I dunno. A little paint, some flowers, a couple of throw pillows...

Short Cuts: The Surge

PC, Consoles •

The Surge is out, and by a piston’s hiss, is it grand.

For good or ill, Deck13‘s futuristic brawler will be known as ‘that robot Dark Souls‘, and if it helps cut to the chase, then I’m all for it. FROM Software’s punitive dark fantasy has laid the groundwork for what has now been coined Soulslike, a tidy riff on the descendants and pretenders to Rogue. Soulslike it is.

Industrial body horror Soulslike, even better.

Let me preface this short running commentary by saying I’ve not played more than a few hours of Dark Souls. Acknowledging its artistry, its rigidity and rules, I came, saw and was conquered. Those days of clouting kobolds in Die By The Sword paid for all but naught; if Die By The Sword was a dog-off leash enclosure, Dark Souls was the bear pit.

But The Surge? Trade the halberd for hydraulics and you’ve got a deal.

We can rebuild him. We have the technology.

Techno-utopian CREO steps in for Tyrell Corporation by way of Boston Dynamics in The Surge, and our protagonist Warren seeks out a slice of the company’s science to boost his chances of employment. Things obviously go rather awry.

You wake amnesic on the outskirts of the corporate facility, an indeterminate length of time later. Could be weeks, months, hell…even years. The place is a wreck. The once-proud company rocket program lies in ruins; fins, boosters and frames channeling Warren through the introductory sequence of combat familiarisation against drones of negligible threat.

The section thereafter, though? That’s been sizzling on my brainpan in a way not felt since traipsing out of Sidorovich’s bunker in STALKER.

Human enemies in The Surge, if you can call them that, are unsettling creations. Like you, they’re augmented with power-suits. Think the combat jackets from Edge of Tomorrow, or Matt Damon’s get-up in Elysium. An initial frame of anchors and powerpacks grafted into flesh and bone, upon which to hang all manner of mechanica. It’s grotesque and gorgeous in equal measure. And while our Warren still has it somewhat together, these poor saps are long gone.

To be fair, this world looks terrible enough that dying doesn’t seem so bad.

But at the same time, they’re not. They’re semi-conscious shamblers, cocooned in a webwork of industrial hardware. Collisions of plating and piledrivers, pneumatics and broken circuits. These former workers aren’t Stroggian drones, just trapped. Looped in primordial brain function that has just enough cognition to see you as a threat, offer up a tortured scream and come in swinging.

I find the whole thing deliciously unnerving. No mean feat, given how accustomed to trope and triviality we’ve all become in gaming. For opponents that would otherwise be dial-a-zombie droogs, Deck13’s delivery here is pitch-goddamn-perfect. I’m apprehensive when clanking deeper into the facility, knowing that these unfortunates have my number.

I’m not yet far enough into the game to really comment with any authority on the combat mechanics. I’m no Soulslike serviceman with a thousand-yard stare. And this is no review. I just had to tip the hat to The Surge’s techno-nightmare ambience so far. It might be my gateway to enjoying the aristocracy of its inspiration, so while the aloof, leathery veterans of Boletaria and Yharnam might be a bit seen-this-done-that-bought-the-T-shirt, I’m just chuffed I’m finally getting to wear one.

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!

Back to being brained in the bowels of a rocket assembly hangar.

The Surge is out now on PC, Xbox One and PS4.

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Notable Replies

  1. As a Souls veteran I’m a little bit wary of imitators, and the Eurogamer review certainly didn’t sell me on it, but I’m kiiind of interested despite that.

    Plus it reminds me of Get Your War On.

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