Deck13 Interactive's The Surge is a brutally punishing sci-fi action RPG, very similar in difficulty to the Soulsborne games. You play as Warren, a man, paralysed from the waist down, looking to join CREO - a company that deals in fancy new exo-skeletons that will restore his ability to walk. After entering the facility, you must select a suit based on your preferences for playing the game, before a cutscene shows how the suit is wired into your body. It's pretty grim to watch as the anaesthetic doesn't fully kick in and your character is awake throughout the agonising, torturous process.
There are two suit types you can choose from, the Lynx suit which is more agile and easier to dodge enemies with (but has a decreased health bar) or the Rhino suit with its increased health, but slower, clunkier movements. I plumped for the Rhino, as I figured that more health would work out best for me in the long run, but the reduced movement speed definitely impacted my play, as response times just didn't quite line up the way I'd hoped.
The difficulty is crazy from the get-go. Both myself and Allan struggled at first to get used to the controls, along with learning how to time attacks and dodges from the various enemies that can do you some serious damage if you're not prepared. Enemies vary from small drones that aren't too much hassle, to large spinning cranes that will completely destroy you before you even have a chance to react.
Level design is somewhere between boring and clever, with samey looking levels looping back round ad infinitum to the Medbays. It can become quite hard to navigate some areas of the map based on how similar everything looks, and with no map on the HUD to guide you, it can be super easy to end up wandering through the same area multiple times. Similar to Dark Souls with its bonfires; medbays totally refresh the area bringing defeated enemies back to life, meaning you have to make the decision of whether working your way back to replenish your health is going to be worth it, or if you should just push on in the hopes of another medbay appearing ahead. Medbays have multiples routes to get to, allowing shortcuts to form from later stages of the map to gain you access again without having to make your way through large numbers of enemies each time. We both definitely appreciated this approach, however the medbays (and the shortcuts) always seemed just a tad too far apart, increasing the punishing aspect of the game.
The most recent expansion: The Good, The Bad and The Augmented, adds a short Wild West themed section that can be accessed early on in the game if playing New Game Plus, or slightly later if still on your first playthrough. As well as this, it adds lots more weapons, armour and implants for you to utilise. It ditches the open world aspect of the core game, and instead is done in a more episodic style, with stages unlocking in threes (to a total of nine) as you progress through the story of the main game. To complete each one, you must survive throughout two stages before you come up against the boss. There's not a whole lot of difficulty to these once you've got the hang of playing the main game, but having to stay alive through the two mini-levels before the main boss can prove frustrating, as you can easily fail through stupid, simple mistakes - not unlike in the core game! Each episode can also be done with modifiers, such as faster movement, or switching health re-generation off entirely - this can add a little bit more challenge to the play, but when you're already struggling (like we were!), this is something you'll likely avoid, ha.
If you are fortunate enough to have some Lucky Coins, which are found within the levels preceding the boss, when you die - then you will be given the opportunity to retry the boss battle (saving you the hassle of slogging through the two prior stages again). As much as we liked the Wild West theme, there just wasn't enough going on with this DLC to keep us interested, and the repeated deaths between this and the core game just had us a bit fed up by the end. If you're a glutton for punishment though, and love Soulsborne style games, then you'll probably find far more enjoyment in The Surge (and its expansions) than we have. Objectively, it's still a worthwhile add-on for fans of the genre (and particularly those who enjoyed The Surge, itself), just not one that we were all that enamoured with.
In the end, we decided to give The Surge: The Good, The Bad and the Augmented a Collecting Asylum score of 5.5/10, with the main game gaining an extra half-point (giving it a 6/10). As I've mentioned, we can see the reasons why people will enjoy the game, it just wasn't one that we wanted to go back to often due to its highly frustrating difficulty, but if that's your thing - then you'll definitely enjoy it more than we did.
Have you played The Surge, or its DLC expansions?
What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!
- V x