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The Surge: A Sci-Fi Dark Souls?

Gamescom footage shows off an exciting new direction for hardcore Action-RPGs

Deck13 Interactive has released a 15-minute Gamescom gameplay video for The Surge, their upcoming addition to the hardcore action-RPG genre.

Popular for their punishing and unique gameplay, hardcore A-RPGs have been dominated by FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series. Whilst many die-hard fans understandably laud Dark Souls for reviving the genre and maintaining supremacy, it’s nice to see that a handful of attempts have been made by other developers to break into the genre and provide some variety.

The Surge is the latest of these attempts -- swapping gothic, dark fantasy horror for futuristic dystopian sci-fi. Set in a future where global warming has devastated the planet and technology has made much of humanity obsolete and unemployed, society has begun to collapse and people are forced to take any work they can get using powerful exo-suits. After waking up from an accident on the first day of a new job at a CREO facility, you’re left to wander the area and fight for survival in this mysterious world.

In the new video we can see our protagonist -- Warren -- going toe to toe with unstable humans and hostile robots using a variety of futuristic mêlée weapons. The game’s core mechanics will be familiar to veterans of Dark Souls. They include combat against hard-hitting enemies, expending stamina to perform actions such as attacking and dodging, with an emphasis on timing and intelligent gameplay to avoid being made into mincemeat.

But along with these staples, Deck13 is pushing to innovate, boasting an interconnected Metroidvania-type world to explore and interact with. Thanks to your exo-suit, you’ll also have the power to slide and boost across the ground, allowing for dynamic movement to exploit those ever-important windows of opportunity to damage the enemy. This will still consume stamina of course, meaning you won’t be able to just boost into or out of any sticky situation -- so it maintains the need for thoughtful stamina management.

Instead of having light and heavy attacks, The Surge favors horizontal or vertical swings and will allow you to target individual limbs to cripple the opponent with visceral finishing moves. On top of this, the gameplay shows an interesting gear crafting system, involving upgrading your attributes and collecting scraps from defeated opponents to build new weapons and exo-suit add-ons at hubs called Operation Centers.

Deck13 has prior experience with hardcore A-RPGs, having released Lords of the Fallen in 2014. Whilst some criticized the game for being a Dark Souls clone, Lords of the Fallen worked hard to introduce new features, story and settings to shake up the formula and deliver an experience that, whilst heavily derivative of Dark Souls, was still fresh and satisfying.

All of this suggests that Deck13 is working hard to break out of the behemoth shadow of FromSoftware. The sci-fi setting in the video creates a completely different atmosphere to previous entries (we see some actual sun!) and champions diversification for what has historically been a very niche style. Full of Elysium-style exo-suits and futuristic technology, The Surge could be a clever move for Deck13 to capture a new audience of players who haven’t yet been attracted to the offerings of the Souls series.

That said this is not a game for kids. Decapitation, dismemberment and buckets of blood ensure that, along with punishing gameplay, The Surge shows the potential to live up to the genre that inspires it and break free of the “Dark Souls clone” curse. We’ll just have to wait and see whether Deck13 learns from its missteps in Lords of the Fallen to deliver on this potential.

The Surge is slated for a 2017 release and will come to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Are you looking forward to this change of setting and tone or do you prefer your hardcore Action-RPGs dark and Gothic? Let us know in the comments below!

Published Aug. 19th 2016

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