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Game Review: The Surge

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The Surge, the newest release from Deck13, marries Dark Souls with Deus Ex and Mad Max in a brilliantly action-packed RPG.

 

Described as ‘Dark Souls in space’ prior to the game's release, there were strong hopes that The Surge would be a game that one has to build their skills up to play, with a connected world and fluid gameplay. The Surge definitely delivers on all three points and more.

You play as Warren, who signs up to join CREO, a leading technology company whose aim is to save the world from the destruction of climate change. Wheel-chair bound, Warren is already set just apart from the usually list of white, rugged male protagonists in these kinds of games.

You get to pick your role in the company – Lynx or Rhino, respectively rogue or tank – and then you’re treated to a horrific and gory scene of mechanical upgrades, known as a “rig”. This gives Warren the ability to walk, as well as boosts his speed and strength.

When Warren wakes up, everything has gone to hell, in true video game fashion. Mechs are attacking humans and the humans that are there have turned into these strange mechanically superpowered zombies. Now it’s time to fight your way through the destruction and find out what happened – or, at least, find a way out.

As a game with a focus on the gameplay above story, the fighting mechanics are fantastically smooth. Whilst it did take me a while to get the hang of targeting, actually battling enemies was a lot of fun. It’s satisfying to play, even in the most frustrating of moments where this is the sixth time you’ve died in this one area.

The difficulty of the game forces you to slow down and keeps you from getting cocky. You could get through the first three stages easily enough, only to die to something on the fourth – and, if you go in pipe swinging, that first enemy you took care of so easily the first time will take you out now.

Because of this, the risk vs reward system has to be good otherwise you wouldn’t keep playing and what The Surge delivers is decent enough to keep going. Like Dark Souls, you get a little glowing orb of your dropped ‘tech scraps’ where you died previously – and you have a time limit to get to it, that increases every time you kill an enemy. Your progress also keeps between deaths – so if you opened a door into another part of the map or ‘overloaded’ a system to progress before dying, it will remain when you respawn, which makes for easy return to where you were before.

The enemies themselves are kind of terrifying and add to the overall feeling of dread that The Surge sets itself in. The machines are worrying enough, almost scanning and whirling and winding. Their attacks come from long distances so you need to close that space and smash them before they die – or call any of their friends since these guys tend to hang on in groups.

The humans though are more common and much worse - They look like zombies in metal exosuits, and are mindless in their need to hurt you when you get too close. And, worst of all, they’re quiet. More than once, I’d round a corner with eyes on one enemy only to have another leap out from behind boxes or a curtain and throw themselves at me. The unexpectedness of these attacks – and the fact that they can happen at any time – means you spend most of the game on edge, prepared for a fight even if one isn’t coming.

The Surge also offers a pretty cool and unique way of getting loot. While it’s faster and generally takes the most damage to aim for the exposed heads of your enemies, you get better loot – more scrap, more armour – if you aim anywhere else. Body. Left Arm. Right leg.

It means that you have to make a choice whether you want to risk a longer battle that might end in death but could end with that right leg armour piece that you really need.

There are some weak points to The Surge. The biggest one that will continuously cause a problem while playing is a lack of  map. It’s really hard to figure out where you’re supposed to be heading. The rooms all connected to courtyards which connected to the medbay (your spawn). It feels as if you’ve been everywhere but you don’t have enough core power to open that door and this is the twentieth time you’ve fought that one enemy.

Your objective says to get to the factory – but you’re pretty sure you’ve seen all of the factory and the objective hasn’t changed.

Another weak point is the story. There is one there, told to you through the setting and audio logs that can be found scattered around the destroyed factories of CREO. The intention is to play with moral grey areas between technology and nature and how humanity plays a part in both and whilst it does do so in a coherent way, it is very predictable and follows the tropes of a dystopian future basically to the letter.

Not a massive downside, when the focus is on gameplay but to create a world so detailed and atmospheric and immersive, and then to have such a generic story is something of a let-down.

The Surge is an impressive game, however. It’s fun to play and became almost impossible to put down. The difficulty lessens with the learning of patterns and you’ll find even the most un-strategic of people will be planning ahead, memorising enemy patterns and knowing when and where to keep a distance. It’s a visually stunning and consuming world that pulls you in entirely with a fantastic soundtrack paired with fluid gameplay.

The Surge was released worldwide on May 16th and is available at all good gaming outlets.




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