The Surge 2 Review – A City in Chaos
The Surge 2September 24th, 2019
From Software's Souls series has been a huge influence on action role-playing games that have been released after Demon's Souls launched on PlayStation 3. Many developers tried offering their own unique spin on the formula, and some definitely succeded in doing so, developing games that can be considered almost as good as the From Software titles, such as Team Ninja's Nioh (about to get a sequel, out in early 2020).
Developer Deck13 also tried its hand at developing a Souls-like action role-playing, starting with Lords of the Fallen, a competent yet flawed game, and continuing with The Surge. The latter is definitely the best game of the two, as it not only offers a more polished experience but also a very interesting dystopic setting which allowed the developer to come up with some interesting gameplay mechanics, such as the dismemberment mechanics, implants used for customization and more. The game isn't perfect by any means, but it's quite enjoyable.
A few years after the release of The Surge, Deck13 is back with The Surge 2. The sequel is considerably better than the first game thanks to a lot of tweaks to the mechanics, quality of life improvements and a better-designed world.
The story picks up pretty much where the original game ended. At the end of The Surge, Warren failed to completely halt the Utopia Project, which aimed to stop global warming by using nanite. The rocket carrying the dangerous substance still launches after Warren manages to defeat the Rogue Process, and debris hits a plane inside which the new protagonist is traveling, alongside Athena Guttenberg, a young girl who is also the granddaughter of the creator of the nanites, Jonah Guttenberg.
Following the plane crash, the main character awakens in Jericho City, a city that has been quarantined due to the spreading of the Defrag disease, which is caused by the nanites that were supposed to save the world. The protagonist also has visions of Athena, and he sets out in the now destroyed city to find out why he is having these visions and how the girl is the key to save the city and himself.
The Surge 2 story is told through audio logs, just like in the original game, and by talking with NPCs found all over Jericho City. Players can choose to completely ignore it if they so desire, but they would be missing quite a bit, as the tale features a good level of mystery that leaves players wanting for more. Additionally, Jericho City is built in a very interesting way, with a lot of different factions vying for supremacy and survival. All these factions make the whole quarantined city feel alive and quite believable.
Those who have played the original game will also find some more reasons to follow the story properly, as there are several returning characters, such as Benjamin Burke, whom players will meet right at the beginning of the game. There are also a few other surprises, which I won't spoil, that will make fans of The Surge happy.
The enjoyable, although a bit predictable, story is not the only good feature found in the game, as the actual gameplay introduced in The Surge has been greatly improved. On the surface, The Surge 2 doesn't play too differently from its predecessor: players must travel through several different locations in Jericho City, fight a variety of human and robotic enemies and the occasional boss that will make you die over and over until you have found a solid strategy. The action RPG experience of The Surge 2 is quite reminiscent of the Souls genre, as stamina regulates how much players can attack, block and dodge, and running out of it in the middle of combat means almost certain death. In short, if you have played any Souls inspired game, you know what to expect.
The Surge 2 brings back a fan-favorite mechanic which adds more depth to combat. After locking on onto any enemy, players can decide to target arms, legs, body, and head. Damaging the part enough allows players to unleash a dismemberment attack which kills the enemy and increases the chances of dropped loot, which includes schematics for the creation of new augmentation parts and materials that are required to both craft them and upgrade them. All dead enemies also grant Tech Scrap, which is used as currency in shops and for crafting as well as experience points for leveling up.
While all these mechanics were already in the first game, everything feels much smoother in The Surge 2 thanks to a few combat improvements. For starters, the actual combat tempo has been raised considerably, and both attacking and dodging feels much better than before. If the original felt more like the Dark Souls game, The Surge 2 feels more like Bloodborne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, also thanks to a few additional mechanics, the most interesting of which is Directional Parry.
Directional Parry, which becomes available only after installing an Implant that can be found at the very beginning of the game, allows players to perfect parry attacks coming from all directions if the right directional button is pressed while blocking as prompted on-screen. Performing a perfect parry will interrupt the attack of the enemy, leaving them open for a counterattack from which they cannot escape. The best thing about Directional Parry, other than the sheer satisfaction for pulling it off in the heat of battle, is that it can be used while attacking an enemy, so skilled players can unleash a flurry of attacks, parry in the middle of them, and continue their offensive in the most savage and satisfying way. This mechanic is a great addition to the gameplay formula that makes the game far more offensive-oriented than its predecessor.
The fact that players can stay on the offensive for a long time also influences the Battery mechanics for the best. Battery power is used not only for dismemberment attacks but also to refill healing injectables. This means that staying always on the offensive is almost always the way to go, as healing is actually fueled by attacking, in a way that's very reminiscent of Bloodborne. Adding even more combat options are Drones, which can be used not only to unleash long-range attacks but also electromagnetic blasts which can cause paralysis.
All these different combat options are quite useful, and mastering them allows players to survive longer on the perilous streets of Jericho City. Indeed, The Surge 2, like the original game, is a difficult journey where players will find enemies that hit hard and like to gang up on the player character whenever possible. Enemy variety is also praiseworthy, as The Surge 2 features agile but less resilient enemies, heavily armored warriors equipped with a shield, long-range snipers and so on, so players must not only master blocking, Directional Parry and dodging, but they also have to adapt on the fly to take down the most annoying enemy in any given group. Attacking is somewhat less straightforward than in the Souls series, as each weapon comes with horizontal and vertical attacks, which are more effective on specific body parts. Combos that combine the two attack types are also in, and performing them with perfect timing decreases stamina consumption, which is extremely important in combat.
The best qualities of The Surge 2 combat mechanics come out in full force during boss battles, which are extremely varied and well done. The fights against humanoids are tense and turn into great duels where offense and defense intertwine seamlessly thanks to the Directional Parry system. The system actually makes them a little easier than expected, as its mastery will allow players to unleash everything they got against an enemy without having to think too much about dodging. Things are different with bigger enemies, like Little Johnny. These bigger bosses are much tougher than any other enemy in the game and require players to dodge and attack appropriately as going wild on them will only result in defeat and loss of any hard-earned Tech Scrap.
Combat isn't the only thing that has been improved over the original game. Exploration feels much better thanks to the improved level design of Jericho City. Each location is much better connected to the other, making it easy to get back to where the player was before defeat from the nearest Medbay. Every district in the city features a distinct design that helps players in getting around if they are lost. There are also a lot of optional areas and multiple paths featuring loot and extra implants, so it's easy to miss out on something without a thorough exploration. Subquests from NPCs will also bring players to areas of the city that might have been otherwise missed, so it's recommended to complete them to see more of the world of The Surge 2.
Jericho City is an extremely dangerous area, and to survive, players will need to outfit their playable character (created through a robust editor, in yet another change from the first game) with gear, weapons, and implants. In the customization department, The Surge 2 delivers fully, offering a wide variety of weapons and equipment pieces with different stats and set bonuses, which can make some fights easier. Leveling up by using increasing amounts of Tech Scrap augments the total Core Power, which is needed to power up gear and implants, and gives players two module points that can be distributed into Health, Stamina and Battery Efficiency. There are several types of Implants, ranging from healing injectables with different properties to Implants that grant passive bonuses. The game also lets players store three different load-outs as well as mark favorite weapons and drone modules so that they can be swapped on the fly even during combat. The versatility of the customization system is so vast that multiple playthroughs will not feel like mere repetition.
The Surge 2 combat and customization system would probably work great in a PVP multiplayer mode, but that sadly isn't in the game. There are, however, a few other ways players can interact with one another. Thanks to a drone module, players can leave graffitis wherever they want, allowing them to leave simple messages to other players, like danger warnings and so on. It's also possible to obtain loot carried by players who have been defeated by taking down Revenge Enemies, which are stronger variants of regular enemies that appear when another player has been defeated in the area. The multiplayer features, in all honesty, don't add much to the whole experience, but they are still a welcome addition nonetheless.
The graphics in The Surge 2 look good, but they are far from being the best seen in the current generation. They are a definite step up from the original game, though, and the new world design definitely helped the team in pushing forward. Characters and locations are detailed enough, although the models do look a little simple. Animations also look more fluid than in the original game. Performance, however, is far from being perfect, with frame rate often dropping in the 40s at 1080p resolution and max settings on a PC featuring an i7- 3770 CPU, GTX 980 Ti GPU, and 16GB RAM, which are on par with the developer's recommended settings. Decreasing settings and even resolution improves things only marginally. The game hasn't been patched yet at the time of writing, so it's likely that these issues will be fixed soon. Updated drivers from NVIDIA and AMD may also help the situation, but there's no way to know for sure before they are actually released.
Everything considered The Surge 2 is the perfect continuation of the original game. While the experience is not very much different from the original title, the improvements to combat and world design make it a game that every Souls series fans should get, even if they didn't like the first game too much.
PC version tested (review code provided by the publisher). You can get a Steam digital copy at a 15% discount via Green Man Gaming.
The Surge 2 is a definite improvement over the original game in pretty much every possible way. Combat is much faster and smoother, with an offense-oriented focus that makes it even more engaging, exploration is much more interesting thanks to the improved world design and the story will keep players moving from one dangerous district of Jericho City to the next in search of answers. The technical issues currently found in the game, unfortunately, do damage the experience a bit, and so does the fact that, despite the changes, The Surge 2 doesn't offer anything substantially different from the original game.
- Interesting setting and story
- Excellent combat and customization mechanics
- Great world design that connects all locations of Jericho City well
- High challenge level...
- ...which may be a little to high for players who are not accustomed to the Souls experience
- Noticeable performance issues
- Overall experience doesn't feel all that different from the original's