+Graphics and animations run extremely well on PS4 and PS4 Pro
+A Walk in the Park DLC adds an admirable 6-7 hour experience
+Sci-fi labyrinthine dungeons offer amazing take on the Souls-esque franchises
+Body part selection changes combat pacing and how players will approach each encounter
-Mediocre story that doesn’t really bring the narrative home, but doesn’t take away from the experience
-Awkward camera angels are minor, but persistent annoyances that remain to this very day.
Since 2009, FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls franchise have been the cause for my controller-throwing induced fits of rage. They’ve also been the serious inspiration for countless other developers to jump on board in an attempt to bait players in, put them through some rage-inducing action, and ultimately seeing their fans break into tears at some point or another.
In 2014, Deck13 was one such company to attempt this method and did so with a grim outlook on their first title of the type named Lords of the Fallen. Their problem with their first attempt was it was the same epic fantasy angle that FromSoftware had already mastered. Its mechanics were almost identical in every way minus a few changes made to using a sidearm based weapon that shot magical powers in place of magic.
Sadly, their adventure didn’t bode well and sent the game hurling into an abysmal reception by critics. So much so that the game was often called “weak”, “boring”, and ultimately “struggling to perform” due to the games overall performance based troubles. However, it seems a second chance is a charm for the team and it did quite well for them.
Lets Talk Graphics and Performance
One of Deck13’s struggles with their previous title was both indeed its graphics and performance optimizations. Even on a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 7200RPM HDD, Lords of the Fallen: Complete Edition still struggled to perform how one would have wished and never really delivered the experience we had hoped to have had. Frame rates stuttered, button responses felt delayed and we unfortunately still experienced a handful of crashes.
This time however, that seems to not be a problem and performance has been smoothed out with their second attempt with The Surge. To get around this problem, Deck13 took some noticeable steps just as Koei Tecmo did with their title Nioh. The steps taken? Implementing optional settings. One of them favoring graphical fidelity while they other prioritizes frame rates in favor of graphical fidelity.
While I didn’t notice any decreases in the resolutions (even on a 4K TV or monitor), the game still looked absolutely outstanding and even played rather outstandingly. Whether it was from poisonous cloud intensive areas such as the Resolve Biolabs or the seemingly radioactive tunnels of the Production Facility, I never once truly witnessed a dip in performance while playing the game on its performance setting. However, the same can’t be said while playing in Quality Mode.
In Quality Mode, the game sees a major dip in performance and stability. Frame rates generally seemed to dip below 30fps compared to the Performance modes rock solid 60fps, which really hurt the overall experience. As stated however, even on a 4K display, it’s hard to really see what sacrifices were made in order to allow the game to run as it were. The only thing that may have changed? The game in its Performance Mode may have dynamic resolution scaling on, which does see some minor changes in the games appearance at random in order to help the game better perform.
Even between these two modes, button presses remain highly responsive, which is nice to know with a game that requires quick reflexes and a only a moments notice to maneuver before a foe may deal a killing blow. All the while, The Surge is by far one of the best looking games out in the current day. While it’s not near as realistic as say Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice or as large scale as Horizon Zero Dawn – Deck13’s title does enough to stand out on its own.
Weapons all have their own unique appeal, some appearing as not just a weapon, but an atmospheric piece. One such weapon was my heavy ax from the games first and only expansion, A Walk in the Park. The weapon itself only illustrated the teams devotion to detail, the light near the blade not just serving as a nice touch with its lens flare, but also one that lightly illuminated both Warren, his CREO Rig, and the world about him.
Small detailed touches to the world such as fog and sparks both served their own purpose as well. Both brought forth their own atmosphere in a unique and astounding way. Sparks would lightly illuminate the air whether it was through passive animations or the hefty blow of Warren’s weapon bouncing off their metal frames igniting metal on metal shower of sparks. Whichever it was, animations, lighting, and even passive atmospheric conditions were quite enjoyable, enlightening, and a beautiful sight to behold.
To put it bluntly: Deck13 didn’t hold back in their animations and graphics departments. These are top-notch and could serve as a showing that games such as Nioh: Complete Edition and Dark Souls III: Fire Fades Edition are equal partners in this department. The only downside of The Surge? The camera tracking can seemingly become rather problematic for those wishing to play the game. There are odd moments when the camera will turn on you, leaving you stuck in an unknown position and leaving players to die due to poor angling.
But between graphics, performance, and animations; how does audio hold up? After all, something somewhere has to suffer, right?
The Sounds of a Robot Induced Apocalypse
Despite the graphics being some of the best there is in a Souls-esque game, we’ve come to know that audio is of utmost importance. Subtle sounds such as metal dragging on metal, once-human-turned-zombie-like cyborgs can be heard bashing their heads into the walls, sending a resonating pound of metal upon skull throughout the world about them. Often times it’s not uncommon to hear the subtle hiss of a floating drone near by as it awaits to ambush Warren.
Sometimes that subtle hiss can be quite misleading to a player whom approaches each labyrinthine like complex with caution. Sometimes it truly is just a hissing pipe, one leaking steam of corrosive radiation into the atmosphere about the, but don’t mistake the sound of slow footsteps or heavy breathing. These small tells are ultimately a sign of an upcoming battle and could ultimately be three or four enemies in wait.
But what’s more impressive is the fact the audio never seemingly off. The clashing of metal while in combat sounds just as magnificent as one might expect. Even in the games opening seconds, we were introduced to just how good the audio can get when Warren undergoes his procedure that sees his CREO implants come to life.
The drills, the bolts and even the tearing of his flesh as the screws were put into place. But even more notable is the subtle score that plays every time you enter a safe zone (you can check out the official music video below).
Despite the games astounding use of ambient noises ranging from the subtle clinging of chains, metal grinding and wind howling against the labyrinthine corridors, the game absolutely sounds superb and it doesn’t change except for a minor bug we’ve come across that some may have experienced as well.
During our time in the DLC A Walk in the Park, there are minor audio-based cutouts, ones that can come intermittently depending on where the player is located and what they are doing. Even while in the park, aside from the cutouts, the games audio remains top-notch and does not fail to deliver. However, that doesn’t go without stating that the audio cut-outs don’t stray from being momentarily obnoxious and irritating to those attempting to survive.
But how does the game handle or play?
Guiding Warren Through the Cyberpunk Inspired Dystopia and Combat
When trying to survive the robotic apocalypse in a dystopian future triggered by an unknown surge that caused CREO’s robots to lose their not-so-metaphorical minds. Combat is the key to this game and its what drives the games ebb and flow. The newest touch to the Souls-inspired mechanics is the ability to choose specified body parts based on if they are weak points or not.
As you alternate between the parts that you can select, which allows player to gain specific crafting materials and even armor pieces or weapons. While this approach to combat is specifically tailored to be used with The Surge, there is a lot to openly appreciate with the game and even more to appreciate in a rather young genre of its own.
While combat does offer this approach, there is something notable about it, which does end up being a game changer for some enemies. While parts can be highlighted, some enemies actually change their approach to combat and even grow a bit more aggressive as they are injured. One such moment just happens to be on one of the games select few bosses, which are few far and between. But it doesn’t take away that some of the minor enemies adopt this manner as well.
One such enemy just happens to be the second boss in, a smelter type machine that hovers about the decontamination zone with its rotor like feet, which it flails about in an attempt to injure players as it moves about. As it is damaged, its attacks grow more vicious and unrelenting in its attempts to take players out. This even shows off more-so on some of the games other foes that you will encounter.
Some will grow more hostile, altering attacks to better suit the situation. One such enemy that’s base once it loses its arm attacks at closer rates, dodging in and out of combat with its heavy attacks. While this does sound a bit overwhelming, it adds a nice change of pace and ensures that not ever one encounter is the same.
Even with that said, how does the game appeal overall? Is the duration worth it or is it a merely a lost cause?
The Surge: Complete Edition – PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: Now Available
Cost: Base Game: $39.99 | Complete Edition: $59.99 | DLC: $14.99
Lastly. Lets Discuss Duration and Replay Value
Like most games of the Souls style, it’s hard not to contemplate several factors: Replayibility, duration, and if the New Game+ has anything to offer. Luckily for us, all three factors do work in The Surge‘s favor. It’s a game with plenty of replay value thanks to farmable equipment, weapon, armor, and rig upgrades, as well as upgrades to Warren himself through implants.
The only downside to all of this? New enemy types are rare. Most enemies feel as if they were copy and pasted throughout each zone, offering little to no variation aside for missing parts of their armor. While these minor annoyances can easily be fixed in the long run, it does leave a little bit to be desired for when it comes to such an absolutely gorgeous game.
Luckily, even though the core game runs 20-30 hours depending on your want to search up and down every nook and cranny, The Surge is absolutely enjoyable through its initial playthrough. With the recent A Walk in the Park expansion released, fans have a lot to look forward to whether it’s finding recordings of those whom perished in the surge itself, the game leaves a lot to explore throughout its duration.
For completionists who want to find every piece of armor, every weapon, and collectible in the game – you have your work cut out for you – this method could see your time with the game exceed the 30+ hour mark and easily encroach on 3-40 or more. Add in the expansion and you could easily be looking at 50-60 hours of gameplay.
New Game+ even offers more to it for those who want to take on greater challenges in a game that is absolutely built to kill. If you can do so, then The Surge: Complete Edition has a lot to offer you and will leave you satisfied for days on end.
A game that just somehow may go under your radar and even underappreciated as we approach 2018. If you haven’t checked into The Surge: Complete Edition, I highly suggest you do and hope you have as much fun as I did with Deck13’s quite astoundingly well done unofficial Dark Souls successor.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the games publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.