Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations when I took an appointment to see The Surge at E3 last year. Given that Deck 13’s last game, Lords of the Fallen, didn’t really sit well with me, there was little reason that yet another Souls-like game, this time set in a sci-fi world, would garner any attention. But after the presentation, which showed off the game’s first few areas, I felt like the studio had learned from its previous release, and thus The Surge popped into my watch list for the following year it took Deck 13 to finally release it.
The reason I didn’t really like Lords of the Fallen was that, besides its attempt to ape on Dark Souls that felt a little too obvious (setting and all…), it was very slow and somewhat unresponsive, like your inputs first made their way into your character’s brain, then to its limbs, with a slight delay that absolutely threw me off. At the end of the day, Dark Souls always won the battle for my attention and Lords of the Fallen (pun unintended) fell by the wayside.
On the other hand, The Surge feels much different. That’s not only due to its world, which feels much more gruesome in the way it treats how cybernetics could eventually evolve to, but also to how much tighter it feels. Comparisons to Lords of the Fallen got tossed out the window after the opening moments of the game, which grabbed me right away after a clever way the game reveals the main character’s disability.
The Surge doesn’t waste any time tossing you into the thick of it, as similarly to Nioh, it plays with your expectations that come with a game inspired by From Software’s incredible releases. Sure, you run around fighting baddies who respawn every time you are taken out, but The Surge has some neat aspects going for it, mostly tied to the presentation and gameplay “quality of life” tweaks. I dig the way armor and equipment are pretty much bolted onto characters, forcing you to be a little more tactical in how you approach fights, literally cutting off limbs in order to get upgrades to your gear.
That same tactical flexibility works extremely well when it comes to taking advantage of enemy weak points, which are worth noting aren’t the same for even individual baddies from the same “class”, a cool little twist on how to take on encounters.
For me, my six or so hours with The Surge have been focused on making progress by using whatever new pieces of loot I happen to come across. In my game, those happened to be the ones that combine into and favoring a heavier combat style with a big ass cleaver that one of the bosses dropped when defeated. While I usually prefer to be more mobile and go in for pokes and stabs in Nioh and even Dark Souls, I’ve been successful being hulky in The Surge, so much so that actually getting to and fro my latest corpse run point located in a boss room hasn’t been a chore, more like unintended currency grinding sessions on my way to trying to take down the boss down.
Speaking of currency, I like the way it’s treated in this game. It’s not at all different from what you’d see in Souls, only with the caveat that you can actually store it in your bank before upgrading your character, in case you die along the way. But in case that happens, there’s another wrinkle to the game: you only have a limited amount of time before you lose all of the credits on your corpse. The better part of this is that having more coin with you during progression improves your odds in getting better loot and even more money, with the obvious danger of losing it all.
While that cash isn’t used to put points into stats per se, you can use it to upgrade weapons and armor to suit your play style, not to mention upping your ability to use more implants, which in turn help buff up your core abilities and energy bars. It’s important to keep some of these bars in check, especially the one that is tied to the dismemberment I mentioned before, which builds up the more you fight and is slowly drained as you run around exploring. Then again, you’ll also want to keep some medkits on hand, and there’s an implant for that as well.
While I’m nowhere near the end of the game, considering its reported twenty to thirty-hour running time, it’s safe to say I’m liking how it’s progressing so far – I ended up moving away from the stark, deserted outside to the dank confines of a refinery-looking complex that is both confusing in its maze design as it is eery in how dark and easy to be ambushed by enemies. I’ve no idea where things will be going from here on out, I’m confident in saying that I’ve already made much more progress in this than in Lords of the Fallen, and unlike that game, I actually want to see this one through, not only to actually have a review ready to go for it eventually, but to find out just how far Deck 13 was willing to take the overall theme of The Surge.