I apologize for the delay in this review. I was not given my review code until way after anybody else. But better late than never! Enjoy!
The Surge is a title set in the near future where a company called CREO is setting out to save the planet through advanced technology. Among these advanced forms of tech are exo-suits which can be attached to humans to enhance their physical capabilities. Even allowing those who were previously unable to, the ability to walk again. The main character, Warren, who is wheelchair bound, gains the opportunity to work for CREO and thereby is painfully bolted to one of these suits. But things take a very quick turn for the worse and he wakes up to find that the facility that has been inexplicably destroyed. So now it is up to him to trek through the ruins and find out what happened to this company while fighting robots and exo-suit zombies along the way.
So let's start by just stating the obvious here, The Surge is another game that attempts to capture the magic of the very popular Dark Souls series. And I actually have no problem with that. I feel that Dark Souls has invented a new genre of sorts, and as long as developers don’t copy Dark Souls exactly, and introduce a healthy amount of unique features, the game can be great.
So here is the ultimate question when it comes to The Surge. Does it capture the magic as a souls type game, while remaining unique in a fun and creative way.?
I must say that upon starting the game, I was instantly disappointed. I know this may not be a big issue for a lot of people, but I think that any game like The Surge should have a character creator. And it's lack of a character creator was made worse due to the fact that the main character looks extremely boring. I honestly cannot tell you how much I hate the visual characteristics of the main character. Calling him generic would be a complement. This wouldn't be a problem if The Surge had a silent, more avatar-like protagonist, similar to Dark Souls, where the player isn't forced to look at their character much, but The Surge doesn't provide that luxury either.
The visual style of the game also leaves a lot to be desired. In a game where the player is constantly dying, and having to go through the same area over and over again, it is very important for the world to be interesting and intriguing. But The Surge doesn't do enough to inspire me to explore the world more than I have to. That isn't to say that the visuals are bad, but I do feel that they wasted an opportunity. The idea of a sci-fi world scattered with robots sounds incredible, and I would have loved to see that fully realized.
Like other games in the same genre as The Surge, combat is one of, if not the most important aspect of the game. It needs to be challenging and brutal, but it has to also be satisfying. This is accomplished by making sure players have everything they need to be successful in combat in a deep and meaningful way.
The Surge tries to do this in a way that is unique. And that is with specific body targeting. The head, body, arms, and legs can all be targeted individually. I'm sure the idea was to add another layer of combat, maybe provide some more strategic opportunities. But I never really felt it changed the way I fought the enemy. It was beneficial to target a specific limb for a higher chance of getting a weapon or armor drop from the enemy, but other than that it was almost useless. I can't help but feel that this was something tacked on simply as something they could point at when asked why their game was different from Dark Souls.
But having the necessary tools to make challenging combat fun is only one half of the puzzle. Dark Souls and Bloodborne’s combat and encounter design allows players to almost approach each enemy in a scientific way. By that, I mean that the variables are removed in regards to system mechanics. If a specific enemy attack is blockable with a shield, it should always be blockable with that same shield. It only serves to frustrate players when things seemingly change for no reason. The Surge fails to be consistent in that sense, and it only makes fighting opponents annoying. Of course developers should aim to surprise players and keep them on their feet, but changing the fundamentals of specific encounters is not the way to do that. Again, in a game where the same enemies are fought over and over again, consistent mechanics could not be more important, and are vital in keeping difficult combat challenging.
I will say, however, that I do admire The Surge's level system. Just like similar games, players earn currency by defeating enemies, and can then spend that currency to level up their core. Each weapon and piece of armor use a certain amount of core power, so players cannot simply equip whatever they want, and must instead be smart about what they use. It requires the player to think about armor and weapons on a deeper level, and almost provides an extra challenge to the game.
I understand that I had a lot of negative things to say about The Surge, but it actually isn't a horrible game. Anytime a game tries to mimic Dark Souls, it is impossible to not draw comparisons. So while there is a staggering level of difference in quality between Dark Souls and The Surge, that doesn't mean that it's unenjoyable. I personally have a hard time playing it, and not thinking about Dark Souls, or why it's a better game. But those that are able to separate the two should definitely give it a try.