The Surge (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 16.05.2017

Review for The Surge on PlayStation 4

Deck13 was remembered for beating From Software to the punch on putting out a "Soulslike" game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with Lords of the Fallen in 2014. Today, it is held in pretty low regard and is considered a "poor man's Dark Souls," yet Deck13 has chosen to not give up on putting their mark on this now budding sub-genre of action RPG. Koei Tecmo did a "Soulslike" set in samurai era Japan with Nioh, Suda 51 did the whole punk rock-inspired version with Let It Die, and even From Software itself returned to the well with the Lovecraftian Bloodborne... Deck13 couldn't possibly return to swords and shields at this point, and logically the next step would be to trade souls for cybernetics. It's time for Cubed3 to feel The Surge!

The Surge is the technological cyber-nightmare that veterans of Bloodborne have been hoping to see. For a while, now, everyone who is a fan of these "Soulslike" games have wondered how a science fiction Dark Souls would be like, and Deck13 has delivered... For the most part.

The world of The Surge is a brutal place and has some of the most gnarly and painful looking deaths depicted in a computer game. This is beautifully prefaced in the opening, where Warren, the protagonist, gets a very creative and surprising introduction. Warren does not have a lot to say - mostly because The Surge does the smart thing by not making him say what he thinks, and instead he just sort of internalises all the crazy around him the way a real person would, and not like a typical video game protagonist.

Screenshot for The Surge on PlayStation 4

One of the many "Souls-y" things that The Surge gets right is how it tells its narrative via environmental storytelling and, of course, atmosphere. Unlike the games it is inspired by, however, the general plot is pretty straightforward and fairly typical for a science fiction story that takes pages from past James Cameron movies (Weyland-Yutani, RDA, Cyberdyne). It seems like the future is always really screwed, thanks to everyone putting trust in super powerful corporations.

The story for these kinds of games are just a little bit of window dressing and serve to give context to the punishing action, which, in The Surge, is indeed frantic and tense. The combat is something that Deck13 nailed perfectly, thanks to a combination of solid controls, extremely responsive animations and satisfying crunch. Compounded with some original flair added to the mix, like the combo multiplier and a Zandatsu style fatality system to get new gear, The Surge goes beyond being another Dark Souls clone and actually has quite a bit of a unique personality.

Screenshot for The Surge on PlayStation 4

Not everything is well thought out, however. Warren is capable of doing a hop or duck, which are meant for clearing under and overhead enemy attacks, but the Bloodborne style dashing/side-stepping already makes for a more natural form of evasion. The ducking and hopping just feels like it is not needed, and most of the game will be completed without ever having to use it in regular encounters. Warren's movements already felt like they had enough finesse, so it just seems like wasted time and resources that could have gone into more varied levels and enemies. Much later on, Warren is even able to get a small drone that can assist him, which can make it so he can focus more on dodging instead of blocking, since he can't even move when he blocks. Given the choice, people will choose to be mobile, and having Warren's block making him immobile seems like it is a sure fire way to make it so nobody will depend on it.

The level design is full of those knee-slapping moments when a new short-cut is made and that revelation that Warren has exited out a door that was locked much earlier. Everything wraps around itself perfectly the way they should and connect naturally given the industrial setting. The only weak aspect of the areas is that after a while it can get boring to look at, since every location feels like another variation of a factory.

Screenshot for The Surge on PlayStation 4

The same issue is applicable to the enemies, too, since The Surge doesn't really have a basic cannon fodder type enemy at all. Imagine if low ranking enemies in Dark Souls were basically at the same tier as an aggressive black knight, then that would be an accurate description of the most basic enemy type in this game. As a result, the encounters are balanced to accommodate more one-on-one or two-on-one scraps than fighting a small platoon of low tier goons. In a way, it does make The Surge more distinct and memorable, since these fights tend to feel more personal, but at the same time there is this lack of variety.

The Surge is a "Soulslike" of mostly high highs. It has a pretty beefy length to it, and the fast, brutal action is very satisfying, but gets undercut due to the extremely low amount of boss battles. The challenge that these kinds of games are known for is here in spades, and is more carefully balanced than what was seen in Nioh. It does still fall into the trap that most games with looting and crafting have, which is when one weapon is upgraded a few times there is very little incentive to use anything else. The aesthetics and the combat are what truly make this game stand out from its peers. Who would have thought a flurry of sparks, metallic pistons and bone crunching could be so beautiful?

Screenshot for The Surge on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Unlike Deck13's predecessor, The Surge has personality of its own and introduces lots of new tricks, even if a couple of them are pointless. At its worst, the environments are samey, and the lack of variety of enemies are real noticeable flaws in what could have been a cult classic. The shockingly few boss fights are also a disappointment; since robots and cyborgs are so limitless in possibility for design, it is almost heart-breaking that The Surge is so restrained with what it does have. In spite of its shortcomings, this does come recommended from a user who has been intimate with these kinds of games since Demon's Souls. It gets a lot of things right, and does stand out, thanks to its atmosphere, lack of hand holding and, of course, the brutal action.

Developer

Deck13

Publisher

Focus Home Interactive

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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