Towards the start of this year on my Twitch stream, for the space of around six months, I held a Twitter poll every week to see what game I would play that night. For six straight months, The Surge was on the list. In all of that time, it received only one vote.
I have a lot of sympathy for Deck13 games. I mean, let’s not pretend that they were the only ones to see Dark Souls become the unexpected smash hit that it was and try to chase that trend. But by and large, they are the ones most commonly called out for that sort of thing. Lots of games get referred to as Souls-like, but to my recollection, Deck13’s Lords of the Fallen is one of the few I can recall getting tagged as an outright Dark Souls clone.
So let’s give them credit that when they returned to that well, they really did go out of their way to try and do something fresh with that style of gameplay and move in a direction that FROM software have been relatively disinclined to look into.
The Surge is a science fiction title built around mechanically augmented humans trapped in the city size headquarters of a completely benevolent and certainly not evil corporation known as CREO. It adds a few particularly interesting features to the Souls formula, particularly a combat system that allows you to target specific limbs on an opponents body in order to gain specific loot types.
It is also painfully, brutally mediocre. The plot is utterly predictable from start to finish. While the combat is mostly fine, it certainly lacks the tightness that you need from a Souls-like. Nothing has the amount of impact it should; blows don’t feel damaging. The level design would honestly be no different than if you just downloaded a generic science fiction map pack.
But I really wanted to root for it. They were trying, really. Deck13 got a lot of stick over making Lords of the Fallen, and they really did try to listen to us. So when it was released, I picked it up, played it enough that I was cognisant of its failings and still wanted to highlight it for praise. Hence why until now, I didn’t review it, but was trying to draw attention to it on my stream. I believe that within this game is potential if they want to do something with it, and they can get the support they need.
Which brings us at last to The Good, The Bad and The Augmented – the latest DLC pack for the Surge, and the moment when my faith and hope for this game finally expired. Let’s be clear, everything that sucks about The Surge still absolutely sucks. The combat is still janky as all hell, the weapons are all unimpressive variations on repurposed industrial tools. I’ve heard some people actually claim that’s why the weapons of the Surge don’t impress, that they’re industrial tools repurposed. To which I can only assume that Dead Space’s legacy has been truly and utterly destroyed by EA, because that game was a textbook on how to do that idea correctly.
What does the DLC bring to the game then? Well honestly, when I saw the trailer for it, I actually got pretty hyped up. You see, the trailer implies pretty strongly that the game would be shifted to a Western setting and I’ve got to admit, that sounds awesome. As a fan of the weird west genre, I loved the idea of a western town populated by cyborgs. Unfortunately, that’s not what we have here. Instead, we have a succession of “Challenge Rooms” that split off from the main game. These challenges are essentially just more combat gauntlets with some minor Wild West set dressing. So in answer to the earlier question, the answer is “Not much.”
Look, there’s nothing wrong with trying to make yourself a Souls game. It’s a style of game with a lot of legs, a lot of things that can be done with it. But if you just make a direct knockoff, you get Lords Of The Fallen and if you try to do something new with it, you need to put in the work to make it stand on its own. The Surge is an attempt to do something new, and that’s to be applauded. But it didn’t work to begin with and after four rounds of DLC it still doesn’t. My patience for this series is officially used up.