The Surge ReviewPrice:
£35.99 (inc VAT)
Focus Home Interactive
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Taking on Dark Souls at its own game is the boldest and most foolhardy thing a developer can do. It’s like stepping into the hall that houses Ornstein and Smough – unless you know exactly what you are doing, you are going to be annihilated. And even if you’ve mastered Dark Souls’ combat, memorised its environments, and studied its lore, there’s a good chance you’ll lose anyway.
Developer Deck 13 learned this the hard way. Its previous game, Lords of the Fallen, was a tough and gritty fantasy RPG that shamelessly aped Dark Souls in structure, theme, and tone. Unfortunately, it lacked both the subtlety of systems and finesse in its environment design to pull it off and was received about as warmly as the announcement of another general election.
Such a crushing defeat would be enough to put most developers off. Yet rather than give up, like true Dark Souls warriors Deck 13 has attacked the idea from a different angle. The Surge swaps out Dark Souls’ dying fantasy world for a more sci-fi setting and replaces its deadly demons with infernal machines. And you know what? It just about works.
Let’s be clear, The Surge does not operate on the same level as Dark Souls. Few games do. But it is good enough to be enjoyed by Dark Souls fans. Its combat is fast, ferocious, and fiercely challenging, and hidden amidst its research labs and labyrinthine gantry-ways are some wonderfully designed bosses. Moreover, although there are many similarities between it and From Software’s masterpiece, it distances itself enough to feel like we’re not treading the same well-worn paths again.
The Surge takes place 200 years in the future in the sprawling research facility-cum-production factory of the CREO corporation. CREO is first and foremost a manufacturer of robots and robotic enhancements but has lately turned its attention to saving the world by reversing global warming. You play as CREO’s newest employee, who suffers the worst first day in the history of employment. No sooner has your exoskeleton been attached to your body, a monumental catastrophe strikes the facility. You awake in a gigantic scrapyard, surrounded by the company’s workers and machinery, all of whom have suddenly turned hostile.
Structurally, The Surge is basically identical to Dark Souls. Each area you explore is centred around an 'Operations' laboratory which plays the same role of Dark Souls’ bonfires, a place to rest, heal up, and upgrade your equipment. From here, you gradually push outward into the surrounding area, battling fast and ruthless opponents and unlocking shortcuts that make it easier to progress. If you die, you lose all your collected 'tech-scrap' and all the enemies you have defeated respawn.
Combat, too, is based upon the same principles, although it bears greater similarity to Bloodborne. Enemies are aggressive and tricky, with complex animations and unpredictable attack patterns. Defeating them is all about timing your dodges to avoid their blows and sneaking in your attacks between theirs. Despite the futuristic setting, the combat is largely hand-to-hand. Weapons are adapted chunks of machinery that function in basically the same way as swords and spears. Heavier weapons are slow but do more damage and are more likely to stagger an opponent, while lighter weapons let you dart in and out of combat quicker but take longer to chop away at an enemy’s health bar.