Now I am not your average gamer, not because I play so many games a year, but because I am a bit of a masochist when it comes to playing games. I love my games hard, like old school 80’s Battletoads hard.
So when Demon Souls broke onto the scene in 2009, it forever changed the landscape of modern day torture games.
It was hard in a way we had not seen since Ninja Gaiden, and it was unforgiving in all aspects.
This started a whole new genre of games that we now refer to as Souls-like, from Dark Souls, to Bloodborne to Nioh, and now The Surge. They all clamor to be the most perilous of games in a attempt to get gamers of the world over to buy new controllers, as they have thrown theirs across the room after their 3000th death.
The Surge sets forth to somewhat streamline the whole genre a bit and in some ways this is good and others bad.
What it offers is very much like all other Souls’like games, if you die with a pile of “tech” on you, you need to make it back to your body to collect you “souls” and if you die in the process, they are lost forever.
One thing they do that is new to the genre, is place a time on this, which adds a real pressure to the mix, you could run like hell in hopes of making it to your body, but with each kill you get on the way, you add more time to the forever present countdown.
This keeps you constantly on edge, the combat is tough, and each encounter could mean certain death, but those extra 15 seconds could mean you save that pile of tech you need to level up.
This new timed balance comes at a cost though, unlike the Souls games, there is no online component at all, no one invading you game to hand you your ass, or no saviors to help you out.
Another strong move in the right direction is the equipment progression and acquisition.
You do not just find weapons and armor, instead all of it comes from felled enemies, BUT, the catch is you have to cut off the stuff you want. So if you find a new enemy, chances are they are sporting a new armor type, you need to target their head for a drop of a helmet schematic, or arms, body and leg armor.
Additionally the weapons work the same way, facing off against an enemy with a staff, cut off their dominant arm for a chance to get that staff blueprint for yourself.
Once you have the schematics in hand, when you are in your med bay (re: campfire) then you can use your tech to do a few things, update you base level, or spend that tech on making and upgrading your equipment.
There are 5 levels to each armor set and weapon set, and they take more and more to upgrade, not just in base tech, but also in collected machine parts, so you will need X number of lenses to update the helmet optics, etc.
On top off all of this, you also have mods that can be added to your suit, that will range in their abilities.
From being able to heal yourself (a must by the way) to reducing damage, or boosting damage of certain types and elements.
These mods open skills, so when you hit the L1 button you will activate that skill, be it healing or whatnot.
These mod slots come at a premium though, they use up your core power. Every time you level up, your core power increased, so a basic healing mod may cost 1 power point (PP) but an advance heal, or regen may cost you 5pp. So it is all about balance, and the game ensures you never get overpowered this way.
You can pick and choose what mods to use when in a med bay, so properly gearing up for each boss fight is a must, it is imperative to your success. Running in without proper mods is a recipe for certain death.
So the game does a lot to turn this old stale genre on it head, but there area few issues unfortunately.
One major difference is there is zero online aspect to The Surge, no “invading” of world, or conversely, helping others in need, like all the other Souls games do. This makes for a rather lonely trek and also offers no reprieve from the difficulty, where in Bloodborne, or Nioh, you could call forth to other players to help you win a particularly hard fight, The Surge is all just you against the machine.
Now this is a mixed bag, in terms of personal accomplishment, this is pretty cool. There is no one to help hold your hand, but on the other hand, after dying to a particular boss for the 100th time, it would be nice to have someone save your bacon and draw a little fire.
Another thing that make stand out for folks is the setting, thus far all the other Souls games have had a very old / gothic feel to them, The Surge is pure sci-fi all the way, a post apocalyptic earth sets the stage. While I found this to be a nice breath of fresh air, I can see how others may not enjoy it.
Lastly there is the visuals, this game looks incredible, when played on the PS4 Pro you get the addition of 4k/hdr, which dramatically improves the ambient lighting and increases the color pallet.
The finest of details in the machine you fight stand out and almost feels alive.
Definitely one of the bstter looking HDR presentations on the PS4 to date.
All in all it was a solid game, and a welcome addition to the genre.
On a side note, it was just announced that the developer has The Surge 2 in the works set to release in 2019, with the story ending off where it did, this will be a welcomed sequel.
A solid 9/10 and a high recommendation for those who love Dark Souls and are looking for something a little different.