Honestly, I never thought The Surge 2 would be a thing. The first title flew under the radar for a lot of people, and even though it was a good game, it wasn’t one I thought we’d see a sequel for. Apparently, it sold well enough to developer Deck13 to produce another, and while it doesn’t break a lot of new ground, there’s always room for a sci-fi spin on a more action oriented Dark Souls.
It’s been a good month for fans of the Dark Souls style of gameplay. In one week alone, we got The Surge 2 and Code Vein. I initially thought it would be a chore to review two different games of the same genre, and I will admit I have a bit of fatigue right now, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Even though they’re cut from a similar cloth, there are more than enough differences to make both a good investment for RPG fans.
Despite not offering much new other than a serviceable story, The Surge 2 is more of what players would want from The Surge 2: more great action and battles. There are some quality-of-life improvements and some changes to the combat system that work really well here, but we’ll get to the combat portion in a minute.
The Surge 2 takes place in Jericho City, the closest city to the CREO facility from the first game. Nanites have created a mess, and it’s up to our nameless character to try to understand what’s happening. The story works some of the time, when I’m not learning about characters I don’t care about, before they point me in the right direction. To Deck13’s credit, the NPC’s in The Surge 2 are more serviceable than they were in The Surge, but that isn’t saying much.
One of the things I actually really liked in the first game was playing as an identifying agent. It wasn’t a created character, one that I made and built up. I’m not a very creative person, so character creation is lost on me. I prefer a protagonist with a backstory, motivations, and personality as opposed to a custom character that I don’t care about.
Where The Surge 2 really shines, similarly to its predecessor, is the combat and encounters. Enemy variety is great, and players can go from battling flame-thrower equipped enemies to nanite creatures that will test your patience and skill. The Surge 2 benefits from additional enemy variety (and some seriously bananas bosses) that create some tense encounters.
Combat plays out much like other Soulsborne titles. Attacks are mapped to just two buttons, but parrying, blocking, and use of skills the depth of combat much more than just a hack and slash. Players have a stamina gauge that every action depletes, and a new parry system makes just guarding lead to a swift death. The defense aspect felt closer to something like For Honor than any of the Souls games that The Surge 2 draws its inspiration from.
In order to parry here, players must move their joystick (or mouse for PC players) in the direction of an enemy attack. Missing it doesn’t have much of a negative impact, other than the enemy hitting your stamina bar significantly, but a successful parry leaves them open for some heavy damage. There are a couple of key combos depending on the enemy type you’re attacking that are important to remember, but the key to success in The Surge 2 is targeting of body parts.
This part hasn’t changed much since the first game, and players will target different body parts to attack that can be armored or unarmored. Basic attacks will do more against unarmored body parts, but then you can’t unlock those much-needed schematics. As you do more damage to different body parts, eventually you can perform a finishing move that will dismember that part and unlock a schematic to construct a new piece of armor.
Each body part can equip different armor pieces, and equipping sets of armor will unlock additional bonuses. Of course, you can mix and match to suit your playstyle, so don’t get too stuck on completing a set. Things look more uniform on your character with sets, but they won’t necessarily provide the right bonus that fits how you want to play.
There are a handful of different encounter types that players will have to get used to in The Surge 2 in order to be successful, and more often than not a few different enemy types will come at you at once. I found the sequel to play out similarly to the first game in terms of enemy encounters, but things were definitely more manageable than they were in the first game. I’m attributing this to the smooth players movements and quality-of-life improvements that Deck13 brought in, and The Surge 2 is far better for it.
While The Surge 2 has brought in a more polished and varied combat experience, the environments here are same-y throughout. Other than one major exception, traversing rooftops and hidden alleyways can get tiresome, even if it is broken up by great encounters. Each area feels like it should while exploring Jericho City. Each main urban area is devastated and broken, but switching to exploring Gideon’s Rock (a lush Jungle-like area) was a welcome break from the drab cityscape.
In its favor, none of the areas in The Surge 2 look bad. In fact, I think there’s a marked improvement in visual fidelity over the first game. Load times were quick on my SSD, and Jericho City has nice textures throughout. Still, it’s unimpressive visually, especially when a majority of the game looks so similar. I was playing on my PC with a Ryzen 7 3700X and an RTX 2080, and things ran really smoothly. At 1440p, I was getting between 100 and 140 fps with no noticeable drops in frames. Even when the action was chaotic, and with a handful of enemies on screen, The Surge 2 pushed through and delivered a smooth experience.
No, I don’t think The Surge 2 breaks a whole lot of new ground, but similar to Borderlands 3 earlier this month, it does a lot right with its quality-of-life updates and great enemy encounters. Deck13 is a competent developer, with a winning formula on their hands, as long as they can bring their experience together with a worthy story, world, and characters, they will have something that reaches the great heights of their inspirations.
The Surge 2 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a PC copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.