So I haven’t finished ‘The Surge’, because it’s really hard. The first boss kicked my ass four times before I bested it, then strange quadruped monsters ripped me to shreds so much we stopped playing. I’m sure I’ll heads back into it tomorrow, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the game so far here ready for the game’s launch.
If you’ve heard that The Surge is made by the studio behind Lords of the Fallen and it’s set in a futuristic dystopia that features a lot of mechs and robots, then you’re pretty far into understanding everything about the game. There’s definitely a lot of innovation hidden away in the game mechanics, but this game is never going to escape the label of ‘Dark Souls in Space’ – at least until From Software bring out a proper sci-fi game.
I won’t spoil the opening, but early on you are strapped into a mechanised suit that greatly enhances your strength, then everything goes horribly wrong and you’re left for dead in a strange industrial complex where husks of people completely taken over by their mechanised armour roam the environment just begging to tear you limb from limb.
The early enemies are fairly simple to dispatch, either buzzing little drones that can be blocked, enemies with simple blades that can be dodged, or heavier enemies with giant hammers of fast dual blades. All of these have around three attacks each, and once you’ve got the rhythm down, you can dispatch them surprisingly efficiently.
The big headline feature of the game is the ability to target specific limbs. Once you’ve locked on quick flicks of the right stick target individual parts which will be highlighted yellow if they’re armoured and blue if they’re vulnerable. Vulnerable limbs obviously cause more damage, but making the system interesting is the fact that by chopping limbs off your enemies, you can get pieces for your own gear. So if you need a new helmet, get cutting those heads off, want a new weapon? Go for their arms. If you build up enough energy while attacking an enemy’s limb, you can do a spectacular finisher and sever it from the body, getting you something nice in the process.
Once you start getting mods that give you bonuses for finishers, each fights becomes a tactical little game of risk vs reward, where you want to get the most health back, metal (xp), or a quick kill, and you need to decide where to attack and how to finish them to achieve that.
The rest of the game is very much like Dark Souls, you have hubs (bonfires) where you can spend metal (souls) to level up or craft/upgrade gear. Out in the field you drop your metal if you die, but you can go back within two and a half minutes to collect them as long as you don’t die again.
Missing from this title is co-op, in Dark Souls if you get stuck on an area you can summon a phantom to help you out. In ‘The Surge’ you’re sticking it out on your own. This can be a good thing, after our fourth death on the first boss, we probably would have called in a summon, but we gave it another go and managed to kill it, barely getting hit in the whole fight.
Of course, while the game owes a lot to Dark Souls, it would have to be amazing to stand alongside it, and it’s not quite there. That first boss fight featured only a handful of moves, and once you worked out a safe pattern it took many minutes to take down, doing the same thing over and over. It lost its magic and just became an exercise in maintaining my concentration to take it down. The combat is definitely satisfying (and there’s some terrifying enemies we still haven’t been able to take on so the alternate routes are a blessing) but it does feel almost unnecessarily punishing when the ops centre shortcuts are a long way apart from each other and a single mistake can easily get you killed, forcing you to repeat the same (not very fast) fights over and over.
The environments are also less interesting so far, with every room being a variation of ‘factory room number one’. Once I saw a tree and that was pretty exciting, but otherwise it’s been a soulless (no pun intended) jog through generic industrial areas. It’s not that the graphics are bad, the enemy design is good and the animations are pretty great, but the overall art direction is unbelievably bland, in a similar way to how Lords of the Fallen couldn’t hold a candle to the worlds of Dark Souls.
If you’re after another Dark Souls fix, this is definitely a great buy. It’s super cheap on CDKeys (check the link in the sidebar if you want to get us some affiliate pennies) and it’s definitely a worthy challenge. That being said, it’s definitely not of the same quality and is unlikely to stick in your memory once you complete it. Other than the opening, which is great and I can’t spoil.