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The Surge, Review (Xbox One)

High fantasy swords and shields combat in video games, is just not my thing…blasphemy I know. Personally I dig Sci-Fi settings, full of mech suits and advanced weapons.  So roll up ‘The Surge’ to tick some boxes! It does have to be said, under the hood it is essentially a Dark Souls wannabe, but to actually label it as such without qualification, sells it way short.

After an awesome and pretty disturbing opening sequence, where the main protagonist gets out of his wheel chair and into a new set of robo legs. You are chucked into a partially destroyed factory complex and taken through a few basic combat encounters to learn the ropes. Controls are straight forward and camera controls are great. Some initial audio logs and interactions with a holographic lady lets a plot begin to form.

That being said, after about 5 hours of playing I honestly couldn’t tell you what the story was or who the main characters were. However, that’s not the game’s fault. I was just so focused on gathering gear, tech materials (XP) and opening up shortcuts that I just didn’t care. The star of this game is its combat, everything else just became secondary.

Like the games it takes inspiration from, stamina, dodging and timing are all crucial. But to the many ‘Non-Souls gamers’, it will be with great pleasure to learn that The Surge is actually quite forgiving. I would class the difficulty as frustrating…not infuriating. Like the Souls games, every enemy is dangerous and mistakes are brutally punished. When confronted with an opponent, locking on centres your view, but also gives the ability to choose which body part to target. The reason for this is to either select a body part that is unarmoured, OR contains the resource needed to craft the next upgrade for your own armour or weapons.

Building the hit-combo or ‘Energy’ meter, unlocks slow-mo executions that can be carried out and this in-turn increases the chance that the body part will drop the resource you seek. Again, like the Souls games, collecting both Tech (XP) and resources is half the battle, holding onto it is the other half. If you die in combat everything gets dropped and has to be collected within a time limit from the respawn point, which is the Med-Bay within each level. Sound familiar too?

The environments are beautiful and claustrophobic all at the same time. Levels are for the most part large factories or complexes with multiple levels and shortcuts to find. Once shortcuts are opened, they allow for a quick jaunt back to the Med-Bay to bank that valuable XP and upgrade your ‘Rigs’ power plant, armour and weapons. Enemy design is great, oozing the feeling of half-man half-machines living with constant pain. These mechanical abominations are spread throughout levels and are the classic mix of slower zombies, heavy hitters, mini-bosses and frantic rushers. They respawn after each ‘return-trip’ to the Med-Bay as XP farming is a key gameplay element.

At the end of each level is a major boss, usually taking the form of a massive robot with attack patterns and weaknesses that have to be figured out. I’m around the mid game point, and I am still battling through a boss encounter. Honestly, I have a serious level of frustration with The Surge going on at the moment. But not to the level that Dark Souls affected me, I actually grew to just hate Dark Souls for being nasty to me. The Surge hits the happy median of difficulty and accomplishment, and in turn keeps dragging me back.

I know throughout, that I have made mention of The Surges similarities to the Souls series, but that is for good reason. Dark Souls is considered the ‘Gold Standard’ in this niche melee genre. The developers have unabashedly taken elements from a gametype that I for one never really liked, for both aesthetic and gameplay design reasons, and made it far more approachable. I love The Surge’s brutal Sci-Fi world and its methodical combat, as it was made for gamers just like me.

Dark Souls felt like it was bludgeoning me in the head with the bloodied broadsword of disappointment… The Surges difficulty feels like it just punches me in the mouth and tazers me, leaving no lasting injuries though. I’m happy to dust myself off, grit my teeth and go back in to kick its ass.