I’ve so far played a couple hours, up to the beginning of second area, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the game. (tl;dr at the bottom, this is a lot of words)
I’ve been a long time fan of the Souls series ever since my friend convinced me to get the Prepare To Die PC release of DS1. The Surge, given what I’d seen in the GB Quick Look and TB’s hour long look at the second level, it was pretty damn obvious that this was trying, and succeeding, to capture a lot of the Souls-like combat feel. Having played it, it definitely feels great. Hell, I’d argue that it feels better than Souls combat ever managed because there’s a level of depth here far deeper than Souls ever managed. I think a large part of why it feels like that is because The Surge is an action game first, and an RPG adventure second. Whether or not this was a conscious decision on Deck 13’s part, I would wager that one decision is what will guarantee The Surge’s success.
By the end of DS3, From and Miyazaki had a problem: what can we do to keep the formula fresh? And without an answer, they had to announce the end of the series. (Perhaps they have an answer and are working on pre-production on a new title, but there’s no word for now). Deck 13’s answer, as I said before it feels like they designed The Surge as an action game first, RPG second. They reason I say that is because everything about the game - the threadbare plot, relatively straightforward (but still awesome) visual design, a limited variety of pickups - all of it is geared towards modifying the combat. Most pickups are scraps that you can use to upgrade your armor, weapons, or core power (player level). Some are implants, split between injectables and hardwired - actives and passives - that provide you various advantages in a fight.
The Souls games, technically, did this as well. But the difference is that every item had to be lore-relevant, and a huge number of weapons are lore artifacts first, useful items second. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with having items play dual roles in that way, and it also bloats the number of items that need to be in the game since collecting these lore artifacts becomes a part of the experience. The Surge, due to its focused simplicity, can limit its variety to only what’s necessary to make combat more interesting. It’s likely because they avoided putting on all that fat in the first place that they can sell this game at $50 instead of the general AAA price of $60, but still have it feel like no less of a game.
But this also causes an inherent issue: what do you do about the people who want all that baggage? There are many who played the Souls games purely for that juicy lore-fat, who consume Vaati’s lore videos like medicine. Unfortunately, The Surge is a different game with a different focus. But I respect Deck 13 for it. They found a way to push this fledgling genre by branching out and trying new things with its base concepts.
That’s not to say that The Surge is perfect so far. The player character Warren, begins an intriguing character. He begins the game in a wheelchair as he rolls on into the Creo facility to get his exosuit, much like Jake Sully in Avatar. But he turns out to be a bunch of wet cardboard; not a single distinguishable personality trait. It doesn’t help that his voice actor puts out a pretty campy performance. Dialogue exists purely to deliver information to the characters and the player, and is utterly mundane in its own right. And as intriguing as the mystery of the situation is, it’s simply a skeleton upon which the meaty combat can be built.
The first boss is a rather awkward fight. Punching its legs only made an orange bar go up. Eventually it filled up but it felt like nothing happened. While I dodged around trying to figure out what to do, I took a bunch of missiles to the face and died. The second time is just kept punching its legs more and eventually it collapsed for a while so I punched it some more, but this time its health went down. A few more iterations of that and it died. The way into the boss fight was also a bit annoying because I died chasing a shortcut back to the medbay, and the only way back (except through a long series of dark, claustrophobic tunnels filled with baddies, was through a large, relatively empty outdoor area that turned out to be the boss room, but the boss didn’t trigger the first time because I turned something on in the room after that. So I got stuck fighting a boss I didn’t know was there and ended up losing 7.5k souls - I mean scrap. That’s a lot early on.
tl;dr: In my opinion The Surge is the perfect transition away from the core Souls series for those who want a fresh and more interesting version of Souls combat, but don’t expect the full Souls experience.
So what are your early experiences of the game? Ideally lets talk about early segments of the game and limit spoilers for now, assuming there’s anything to spoil. How does it feel as a Souls fan? How does it feel for those who are new to Souls-likes? Is its narrow combat focus a good or bad thing? Are exo-suits badass? (the answer to that last one is yes)