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Review: The Surge (PS4)

Action RPG
7

Good

The Surge is an Souls-Like Action RPG involving a mega corporation with questionable motives trying to restore the planet through an ambitious project. You play as Warren, a down on his luck protagonist who joins CREO and literately has the worst first day on the job when everything imaginable goes wrong. Warren sets out to find a way to survive and maybe set things right along the way.

Same recipe, but with some different ingredients

Up until now, almost every game inspired by the Souls series has been set against the backdrop of some ancient or medieval universe. The Surge flips the theme on its head by setting it in an industrial, scorched Earth type scenario. The premise is very interesting, CREO, the mega corporation that is central to the plot, employs Warren, promising a better future. Right from the start Warren’s motivations for joining CREO is apparent, and sets up what potentially can be an excellent story and character arc. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t deliver on what is promised.

Most of the story and lore of The Surge is done through environmental story telling, audio logs and NPCs giving information. This is not a new method of storytelling, and it’s a great way to encourage exploration through the sizable areas that is made available. Regrettably, The Surge doesn’t quite live up to the potential in both the exploration options and the narrative that it establishes in the beginning.

The Surge shows so much promise in terms of narrative and character development, but ultimately falls short due to some design decisions. But that doesn’t mean it is a bad game.

You have no choice in what your character looks like or who he is, which is fine if you have some motivation or character development along the way, but sadly, Warren is pretty much a blank slate, which might have benefitted from some form of customisation at the start of the game. The Surge shows so much promise in terms of narrative and character development, but ultimately falls short due to some design decisions. But that doesn’t mean it is a bad game.

So much fun to play

Where The Surge gets its motivations from is no secret, but in a way it almost improves on the formula. The gameplay is fun and engaging, and how you approach each encounter might determine what kind of loot you get out of it. The game has a system that works similarly to Dark Souls, but you have an option of being able to target certain parts of an enemy, like an arm, leg or head, which in turn might yield specific drops like an arm piece, helmet or even a new weapon. It’s certainly unique and gives some variety on how you approach different enemies, depending on what loot you’re after. The only drawback is that it doesn’t change the dynamic of combat that much. The enemies still have a universal health pool and the combat animations stay the same no matter which body part you’re targeting.

The bosses unfortunately fall way short of what should be expected. There’s not a lot of them and they’re all quite forgettable.

Still, it’s quite satisfying, especially when you generate enough energy to perform a finishing move, which is needed to actually get the special loot from your foe. Some of the enemies you encounter can be quite challenging, and figuring out how to deal with them can be an quite exciting. Combat is quite fast paced. The game finds a good middle ground between the slow, patient combat of Dark Souls and the calculated aggression of Bloodborne. It’s quite enjoyable and engaging. The only downside is that enemies are not very varied. You mostly fight the same grunts, but only with slightly different attack patterns and speeds.

The bosses unfortunately fall way short of what should be expected. There’s not a lot of them and they’re all quite forgettable. While there’s multiple phases and some light puzzle elements involved, it really is not something to get excited about.

Been there, done that

The Surge features some excellent level design in how everything connects together within the CREO complex. The game has this slight Metroidvania feel to it in how some areas open up after completing other objectives. It’s something I wish could’ve been explored a bit more as it would have given the game a really unique feel within the Action-RPG space.

The areas that you explore and play in can feel quite large, but looking back at it, the overall map is kinda small. There’s a ton of backtracking in the game, and you end up returning to the same area multiple times. It gets boring after a while, since there’s little to no variety, although to be fair some of the areas in the later stages of the game can get quite interesting. You might be approaching something from a different angle, but it does become a bit of a “been there, done that” scenario.

Just off the mark

I feel a bit conflicted by The Surge. Deck13 managed to create something that feels familiar but still has its own personality. The Surge feels unique in how it plays and the premise that it creates, even though the mark was missed a bit in terms of narrative. There’s a lot of missed opportunities in the game, and the environments and level design is just boring and repetitive. But oh boy is the gameplay satisfying. Even slaughtering the same foes over and over again doesn’t really matter. It’s a system that works well, and might even be something of a standard in the future.

I really enjoyed spending the 25 odd hours playing The Surge, even with it all its shortcoming and flaws. It just bothers me that I have this nagging feeling that it could’ve been a true masterpiece if it just lived up to its potential.

Good

  • Solid combat
  • Well designed levels
  • Great premise

Bad

  • Bland and repetitive environments
  • No variety in enemies
  • Story is a missed opportunity
  • Forgettable boss battles

Summary

The Surge has moments of brilliance and satisfying combat, but a great premise never delivers the punchy story that it easily could have.
7

Good

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