While it might be tempting to just dismiss The Surge as a Dark Souls clone, which is fairly easy to do when you take into account the similarities between them, I can promise you that it is much more that that.
Set in a dystopian future where humanity has exhausted all of the world’s natural resources, you take on the role of our protagonist Warren, a paraplegic who is given the chance to walk again thanks to the CREO corporation after they literally drill an Exo-Suit into his body. He then awakens to find himself tossed outside of the factory walls, amidst a jungle of trash and wreckage. It’s also here that the game actually starts, and I have to be honest, it really sells the entire premise for you.
Surrounded on all sides by debris and garbage, under siege from drones and the zombified husks of the area’s former workers strapped to Exo-Suits, the opening section of the game does a fantastic job of getting you invested in this world. Subtle, but effective, environmental storytelling has you questioning almost immediately about what happened before, and it hints at darker, and more violent, things to come going forward.
But as stunning and captivating as the world in general is, the same cannot be said for the game’s actual story. Warren is hardly the most interesting protagonist, having maybe less that two pages worth of dialogue during the course of the entire game, and the story itself is nothing special to write home about either. It mostly just sticks to a few of the established tropes we’ve seen in other games of the Sci-Fi variety like corporate greed, powerful megacorporations and even a bit of transhumanism. It’s nothing special, but it helps provide context for the events taking place during the game.
The real star of The Surge however is the combat, or more specifically, the dismemberment mechanic, which is really what makes this game unique. In order to gain new weapons and armor in the game, players first have to build up their energy meter by fighting enemies. Once that’s done, they can then use this energy to dismember the body parts of the numerous human enemies they encounter, which in turn rewards them with whatever piece of gear was equipped on that specific part.
So if you need a helmet, you go for the head. And if you need a weapon, you go for whichever arm has a weapon equipped. But unlike weapons, which can be instantly used, you only get an armor’s schematics, which you then have to craft before you can use it. Using this mechanic you can have numerous different sets or armors and weapons at your disposal at a time, and you can mix and match them up however works best for your particular play style.
You can also have up to 8 different implants, which provide a wide variety of different bonuses for you during combat. You collect more and more of these as you advance through the game, and they provide different methods of recovering health, increasing stats like health and stamina and allowing you to recover health after a dismemberment among many other things.
The basic combat itself is fairly similar to the Souls series. But instead of dedicated buttons for both light and heavy attacks, The Surge has buttons dedicated to vertical and horizontal attacks, allowing players to use either depending on the number of enemies they are up against. Heavy attacks are initiated when you hold down either of these buttons. And in general, the combat just feels really good. There are no shields in the game, so it relies more on tactful dodging and countering, as you jump from one execution to another. You can still block with weapons though, but that does deplete you health.
Returning from developer Deck 13’s previous title Lords of the Fallen is a experience multiplier mechanic, which goes up with both the amount of Tech Scrap you have on hand and the number of executions you preform. This also creates a high risk, high reward style of gameplay, where you are rewarded for not storing your Scrap and not visiting MedBays to recover health.
The game isn’t particularly difficult though, and the only real challenge ever comes from when you get swarmed by more than two enemies, or against the game’s boss fights, which are great fights on their own, but The Surge also allows you to add a whole new layer of difficulty on top of them by giving you specific optional tasks you can accomplish for a powerful weapon drop at the end.
Not that you’ll be willing to use them often though, due to the game’s tier leveling system which allows you to steadily improve your favorite weapons as you progress through the game. I myself made use of the exact same weapon for more than half of the game, and I never really had much of an incentive to switch to another.
In conclusion, while The Surge may be a Dark Souls clone, it is also an incredibly engaging game that truly stands out due to it’s own merits. The game’s story may be lacking but the combat is fantastic, and the dismemberment mechanic never fails to be satisfying even multiple hours into the game.
The Surge is out now on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC. It was developed by Deck13 and published by Focus Home Interactive. This review covers the Xbox One version of the game.
The review copy was provided by the publisher.
The Surge Review
There is no doubt that The Surge borrows very heavily from the Souls series, but it puts enough of a unique twist on the established formula to stand its own ground. It’s really fun, and the dismemberment mechanic will keep you hooked throughout.