Sometimes it’s okay for a game to be a clone of another game. A new coat of paint isn’t always enough, but it definitely helps. While The Surge looks like Dark Souls and other From Software titles, it has enough extra mechanics to make up for it. It bolsters its gameplay with a unique looting system. What hinders The Surge is its narrative and lack of discovery. Those two components are crucial to a lot of the wonder in Dark Souls. But everything in The Surge feels sterile and procedural. A strong narrative would have made up for fairly redundant, industrial environments. But The Surge leans too heavily in the “less is more” ideology of Dark Souls‘ story design. When the future is bleak and dark CREO, offers security to those willing to partake in cybernetic enhancements. But when something goes awry, you’re forced to survive in a world gone mad. The story is pretty familiar. What would have been nice is to get more than just the occasional tinge of conspiracy from characters.
Get Just What You Expect In The Surge – Nothing More
While the Souls series treads lightly on its story, it is filled with lore. Unfortunately, none of that is really present in The Surge. Its story is exactly what you get, which is to say not very much and not all that compelling. When you’ve heard “Things weren’t supposed to go like this” in an almost post-apocalyptic setting, you know what you’re getting. Twists are conventional, and you never get the feeling that there’s much of a unique identity in the story.
No, instead you’ll find much of the identity in The Surge immediately within its gameplay. What sets it apart from every other game is its unique looting system. Players target specific limbs and if it’s weakened enough, there’s an increased likelihood that a piece of armor or weapon will drop. If not, you get crafting materials to upgrade armor or craft one from a blueprint. This is the most interesting thing about The Surge, and its enough to set itself apart. Combined with a satisfactory gameplay loop, it’s also enough to sustain the game from beginning to end. Because that loop alone takes players out into the dangerous CREO complex, gives them some loot and currency to spend until they find a shortcut back to a safe haven, then they upgrade and heal before heading back out. It’s very rinse-and-repeat, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into difficulty finding a shortcut.
The Games Mechanics
Like any Souls game, you will die and a decent amount. The Surge forces players to use both blocking and dodging to get past your adversaries. But you’ll find most enemies are fairly easy to conquer with a simple dodge every now and then. But what’s interesting is the risk/reward that happens when you aim for a specific limb. Since some areas are armored and others are not, you can stagger an enemy by dealing direct damage, but you won’t stagger them if you hit an area with armor. The risk/reward comes in taking those one or two extra hits, knowing that you’ll stagger and possibly kill them if successful in hitting an exposed area. Even aiming for a left leg, for example, doesn’t guarantee a hit to the exposed area because your swing might hit another limb by accident, causing you to swing again but taking away time you thought you had. With a stamina bar to watch out for as well, you’re putting yourself in harm’s way by taking the risk, but sometimes you need to kill someone in a specific amount of time before your corpse is no longer available.
In The Surge – your corpse run is timed. Presumably, that’s because there are plenty of scavengers who could stumble on your resources, but regardless of the reason, it adds more tension when enemies aren’t exactly the most difficult to defeat after you’ve learned their weaknesses. There are very few surprises and because loops are fairly short, you’re never really in danger of forgetting where an enemy is located during your corpse run.
Ultimately though, The Surge still feels very familiar – a feeling that isn’t actually bad especially without a new Souls game this year. The core mechanics are there and the loops are satisfying, but The Surge lacks any real identity in its presentation. The unique loot system is compelling in a game that is otherwise devoid of unique mechanics. But that single ability to sever limbs and equip to your own exosuit is what The Surge hangs on. Comfort food isn’t always a bad thing, which is exactly what The Surge becomes after a couple hours. It’s not too difficult, but just enough that you feel a challenge.