The Surge is an action-rpg from Deck 13 and Published by Focus Home Interactive, with the average Lords of the Fallen under their belt, could The Surge be a brutal step forward.

Set in a dystopian future, the Earth is on it’s last legs, and protagonist Warren has enrolled to join project resolve from a company called Creo who promise a new future and an improved life.

After a short but informative introduction, you take control of Warren and select your position within Creo, A quick and agile field technician or the slow and powerful brute, many will have their preference, but each has it’s drawbacks as the you’ll regularly wish you had the strength of the brute and the speed of the technician.  Once strapped into the chair Warren suddenly realises it’s not quite as peaceful and professional as he’d anticipated and before you know it you’re being marked for disposal and the quest for survival and answers begin.

Initially it’s pretty slow, and the RPG side is kept to a minimum, you’re slowly introduced to combat, and while the directed attacks can take a little getting used to, it’s an effective way of pinpointing damage to neutralise enemies, weaknesses are clearly shown in blue, so with a little attention you’ll make short work of these early enemies.

Later on things certainly get more difficult… You may have heard of Dark Souls, the behemoth franchise that’s well know for being incredibly tough and unforgiving, the sort of challenge many gamers cry out for.  While there’s some differences, it’s fair to say The Surge has borrowed more than a few ideas and so it is going to appeal to fans of Dark Souls, as well as Lords of the Fallen.

After a few hours of gameplay, you’ll be well on your way to powering up your rig’s core power and enhancing it with implants, ranging from the highly annoying item detecting proximity sensor, to the more useful implants such as health, damage and HUD enhancements. Along with weapons and gear for the head, body and limbs, there’s plenty of options for upgrading your character even if visual customisation isn’t up to the same standard.   Stat’s are kept easy to view without being too simple, and while it’s easy to overlook them in the opening hours it’s well worth your time getting more familiar with what’s available once you start picking up more implants and better weapons.

Racking up XP is the biggest quest and this is where the grind comes in, take down a group of enemies and you’ll gain a bundle of XP and tech, keep killing and the multiplier increases giving you greater reward for staying alive and risking life against yet another challenge.  Dying reset’s the multiplier and also gives you a limited time to pick up your dropped loot before it’s gone forever.  This gives a great feeling of achievement every time you bank your earned tech scrap, however it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost out when you then go on to take down another half a dozen enemies, enemy encounters are varied enough that you never know, scrape through one battle and banking will seem a waste as the difficulty eases off just a little, but next time you’ll scrape through by some miracle and not banking might be a big mistake as you move on to a near impossible challenge that will only ever end in death on your first few attempts.

While grinding out your upgrades, you’ll find occasional pick-ups giving a little back story, and narration often weaves a little story into long space filling rants about the quality of life, but it’s not until the second half of the game when the story really starts to take centre stage.

One thing that’s a pleasure after the occasionally glitchy Lords of the Fallen is the graphical showing, the dystopian setting might seem familiar on the back of titles like Fallout, however for the really hardcore action-rpg’s it’s nice to see more of a sci-fi setting than the usual fantasy worlds.   It mostly looks very good with some great scenes, and while many areas feel familiar the lighting does a great job of providing an isolated atmosphere.

The default settings for the camera sensitivity felt way too high, and reducing them down to about 10-15% felt much more comfortable, beside this some would complain of some below par facial animations and a fairly limited selection of enemies, but you can’t pick fault considering the size of the game, and the overall quality. Another issue is collision detection, aiming at the left leg when you’re stood to the right is never an issue, and don’t be surprised when you’re attacked even if there’s an obstacle between the enemy and your spine, but these are easily forgiven and once you get used to the shortcomings there’s nothing that I’d point out as a major flaw.

Audio is another pretty strong showing, narration is loud and clear, enemies are well represented and there’s enough atmospherics to make the surrounding areas feel as desolate and uninviting as you’d hope for. As with the graphics it’s not quite perfect, the music can often feel a little out of place, merging isolation with hardcore death and action just doesn’t always work, but there’s always something in your ears even if it might not sound that important.

Character voices are well done, and voice acting is of a fairly high standard, even if the script at times feels a little fleshed out.  Maybe a little more backstory in the first five or ten hours would make it feel like a little less of a grind and more of an experience.

Once again it’s nothing you could really label as a major issue, but it’s these small details that leave The Surge in the shadow of Dark Souls.

It’s fair to say that it’s still a big improvement over Lords of the Fallen, and LotF built up good fanbase who will be more than happy with the way the Surge feels, plays and presents itself.  However anyone who’s a hardcore Dark Souls player and wasn’t keen on LotF, they might be best to wait before jumping into the Surge.

There’s certainly plenty to appreciate, and as a critic I’m obliged to point out negative features, but I’m quite happy to say that nothing really damages the game, you’ll sometimes feel underwhelmed, some will wish it was more Dark Souls than Lords of the Fallen, but no matter which camp you come from, you’ll find a brutal hardcore action-rpg that’s as tough to get through as you could wish for.

The story will last anything from 25 up to about 40 hours, depending how well you manage your loot and experience, keep a good multiplier running and you might get a good portion through the game before you even realise the grind, and once you’re past half way, there’s far more story content to keep you going through and caring about the world and indeed our protagonist Warren.

So should you buy The Surge?  Those unfamiliar with the ‘hardcore’ aspect of action RPG’s might do better looking to Dark Souls for their first unforgiving experience, however anyone familiar with the style, and all those who are fans of either Lords of the Fallen or the Sci-Fi setting will find themselves a deep and rewarding game which outweighs it’s own shortcomings.