The Surge (XB1) Review

Ken McKown

Machine head.

Ya’ll got them Souls games? Yeah, From Software has essentially created a new genre. Developers have been chasing the dream since the massive success of Demon’s Souls. So far no one has even come close, unless we count Bloodborne, which again is made by From Software. One of the most prolific though comes from developer Deck 13. Lords of the Fallen was very much built in the same mold, and came as close as anyone with their first effort. With The Surge, the team takes the ideas and concepts of the genre and injects a sci-fi setting. This creates a mixed bag that will once again demand comparison to the Souls series.

The biggest departure from the aforementioned series is easily the tone. The Surge injects color into a dreary world, littering the environments with a mechanical jungle. There are even bouts of color strewn about. The game delivers a brightness the genre is rarely known for. The main character is about as generic as they come, but the world itself is rich and vibrant.

MSRP: $59.99
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $49.99

The story starts strong. With a unique opening I did not expect, it sets the stage for something grand. The tones are still macabre and dark, but it feels like it is going to open up from the setup. Sadly, after a while it starts to fall down the rabbit hole of sci-fi tropes and bland mission design. Here is a problem yo, I’ll solve it. The mentality gets stale and starts to swallow the promise the opening moments foreshadowed.

Every game of this type lives and dies by its combat though. The Surge delivers the familiar formula with enemies that can destroy the player in any encounter. Locking onto enemies, dodging around them all while managing a stamina meter is all par for the course. The Surge mixes this up with limb-specific combat. There is loot here and getting it takes skill. Enemies will have pieces on them that the player can remove to craft new armor. Players can flick the right stick to aim for specific parts, and the ones I wanted were always more armored. This means taking more hits, and thus leaving myself open to more deaths.

Getting the loot is satisfying though. The risk/reward system is well balanced and the combat is enjoyable enough to make it all work together.

The multiplier mechanic from Lords of the Fallen also makes a return. Players can earn higher scrap (the game’s equivalent of Souls) the longer they wait to cash it in. Speaking of, that same mechanic of allowing players to bank their XP returns, alleviating some of the frustration of losing everything just because I didn’t have enough scrap to level up. Recovering scrap from death also brings a new twist. There is now a timer, which means I have to make haste when retrieving my lost XP. Honestly it eventually ended up in me just accepting the loss upon death.

The combat is overall satisfying and the loot system makes it feel more worthwhile. There is also an augment system that allows players to add abilities to their suit. For example these chips that can be equipped can do things such as restore health upon an execution (which by the way are simply awesome to execute.) This adds yet another meta to the game. Finding and crafting new chips, and deciding which ones to place in my loadout was fun.

This is a good looking game. I played on Xbox One and the frame rate felt locked at a constant 30fps the entire time. The PS4 Pro version offers some of the best implementation for the system yet. Players can opt for a higher resolution and solid 30fps, or opt to run the game in 1080p and get 60fps, which is a crucial change in a combat-heavy title. Either way, the team at Deck 13 really optimized the game, and it feels great on both consoles.

The Surge is a nice addition to the genre. The combat feels great even when the story and mechanics start to sputter out. The claustrophobic nature of the level design adds to the tension, and it feels good to have a game in this genre that isn’t chock full of gothic horror themes. It brings new ideas to the familiar mechanics and executes on them well.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Combat feels good
  • New additions to the genre

Bad

  • Story sputters out
  • Encounters grow stale
  • Corpse run timer
7

Good

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.
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