The Surge is a new setting for the recent style of “Hardcore Action Games” pioneered a few years back by Demon’s Souls. While most of the games in the genre have taken a turn to a darker, more macabre world (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, et al), The Surge places its brand of action squarely into a dystopian future.
You enter the storyline of the game expecting a new lease on a damaged life but quickly come to realize things are not what they seem. Throughout the game, Deck13 Interactive pioneers a few unique twists to the combat mechanics that feel both new and borrowed from other games and genres, but overall work out quite nicely.
Preparing for the Apocalypse
The gameplay is very involved. You can target specific parts of your opponent to acquire pieces that can be crafted into new equipment for yourself. The general action elements of the combat system are easy to pick up, but animations adjust in their style, speed, and utility based on the armor, equipment, and weapons you use. The game looks nice, sounds nice, and should be able to keep your attention as a time-killer if you’re waiting for something else to release.
Unfortunately, it’s just not overly engaging on its own. Don’t get me wrong. The game is good. It’s a fun bit of action for an hour or so at a time, but I didn’t find it to be the kind of thing that I got roped into for a completely unintentional binge-gaming session.
Robots and Grim Future
I think the problems it ran into in that regard were two-fold. The story starts out pretty interesting, but starts to feel off-kilter and failed to hold my interest as things progressed as it was all very predictable. And the “Hardcore” aspect of this “Hardcore Action Game” just didn’t feel right. The game felt more like the difficulty lay in figuring out how to “game” the system instead of adapting to an unexpected opponent. The AI rarely, if ever, changes its approach. Tactics for defeating your enemies quickly become very “rinse and repeat.” The game just doesn’t have that sense of serious tension in combat that it needed to shine on its own.
The game does show us that this formula can work in more than a melancholy, depressive medieval apocalypse. But, then again, do we want it to? Part of the original’s appeal was that overbearing sense of dread around every corner. The Surge presented something of a jump factor where the unexpected cyborg may pop out at an unexpected or inopportune time, but it lacked continuous tension.
But, all in all, if all you’re looking for is a cool bit of cyborg bashing, gear grinding and a little bit of maze-exploration, the game is good.
The Looks and Sounds of The End
Graphically, the game was pretty well done. There wasn’t anything overly spectacular about it, but it didn’t disappoint by any means. The developers did a good job in altering the environment in different areas so that nothing looked overly repetitive or recycled. The shadows were well utilized and sensibly placed – something I feel many games fail badly at, but which The Surge did very well.
The sound is generally pretty good and keeps well with the ambiance of the setting, but could have had a little more variety to it. But the 300th time of hearing the exact same impact noise when you swat a cyborg you start to wonder if they couldn’t have invested a little more time in variety in the “attack noises” department. Well, considering most of what you’ll be doing in the game is beating on things. However, I may be being overly critical. There are plenty of games out there with this exact same issue.