With the release of The Surge back in 2017, developer Deck13 brought to the table an interesting “Souls-like” experience that, while it was not perfect, was definitely worth playing. With the announcement of The Surge 2, Deck13 was looking to keep what fans and critics loved about the original, while also expanding and improving upon their gaming formula. Now in 2019, and after experiencing the sequel, I can definitely see there was some improvement, but there’s room to go even further.
The Surge 2 takes place after the events of the previous game. During the events of The Surge, Warren (The Surge’s protagonist) failed to stop the launch of the Utopia Project, a project with the objective to stop global warming by using nanite. The problem is that nanite was also dangerous to mankind, and the launch on the Utopia Project spread the nanite and caused a pandemic known as ‘Defrag.’ During the launch, an aeroplane is hit by a piece of debris from the Utopia rocket, causing an aeroplane flying nearby to crash into Jericho City. The main character of The Surge 2 was actually on this aeroplane, and only our main character and a girl named Athena Guttenberg, who is also the granddaughter of the creator of the nanites, survived the crash. Stuck in the Jericho City, now under quarantine due to the Defrag disease, our main character sets out to find Athena.
Those who played any game similar to Dark Souls will know what to expect from The Surge 2’s, both in how the combat works and how challenging it can be. Every action you perform, whether it is attacking or blocking/dodging, consumes stamina, meaning you can’t just attack over and over or stay in the defensive all the time, as running out of stamina leaves you open for certain death. Just like other Souls games, The Surge 2 rewards those who are patient and wait for an opening to strike and win each battle.
It’s also a combat system that rewards you for (safely!) going on the offensive. As you attack an enemy, you will gain energy and charge the battery, which then can be used to either perform the special attacks that cut off enemies limbs (more details on this below), or to activate one of the several implants you may have equipped. Implants are equipment that provide you with healing, passive bonuses, among other special effects in exchange for energy. This means that you will only be able to heal yourself (or being given other bonuses) if you go on the offensive.
One of the gameplay mechanics that made The Surge unique was the ability to target specific parts of an enemy’s body, which then allowed players to cut off enemies limbs and heads. Also featured in the sequel, this method of killing enemies is more rewarding, as there’s a higher chance of enemies dropping schematics and materials that players can then use to create and upgrade their own equipment, such as weapons, armor and implants. Most enemies will also drop Tech Scrap, which can also be used to craft or to level up your character. As you level up, you will earn module points that you can use to increase your health, stamina, and battery efficiency.
The Surge 2 improves its combat with the introduction of new mechanics, such as the Directional Parry. In order to perform a Directional Parry you must block an enemy attack in the direction it’s coming from in the exact moment you are about to be hit. A successful Direction Parry will leave your enemy open for a counterattack, making it the perfect opportunity to deal massive damage and hopefully go for the kill. There’s an interesting and skill-based risk/reward mechanic in play here, as great timing with your blocks might lead you to an easy win, but failing to perform a Directional Parry and instead doing a “standard” block will consume stamina, and if your stamina bar depletes completely you will be the one left open for an attack.
Another addition that The Surge 2 brought to the table that adds more options during combat are drones. These can be used not only to deal damage via long-range attack, but also stagger enemies depending on the type of drone you have equipped. The Surge 2, just like its predecessor, also offers a lot of variety when it comes to weapons and weapon types, such as swords, staves, hammers, spears, and many more. Each weapon type has different attack patterns, attack speed, stamina consumption, and energy gain, and there will often be situations where certain weapon types will work better than others. Mastering all these combat options will prove crucial to survive the dangers of Jericho City, especially taking in consideration that on many occasions you will be outnumbered and any little mistake could prove fatal. Overall, The Surge 2’s combat is satisfying, offering just as much variety of combat options as challenging moments.
While I offer a lot of praise to the overall gameplay, there’s also certain aspects that definitely needed a bit more polish. For starters, the camera definitely needed some work, as if often makes your life harder than the enemies you are facing. For example, the camera is a pure mess in tight corridors and small areas in general, as you will often have walls and other structures blocking your view. The camera also has a hard time keeping up with fast enemies, something that becomes more noticeable during certain boss battles. For example, during the game’s second boss battle, for some reason, there were occasions where the camera would “break” in such a way that it would no longer show my character for a few seconds unless I removed the lock-on on the boss, and in a game where being left open for a second could mean certain death, moments like these are very frustrating. Speaking of bosses, I also have to point out that while most of the game’s bosses will put the player’s skills to the test, some of them will also cause some frustration because how cheap they are in comparison to the standard combat.
The Surge 2 also has a lot to offer when it comes to world exploration. While it’s true that Jericho City has dangers at every corner, the game encourages exploration, as straying from the beaten path will often reward you with tech scrap, weapons, and audio logs, with the latter often providing you with more details about certain elements about the story and the overall world setting. In addition, exploration will often lead you to NPCs that can give you sidequests, and completing these will also earn you some really decent rewards. The only issue I have to point out here is how hard it is to navigate around the city, especially during the early stages of the game, as the maps available around town lack any detail and most likely won’t help you figure out where you should go.
When it comes to the overall visual presentation, if you have played the original The Surge, you know more or less what to expect from this game. The Surge 2’s graphics are good, but nothing that will blow you away in any way. While the combat animations and scenery look good and detailed, the same can’t be said for the vast majority of character modes. There’s also some performance issues with the game going below 30fps on some occasions, but nothing that will break the flow of the experience.
The Surge 2 might not be a perfect game, but it manages to be an improvement over the original game. The combat feels a lot smoother this time around, and the introduction of new mechanics like the directional parries and drones, added to a great variety of weapons and equipment, create a new layer of skill and strategy that makes the overall experience more enjoyable. While it's true that the game has some issues with the camera, and some cheap moments in certain boss battles, if you enjoyed the original The Surge, then you should definately give The Surge 2 a try.The Surge 2 was reviewed using a PS4 digital copy provided by Focus Home Interactive. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Smooth, challenging combat that makes cutting people's limbs or performing directional parries very satisfying|
|Great variety of weapons, armour, implants and other customization options|
|Exploring Jericho City is rewarding|
|Terrible camera that does more harm than good in certain situations|
|Some boss battles are frustrating and cheap|