Developer Deck13 Interactive sure loves Dark Souls. Three years ago, they gave us Lords of the Fallen, an okay-ish Souls clone which, while not being the most creative or engaging game out there, served quite well as a more forgiving entry-level game for those wishing to tackle From Software’s brutal masterpieces later on. While decent in core gameplay and production value, it was also very forgettable, given its identical setting and overall uninteresting design. The Surge, Deck13’s new foray into the Souls-like hype train, thankfully, has more original qualities and merits than Fallen, being one of 2017’s most pleasant surprises so far.
Gameplay-wise, The Surge still borrows some elements from the Dark Souls games: it is slow paced, focused on evading telegraphed attacks, collecting “experience points” (this time they are scrap pieces), leveling up at a hub which revives your enemies once used, your experience points being left where you have perished to give you a chance to pick them up again, you know, the usual. Thankfully, The Surge has many original concepts that make it a great game in its own right.
First of all, the most notable difference is the setting. The Surge takes place in the future, when mankind has already ruined the planet’s atmosphere, there are robots and machinery everywhere. Ironically enough, this futuristic industrial setting we’ve seen a bagillion times in games turned out to be quite vivid, interesting to explore, and, shockingly enough, very colorful. A Souls-like game with vivid colors, believe it or not!
Second of all, its combat is actually very good. While borrowing the same core principles from Dark Souls in terms of how you lock-on and your button configuration, it has one very interesting addition, which is being able to aim at will at an enemy’s body part and being able to dismember said limb after weakening it enough. Each dismembered limb can be equipped, turning this mechanism a nice loot system, not as hardcore as, say, Diablo, but still very interesting, especially given the fact that there is a nice amount of different armor and weapon sets, and quite a handful of different body parts you can choose to rip out.
Finally, I have to praise the game’s boss battles, as not only they are incredibly challenging, but require a bit of puzzle-solving as well, being more than just the typical “attack-evade-attack” strategy you’ll find in many similar games. Some of those fights, which were by far the best part of the game, required small puzzle solving and varied strategies in order to beat said bosses.
The Surge is quite rough around the edges, though. The game runs only at 30fps, the voice acting isn’t anything special (granted, for a game like this, that isn’t that much of an issue), there is some bad texturing every now and then, and the story is more of an excuse for you to go from A to B than a deep lore you’ll remotely care about. The Surge, despite its somewhat good production value, is a smaller game from a smaller studio, so it was bound to feature some of those issues regardless. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pointing out.
I have to admit, I expected very little from The Surge, and the game ended up impressing me a lot. Granted, just like Lords of the Fallen, it’s a lower budget game, and it is rough around the edges, lacking the polishing level of AAA games it is trying to emulate. Nevertheless, The Surge is yet again another great addition to 2017’s fantastic catalog and yet another great option for fans of Souls-like games.
By the way, if you know a better term for those games other than Souls-like, please let me know. This term sounds really dumb in my opinion.
Also available on: PS4, PC