Despite some buggy textures, minor framerate drops, and a few crashes, action RPG and Souls-like fans will easily fall in love with The Surge 2.
The Surge 2, the sequel to Deck 13’s The Surge, is finally here, and fans of Souls-likes should be excited.
With many improvements over its predecessor, The Surge 2 features a better combat system, a world that’s fun and interesting to explore, and incredible boss fights. There are a few issues it still needs to resolves via patches, though, and I’d like to address those first.
Before we dive into The Surge 2, I want to address the elephant in the room: the rendering problems. While the graphics are usually amazing, with lots of effects like dynamic lighting and particles floating around, it may need a few seconds to load them all up correctly.
There are times you find yourself looking at your character’s textureless armor set, instead of the cool, highly customized Exo-Gear you ripped out of enemies. It often happens right after a loading screen or when coming back after pausing the game. The texture problems will probably be patched in the future, but for now, it can be temporarily fixed by restarting the game.
Overall, I did not have many other technical issues besides that and a few crashes, and an occasional framerate drop near the end of the game. Most of these happened when the scene was filled with a lot of enemies and environmental hazards, which is a shame but somewhat understandable.
A City Built on Nanites
Starting where the first game ended, The Surge 2 takes place entirely in Jericho City. Nanites – tiny, intelligent robots that seek and corrupt humans – spread throughout the city, wreaking havoc and driving the citizens insane. You play the game as “The Warrior,” chosen to find and protect a child that might be the key to ending the nanites.
Unlike the previous game, you get to create your own character and customize it. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options, and the character creator is pretty lacking compared to other RPGs.
Your new character wakes up in a prison hospital, two months after the ending of The Surge. You start by exploring and fighting your way out of jail right after a massive nanite beast attacked it. From there on, you are free to roam around Jericho City, limited only by the level of the enemies and lack of gadgets you unlock further on. Through progression, you discover all about the factions and companies that operate within the city at its current state. Each of those groups is fascinating, and you’ll find yourself digging for more info about them in dialogues and audio logs.
The overall story is compelling enough not to skim through it and has enough depth that you can really dive into it. The story is fueled by a great cast of NPCs and the quirky side missions they send you on. That is a huge improvement compared to the previous game. The side missions make the world feel a lot more alive and real, and they even provide the occasional comic relief in the dark world of The Surge 2.
However, there’s a certain point in the game’s story that changes everything – both my impressions of it and the way the game plays. From that point on, everything progresses real quickly and ends up feeling very rushed. You lose the freedom you had so far, and the game races towards an unsatisfying end.
Towards that ending, you’re faced with a critical decision. To my surprise, not only does it have minimal impact on the story, but it also never accounts for everything you’ve done up to that point. All the work developers spent building a compelling world and narrative is just… lost.
It’s an Arms (and Legs) Race
The combat mechanics are familiar but better, and with the addition of directional blocks and parries, fights feel more realistic and responsive.
Like the previous installment, the focus on ‘locking on’ enemy body parts and cutting them off is still the main way of fighting. You do it to harvest robotic limbs and other body parts for upgrades or unlocking new armors and weapons.
Thanks to new, eye-catching limbs-cutting and decapitations animations, improving your equipment is more fun than ever. The Surge 2 boasts a huge roster of weapon with over 50 different ones divided into eight types and five elemental augments. Every weapon type has its own move sets, with some having a unique finisher.
Most of the move sets are smooth and fluid, and every weapon type offers a few combos available instead of the old one-button spam technique.
All of the 32 different armor sets are divided into different classes, though the stat benefits are pretty much the same in all of them. The real difference is in the full and partial set bonuses. Wearing a complete set of the same armor, or only part of it, will elevate your stats or add cool new effects while you fight. You can mix and match two sets together and enjoy two partial bonuses, or use an entire set to exploit the full reward. You should also take advantage of the three load-out slots so that you can switch your play style in a matter of seconds.
Building Yourself for Combat
With the obvious similarity to From Software’s games, combat is based on stamina and requires real-time resource management. Even more so with the new energy bar, through which you use injectable implants and finishers.
Implants serve as the powerups you equip based on your level. They vary between normal implants that grant bonuses and stat boosts, and injectables that you use in real-time and charge up with the batteries of your energy bar. Most of the implants don’t drastically change the game, but I did discover a combination that made me pretty much immortal, which sadly broke the game for me.
The enemies never feel reused, and always have something new in-store, so you need to stay vigilant. It’s pretty exciting to meet a new type of enemy, mostly because you get to harvest new weapons and armor and use it against them.
While offering a fair amount of challenge and difficulty, the enemies don’t feel unfair. Although, somewhere near the end, I did struggle with one area so much that I was on the verge of an old-fashioned ragequit. After taking a short break to farm for parts, I got over the hurdle and continued. That was the only time I felt the need to grind, which is also a significant step forward from the first game. Still, the fact I needed to slow down tells me that at that point, either the enemies were not scaled correctly, or I rushed ahead too fast, and I doubt the latter is true. I took my time and never left a stone unturned the entire playthrough.
Boss Fights to Die For
The bosses in The Surge 2 are a treat. Some of them have a unique trick to figure out, while others have secret rewards if you defeated them in a certain way or meet certain conditions. Even if it does take a few tries to get there, and every battle is fantastic.
With over three times more bosses than The Surge, you would think they’d lose their novelty. Let me tell you – they do not. Even if it’s a different version of an earlier boss or another round with one you’ve already defeated, each battle feels new. This game simply has one hell of a boss roster.
Something that at first looks cheap, but you later begin to appreciate is the addition of regular enemies to boss fights. At first, I thought it redundant and obsolete, but it makes the battles feel more realistic. Let’s face it – if you are going to fight the CEO of a corporation in real life, he’s likely to have minions taking some of the heat.
An Intricate, Memorable World
While enjoying the rush of the fight and overcoming the constant fear of losing all of my tech scraps, I kept finding new ways to get back to the closest Med-Bay. It was always at the right time when I needed to take a breather and relax. To me, it shows levels are masterfully-designed, as they should be in a game focused on challenging but fair gameplay.
The levels are also very memorable and easy to navigate. Each time you unlock a new gadget or skill, you can instantly think of a few places where this upgrade would be useful. It’s always worth revisiting older levels, mostly to explore and uncover secrets.
Somewhere along the main questline, you unlock the fast travel option. While it only lets you travel between three places, it’s still a refreshing change of pace the game could have used even earlier.
The Surge 2 supports a robust New Game+ mode. Not only is the challenge increased, but end-game enemies were scattered all over the place. You also get to upgrade your character higher than the original limit and discover more implants and other equipment not available before.
It’s also worth checking out New Game+ if you’re looking for more plot. I won’t spoil anything, and just say you start at a different point in time, and you’ll be glued to your chair, wanting to see what happens next.
The Surge 2 is a clean and pure Souls-like experience. While still lacking in the graphics department or the character creator, it has stellar and challenging gameplay, together with fluid combat and exciting story. I recommend you try it and take your time exploring Jericho City.
Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Entertainment
Release Date: Sep. 24, 2019
Our The Surge 2 review copy was supplied by the publisher.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.