The Surge is a souls-like, semi-linear RPG that takes place in a sci-fi future in which the Earth is virtually a wasteland where the quality, and amount of life on the planet is rapidly declining. After a quick introduction to the world and how the main character ends up working for CREO and obtaining his exoskeleton, players are thrown straight into the game with prompts to show you the controls and mechanics as you go.
The game is split into many semi-linear areas in which the player will be given a sandbox to explore with maglev trains at stations to help get around to other areas of the map. While there is a decently long main story and a handful of side quests dotted around each area, players will find themselves just exploring each area for a large chunk of their play time. While the game has some dark themes in it and is quite violent there is a contrast in the style for a lot of areas, especially outdoors. Bright, vibrant colours illuminate the outside world whereas the interior of the industrial facility is dark and gloomy. Alongside all the typical sorts of places you’d expect in an industrial facility there are some other unexpected areas in the game to add a bit more variety to the environments such as biolabs.
As mentioned before; there is plenty offered to the player in every area. Besides just dotting NPCs around for the occasional side quest there are many other things promoting exploration in the game. For example: some doors can only be powered on by the player if they get their character to a certain level or if they have a specific item. This alone gives players a reason to revisit areas in the game, especially when they’ve reached a point where otherwise they might not normally have a reason to head back.
Alongside level-locked doors and side-quests to discover there are also collectibles in the form of audio logs which the player can find. These audio logs are split into separate collections which give back stories to many different characters and the environments in the game. While this may be standard stuff it does help with trying to unravel the story, which is all about trying to figure out what happened for the facility to go haywire. Players may find themselves focusing more on these side quests and collecting bits of information since when it comes to the main story it can take a few hours to get into fully but even when it does it gets fairly hard to keep track of. While this may be nothing new to people who want games like Dark Souls it can be a bit off-putting in the case of people going in expecting a more fleshed out and apparent story.
The most interesting thing about The Surge, as well as its most common comparison to Dark Souls lies in the combat. There is a similar health, stamina and energy (FP as it’s known in Dark Souls) bar. Movement is fairly similar although in The Surge it feels a bit more clunky but in a good way since having a huge exoskeleton attached to your character and the fact he couldn’t walk prior to having it would make the movement feel like there’s a lot of bulk to it. Weapons are split into various tiers with different scaling for damage depending on various aspects such as the upgrade level (MK I, II, III or IV) and proficiency level with that specific weapon style. Despite a few low tier items such as simple pipes, a lot of the weapons have interesting designs such as blades that are attached directly to the exoskeleton itself or even a sword that also has a chainsaw blade. The same goes for the armour with various interesting designs coming out as you progress through the game.
Obtaining all these items is where everything gets a bit interesting. Despite the similarities to Dark Souls there is one thing that makes The Surge unique and it’s something I really, really liked while playing. Each individual body part (head, body and limbs) is targetable adding a whole extra layer of complexity to the combat and item attainment. Having targetable body parts allows players to strike weak points such as an unarmored leg before finishing an opponent off for an easy kill. Getting these easy kills doesn’t always work in favour of the player however…
Getting an item means you have to cut off that specific body part with a finishing move before you can pick it up. For example: if an enemy has some sweet looking body armour then you’ll need to target that armoured body part and cut them in half at the body to be able to pick up the armour; taking out an arm or leg simply won’t do. Alongside being used to get items, this system is also used to acquire crafting materials via scrapping already collected pieces of armour from enemies. The corresponding armour piece will give materials to craft or upgrade armour of that type. Overall it’s very interesting in how collecting items and even crafting is centred around making fights harder for yourself but as a reward you get all important gear and materials to help the character grow.