E3 2016: The Surge Has Less Citrus Than Other Things with the Same Name

Right up front, it should be said that originality is not always the hallmark of the best product. Duct taping a pack of six month old hot dogs to a baby might be unique, but it wouldn’t be appreciated. So, it’s alright to take heavy inspiration from a contemporary. Deck13 believes this and showed as much with Lords of the Fallen. That game took a massive amount of elements from the Dark Souls series, added an unambiguous story, and a much appreciated risk/reward structure for banking experience points, and released it to the wild. The results were mixed critically, but lauded among many gamers. It did well enough to warrant a “Complete Edition” type release.

So, having cut their teeth on Lord of the Fallen, Deck 13 is ready to move on to something a tad different with The Surge. Having little to do with the ’90s era soft drink, the upcoming title can be reductively referred to as Dark Souls in the future. It’s a bit more than that, though.

In The Surge, the player takes control of a simple man wearing a simple exo-suit who shows up for work at a construction site. He must have been late, as his coworkers seem upset with him, attempting to take chunks out of his hide with their on-board construction equipment.

The Surge 1
The combat itself will look immediately familiar to gamers who have played Dark/Demon Souls or Lords of the Fallen. A tad slower paced and more deliberate, footwork and proper dodging, blocking, or parrying are just as important to winning a battle as swinging the weapon. The most efficient way to defeat power loader clad coworkers and the construction bots shown is to force, and capitalize on, mistakes.

What’s new here is the ability to target specific limbs. This function has two practical purposes beyond being fun. It’s great for removing a particularly devastating weapon from the enemy. During the demonstration, our hero was contending with a foe wielding a rather effective ax type weapon. Removing it evened the odds. Dismemberment can also be used to snag desired equipment from the enemy. The dev tried to demonstrate this by pointing out a helmet on an enemy.

“Let’s say we want that helmet,” he says. He targets the head, and proceeds to swing away. *Crack* “Oh. Whoops.” And the opportunity to gain the helmet is gone. He got a bit over eager, and lost his chance for that equipment. While it was a mistake, it was a welcome one as it proved that skill would still be needed, as targeting isn’t the “instantly get the best stuff” button.

The Surge 2
The other really cool thing about this title is the exo-suit itself. Allowing the protagonist to function much like a toy from the old ’80s series Centurions, the pieces of armor and weapons click into place where they belong. This neo-futuristic conceit somehow manages to evoke a retro-future style, feeling fresh, and gives the impression of playing with the action figures of yore, except in a situation where the hero is probably going to die often.

Having enjoyed the roguelike style of game that I have dubbed “soulcrushers” (at least until a better writer than I coins a term), Bloodborne, Dark Souls and Lords of the Fallen have provided me with hours of entertainment. With the deluge, though, one can’t help to desire a change of setting from the dark fantasy/horror tropes for which that the subgenre is known. The Surge looks to scratch that itch with aplomb using a power loader arm, all while beating up a giant, malfunctioning robot. The parts will all click into place when it releases next year for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.