Honey’s got a hot new game title to review for you! This week, we were able to get our hands on the brand new action/sci-fi game The Surge from Deck13 Interactive. Not new to the industry at all, Deck13 has been perfecting its craft since 2001, and with each coming year, the company gets better. Just a few years ago, in 2014, the company released Lords of the Fallen, another action-oriented RPG that met with positive reviews. Now, they’re hitting us with The Surge, which has perfected an action style of gameplay and brings us into a future wasteland.
What to Expect
The Surge is an action sci-fi video game that harnesses a brutal combat system that will put Souls veterans on their feet. If you haven’t heard yet, then let us be the first to inform you that Deck13 took a lot of inspiration from the Souls franchise, something you will notice right away. However, The Surge is not just some knock-off. Nope, it is a full-fledged, action-packed adventure in its own right. The game is polished and every enemy taken down will fill you with a sense of accomplishment.
The Surge - Launch Trailer
It starts off with a pretty normal sci-fi premise. The future has granted mankind with technology that is capable of unheard of powers. It will help bring about a revolution for the workforce and thus create new possibilities for all industries. Part of the beauty of this technology is that it can grant disabled people their mobility once more.
We start out as one such person, Warren, who has been dealt a pretty heavy blow, but now has a chance to regain his mobility. So we sit back and watch him undergo a rather painful surgery, and then as we are being sent out to a work site, things go haywire. We wake up to a drone trying to pull apart our leg. Oh, and a lot of people have basically been turned into mindless cyborgs. We’re one of the lucky ones, maybe not lucky, but we are one of the ones who woke up intact. Now, we’re going on a mission to restore order to a line of factories that have fallen into chaos.
The first half of the game, essentially the first 8-15 hours depending on how much difficulty you are having, feels rather disconnected in the plot. You’re able to piece only the smallest and most general things together (aka the technology went haywire and the ‘good guy’ corporation wasn’t as ‘good’ as the media portrayed it). Still, for the first several hours you are mainly just exploring the first two factories and picking up little tidbits of information from a few audio logs and NPCs, who might seem inconsequential but will definitely end up helping you.
By the second half of the game, things actually start to pick up. You get more information about why everything went haywire and the amount of story-related information comes in at a more fluid pace. As a sci-fi video game, it is mainly about exploring and fighting, with fighting being the number one most important thing as it is the basis for your character’s growth.
The Surge is a little bit like Portal and a whole lot like Bloodborne. Many have been calling this a Souls game and that is not necessarily an inappropriate comparison. Your enemies, at any level, can really put a dent in your health and knock you out if you’re not careful. So you need to be smart and pretty careful at every turn. Thankfully, a lot of the time it’s simply you going head-to-head with a single opponent. That is as long as you are careful because it is easy to draw the ire of other enemies or find that there was another enemy just around the bend.
However, it is in your ability to adjust and handle such situations that make this game more like Bloodborne than Dark Souls. The sweeping and striking motions when you’re in battle allow you to take more risqué action, as you’re more likely to still stagger and harm incoming enemy reinforcements. The dodging motions are also quick and push you out of danger with ease and can be done rapidly to put some major distance between you and the enemy. These two factors of the combat are why I say this game is more like Bloodborne.
Most of The Surge’s strengths lie within elements that relate back to fighting. There are several different types of weapons, with each having a unique circuit of attacks that you can play around with by switching between horizontal and vertical slashes. The fun part of getting these weapons is that you generally have to cut them off of the opponents you face, which can be done by targeting a certain area of the body. Your chances will be improved if you finish with an execution, which is a glorious moment of pure brutality. This method is also how you essentially obtain most equipment throughout the game.
There is quite a lot of equipment and with each a good balance between defense boosts and energy consumption. Generally, you will find your fighting style deciding your defense strategy though because once you find a weapon you like, you generally don’t want to play around with what might work. The risks are high in this game with the loss of tech scrap (the essential level building component) always possible. Thankfully, you can bank the tech scrap, so it’s not lost in death, but that’s the one caveat. Deck13 still makes banking difficult though, as you generally will have to do quite a bit of exploring and fighting to find yourself with a worthy amount to submit, which you have to do at your base, which then resets everything. Yay! Oh, and the creators decided it would be fun to give you a time limit on how quickly you must retrieve your tech scrap if you did die and lose it all. How friendly.
That said, you’ll find out quickly if you’re able to power through and take out an enemy with a single combo of if you’ll need a pause to regain energy. If you don’t mind that pause then you’ll be picking heavier armor. If breathers bother you, you’ll find yourself using lighter builds. Bonus points must be given to the fact that the possible armor sets and weapons actually look really good and that there are a lot of them. Later in the game, you will quite possibly find yourself looking like a mini-Gundam/tank, and it is extremely rewarding to get to that point because you had to physically take each piece with your bare hands essentially. In other words, you are not finding any legendary items in a chest of some sort.
Overall, the controls react nicely, though target switching could be made a slight bit simpler. Outside of the enemies hitting you, the hardest thing about the combat is mastering the space needed to perfectly perform a running slide or jump attack. These moves cover quite a bit of ground and can cause a lot of damage to your enemy as well as yourself. Word of advice. Be especially careful when performing a running slide attack. The creators know what you want to do and often times will put a gaping hole on a bridge that you didn’t notice until you committed to the slide and fell to your death.
The environment and graphics are another strong points of the game. Although a factory wasteland might not be the most unique of settings, the game does a really good job forcing you to interact with the scenery and feel a part of it. It is quite gorgeously done with sharp lines, a lot of shadows, and a mainly beige-to-grey color palette that enhances the machine-like vibe. In other words, you are drawn in immediately. Also, the little touches with weapons glowing or extending as well as the sparks flickering from malfunctioning machines are nice. The contrast between the rather gray background and lively jolts of fire and electricity from the machines is powerful, as it displays the struggle of life in such a wasteland.
The layers to each level and how you find and open up passages that connect a later point to the beginning are well mapped out. A place might seem small at first, but then you will find a lift or set of stairs and suddenly you are in a space that feels completely different from where you were before.
Exploration is needed if you actually plan on beating a level, and in fact an enjoyable part of the game if you are able to keep calm and not worry about losing all of your tech scraps. Though you are not likely to find an item of extraordinary awesomeness, you will find extremely useful upgrade material to make your weapon and armor as powerful as possible. The environment also has a lot of plot points in telling us about what’s really going on. There are a lot of messages written on the wall type ordeal, which gives it that slight Portal vibe.
After these aspects, everything else slightly falls to the background. Nothing is sub-par, but the following aspects probably won’t wow you. The cinematic moments are polished and help immerse you into the world, but don’t outshine such moments in other games. There is nothing particularly noticeable about the soundtrack, but you will find the clank of metal, footsteps, the grunts of cyborgs, and the power up of a weapon/machine to be life-saving moments. Quite often it is better to trust your ears more than your eyes in The Surge.
Boss battles are rewarding and quite difficult, but at the same time, conquering the map before the boss battle is where the real enjoyment is. Admittedly, beating a boss just right and obtaining a boss weapon is glorious, because those weapons are extremely powerful. The NPCs you meet definitely have personalities, as each character’s dialogue seems to be based around one particular quirk. This is a double-sided sword because you can tell characters apart, but you don’t really feel any growth or a subtle change in them.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
The Surge is definitely an action-packed RPG that will force you into some really tough situations. Its sweeping attack animations and a plethora of equipment builds will keep you safe, as long as you are not a complete newcomer to this type of automatic hard mode. Even if you are new to games of such high-caliber difficulty, the progression in The Surge is smooth. If you can make it from point A to point B, then you are likely ready to handle the hazards that face you from point B to point C.
Tough combat system
Lots of equipment options
Solid level layout
Story’s progression is a bit slow
NPCs are relatively easy to forget about
Honey's Final Verdict:
The Surge is a solid ARPG experience. The combat is consistently smooth and gives just enough room for you to take a risk, without becoming easy. Growing your character, piece by stolen piece off the corpses of your enemies is rewarding. The same goes for exploring a map in its entirety and finally overcharging and opening doors that were closed off to you at the beginning. Anyone who loves Dark Souls or Bloodborne, will find this game particularly enjoyable. If you have some love for Gundams, then you might also find this game worthwhile as your character definitely will become a mechanized unit of incomparable strength.
Author: Yoko Dev
Hello, my anime peers. I’m from the states, but have taken an indefinite leave to travel while freelancing. Outside of a deep admiration for anime that started long ago, I love to read, write, and play video games. The main issue of traveling so far has been not having a console.