Deck13’s The Surge is now available, and those looking to get their asses kicked in a sci-fi setting may be pleased with how it turned out. This game is brutal and doesn’t hold your hand whatsoever, but the feeling of accomplishment that it can bestow upon you is enough to get past the pain. You can check out the full review via the embedded video below. The script is also listed after it if you prefer to read.
Hey now you masochistic gamers, Matt Heywood here for EntertainmentBuddha.com to review Deck13’s The Surge, which is the latest Souls-inspired title that will kick your teeth in and leave you toothless and grinning for more.
You’ve probably seen the plethora of comparisons to the Dark Souls franchise while reading up on The Surge, and for the most part it’s a just comparison. The Surge unabashedly wants to make you feel like an incompetent gamer from start to finish. This isn’t a game for the weak and unskilled, as I quickly found out after it took me three hours to beat the opening level. Three freaking hours for the first level, and while my lack of skill helped increase the time it took me to complete it, so did The Surge’s reliance on minimalism.
Outside of the game’s opening, which puts you in the wheelchair of a dude named Warren who has come to work at CREO, the big bad corporation featured in this game, you’re given little or no direction as to what to do. At first I took issue with this design choice, but after an hour or so of just exploring and trying to find the level’s end game, I started to appreciate the lack of direction, which led to a feeling of freshness while discovering what I needed to do next. You’re encouraged to go out and blindly explore each level of the curiously chaotic CREO industrial complex, which adds to the game’s inherent mystery, while also allowing you to flesh out the cryptic plot through pickups and NPCs you may find.
The difficulty of The Surge is of course found in its combat, which feels weighty and methodical, and is built around a high risk and reward system that can make or break a skirmish. Every enemy in this game can and will kick your ass at some point. Hell, if you fart around enough you can even die during the game’s first fight which tries to explain the combat system. There is no room for error regardless of the type of enemy you’re fighting. You can choose to attack exposed body parts with the flick of the right thumbstick, but even then your attacks aren’t guaranteed to kill, so each skirmish turns into a strategic affair where attacks, parries, and dodges have to be utilized for any chance of success.
Standard enemies will punish you, or one-hit kill you if you leave an opening during an attack, and good luck if you come across a group of enemies because they will swarm on you like flies on shit.
Bosses, oh boy the bosses. They will take you to task over and over and over until you figure out the correct combination of moves to take them down. Every boss also has a secret way of taking them down that will yield more pickups, so as with most things in The Surge you are encouraged to experiment. In fact, you’re forced to experiment because you will die more times than you thought possible without breaking a controller in this game.
That last point is key, because I’ve been known to break a few controllers in my life, and I also wouldn’t call myself a fan of the Souls formula for punishing gamers and making them enjoy it. I just don’t have the patience for these types of games, but something about The Surge charmed me enough to push through the extreme challenges it throws at you every step of the way.
I credit this to the game providing a sense of real accomplishment each time you get past an area that gave you heartburn, as well as after you finally take down a boss that has nearly led to you needing a straight jacket and a rubber room. While the poor camera during combat, and the targeting system aren’t perfect, I did find that most of my deaths were a result of me making a poorly timed attack, or rushing to get back to my dead body to pick up my tech scrap, which serves as this game’s currency and means for upgrading your character and his loadout.
I now understand why all of you glutton for punishment types have enjoyed Souls style games. The Surge really can make you feel like you achieved greatness with each small victory, which can get addictive depending on your personality. I ended up enjoying the pain and applying lessons learned to subsequent runs through a level, so while at first I wanted to cry and burn this game at the stake, I eventually fell for its challenge and completely appreciated the world Deck13 created for me to get my ass kicked in.
Although, I do feel like the game’s checkpoint system could use some rethinking, as it is even more brutal than the gameplay. You essentially get one checkpoint hub per level, so if you die you are forced to retrace your path, and sometimes this path could be 30-minutes of lost gameplay and retracing your steps to get back to where you died in the first place. You eventually open up shortcuts to cut some of the backtracking down, but it still would have been nice to have a few more pop up in each level to lessen the repetitive nature of essentially going through Groundhog’s Day each an every time you died.
The Surge’s bread and butter are its combat and minimalism, but it also looks pretty damn good. I was amazed at the quality of the cutscenes, as well as the in-game engine. Nothing about this game’s visuals, or its sound for that matter felt anything but AAA, even though it didn’t come from a mega-sized studio. Deck13 should be applauded for what it achieved technically in this game, because while it isn’t perfect, the experience is charming enough on all fronts to keep you coming back for more pain, while also making it a very recommendable title to your friends.
If getting your balls punched or your titties slapped by a game sounds like your definition of fun, then you must check out The Surge. Yes, it is very Souls-like, but it also has crafted its own unique and punishing experience. The narrative is revealed in ways that keep you plodding through the pain, and the visual and sound design are pleasing to the senses. Outside of the lack of more checkpoints, a flaky combat camera, and sometimes wonky combat controls, this title is a solid experience. It’s not for everyone though, so only those looking for a sever challenge should apply.
The Surge, even though I may have cursed its name for the first few hours playing, still earns a 75/100 review score from your buddies at EB. Seriously though, I can only recommend it if you like video games that brutalize you in every sense of the word, otherwise you’ll be better off sticking to friendlier titles.
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Review Statement: The author of this review was provided an Xbox One code by the publisher for the purposes of this review.