I’m not sure what to think of game clones. It’s like – someone else had this brilliant idea, and now I’m going to take it and try to make some money with it. However, the players are not suckers (most of them, at least), so you can’t trick them. That is why the developers need to put in lots of effort even if they are making clones like The Surge.
I believe that Deck 13 did just that. Their new game will remind you of Dark Souls every step of the way. However, you can’t deny that they took the foundation that worked and tried to implement some new ideas. The result is lukewarm because they did brilliant in some areas, while they spectacularly failed in the others. But, let’s take things one at a time.
Have you ever had the chance to save the world?
If you’ve ever played computer games, I’m sure that the answer is yes. However, if you didn’t get tired of it, you can do it one more time in The Surge. The game is set in the future where humanity has exhausted all the world’s resources. Environmental diseases are destroying the Earth, but fortunately – the big medical corporations can offer the cure.
The Surge’s main hero is Warren, a paraplegic who seeks work with a medical company CREO. They can provide the implants that can cure you. But, as it goes with all evil corporations – they want something in return. You see, the cure is the new exoskeleton which will boost your speed and strength. Unfortunately, the payment for using it is that they need to take your soul! Surprised yet?
However, you want to be cured, so you agree to the procedure. The cinematics shows the surgery and workers attaching your new body parts. Unfortunately, a series of events leads to the procedure failing. You get discarded in the wasteland near the facility, and you have two things on your mind – survive and figure out what went wrong.
It’s your basic story – big corporations are nasty, and they shouldn’t experiment on people and mess with our biology. The technology turned its back on us, and the mechanical apocalypse is upon us. Yes, Terminator, Metal Gear Solid, and other franchises already had similar ideas, but The Surge manages to create that much-needed horror atmosphere. It might not be an original idea, but it works.
So, what is different?
Once Warren finds himself alone, but wearing a powerful Exo suit, he also realizes that a lot of creatures are trying to kill him. Your opponents vary, so prepare yourself for facing zombies in Exo suits whose experiments went even more wrong than yours, as well as other mechanical creatures, such as drones.
The first big difference is the combat mechanics. Most of your enemies will have different target parts. Let’s take humanoids as an example. You can target their head, body, or limbs, all this by conducting either a horizontal or vertical attack. The idea behind this is that hitting a particular limb is important, which in turn puts emphasis on your positioning.
The aesthetics are brilliant, and they contribute to the gore atmosphere. Limbs will fly everywhere, and you can gather equipment your enemies dropped. It won’t always be easy because enemies will sometimes have certain parts of their body under armor. The trick is that if you want to get the equipment, you need to hit a particular part of their body. However, if you just want to kill them, feel free to shoot at will. This brings an interesting twist to the standard gameplay mechanics and forces you to think whether you need new equipment or you just want to stay alive.
The part where you defend from the opponents’ attacks is also a bit more complicated. You can’t do everything with simple blocking, but you also have to jump or duck depending on the type of attack coming. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard to determine which type of hit you are facing, so you will need a lot of luck to avoid damage sometimes.
The Surge vs. Dark Souls
The Surge takes up on Dark Souls in one more thing – how easy it is to die. Yes, virtually any enemy can wipe you off the face off the Earth in a matter of seconds. Add to that the fact that you lose all your equipment when you die, and you’ve got yourself a freaking hard game that will have you yelling at the screen often. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (not the yelling, that’s wrong) as experienced players will relish a challenge. However, The Surge is not a game for newcomers to the sci-fi action RPG genre. The key is to adapt yourself to the specifics of your enemy. Different rivals require a different strategy, and the sooner you figure this out, the quicker progress within the game you’ll make.
The clumsy controls ruin everything
The problem is that The Surge manages to destroy this incredibly creative idea with awkward controls. First of all, the controls are not simple, and it will take you some time to learn which button does what. Next, you will have trouble adapting how to target various areas of your opponent’s body. It will be nothing easier when you are defending, considering that the timing can be a bit off.
There are some other weird implementations, such as that you can’t jump unless you run first. Keeping in mind that platforming often happens in the game, it’s unclear how no one from the developers’ team realized how terrible mistake they made. For example, you are currently on a platform that has no rails, and you need to jump to higher ground. To do this, you need to start running, but as soon as you do that, you will fall from the current platform and find yourself even lower than where you were.
I already mentioned that Deck 13 made a challenging title. However, the challenge turns into one that’s virtually impossible to fulfill if you have multiple enemies on your screen. I consider myself to be an experienced and smart player, but the amount of precision and quickness you need to have to deal with more opponents attacking you at once (especially if you should target particular limbs) is almost beyond something a human can do.
Fill your Exo suit with new weapons and abilities
The upgrade system in The Surge is cool. There is a whole bunch of new firearms to get along the way, as well as armors that can improve your defense or attack or maybe both. Everything comes with a cost in the game. If you want to be better at neutralizing opponent’s hits, you need to give up some attack speed and stamina for running.
You can also use implants, which are a combo of health regeneration and statistical upgrades. All this makes tactics an important part of the game, which is pretty cool. Each enemy will require a different type of approach, including a total of five bosses available in the game. You can upgrade both your weapons and your character. It’s a shame that leveling up your character doesn’t change much, while the slow upgrade system often limits you to focus on improving just one weapon and not trying other firearms.
Performing combo attacks will increase an energy bar you can use for cool things, like conducting a finishing move to cut off your opponent’s limb. That looks pretty gory, and you can see all the beauty of the graphics here. The visuals of The Surge are excellent, and everything has a great level of detail. More brutal moves will result in seeing more blood with limbs flying around the screen, which is a nice touch.
The level design is also satisfying, although it can get annoying from time to time. The levels have everything you would expect in a game like this. They do an excellent job of interconnecting areas, you have multiple routes to take, and there are plenty of shortcuts available. Unfortunately, you will occasionally get stuck for no apparent reason. In these cases, you will probably have to wander around finding the new door that opened up. The problem is that they are somewhere in the previous area and the game hasn’t given you a single hint that you should return.
Regardless, the graphics are beautiful and one of the better parts of the game. The same goes for the sound effects, which fit in perfectly with the atmosphere.
The Surge is another take to make a Dark Souls-like game, but with a couple of twists. The developers put in some creative effort and added several new ideas. As a result, the game offers an innovative combat system and gameplay mechanics that are fresh and exciting. Although the plot isn’t exactly original, the atmosphere The Surge manages to put you in the mood needed to kill some robots and other mechanical creatures.
Unfortunately, the game has enough shortcomings to fall right back into the average category. Clumsy controls are annoying and prevent you from enjoying the battles. Occasionally it will be so difficult to face your rivals that you will want to throw your controller (or keyboard) into the screen. Despite that, if you are a fan of sci-fi action RPG genre, The Surge is still worth trying.