A Walk in the Park shows improvement, but is still rough around the edges.
2017 was the year that the rest of the gaming landscape caught up with From Software and we saw more than a few Soulslikes, each taking a mutation of the punishing action RPG series and going a different way with it. While ELEX took that and gave it an open world, and Nioh brought the exacting combat Team Ninja is famous for to bear on the genre in feudal Japan, Deck13’s The Surge decided that a sci-fi setting would be a great fit.
The Surge, while certainly a good time, had a few issues when it launched. Despite that, it was a solid game, and a competent Souls-like with some unique ideas that made it stand out a bit. All of that is also true of the expanded content found within A Walk In The Park, but the setting alone doesn’t drastically change the mechanics or tone of The Surge as a whole.
"CREO World has an almost dark decay to what was once a bustling amusement park, with robotic mascots firing lasers from their eyes and the bright red tracks of a roller coaster, managed by the carnage of the rampaging technology."
The dilapidated CREO World, an amusement park that players find access to towards the beginning of the game’s world, doesn’t have the same kind of esoteric entry requirements that Souls DLC would ask of players, but that’s in line with the rest of the game generally being more friendly as well. Stapled onto the game via a train, players can enter this amusement park by way of Skynet, bringing a roughly 8-hour side quest to the game.
World design was a strength of the original game, never having the grandeur as the Souls games, but fitting within a cohesive world, and the same is easily true of the expansion content as well, though it does a better job of wowing through the environments. Mechanically sound with loopback points and hidden secrets galore to encourage exploration, CREO World has an almost dark decay to what was once a bustling amusement park, with robotic mascots firing lasers from their eyes and the bright red tracks of a roller coaster, managed by the carnage of the rampaging technology.
"The world design helps keep the short walk compelling. There are even a few quieter moments when the game will slow down to tell its story, an improvement over the main campaign."
The expansion features some great art style and lighting effects, adding onto the atmosphere the original game exhibited so well. You might go to flip a switch to clear the way and be ambushed by a rouge cyborg in the dark, and have to equip lighter gear that has lights on it to navigate a blackout. What your goals are still aren’t very creative, in line with the original game you’re doing things like trying to locate survivors, but the world design helps keep the short walk compelling. There are even a few quieter moments when the game will slow down to tell its story, an improvement over the main campaign.
Of course, the game is still The Surge, meaning that the main problems of that game are still around. The story is better told here, but not necessarily any better written than the tropey base game, though the story doesn’t need to be of much consequence. Though the team tries to weave the content into the main story, it’s not super successful as a lost chapter, since the content itself doesn’t want to spoil continuity of the game and the base game content isn’t altered to acknowledge the revelations of CREO World either.
" it’s likely that the core fans of the game will at least be coming into this from a New Game+, and not find much use for the drops."
Depending on how late into the game you tackle A Walk In The Park, the new gear and weapons you can wrestle from the new foes aren’t going to be all that compelling. Considering that The Surge didn’t make that big of a splash at launch, it’s likely that the core fans of the game will at least be coming into this from a New Game+, and not find much use for the drops.
The new enemies that drop that new gear aren’t very creative themselves, outside of visual design at least. While an animatronic monster is a clever visual, it mechanically doesn’t add anything new to the game like what From Softare did in Dark Souls III’s Ringed City. The one other standout is zombified paramedics who can heal during battle, invoking some small feeling of Breath of the Wild’s Master Mode. There are only two bosses in the content, and unfortunately those feel like a missed opportunity as neither creatively ties into the theme park aesthetic or are particularly hard, leaving what should be massive set piece moments feeling like they’re no more special than any other enemy.
Learning some new lessons with their world design does slightly elevate The Surge: A Walk In The Park above the content of the base game, but the rest of it, still very much The Surge. All of the storytelling and mechanical flaws persist, while the core gameplay loop holds it up just enough to be compelling. Deck13 gets better and better with every piece of content they release, and A Walk in the Park for the flaws it has as an addition to the base game, shows polish above the original experience.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Better world design and a willingness to slow down as it tells its story, good level design, a tighter experience compared to the base game.
The flaws of the original game such as bad storytelling and mechanical nitpicks, persist. The new drops also won't do much for players unless they're on a fresh run.
The Surge: A Walk in the Park shows the team at Deck 13 are getting better and better with everything they develop, and the expansion as well as the base game itself remains compelling enough if you're a fan of the Souls-like. Whatever the team does next, I'm sure they'll bring something even more absorbing than The Surge.