RPG might not be terrible but it surely is not top tier.
Not As Good As: your favorite Souls game
Not To Be Confused With: the hero of Chrono Cross
Wait For It: the new God of War PS4