Reviews June 19, 2017

The Surge

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Reviewed By: Andre Thomas
System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC)
Genre: Action RPG
Rated: M
Players: 1
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 05/16/2017
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Deck13 Interactive

Usually when were sent titles to review, the choice of who review’s what is due to our availability at that time. We’ll lean here or there depending on our preferences of course. But for the most part, we review whatever is put in front of us. That’s not the case with The Surge. When I was presented the opportunity to review it, I gladly accepted. The main reason: I’ve never played a Dark/Demon Souls game…

This, as a writer, had me excited because it’s easier to be impartial to a game I have zero experience with. Not only that, but as a gamer, it was a chance for me to branch out and try something new. For those of you who have played this title, you know how much of a frustrating surprise I was in for.

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The Surge is constantly being called a “sci-fi souls’” game mainly due to its combat being so similar/extremely difficult. You are Warren, a survivor in a fading world where giant robots and men in mech suits looking to kill you. It isn’t as generic as it sounds, though the plot is a bit buried by the overwhelming need to survive. There is information for those who seek it, everyone else will learn what’s going on after spending hours in this dystopian future. Of course, by that time who is really worrying about the plot? I was too busy screaming at my TV as another foe got the better of me.

It wasn’t too difficult to learn the ropes concerning combat. The frustration came from how tough the game got as I went along. The thing is though, I was having a good time. Some of my enjoyment can be contributed to the sci-fi backdrop. We’re used to seeing this type of thing in a medieval or fantasy based game that it made The Surge seemed more interesting. This also lends to the gameplay. Battling enemies using Warren’s exoskeleton, where you can amputate their limbs to use as weapons, sounds great on paper. It’s even better in game. Deck13 implemented a great system that allows you to target different body parts of enemies. Dodging attacks, countering – the moment to moment fighting his fun but being able to customize your suit with upgrades from enemies add to the excitement.

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Exploring a new world is always exciting. The same thing can be said of the seemingly abandoned corporate complex Warden wakes up in. That is until you run into a set of enemies who don’t fight fair. And by fair, I mean they broadcast their presence. I don’t know how many times I got ready for, what I thought, was going to be a one on one fight and somebody behind me jumps in. Oddly enough, I found the spontaneity to be one of my favorite parts of the game. Again, it frustrated me; I had plenty of moments when I yelled obscenities from pure shock of being attacked out of nowhere. The pure randomness of their spawning makes every corner more nerve wrecking, just hoping that something with better armor than yourself could be waiting to destroy you.

There’s give and take. Being able to literally see the piece of gear on the enemy you are fighting and dismembering them to take it from them is just awesome. It’s one thing to hope a drop happens, it’s much more inspiring to fight when you see the prize ahead of you. That said, none of it comes easy and you will spend plenty of times restarting from a checkpoint. I promise you that it happens to the best of us, so just hit “load from checkpoint” and go right back at it!

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What hurts The Surge is how little character development we get out of Warren. I tried to be understanding of the man’s plight. I mean, come on, the guy woke up surround by dead people and homicidal robots. But something about him as a character just bored me. If I am going to run through hours of gameplay with a character, especially in a game as difficult as this, it helps to have a story that’s compelling enough to push our protagonist forward. As I said before, the game doesn’t take long to become a super difficult hack and slash type of game. After a while, it starts to turn into a grind for better gear as opposed to an epic story of survival.

I can already hear the rpg fanboys screaming “Well duh, Dre! Grinding is a part of every RPG.” Though I’m new to Soul-like games, I’m aware of the trappings of RPGs. I have lost countless hours grinding for gear, but at least in the past, there was an ultimate goal. It should not take you twenty hours to learn about who your character is and why does the world look as bad as it does. It takes almost an entire day to even get some sort of depth out of Warren’s story. With all the best fights in the world, it means nothing if gamers get bored with hacking and slashing. The reward on the other side is so worth it in the end. It just takes all day to get there.

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All and all, I enjoyed my time with The Surge. Though it has a mindless first half, the increased AI’s difficulty and diversity in the enemies made turning around every corner exciting. That said, I’ll be leaving this subgenre to its fans. I’m glad I was able to experience The Surge –  it was fun to get away from medieval caves and into the future with violent tech. I’m just not so keen on this level of difficulty without a worthwhile reason via the plot.

Gameplay: 9
The Surge is great. The story is a bit of a letdown early one and it can be crazy tough. That said, it’s very entertaining.

Graphics: 9
It’s certainly easy on the eyes.

Sounds: 8
The sound effects are cool and the soundtrack is decent.

Replay Value: 5
As fun as it was, there is no way I am playing through this game again.

Final Score:

7.8