Dark Souls and FromSoftware have a lot to answer for. While it is true that they have completely redefined what an action RPG can be, and have mastered the craft with the release of Elden Ring, a lot of competitors have clearly looked at the formula that they came up with and thought to themselves “I can do that!”. 

One of the main culprits for this is Deck13, who not only brought out Lords of the Fallen, an almost exact copy of Dark Souls, but then transplanted the format into the future and gave us The Surge. Yes, it has been five long years since The Surge burst onto our consoles, and so I feel the time is ripe for a little retrospective. So come to a dystopian future (seriously, why is there never a future where everyone just gets along?) and let’s check it out. 

the surge 1

Now, a bit of story in case you’ve forgotten, or have blanked it out of your memory. We are a wheelchair user at the start of the narrative, and we have gone to a company called CREO, a mega corporation that seems to have a stated aim to save the world – from what, is not made clear. However, what they can do is give us an exo-skeleton machine that will not only let us walk again, but allows us to gain meaningful employment and earn some money. Well, that’s the plan at least, but of course things do not go according to plan. 

Suffice it to say that while you were unconscious, events have occurred that seem to have driven every other A.I. system insane, and also the other wearers of exo-skeletons appear to have mislaid their marbles at the same time. So, in a world where everything is trying to kill you, what is a new employee to do, except try to “Kill them Back”, in the words of Variks?

What this leads to is a classic kind of Dark Souls setup. You don’t really know what’s happening, except things are trying to kill you, and in order to find out why and what is going on, you can find not only logs and narrative scattered around the world, but also “friendly” NPCs to interact with. These guys may or may not give you little side missions to carry out for them. 

So far, so Dark Souls right? Well, the comparisons keep coming, as the areas that you have to explore are large, with no set route through. Various shortcuts can be found and activated in order to make your progress back to where you inevitably died a little bit easier. Oh, and the place that you have to go to in order to spend the scrap that you collect from killing enemies? It’s not a bonfire, but it might as well be, as resting brings back all the enemies that you had previously defeated. Feeling the deja vu yet? When you die, you drop the scrap you are carrying, but if you make it back in time, you can recover it. However, there is a timer attached to, which does add to the jeopardy somewhat. When you drop the stuff at the far end of the world and have a gang of baddies between you and it, the chances of getting it back is somewhat slim. Maybe just write it off, eh?

the surge 2

Combat is where these games live and die, if you’ll pardon the pun, and in The Surge at least there was some innovation. If you want to get new gear you would have to kill an enemy and hope that the item that you wanted dropped from their dismembered corpse. However, in The Surge, you can choose which body part to target, and if you are successful in performing an execution move at the end of the fight, you will end up with the schematics for the body part you just severed. This can then be made at the save point and glued onto your exoskeleton, allowing you to mix and match different armour sets if you so wish. The same goes for weapons, arms, legs and heads, and the game becomes fantastically gory and exciting as you try to sever a part of a boss, all so you can then wield their weapon to use in the next section. 

This system worked really well, and I soon had a nifty collection of different suits, ranging from the lightweight, which were fast but squishy, to the heavy Rhino suit, which was the exact opposite. Matching these to a suitable weapon, whether a giant hammer style lump of concrete or twin blades again allows you to pretty much play the way that you wanted. All in all, the combat in The Surge was a definite highlight, and while I never got the hang of jumping or ducking under attacks, learning enemy attack patterns is always worthwhile,

In the life cycle of the game, there were a couple of DLC packs released, which added to the experience. These were three little weapon packs, which were by and large free, and then two bigger packs – A Walk in the Park and The Good, the Bad and the Augmented

the surge 3

A Walk in the Park was an interesting diversion, where we had to travel to a theme park, CREO World, and explore to find out what was going on. This was largely remarkable for the gang of mascots that were wandering about the park, and the ability to dress up as a giant mouse was great fun. Add in more weapons and exoskeleton bits to find and this was a fun diversion for a while. 

The second main pack, The Good, the Bad and the Augmented was a western styled arena type expansion, where we were brought in to help test some scenario or other in order to help a mysterious scientist. How can we help him? Why, by fighting through waves of enemies and killing all comers, of course! In addition to new weapons and gear, as you’d expect, this DLC also brought with it a modifier system, where you can make the fights in the arenas as hard or as easy as you wish. All in all, again, a nice little diversion if you wanted a break from the main story. 

So, these are my memories of playing The Surge on Xbox, back in the day. The combat was great, the setting worked, and all in all I had a blast, both with this title and its follow up, the imaginatively named The Surge 2. But what about you guys out there in Readerland? Did you play these games, or do you prefer your Dark Souls a little more pure? Let us know in the comments!

The Surge is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5 and PC. Grab the Xbox version from the Xbox Store.

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