The Surge - A Walk in the Park Review

By Kevin Tavore, 10 days ago
The Surge released earlier this year as Deck13’s take on a sci-fi Dark Souls. It had everything we’ve come to expect from a Souls-like game: tough as nails enemies, resources lost on death, a linear open-world with shortcuts baked in, and a story you’d uncover primarily through side content. It even had its own unique mechanic centered around attacking specific body parts. Coming from their previous game Lords of the Fallen, The Surge was an improvement in almost every way and earned a solid four stars in our official review, but it wasn’t perfect. The game was plagued by a lack of enemy variety and a paltry number of bosses compared to the Souls series. With a theme park setting, “A Walk in the Park” had potential to be just what the doctor ordered for The Surge.

DLC Screens

Souls-like games are often dark, dismal affairs and The Surge itself was no different. The base game saw our hero Warren exploring abandoned facilities, sterile R&D departments, sewers and an overload of industrial factory environments. “A Walk in the Park” is different — it subs out oppressive gloom for the wacky excitement of a theme park. On a purely visual level, it’s a massive success. The wonderland of CREO World is bright. It’s exciting. It’s whimsical. As you stroll about murdering costumed mascots, you’ll pass by all the usual theme park trappings from rides to concession stands. Despite being mostly destroyed and abandoned, it still feels remarkably different than what comes before or after in The Surge. It feels refreshingly distinct.

The base game featured great level design and “A Walk in the Park” walks in those same steps. As always, there’s a little hub where you can heal and craft new gear. There’s also a lone human who will provide you with tasks to complete around the park. At first, the park feels gigantic and you’ll be given two tasks to complete. Each sends you in a different direction so that you can explore a new area of the park. Despite feeling so open, the park is designed in a way that you are funnelled to exactly the right place, all while feeling like you are exploring at your own pace. That’s always the goal in a Souls-like, but where some games often fail to meet that exceedingly high standard, “A Walk in the Park” leaps above it. Coupled with the customary shortcuts back to your hub that leave you with a feeling of “Oh wow, I didn’t realize I was this close,” Deck13 has outdone themselves with its design of CREO World.

A theme park is the perfect opportunity to correct one of The Surge’s biggest flaws: enemy variety and a lack of bosses. Here, you’ll fight mascots, soldiers and a few new nanite enemies, but it really doesn’t feel much different than the base game. Only the nanite enemies are remarkably different and while they’re fresh and fun, the others feel stale. As cool as the setting is and as well-designed as the park is, the ground-level gameplay can only be described as standard.

DLC Screens

The theme park has so much potential for cool boss fights based on the rides and attractions, but not once does “A Walk in the Park” take advantage of that. There are two bosses, which means you’re getting a good deal here per hour. The problem is that these bosses are not exciting or challenging to fight against. Each were conquered on my first attempt, which should absolutely never happen in a Souls-like game. One is a humanoid that’s hardly distinguishable from a standard enemy or The Black Cerberus from the base game. The other offers more but is still painfully simple to fight, and feels far too much like a rehash of Rogue Process. The bosses aren’t terrible by any means, but they are forgettable and that’s a shame.

These enemies and bosses do, of course, come equipped with new weapons and armor for you to collect. In the base game, a primary issue was the lack of weapon variety and armor that didn’t really do much to change the way you played. Here, it’s more of the same. There are three new armor sets with accompanying bonuses. These bonuses could be used to create some interesting builds, but more than likely they’ll be gimmicky instead. The weapons, likewise, offer nothing but a visual change to the standard five weapon types to which we’ve all grown accustomed.

Deck13 has attempted to weave the DLC into the main game rather than having it be a jarring side-quest to your saving the world in the base game. The DLC is split into two parts. The first is available when you first leave the tutorial area and go to Central Production B. A train will take you to the park where you’ll discover things are amiss. Warren and the other human will try to figure out what’s going on and Warren will make sure to ask reasonable questions tied to his main journey. When you finish the first part, you’ll be sent away until you receive a message from your companion when you first enter R&D. It’s worth noting that the entire DLC is available at the start in New Game+ and later.

DLC Screens

Tying it into the story has its own benefits and pitfalls. It’s a nice change of pace from the normal environment right in the middle of what otherwise might have become a dull affair. The different environment strongly helps the pacing of the game, even though it does make you a bit more powerful than you otherwise should have been. Luckily, Core Power in the game scales nicely so you won’t overlevel the entire game.

It does mean that the story is really of no concern since all the revelations are back in the base game. Warren will ask the right questions, but he won’t get the right answers because those are saved for later. Likewise, the base game hasn’t been changed to accommodate the new content. When you’re sent away after part one to ask Dr. Chavez for help, Dr. Chavez has no new conversation options that tie into what you’ve learned. It was a good effort by Deck13 to try to weave this in, and ultimately a success, but a few issues will stand out for those following along.

The achievements in this DLC are going to be fairly easy. There are ten in total. Four of them are story-based and will unlock naturally as you play. Two are based on killing the four mascots and crafting their head armors. Only two are missable as you’ll need to save Iron Maus’ sidekick before leaving an area and defeat the final boss while wearing the Iron Maus gear. The rest are all either collectibles or gear-based. Overall, it shouldn’t take more than about four hours to mop them all up if you’re able to play straight through in New Game+.

Check out our The Best Xbox RPGs Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

The Surge - “A Walk in the Park” introduces us to a theme park setting that nails the look and feel and comes with excellent level design, making it a joy to play through and explore. It is woven into the base game in a way that makes it feel natural and rewarding, although there are a few hiccups in terms of the story as a result. The only real issue is that it’s more of the same. Like the base game, the DLC features too few enemies and only two more bosses. Those bosses themselves are uninspired considering the potential of the setting. Likewise, the new equipment you gain won’t change the way you play, although it might help you look a bit cooler. Overall, “A Walk in the Park” is easy to recommend — if you liked The Surge and you want more of it, that’s what you’ll get here and you’re in for a great time at the theme park. If you couldn’t get over the issues in The Surge then there’s nothing here that’s going to change your mind.
4 / 5
Positives
  • Theme park setting does a lot to breathe life into the game
  • Level design is excellent
  • Combat offers more of what you love from the base game
  • Woven into the story nicely
Negatives
  • Still too few enemies and bosses
  • The two bosses feel too similar to other bosses in the base game and lack challenge
  • Weapons and armor don’t do much to change how you play
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 5 hours battling through CREO World twice, fighting enemies and bosses while discovering its secrets and collecting some loot. 9 of 10 achievements were won for 180 Gamerscore. An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.