The Surge Review

Richard Walker

If glib summations of games are what you like, then here's one for you. The Surge is like a sci-fi Dark Souls, and in truth, it's every bit as gratifying as From Software's seminal, unapologetically punishing hack and slash RPG. Similarly, The Surge's combat is entirely melee-based, equipping protagonist Warren with all manner of slicing and bludgeoning implements. And he'll need them too after his first day working for megacorporation CREO sees him up to his neck in bloodthirsty employees out to squash him dead, when everything predictably goes mysteriously, horrendously wrong. Doesn't it always?

Die a lot you will too, as it's all part of the cycle to get better gear, increase your level and acquire more stuff. The more enemies you defeat, the more tech scrap you accumulate and the more you can upgrade the power core in Warren's exo suit. But it's The Surge's limb dismembering loot system that marks it out as unique, enabling you to target arms, legs, body or head, then go about liberating them from enemies. Horizontal and vertical attacks dictate how likely it is you'll get the chance to carry out a finisher and gain the severed limb.


Warren's first day at work is proper shit.

Enemy parts are either armoured or unarmoured, with the former highlighted in yellow and the latter glowing blue. Attack an armoured body part, and the dropped limb becomes loot you can then pick up and use. Take it back to the safety of Operations, and you can craft a new piece of armour using the schematic you've acquired, or upgrade pieces using parts harvested from duplicate chunks of armour.

Drop scrap and you're given a limited time in which to retrieve it, so you can't hang about. Crafting the best Mark V stuff, meanwhile, means acquiring Nano Cores, rather than dropped components. Like every other game of its ilk - including The Surge developer's previous effort, Lords of the Fallen – there's a lot of grinding involved to get to a level where you're not being smashed to pieces during every encounter.

That means picking the required limbs pertaining to what you need to assemble the best rig you can, weighing up the risk and reward that comes with staying out of Operations for as long as possible, increasing your tech scrap multiplier. Usually, the best course of action is to grind for as long as you feel comfortable, before legging it back to Operations to cash in your scrap. Each piece of gear also has its own energy consumption stat, so you can't simply gear up with all the best shit until you've upgraded your power core to a high enough level. Energy also dictates whether you're able to perform limp-slicing executions, deploy your drone or use certain injectable implants.

Juggling your stats is one thing, while your proficiency in combat is something else. Opt for the agile Lynx rig and you'll be fast but weak, while the heavy Rhino rig is sluggish, but powerful. Once you begin accumulating different gear components, however, you can mix and match parts from a range of different armour sets as you see fit, boosting your defence and attack power in the process. Have a complete set of gear, and you'll also gain a bonus boost, so there's incentive to collect one of each limb from your foes.

As you progress ever deeper into the heart of CREO's huge factory, not only does the enemy difficulty steadily escalate, but it gradually becomes apparent that every little corridor, nook and cranny branches back to Operations. It's down to you, therefore, to find and unlock every shortcut you can, making life considerably easier for yourself. Unfortunately, some of these corridors and other narrow thoroughfares only go to show that the game's camera can sometimes be ill-equipped to keep track of the action.


Take on a Smelter at your peril.

The camera gripes only tend to be a problem in said enclosed spaces, or during encounters with multiple cybernetic-enhanced freaks, security guards, robots or whatever. During one-on-one battles and bosses, the lock-on ensures the camera behaves itself, meaning you're free to focus on switching between which bit of your target to chop off. Warren is incredibly mobile too, so managing your stamina to dodge, duck and hop past incoming attacks is all part and parcel of combat in The Surge.

Defeating bosses, crafting complete gear sets, gaining level 5 proficiency with each weapon type, making it to power core level 80... All of this feeds into a varied achievement list, which also tasks you with completing some of the various side quests (like finding Davey his meds or sorting Irina Beckett out with some armour) you'll find during your nightmare amid CREO's horrible technology-gone-wrong nightmare. Of course, you'll be in for more than a little bit of grinding, and as such, it'll take a few dozen hours to complete the lot.

The Surge can be a bit of a slog, but if you're up for another bout of Souls-esque punishment, Deck 13's Lords of the Fallen follow-up does the job impeccably well. The combat is superb, each weapon type possessing its own strengths and weaknesses suited to whatever playstyle you opt for, as well as a series of brutal finishing moves that remain consistently enjoyable to watch. It's a tough, unforgiving game at times, but The Surge is a genuinely good, solid and well-designed Dark Souls-alike with a dystopian future tech/sci-fi twist. Think Edge of Tomorrow, but with more severed limbs.

The Surge

Every bit as infuriating, enjoyable and insanely gratifying as an action RPG of this type should be, The Surge is great fun, thanks in no small part to its unique limb-cutting loot system and some tight combat mechanics.

Form widget
80%
Audio
70%

Patchy voice work, the same lilting folksy tune in every Operations medbay, and some lovely, squelchy sound effects when you lop off limbs. Nice.

Visuals
70%

Solid, perfectly decent steel and concrete corridors, pristine steel and glass laboratories, sandy exteriors and serviceable character models, The Surge looks fine, but some of the environments can be a little on the dull side.

Playability
80%

Challenging to get to grips with at first, The Surge gets better the more you play, grind and level up. Combat is fluid and fun, but an occasionally erratic camera can lead to some frustrating deaths.

Delivery
80%

The Surge's systems are great, with gear, weapons, core levelling, implants, injectables and more all contributing to a complex, but easy-to-understand series of RPG elements. It's a hefty, well-made game too. A good 30-50 hours, at the very least.

Achievements
70%

A suitably difficult, but not too complicated set of achievements, there are rewards here for pursuing side quests, crafting armour sets, beating bosses, simple progression and loads more. A perfect spread of tasks to complete.

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