The Surge is an interesting and compelling game from the developers of Lords of the Fallen. Following suit this game is another Dark souls-lite game. It has difficult combat, but in an entirely new and sci-fi setting. You play as a hero in this world whose job is…well to survive. Mixing elements of Dead Space with Dark Souls sounds like a weird comparison, but the Surge manages to mix those elements extremely well together. So does this dark souls wanna be fail upon arrival? Or is it the newest game you need to add to your repertoire? Let’s find out.
One thing that I haven’t ever really been a fan of in the souls games is the story. It’s not because it’s bad. I understand that there is a deep-rooted story there, however it’s never grabbed me. The Surge, much like Lords of the Fallen, takes the opposite approach by giving you a story and characters. That’s not to say that any of the characters are any more memorable than the sunbro himself… (praise the sun and all that jazz). However these are real characters and they have needs, wants, and their stories are placed out right in front of you.
(Sally is no Sunbro…that’s for sure)
That’s okay in my book, because I don’t always want to have to guess the story. The Surge immediately tells you who the Creo company is and gives you a motivating reason to start working there. The planet is dying sign up today. Your name is Warren and you decide to join up, you happen to actually be a physically handicapped person however and you can’t walk. So you join the Creo company so you can walk for once in your life and it all makes sense. Your characters ambitions are obvious from the very beginning and it all seems to come together.
You go to get your “rig”, or you know armor, installed and upon doing so you pass out and wake up outside of the facility with a rogue robot trying to eat your leg. From there you find out something went wrong in the facility and all of the people with rigs have started to go crazy and kill people. The robots have minds of their own and they have rebelled as well. I mean as far as Sci-Fi plots, it’s not the worst. You have to survive to the very end to escape and you know save that hologram girl you meet pretty early on.
(Escape is the name of the game…why is a completely different story)
Overall story wise, it’s not the worst story, it’s not super compelling, but it all fits. It’s a pretty good allegory to the game as well. Nothing in the story is as well written as I would like, and sometimes I had no idea what I was doing, but it all plays out together pretty well. You meet a few characters along the way with varying jobs in the facility and as a result the world feels pretty fleshed out. It’s no Dark Souls with lore going back hundreds of years, but it works for the setting. My only qualms about the story is don’t go in expecting an epic story. It’s definitely not that, but there is some good story Sci-Fi writing in there at times.
The biggest praise I can give the story is that it is understandable. You aren’t going to have to go on YouTube to understand every little story plot that is going on. You will be able to actually just play the game and experience it. The story isn’t engaging enough for me though. Eventually I found myself just rushing through dialogue to get back to the main attraction of the game. Killing fools.
(FEEL MY WRATH PETTY HUMANS!!!!)
My god was I love in with the world that The Surge was pushing. It is so reminiscent of sci-fi classics like Aliens I was hooked in from the beginning. This game looks futuristic from the very design of the levels and then even to enemy design, it just felt like I stepped into a James Cameron Aliens franchise game. This is brought to life with constant feeds going in the backgrounds from commercials telling you how great your company is, to even the history of the company being on display just about everywhere.
The game oozes charm and that is such a great thing to have in this setting. First lets talk about the world because it absolutely should be commended on what it achieves. The world is a beautiful and extremely well realized art direction. From the very beginning cut-scenes you can tell that this is inspired by things like the Aliens franchise. You can see the rigs early on and you have this sense of awe and amazement in how cool they look. Even when you look at things like the acid that has been spilled on the ground you feel like you are on an alien planet, even though this takes place on earth.
(If outside looks like this I think I need to rethink my life…)
The biggest problem with its world though is that as beautiful as the outside areas are and parts of the interior of the CREO facility are, it all feels very old too fast. In my 20+ hour play through I felt like I went through similar corridors way too many times. For a 20 hour game that’s a really bad thing to notice. In the more open area’s I felt like the game was much better realized, but very quickly the game takes you to closed off rooms and corridors and that type of presentation started to stick out way too fast.
The amount of claustrophobia adds a lot to the gameplay, but unfortunately it starts to drain on your eyes. This is especially noticeable on enemies. Games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or even Lords of the Fallen are fantasy based so they have a very wide variety of enemies. The Surge has no such niceties. Sure there are robots and there are probably about 10 varieties of them, but they aren’t the main enemies. In fact the main enemies are humans which is where the presentation starts to drain.
(Be ready to see a lot of this guy….)
Enemies look really cool in the Rigs and Exosuits, but because they are the main enemy that presentation starts to feel old really fast. By the time you meet your 3rd variety of enemy you have seen just about everything. The rest of them just have different armor on or use different weapons. This isn’t the end all be all, but some variety would have been very welcome. By the time I hit the halfway point of the campaign I was really just desperate for something new. Space creatures, actual mechs or even AI robots. Okay the game does have the AI robots, but they are so similar to the humans it doesn’t feel any different.
It all just comes down to a lack of that variety in the game. For every area that looks different you go through ten that look the same. There was a lot of time spent in certain areas, I just wish they all would have gotten that same love and care. This is a little bit more annoying in the armor/weapon department though. Everything looks really good in the game…from far away. When the camera gets close to certain parts of the armors or weapons things start to blur and you can tell that no texture work was done on certain things. Such as the text or lights on the back of your Rig.
(Certain Textures just don’t look good)
These things are excusable, but it was definitely noticeable and really got on my nerves considering that those details didn’t add a lot to the presentation and should have just been removed. This type of presentation issue shows up again and again though on items in the world and even some of the worlds assets. It’s lack of polish is a little surprising and I think a few more months dedicated to cleaning those little details up would have really helped this game out a lot.
If you’ve never played a souls game then here are the basics. You are a guy with a sword and or guns dependent on the time period. You are weak, bad guys are strong. Bad guys hit you hard…you die. So there’s a little bit more finesse to the game then that, but basically these games are known for their difficulty and lack of handholding. The Surge is no different. You get a brief tutorial teaching you the basics of combat and that’s about it. The rest is for you to figure out on your own. Honestly the game doesn’t even teach you how to parry, which is a lifesaver end game.
The question is though, what does The Surge do different? Is it just another clone? Or does it do something else with its mechanics. Thankfully The Surge does a lot with its mechanics and it’s something I would like to see come back, albeit with a few changes. First the surge pretty much completely dumps the concept of ranged combat. You do get a drone that can hit enemies from far away, but you aren’t going to kill anything with it, so if you like ranged combat you are going to be disappointed.
(NO BOW FOR YOU!)
The Surge does however have an extremely different and interesting gameplay mechanic. The best way to describe this is if Dark Souls met Dead Space and had a baby. The main hook here is that you can cut off your enemies limbs and take their armor/weapons and use them in combat. Sounds cool right? In the beginning it totally is. You find one human enemy and target his legs so that you can rip it right off, then you learn the schematic for that armor piece and you can create one back at your base. This gameplay hook stays pretty interesting until about the 10 hour mark of the game.
The reason that this starts to grow old is that all items in this game are made equal. Well almost equal. Damage wise most weapons are extremely similar, meaning that no matter what you use or specialize in you can’t go wrong. Sure the damage difference between a hammer and a one-handed sword may be like 5 damage, but it really comes down to how you want to play. The reason that I say this gets old is because The Surge does something that I can’t understand at all. And that is not utilizing stats.
(You can’t level up stats….WTH!?!?)
That’s right The Surge doesn’t use any stats whatsoever, which is honestly mind-boggling. You gain scrap from enemies that you kill and you use that scrap to level up. The difference is that instead of putting points into specific areas of your character you just level up your Core Power level. This allows you to equip more powerful equipment (which means armor, weapons don’t utilize this) and equip more chips to boost your character. The problem is that the boosts are directly related to damage, they are more healing items/stamina/energy boosts. They don’t change the damage you do.
This means that everything is through your equipment and your proficiency in a given weapon type. So the more you use one-handed weapons the more damage you can do. The problem is that this boost isn’t anywhere near enough to make up for how challenging the game gets in the last quarter. Grinding proficiency is also a really annoying way to spend your time. There are only about 6 weapon types, but since they are all created equal it doesn’t matter what you use, it’s really just preference.
(Weapon variety is nice, I want some stat variety as well though)
Now I get to the bane of the gameplay hook here and that is in the difficulty itself. Now I’m no slouch. I have played Dark Souls, 1,2 and three, BloodBorne, Demon Souls and Lords of the Fallen. I have beaten DS 1,3, BloodBorne and Demon Souls. If you have to ask I was disinterested in DS2 and Lords of the Fallen, but more on that a different day. Those games have super hard difficulty spikes at times, but they always felt fair. I knew that me going and leveling up would make a difference. In The Surge….there’s no such luck.
By the time I entered the final hours of the game I was really irritated with its gameplay. The ability to cut off limbs became annoying since there was no reason to anymore. In-game items to create better armor were almost impossible to find at times and since leveling didn’t matter I found myself at a standstill with the difficulty of the enemies. The enemies never felt like fair fights the further in the game I got. They felt like miniature boss fights every time and they started to drain on my sanity really fast.
I eventually got to the 2nd to last boss fight and just said that I was done. So yes I didn’t platinum the game, but that’s because the game makes it hard to care about progressing forward. In fact the biggest gameplay issue this has is that you aren’t given enough ways to properly play the game. The lack of a stats game means that your character is essentially the same as everybody’s else. This lack of variety made it to where the game just felt like a big joke at the end and I was the punchline. The starting hours of the game are a blast, but it get’s old way…way…too fast.
Now a quick side not here on boss fights. So yes the game does have them and I will say to keep your expectations pretty low here. Overall the bosses are well designed, but the lack of them is a little annoying. There are only about 5 bosses total and 2 of them are well designed and the other 3 are just boring. First off the boss battles are a lot more sequenced than something from a Souls style game. In fact the first boss fight is all about you building up a bar on a boss so he will shoot missiles at you and then he will hit himself so that you can then attack them.
It’s not a terribly exciting ordeal. Most of them fall in the category of annoying but fair fights. The coolest boss fight is on a moving assembly line and that was really well done. Just remember that with only 5 boss fights total it feels like a joke. I expected a few more boss fights out of the game and even the ones that were there aren’t completely mind-boggling. The boss fight I stopped playing at was literally a human boss. Nothing special other than he was big. So a little disappointing on this front.
(one great boss fight does not make up for the rest of the stinkers)
So as far as the platinum for this game goes it’s really not that bad, I just got so bogged down with the gameplay. If I ever go back for the platinum I will update this if needed, but I got almost 50% of the trophies without too much trouble and the rest really aren’t that bad. There are some collection trophies that will challenge you a little bit and will take a little bit of time, but once there some guides out there this will be a breeze. The nice thing is that most things in the game aren’t super hidden so you should be able to find most of them no problem.
Other trophies include beating the game, beating the bosses and a few that are gear related. These are all pretty easy and also be aware that if you are going for the platinum you will have to play the game a minimum of two times and some of these that are side quest related do have certain points that you have to watch out for. So don’t progress too far in the game or just be wary that you may have to go back and play for a side-quest or two.
(It’s not quite that epic…)
The Final Verdict
I loved my initial hours with this game. It was something that held a lot of promise and I just couldn’t wait to see what happened when I got further. That was the problem though, the initial hours of the game did not hold up to what the end game furnished. It’s a game with its fair share of problems and if a Surge 2 were to ever come out I would be all in, but it’s needs to get some gameplay mechanics fixed first.
So I can’t suggest you go out and buy this game right now, I would definitely wait and see if some patches fix some of the difficulty problems here, but I can say it is a decent game. The world is inviting and presentationally it is beautiful, for the most part. The combat is fun and souls like, but it isn’t anywhere near as deep or as fair as games that have been made before it. Overall it’s just a nice little package that I enjoyed playing, but maybe wait a bit. I give this game my trophy rating of: