In a futuristic dystopia where war and global warming have all but destroyed the world, things don't seem to be getting any better. When Warren, a disabled man, gets a second chance to walk, he finds that working inside of a CREO world isn't all that he imagined. Something has gone wrong and now everyone is out for blood. Can you survive this hardcore action-RPG experience?
If you've kept up with the pre-release hype of the game you'll know it's being compared heavily to the likes of the Dark Souls series. I wish I could break away from the cliche evaluation and comparison, but the statement that it's extremely similar is too true. Instead of a disappointment for fans who have already been disappointed by the announcement of the Souls series being over, all can rejoice in the fact that this title delivers a quality experience in the same vein. Developed by the same company who put out Lords of the Fallen (Deck 13), and published by Focus Home Interactive, The Surge tells a story of what the world may be in the future after wars and global warming have all but destroyed normal life.
The main protagonist, Warren, enrolls in a program by CREO that advertises to save the world. One event leads to another, and almost everyone equipped with their mechanical suits have gone mad. It's up to you to find the reason why things with the company have gone to hell, as well as survive the countless encounters with varies enemies along the way (or rather die a whole bunch until you can learn how to survive long enough to reach the next checkpoint).
After wheeling yourself down some spacious yet empty metro station lobbies, you arrive to the enrolment room for new recruits to decide which class of operators they wish to be. There's two options, displayed in two different booths and advertised by their own posters and billboards. Choosing the option on the left means you will specialize as a Field Technician (code named Lynx) and be fitted out in an exoskeleton designed for agility and versatility. The other option, Heavy Operator (code named Rhino), is built for a brute and persistent style. There is a legitimate difference between the two that players will have to consider the pros and cons about. Do you choose to be quick yet more fragile in a world already difficult? Or do you choose to take more hits with the additional difficulty of getting in and out accompanied with some fairly slow attacks. They both work smoothly though and I didn't feel as though one had a significant advantage over the other, other than being lighter with a slight boost to quickness helps get in and out of combat more. You have a dash action that will put a great amount of space between you and the enemy in a split second, and will close that same space very quickly when you see the opportunity to attack. Players can also hold a block, with the secondary option to jump over a low attack, or duck underneath a high attack.
Having to choose weaponry based on class is no reason for concern as you can become proficient in all types regardless of your choice (one-handed, two-handed, dual wield, and stave). The more you use a style, the more experience you will gain, ultimately levelling up this proficiency amount. New equipment is found via the unique loot feature of the game. You don't simply kill an enemy and sift through his newly accessible backpack, but you target a specific part of their body, wether it be the head, arms, torso, or legs. Your suit has a built in system that will tell you which parts of the enemy are armored or extremely vulnerable. Attacking an exposed limb sounds like the obvious choice, but a risk-versus-reward situation presents itself. If you take the added challenge to wreck havoc on an armored part, successfully executing the finishing move at the end of the encounter will mean them potentially dropping that part for you to pick up and equip to your rig.
Killing enemies will net you "tech scrap" which acts as the games currency as well as components for upgrades. These can be used/spent at operating stations which act as the scattered save zone hubs. Any multiplier you have gained in the field will be reset if you visit, but if you test your chances for too long, you might get killed and lose everything you have gained since your last visit. You'll be given some time to race back to where you were killed in order to recollect the bundle of tech scraps, but if you fail to do so, they will be gone for good. Just as the Dark Souls games did, everything is just one big map, even though you have to unlock it piece by piece, and that's what makes it feel so alive. You'll be gradually making your way through the map for half an hour, and then unlock the door that allows you to travel back to the operating station in a matter of seconds, providing you with a sense of relief to not have to repeat that same route of potential death.
Sound and Graphics
The presentation of everything within this beaten down mechanical world is brilliant. I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and overall setting. After you play through the introductory scene where the robotic machine is screwing metal parts directly into Warrens flesh as he screams in pain, you'll wake up while being dragged to the dump yard by a working robot. This will be the starting area and from here on it smoothly flows from one area to the next. For a short time you're working your way through a sand flooded junkyard, then you're traversing the dark and confined inside of a power plant building. There are a few graphical flaws if you nitpick and look hard for them, and prior the the first update I experienced a few technical issues where dead enemies would glitch around slightly before burning up and disappearing as they should, but overall I was very impressed with how the game displayed the world to me. The lighting and shadow effects are incredibly immersive, especially when you get down inside the dark and steamy buildings.
If you search around enough you'll find audio logs scattered about, each one telling more about the plot. Both the audio logs and the NPCs you'll run into in your journey are voice acted well with just the right amount of intensity and urgency. Enemy characters take the cake though as they build upon the atmosphere with psychotic yelling and screaming as they charge towards you or jump out from behind a stack of boxes. The soundtrack is nothing special, and to be honest I have a hard time imagining it in my head even after all my time playing, simply because it failed to leave a special impression on me. Of course, it doesn't necessarily fail, it just shies away from attempting to be memorable by the masses.
To say it has similarities to the Dark Souls series is an understatement. To say it successfully captured the essence while putting a somewhat unique twist on it is accurate. The world is set up perfectly with the plot, making you feel like your purpose within is genuine, even if the overall story doesn't achieve a certain level of brilliance by the end. Players can look forward to the intense, quick-action, hardcore gameplay that almost never stops, because this is ultimately what makes the title so badass. The combat is just as smooth as the trailers would lead you to believe; I felt more control over Warren than I could have ever imagined prior to actually playing.
A huge feature the game has going for it is the reason for targeting specific parts of an enemy, and how you can use items to upgrade your rig, chips, and weapons. The upgrade system in the game is incredibly easy to learn and doesn't force you to do too much thinking when it comes to hunting down the parts you need. My only complaints about the game include the underachieving story, and that the slow motion execution moves become a little stale after performing them non-stop over the course of the 30+ hour experience.