What do you get when you mix the Souls series gaming formula, with the science fiction movies Elysium and Edge of Tomorrow? Oh and throw in a pinch of Fallout too. Well, then you get The Surge, slated for release this year from developers Deck 13 and publisher Focus Home Interactive.
Whilst it’s a given at this point that the Souls series - at least the Dark Souls branch of things - will be taking something of a hiatus, with From Software having worked on alternating versions of the franchise since 2009, and rightly wanting a break from the dread instilling property. But that doesn’t mean the fans of that now iconic formula are going away anytime soon, and it looks like other developers will be looking to fill that void this year, first with samurai-souls in Team Ninja’s Nioh, then just a little later with sci-fi-souls, in The Surge.
Taking place within a not too distant future, environmental issues and machine automation have plunged the economy unto a dark trend, with the few jobs available for human consumption being highly sought after, forcing the populace to extend their normally ordinary abilities to the extraordinary, with the use of cybernetic implants and exoskeletons to increase their market prospects.
One such man named Warren - your playable character - begins his first day on the job for a seemingly altruistic company named CREO, which has aims of restoring our little blue ball to its better days. What would otherwise be a cause for celebration is about to turn into the stuff of nightmares, as robots and humans alike have seemingly become unhinged, and more worryingly out for your blood. Nobody said the first day on the job was going to be easy...
Traversing through the mechanized production facility seems familiar enough, employing the same now iconic Souls design of interconnected pathways within a seamless world that refreshes upon upgrading, repairing, crafting or spending your Tech Scrap - the Souls currency equivalent employed in The Surge - at an Operations Center. Likewise enemies are tough and sometimes strategically placed to startle you in its darkest, derelict corners, and much like a Souls game your ability to assimilate to its patterns is what will mean life or death within this dystopian world.
But The Surge whilst heavily borrowing from the design philosophy of its brethren, aims to bring a whole new bag of tricks along for the ride too.
The first of which is the unique combat targeting system, by now we’re all used to the usual enemy lock-on for deadly mano-a-mano combat in a Souls title, but The Surge aims to shake-up all of our preconceptions. In The Surge you're allowed to not only lock onto an enemy, but a distinct body part of their person to unleash either horizontal or vertical attacks - with The Surge doing away with the series usual heavy and light fare.
This has two advantages; the first is by observing weaknesses with your humanoid foes, is one arm swinging a deathly blade? Or are they highly mobile on their feet? Then simply target that specific appendage and they will be legless in no time, but the skirmish may not end there, no. The now incapacitated enemy - whilst heavily diminished - may alter its behaviour and now be crawling on the floor after you like a relentless T-800, awaiting your death blow to finally put it out of its misery.
But it’s not just enemy weaknesses the new in-depth targeting in The Surge is aiming to bolster, but its loot system too. Normally loot drops after dispatching an enemy would be purely random, but if you notice a specific piece of equipment an enemy may be wearing - such as a helmet - then body part window shopping is now in session!
Probably the best part of any Souls title are the bosses, and The Surge has its own unique spin on that seasoned concept too. Whilst mammoth in size - and usually of the mechanical variety - the stalwart, pattern-inclined bosses within The Surge task you with a whole variety of methods to defeat them, and whilst this may not be a new thing within the genre, The Surge is aiming to incorporate it into a gameplay aspect itself with its own risk/reward scenario.
We all know by now, and are instantly familiar with the most common way of beating practically every boss, i.e. running behind it and cowardly shivving it in the feet, but in The Surge felling a giant monstrosity using that particular method - whilst allowing you to move on in the game - will only net you the most basic of loot. The best and most useful of loot within The Surge, is locked away behind far more riskier and difficult methods of defeating your foes; meaning the more ‘heroic’ among us will finally be rewarded for our efforts.
Speaking of loot, there’s plenty of it to be found within The Surge, from your basic equipment items to some of the more sought after; such as crafting plans, implants and weapons. Crafting within The Surge is done from your home base aka an Operations Center, with each plan requiring a myriad of parts - usually farmed from robotic enemies - and equipping the resulting item is all based upon your ‘core power’. Levelling up your core within The Surge allows you to carry more advanced weapons and equipment, similar to a weight system it will require a careful balance of items for a well-oiled exoskeleton.
Implants meanwhile can be passive power-ups or one-time injectables that give you a short but useful advantage over your surroundings, perfect for a looming battle. But it’s the weapon variety within The Surge that will be the most noticeable and welcoming addition, offering implements to satisfy both ends of the button-mashing spectrum. Whether you're a hardened, strategic slow-and-steady Souls player or prefer your combat fast, frantic and combo based, then you’ll be satisfied with the weaponry on offer and the sheer brutality of the executions within combat itself.
Whilst it's not the first time the German-based developer has attempted to take on the Souls formula - with their last outing being the 2014 title Lords of the Fallen - it’s clear to see The Surge is an even further advancement on those ideas, and Michael Hoss of Deck 13 informs me that whilst The Surge boasts no multiplayer aspect to speak of, we’ve only seen a small aspect of the larger overall experience set to come.
So whilst the Souls originator takes a breather, there’s still a whole lot for fans of the genre to look forward to in The Surge this year when it releases on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, along with the PC.
I wish to extend my thanks to Michael Hoss for taking the time out to answer my questions during the holidays.
Are you interested in The Surge? Let us know in the comments below.
Developers Deck 13 were founded in 2001 and has two studios, one based in Frankfurt and the other in Hamburg.
In 2014, Deck 13 created a publishing label to help bring independent developer projects to a wider audience.
Focus Home Interactive is a publisher based in France, responsible for titles such as the Blood Bowl and Sherlock series of games.