The Surge 2 Gamescom 2019 Hands-on Preview – Needs Immediate Surgery

The Surge 2 Art

At the risk of putting myself out there, I have to admit that I didn't get along much with The Surge. I didn't quite get what it was going for, other than being a sci-fi Souls-like. It felt as if it lacked a distinct art style or design of its own, and combat felt far clumsier than what I'm used to in FromSoftware's titles. I wanted to enjoy it, but after a while, I had to just come to terms with it and say that The Surge wasn't for me. Despite that though, I went in to play The Surge 2 at this year's Gamescom 2019, and my experience was… worse.

The game starts with your character breaking out of a prison cell, and is quickly taught some tutorial basics. Walk, dodge, and attack, essentially. You're told you can attack in vertical swipes or horizontal swipes, but the use of this isn't really told to the player. I fight through a few prison blocks, smashing away at drones and fellow inmates I meet, all while dropping down ladders and opening doors for an easier return. Just like the Undead Asylum in Dark Souls, actually. But unlike Dark Souls, information is thrown at your character in no particular order, with no opportunity to understand why, or what, these mechanics mean to you.

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But it's okay. You can do a lot with a dodge and an attack. I eventually make it to my first mildly tough enemy, and with a lot of dodges, I took them down. The game told me to aim at the head, as their head was unguarded, and I can choose different body parts to lock on to. Nice, a small change from the usual Souls formula is always welcome. I eventually find some power armor-like suit to enhance my abilities and move on towards a mini-boss.

This is where it all went wrong. This mini-boss was covered in armor, hit hard, and had a small drone shoot bullets at me. I kept playing, kept attempting to avoid the boss and the drone bullets, but it wasn't working. Hitting the boss, or any enemy for that matter, doesn't keep them stunned for long, and the attack swings are so slow to connect that there's no chance or narrowly dodging away from an incoming attack if you've already pressed the attack button. A small, SMALL, animation cancel window would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

I tried again and again, and the drone shot me through the environment, took me out of attack animations, and I gave up on The Surge 2 demo rather quickly. It was Gamescom, it was hot, and I had had enough. I passed the controller off to one of the employees at the booth, and he was gracious enough to show me how it was done.

The mini-boss had a weak point on his left arm - it wasn't covered in armor as much as the rest of him. Though that fact is absolutely not obvious unless you take the time to inspect each limb. You can decapitate enemies in this game, but the person showing me how the game played, who had more than 80 hours in this game, he tells me, didn't need to do that. Instead, directional parries charge an energy gauge which allows him to heal. I didn't know about parries. I didn't know about healing. How could I, thus far, the game had just given me health boxes attached to walls that I could get heals from. Now suddenly it's an Estus-like mechanic I should've had the whole time?

Let's be clear. My poor experience with The Surge 2's early game is clearly because I didn't understand the game that well, and should players wish to indulge and play up to 80 hours to properly understand the mechanics at work, then you might have a much better experience. But the game should tell me how to do basic stuff like parries and heal because I had no context for either, and if the man who took over for me didn't know about parrying and healing, he certainly would've died too given how much damage he took.

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It's tough to demo a game to someone in less than an hour, but The Surge 2 was the worst demo I dealt with at Gamescom 2019, by far, and I can guarantee you that my interest in the series is lower now than it ever has been before. Still, the full game is out on September 24th, meaning we'll learn soon enough if my worries will come true.

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