An ever industrious Soul...

After attempting to crack the genre with 2014ís Lords of The Fallen, German developer Deck13 Interactive are back for round two with their latest work, The Surge.

So, will it fulfil the wishes of hardcore fans in the death dealing genre, or fall flat on itís face?

The Surge opens with a beautiful and well crafted cutscene which Iím sure looks even better on a PlayStation 4 Pro (which unfortunately Iím yet to own).

You play as Warren, a man about to begin his first day at a mega corporation named CREO, an organisation that has promised a better future for mankind, after catastrophic effects of runaway climate change. But things arenít going to turn out quite that simple.

As you begin your first day on the job, youíre presented with a choice of two positions which will go on to affect your playstyle throughout your time with The Surge.

The first is Rhino; a hulking, slow-moving exoskeleton, thatís classified as a Ďheavy operatorí bringing with it the ability to wield the larger weapons in the game - with the caveat of being far less agile.

On the flipside is the one I decided to choose for my playthrough; Lynx - or field technician as it's called within the game - being a far smaller and lighter exoskeleton, exemplifying agility and the use of combo attacks which The Surge has to offer in its combat elements.

So Iím all set - skipping over the terms and conditions, which hands over my firstborn - I sign my name on the dotted line, ready to start my new role as a Field Technician, with Exo-Rig all painfully fitted and rearing to go!

Alas, things quickly spiral out of control, as you wake from a blast that has seemingly destroyed your - now previous - place of work. And once Warren begins to stir amid the steel ruins - which now look akin to your local junkyard (if it housed massive rockets of course) - you soon come to realise that this blast has done far more than mere cosmetic damage.

Littering the wreckage are its inhabitants, fellow workers like yourself, that whilst not originally employed for combat are now fused both tooth and nail with their metal appendages - tools that just a few moments ago served a far more constructive purpose - and determined to stop you any way they can. And thatís just the worker's mind you, with the facilities robotic drones also awaiting you round every corner with a fatal greeting.

In terms of story, The Surge doesnít really offer much more to go off than its high quality yet tumultuous opening, with the rest of its tale unfolding environmentally as you play through the game, revealed by the collecting of tapes and recordings or communicating with fellow survivors scattered throughout the labyrinthine levels.

But The Surge really isnít heavily aimed at being a story driven, cinematic game title, rather itís all about being the slaughterer of enemies without yourself becoming the slaughtered, in combination with risking life and limb to explore, loot, craft and ultimately bank your accumulated currency - or Tech Scrap as it's called within The Surge - lest you permanently lose it upon death.

The first step in this formula is the isolating atmosphere that The Surge oozes, really imbuing you - through dismal lighting and the use of very unsettling, alien sounds in the dark spaces around you - with a sense of solitude, of being trapped and alone against a world gone mad.

The second aspect to nailing the ĎSoulsborneí genre is the combat system, which is definitely where The Surge shines, highlighting a mixture of those now stalwart, deliberately paced combat mechanics blended with newer elements of faster, hack and slash combinations to create a more diverse attack repertoire.

The Surge offers what youíve been craving from the genre going forward and it succeeds in being highly enjoyable gameplay, but it goes even further to separate itself from its ilk, implementing a unique limb targeting system which also plays into its roleplaying mechanics. By using the right analog stick you can cycle through each limb of an enemy in your purview, with the target reticle itself changing colour depending on a whether the limb of choice is armoured (yellow) - meaning much harder to damage - or flashing blue, giving you a juicy target of the foesí weak spot.

But hereís where the unique strategy that The Surge presents to the player comes into fruition, by choosing to only attack weak appendages of enemies you will indeed get through that particular skirmish much easier, but with no risk comes no reward; conversely, choosing the path of most resistance will not only mean better loot - such as more Tech Scrap and upgradeable parts - but even give you the chance to gain a blueprint schematic based upon the particular limb youíre targeting, so in essence if the enemy is carrying some nice armour - or a helmet - you like the look of, then it can be yours with just a limb-cut away.

Cutting those limbs is also an element where The Surge dithers from its brethren - at least superficially. Rather than strictly emulating the light and heavy attack methods of other Souls-like titles, The Surge opts for a horizontal or vertical solution. And whilst it's merely superfluous in terms of gameplay, there are some slight variances in angle and attack methods depending upon the weapon youíre currently using to bash some skulls.

After whacking your foe a few times in a body part of your choice, an energy meter will begin to build, once itís reached a specific level (normally half way, but again depends on the weapon) youíll be given the choice to unleash a devastating finisher. This finishing move is performed by holding Square (on the PlayStation 4 controller) and once executed correctly will treat you to a great slow motion kill, in itís all limb-slicing glory.

But thatís not all. Dispatching your enemies with these finishers also results in bonus gear drops more often than not. This means one other great feature The Surge offers you, yep thatís right, you can take your enemies weapons! Because why the heck would you want to just use a single-handed pipe through the game, when you can grab that huge, high damage weapon that your foe is wielding against you?

After collecting a good amount of Tech Scrap youíll want to head to the nearest Medbay to bank it. Just like a bonfire within a Souls title, the Medbay within The Surge is your hub, your home base if you will. And the industrial themed level design is all centered around the opening of routes back to the various Medbays you discover upon your industrious journey, essentially acting as checkpoints for this open world game.

As usual the Medbay is where you can replenish your health, reboot installed implants - and most obviously bank your Tech Scrap - but it also offers you the opportunity to upgrade your Core Power and apply those aforementioned implants to your character. Whilst some implants can only be fitted on Warren in your Medbay, all implants within The Surge conform to one of two types, passive and active.

Passive implants are akin to consumables and of finite use during gameplay that will assist you whilst on the field of combat, from boosting your health or giving you regeneration for a short period of time. Active abilities meanwhile are always Ďoní, for example the one Iím currently using named Voltaic Dynamo v.1 increases the amount of energy gained through successful attacks. The choice of implants is something youíll have to personally experiment with, as each implant consumes a slot of your Core Power which is essentially the weight system of The Surge. As you level up Warren to his maximum (of 45) youíll eventually have the ability to equip 8 unique implants to your character. But the myriad of implants combined with the finite availability of equipping them, will mean some experimentation on your behalf, to truly get the right balance for your particular playstyle.

Adding to those roleplaying elements is the crafting within The Surge, which really takes a full leaf from the classic roleplaying book.

Whether you choose to upgrade items on your current Exo-Suit that includes head, arm, leg and body pieces - with parts found or acquiesced from your enemies - or choose to craft entirely new ones from plans, youíll be spending quite a bit of time at Gear Assembly which is situated adjacent to the Medbay.

This crafting and upgrading also plays a role into the New Game+ of The Surge, with your progress carrying over allowing you to upgrade your gear to its eventual ĎMk.20í, giving you a reason to keep playing even after squashing the games handful of robotic bosses and seeing those credits roll. The depth of customisation aspects within The Surge is an aspect where it really stands out, giving you a greater sense of gameplay freedom whilst falling back into those tried and tested Soulsborne mechanics, creating a mashup that just plainly works really well.

Thus far Iíve praised nearly everything The Surge has had to offer, but sadly all is not completely rosy within its garden. On the flipside of all its positives is the games level design. The level design within The Surge - the areas that you navigate a battle torn Warren through and core to the overall experience - is frankly, a little poor.

The starting area boasts promise, being very open with smaller offshoots of corridors as you progress inside, feeling very familiar, almost Souls-like in its design. But unfortunately that initial promise is one and done, with the game progressing to a close quarters of corridors and confined spaces all feeling very generic, and truthfully youíll find yourself lost in its sameness trying to remember which turn that Medbay was.

Itís sad that more care and attention wasnít placed upon the level design itself - a major aspect in titles of this ilk - especially when just uttering the word ĎYharnamí will makes players ears perk up, and the iconic imagery of its twisting, gothic locations flooding your consciousness. The world itself can become a character and inseparable to the experience. The Surge fails in that aspect

The Surge feels like the kind of game many within the genre have been awaiting, bridging the gap between a more feature-filled roleplaying title and a stalwart Soulsborne style game, taking inspiration from both genres to form a uniquely new niche creation.

Whilst the storytelling is a little lacking - this is something fans have become accustomed to within the genre - what may be a dealbreaker for some is the poor level design within The Surge, offering a cluster of corridors that could well be clones of one another - a step back from what some gamers are accustomed to. But The Surge more than makes up for it within its gameplay, offering new, innovative combat mechanics with a limb targeting system and gory finishers with a crafting and upgrade system that will constantly keep you engaged even having already completed it.

Whether you're a hardcore Souls aficionado wanting more or someone wishing to see what the genre may involve, then The Surge offers gamers the perfect chance to dip their toes and see what all the fuss is about.

Review copy of The Surge provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4.

  • Review by
    TJ Marinelli

    Twitter: @MrTJ_808

    Posted on
    7th June 2017

  • 4 Out of 5 Stars
  • Level design

    Thin story

  • Limb targeting combat

    RPG mix with Soulsborne

    Crafting & upgrading

    Replayability

Game Info

Deck13 Interactive & Focus Home Interactive presents The Surge - PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC The Surge
Rating: 18
Release Date: May 16th
Platform/s: PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC
Developer/s: Deck13 Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

  • Lords of The Fallen
  • Dark Souls
  • Bloodborne

No, the game contains a lot of blood, gore and death.

The Surge offers fully rebindable controls.

There's a PlayStation 4 Pro patch which includes the ability to play at 60fps in 1080p or at 30fps in Dynamic 4K.

Soulsborne is a genre established from 2009's Demon's Souls by From Software up until Bloodborne in 2015.

Whilst the bosses are few in number, they offer multiple ways of defeating them, rewarding the player different loot depending on the difficulty attempted.