Lords of the Fallen received a fairly lukewarm reception when it was released in 2014. While it offered a “Souls-like” experience, complete with plenty of enormous bosses and tactical combat, its low difficulty level and lack of polish kept it shy of greatness. With developer Deck 13’s next action role-playing game, The Surge, players are getting a much different experience — one that blends science-fiction and Metroid-style progression with brutal exosuit combat.
Set in a future where global warming has all but destroyed Earth, protagonist Warren starts his first day at the disaster-management company CREO. After he is fitted with his own exosuit “something goes very wrong” and he wakes up with his fellow employees ready to kill him.
That’s already more direct storytelling than you’ll see in any Souls game, but The Surge is still very much about the action. Combat is stamina-based, but the basic flow is slightly different than other action RPGs. Direction-based attacks take the place of “light” and “heavy” attacks. Each fight becomes something of a dance as you not only pick whether to swing your weapon horizontally or vertically, but also where to hit your target.
Land enough hits on a specific body part and you can then execute a “finishing sequence.” These slow-motion attacks offer some brutal payoff, with heads flying through the air as blood covers the ground. Should you then take the severed head back to a crafting station, you can use its blueprint to make one for yourself.
Boss fights play out slightly differently. As you can see in the above gameplay video, you don’t initially do “real” damage to a boss, but instead raise its “threat analysis.” The Metal Gear-like walking tank we see here eventually starts firing a barrage of rockets at Warren, and by directing them back to the robot and crippling its legs, he can then do damage to its weak point.
The exosuit is being used for more than just combat, however. It’s also pivotal to exploration. In a nod to classic Metroidvania games, certain doors will be inaccessible until you’ve increased the suit’s “core power.” These doors can then be “overcharged” by hooking the suit into a building’s power grid — think of it like locked doors and out-of-order elevators in Dark Souls, but with your progression more directly tied to your own power.
It’s still far too early to tell if The Surge will offer compelling action and an interesting narrative, but we really like what Deck 13 and Focus Home Interactive have shown so far. The game is scheduled to launch next year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.