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The Surge | Review

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The Surge is an action RPG game that has been developed by Deck13 Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive. I believe there is little doubt that the action RPG genre has been forged by the amazingly well known Dark Souls series created by FromSoftware. This is a genre well known for punishing the player for making minor mistakes, but the balance of reward and the sensation of success are also within reach. Multiple deaths in a game can be frustrating, but coupled with the right gameplay mechanics which can yield great success for any player eager enough to keep trying, that frustration is easily turned into hours of enjoyment. This is after all, what playing a video game is meant to be all about.

The Surge, a brilliant game that is hard to fault

Your journey in The Surge begins with a man named Warren. He's nothing special and is definitely far from any superhero that you know of. You are a new recruit exo-technician and it's your first day working for a mysterious research and development company called CREO. It just so happens that upon your arrival there is a massive catastrophic event which causes systems to go offline and all sorts of mayhem ensues. Warren is fitted with a state of the art exo-suit which will enable him to do a plethora of amazing and wonderful things. It is through this suit that you may mod and customise the way you play.
Warren equipped with a state-of-the-art exo suit before attachments are applied
Explanation of the story and what has actually occurred is quite slim, however this part of The Surge moves away from the tones of the 'Souls' series and the mystery behind the CREO incident starts to unwind as you play though the game and meet other people along the way. As it turns out, you're not the only person around that hasn't been physically affected by the incident at CREO. As art sometimes imitates real life, you'll find greed and hubris at the centre of all that is wrong with the world. I shall say no more on the story side of things except for the fact that the story is fed to the player in unique ways for such a genre and compliments the gameplay well enough.

The gameplay itself is hardcore. Hardcore veterans will feel very much at home playing The Surge, however the combat mechanic is of a faster pace than other games in this well founded genre. While it pays dividends to approach individual fights with a level head and a game plan, these fights will be swift and over with in short time for the most part. There are some instances where you will need to use what you have at your disposal to come off in front, and there are also some instances where you won't know what hit you. Be forewarned that you will die in The Surge, and you will die plenty.
A familiar screen...
Combat is unique to The Surge in most ways. The most notable aspect is the targeting system which works in tandem with the 'lock on' system. Not only are you able to lock onto enemies to keep them in focus, you can also select which section of the body you want to target with your strikes. If you're underpowered and feel like the fight might not go your way, you can target the blue glowing sections of your enemy's body, which are the sections that are vulnerable to attack with no armour covering them. While this method will ensure the enemy takes the most amount of damage, on the other hand you won't yield much in the way of loot after the kill.

Hardcore veterans will feel very much at home

If you're feeling up for a fight and you're keen for some upgrades to your suit or weapons, then by all means take aim at some of the armoured sections of the enemy. The risk to reward ratio here feels just right for players of all levels. If you attack an enemy's armoured points, you give yourself a chance to take down your foe using a finishing move. If done right, you will be treated to a brutal execution style finisher which is likely to drop a piece of armour or a weapon for you to use. While armour will drop schematics for you to craft your own armour, weapon drops can be equipped immediately.
Warren targets an enemy and decides to attack his left arm which is armoured. This is sure to yield some loot.
Armour sets are not only aesthetically pleasing, they're critical to your survival in certain circumstances. Armour ranges from smaller faster agile sets to bulky slower brutal gear which you can mix and match to get the feel just right. There are also elemental based sets which can assist in areas where there have been chemicals and hazardous material spills. Equipping all parts including head, body, arms and legs from the same class of armour will also grant you additional perks to help you survive this brutal hard core land.
Controlling your attack comes in a different package than we've seen before. Rather than using a system of one button for light attacks and another for heavy attacks, the two different attack buttons are for horizontal and vertical attacks. You can still alter the weight of a hit based on how long you hold the attack button in. The idea behind the vertical and horizontal attacks is sound, but I find myself only ever using one of them all the time. Essentially a vertical attack is preferred when targeting the head of an enemy, while the horizontal attacks are preferred when attempting to cut your enemy in half or going for severing the legs. This mechanic does work to your advantage but the difference is often lost in Warren becoming overpowered to a point where it doesn't look like it matters.

Currency and experience points have been joined at the hip under the one title of 'Tech Scrap'. Tech Scrap is gained by defeating enemies and can also be found in sneaky spots around the levels. It is essentially up to you how you divide them up to spend. You can use Tech Scrap to level up your 'Core Power' (player level) using a MEDBAY, or you can spend it on crafting and upgrading your armour and weapons at a GEAR ASSEMBLY machine. The Surge is level based and there is only one MEDBAY and GEAR ASSEMBLY per level. Tech Scrap is essential to progressing in the game but is easy enough to earn and the currency system feels sound and balanced.
Levelling up using Tech Scrap can be done however you like. Spend all of it or only a little bit. The choice is yours to make.
The MEDBAY doesn't only allow you to level up your character. Using a MEDBAY will replenish any lost health and fill up your injectable health supply. If you meet your doom while out and about, you will find yourself back at the level's MEDBAY which is used as your spawn point. You will also notice that all of your collected Tech Scrap will be gone too. While this is painful to see after you've worked so hard to collect it all, you do have the chance to reclaim it for yourself. You don't have forever to do this though. You can return to your place of death and collect your Tech Scrap, but if you die on way, consider it a donation to the gods. There is also a countdown timer looming on your HUD telling you that your Tech Scrap will disappear when the counter reaches zero. A respectable feature has been added which stops the countdown timer when the game is loading or when you're in the MEDBAY. The MEDBAY is also where you can install implants into your exo-suit. Implants have many different effects ranging from extra health, stamina, consumables and damage buffs. After collecting new implants from fallen enemies and bosses, you can mix and match them here to create your ultimate 'build'.
The standard exo chassis has a max 8 slots for implants. This can be upgraded later in the game.
Level design in The Surge has a strange feeling of satisfaction which I am sure others will feel too. The levels are often bright and colourful which brings a new found breath of fresh air to games of this genre. While there are darkened areas which are creepy as hell, there is a healthy amount of the game which shows off how good looking it really is.

The Surge is the Dark Souls game that I have been waiting for

Exploration is a big part of The Surge and you will have little choice but to take in the sights as you try to find your way around this massive CREO facility. There were many times through the levels where I thought I was getting terribly lost in a rabbit's warren, to find a doorway which lead me back to familiar territory and also provided access to a faraway area via a shortcut. While shortcuts and doors that only open from the other side aren't a new thing, The Surge provides level design that is clearly thought out and works brilliantly with the gameplay.
Bright vibrant areas of daylight provide a fresh change from other dark and murky games
Boss fights are epic. There are also a few mini bosses in there for good measure too. While the bosses will hit you hard and remind you that you're playing a hardcore action game, they will also have their weaknesses too. It's up to you to work it out and you're likely going to have to do that alone because there is no multiplayer or co-op features for The Surge. This is probably the most disappointing part of the game. While it's not necessary to have these features, it would have provided a little extra fun to be able to run around with a friend and tear up some exo-suit wearing zombified people.

The Surge is the Dark Souls game that I have been waiting for. While I have played games in the Soulslike genre before, they just never really hit home with the core themes. Monsters and demons are all well and good, however for some people like myself, love a good dose of sci-fi. The Surge does this by giving us robots, exo-suits and futuristic technologies.
A brilliant light show of colour gives a hardcore game a sense of hope
The Surge is an amazing game in its entirety. I went hunting for problems but I just couldn't find any. All of my deaths could only be blamed on my own sense of wellbeing or lack of concentration. The controls are responsive and every component of the game seemed to do what it was there to do.

Before I finish up here, I have to mention the platforms you can play on. The Surge is available on Xbox One, PC and Playstation 4. I have to make mention that I have played The Surge for review on both the vanilla Playstation 4 and on a Pro. The main difference is a big one here. The Pro receives an extra setting in the Visual department where you can choose to either play in 4K resolution at 30fps, or at 1080p resolution with 60fps. I would have to say that without a doubt the best choice for most will be 1080/60. While the 4K visuals look nice and sharp, the 30fps just doesn't cut it, especially if you try out the 60fps mode first. Sadly the standard Playstation 4 will only output the game at 1080p. It's unconfirmed what the frame rate is, however my keen eye believes that it's somewhere between 30 and 45fps which is reasonable. The Xbox One will only be pushing out 900p and I would have an educated guess at around 30fps.

Deck13 Interactives previously released the game Lords of the Fallen wasn't received in the best light, however The Surge has come along to fix that. With a massive amount of customisation that can be had with the different armour types and weapons, you really can play however you like to play these games. The brightly coloured worlds provide a well needed change from the dark and dank worlds of the past. The Surge provides entertainment to the player in a special way with a risk and reward system that always feels like the reward was worth the risk. Dark Souls probably isn't for everyone, but The Surge may open the doors to more players with its careful approach and easier to understand mechanics.

The Surge is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.
The Surge, a brilliant game that is hard to fault. Thanks for checking out this review. Have your say below or over on our Facebook page.

Lucas Aurelius
Aussie Gamers Express
16th May 2017
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