I have been intrigued by Deck13’s The Surge ever since it was revealed. It seemed like a very interesting sci-fi romp through an all-but-abandoned robotic facility with Dark Souls-esque gameplay. The combat has a unique focus on attacking specific limbs during combat in order to garner upgrades for themselves.
I was very eager to get my hands on it and find out how it feels to play. After completing this preview build, I can say that The Surge adds a very interesting twist to the mechanics first heralded in Demon’s Souls, and seems like it will hopefully please fans of that style of game.
I was informed by the developers that the preview starts shortly after the opening section of the game. It beings with our main character, Warren, being disassembled from his exo-suit by a robot while unconscious. After coming to, he frees himself from the machine, and the game smoothly transitioned into gameplay as I took on my first robot. I killed it as it said “You have been designated for disassembly.”
At the start, I could only attack with a basic weapon attached to my exo-suit with both a heavy and a light attack. These can be strung into combos, but each attack was still mostly slow and methodical like many Souls-likes titles.
Finally, I came across a CREO facility (the overarching corporation that controls the facility) that also functions as a medbay. I restarted the ExoOS (the OS you use to modify your suit ingame) there, but couldn’t use anything because my core was corrupt. A lady then popped up as a hologram, and told me I had to restore power to a train so I could go and meet her in a factory and see what is going on. The voice acting was comparatively pretty average, but there was not much dialogue in what I played.
I proceeded to go out a different door than I came in and ran into my first humanoid enemy, a seemingly zombified former CREO worker, also in an exo-suit. This is where the most unique part of The Surge’s gameplay is introduced and actively builds on the Souls formula. Players can target specific limbs of the humanoid enemies that they are fighting. Parts of the enemy that are more vulnerable than others shine, and players can strike those for extra damage.
That being said, players can also combo a specific limb and perform a finisher that kills the enemy and detaches part of their exo-suit from them. Warren can collect these parts, and equip them to parts of his body and unlock the ability to craft them. This element of gameplay is very unique, and added another unexpected but appreciated layer of strategy over the already methodical gameplay.
My only big gripe with The Surge is that both the “switch locked-on enemy” and “switch limbs” functions are mapped to the right control stick on the controller, as is the camera when you aren’t locked onto something. As you can imagine, it was sometimes hard to get the game to do exactly what I wanted it do, although this can be easily remedied by mapping the “switch enemies functions” to another unused button.
Players also have the ability to quickly dodge and block, which are useful to avoid taking damage. And trust me, you will need these abilities because The Surge can be very hard at times. Luckily the first few enemies weren’t that tough, and this helped me get used to the controls gradually.
After annihilating the first creature I defeated another one and took his core, replacing my faulty one. I returned to the safe area, and was able to use the medbay and crafting station.
When players kill or destroy an enemy in The Surge, they garner a bit of tech scrap, which functions like souls do in the Souls games. If a player dies, they drop the tech scrap they are currently holding, and have a limited amount of time to pick it back up. That same tech scrap can be used at the medbay to level up a player’s core power.
In addition to acting like a leveling system, every implant and piece of equipment takes up a certain amount of core power. The higher your core power is, the more equipment and implants Warren can deck himself out with. This creates a neat risk-reward system, as one can opt to use the scrap on something else, like crafting a better item, at the cost of possibly not being able to equip as much or use as many implants, which can help in tougher battles.
The aforementioned implants have special functions, such as giving the player tips about things displayed in the environment, restoring some health, or displaying enemy health. Meanwhile, the player can construct Warren’s exoskeleton down to each different limb with exo-suit pieces ripped from other enemies, all of which have their own stats advantages and disadvantages. Players can keep the model of all of the limbs the same, but are welcome to mix and match them to however they see fit.
Players can also find schematics while exploring, which can be brought to the crafting station and, with the help of some tech scrap and other items scattered across the environment, constructed into either parts of an exo-suit or weapons for Warren to wield. Players can also use those items and scrap they found to upgrade their current arsenal of equipment and weapons.
Warren’s core power also allows him to interact with certain consoles around the CREO facility. If his core power matches or is above the number displayed on the console, it opens up new areas and shortcuts for him to explore. The Core Power functionality makes the game very customizable, so every player can augment their Warren to fit their needs.
After I finished decking out Warren with my preferred exoskeleton and implants, I proceeded towards the train station. This brought me through a factory where I dismantled more enemies as I fought through them, dying a few times. I was able to make my way through and opened a door that formed a shortcut leading back to the medbay. After this, I reached an area where the ground was covered in a thick poisonous fog, so I stayed elevated and made my way through to the train station.
When I got there, I noticed that the power for the area was turned off, and descended into the sewers beneath it to reactivate the energy. The power switch was blockaded by an extremely tough opponent that attacked more aggressively than any enemy before it, but I bested him on my first try and overcharged the switch with my Core Power, re-activating it. I ascended and walked outside, ready to go back to the train when all of a sudden, a giant robot called P.A.X., not unlike the one featured image, activated and attacked Warren.
I frivolously attacked its legs, but the damage I was doing was minute, and barely chipping away at its health. I quickly died as its giant foot descended down on me.
Angered by my defeat, I went back and took it on again, and I died once more — this time avoiding his foot. And again. And again. Finally, knowing that I wasn’t strong enough to take on this enemy, I went around and ground a bit on tech scrap so I could improve my core power and upgrade my gear. Luckily the game’s limb targeting system kept each encounter fresh, which prevented combat from ever getting boring for me.
I finally was able to stand a chance against the boss, and started doing more visible damage to it. I found that it was too risky to take the machine head on, so I attempted to get behind P.A.X. before I attacked it. Eventually, P.A.X. tried shooting missiles, but I was able to dodge them and got them to hit the robot, leaving it open to attacks that do greater damage. Finally, after a few more tries, I was finally able to fell the giant robot, and the preview build concluded.
The Surge differentiates from other hardcore RPG titles like Dark Souls and even Deck13’s own Lords of the Fallen with its unique sci-fi setting and limb-targeting gameplay. Targeting my enemies limbs and chopping them off in brutal fashion to acquire new pieces for Warren’s exo-suit stayed varied and fun, and most of my hesitations about the gameplay were wiped away once I got it in my hands.
While the overuse of the right control stick did make targeting harder than it needed to be sometimes, and the poor voice acting from the small sample I heard has me worried for the The Surge’s overall characters and story, I still had lots of fun with it, and can’t wait to uncover the mysteries of CREO’s facility even further.
The Surge is coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One May 16. DualShockers recently interview Jan Klose, Managing Director at Deck13, about The Surge’s mechanics and possible PS4 Pro, Project Scorpio, and Nintendo Switch support, which you can read here.