Deck13’s The Surge was one of 2017’s underrated gems.
Essentially a sci-fi Dark Souls, it hooked players thanks to its fast-paced combat and brilliant dismemberment system that was key to obtaining new equipment. The only thing that wasn’t really so stellar about it was its limited range of enemies and environments that got a bit bit samey after a while. But after playing just a few hours of The Surge 2, I’m confident that it won’t be an issue in the upcoming sequel.
The Surge 2 is shaping up to be one of those sequels that brings a series into the spotlight. Remember how Assassin’s Creed 2 took the concept of the first game and improved upon it in pretty much every possible way? That’s my impression of The Surge 2 at the moment. It still looks and plays like The Surge, but nearly everything about it has been tweaked to make it better. Needless to say, I’m now more excited about The Surge 2 than ever before.
One big change is apparent as soon as you hit the New Game option on the game’s main menu: you no longer play as a predetermined character. You now create your own character – male or female – and can tweak how they look to a limited degree. But it doesn’t change how The Surge 2 plays in any way, and unfortunately your protagonist is of the silent variety, taking you out of the story a little when coming across any talkative folk that you meet.
Awakening in a detention centre amid chaos, you start The Surge 2 as just a simple human. Thankfully the only enemies you encounter as you make your escape are human too, allowing you to get to grips with the game’s combat system relatively safely. Your skills are ultimately tested by a guard wearing a rig, however, and upon defeating him, The Surge 2 opens up your ability to sever enemy limbs and obtain new gear.
The detention centre feels very much like an environment you’d explore in the first game; dark, futuristic, and laden with technology. When you emerge from the centre after defeating your first proper boss, however, chances are you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. Finding yourself on the streets of Jericho City you’re free to explore in broad daylight, though a strange man will tell you to visit the Seaside Court, located under a giant octopus. Eventually you’ll do just that, taking in the sights of the docklands along the way, and passing through Seaside Court, you’ll travel to Port Nixon.
Just from that journey alone, it’s clear that The Surge 2‘s environments are much more varied. While the detention centre is oppressive and metallic, Jericho City has more of a calm, modern day familiar feel to it. Seaside Court gives the impression of a run-down slum, while Port Nixon is more industrial gone wrong. In just a few hours, The Surge 2 already displays more environmental variety that the whole of The Surge, and I just can’t wait to see where else it takes me.
Along with more environmental variety, it seems there’s going to be a wider range of enemy types, too. I’ve fought plain old humans, both armed and unarmed, spider-like robots and more powerful adversaries wearing rigs. Whether they’re human anymore I’m not quite sure. Some of them have been equipped with spears, others what can only be described as hulking chunks of metal, and some have even used car doors as shields. What’s really surprised me though are enemies equipped with ranged weapons.
At one point I found myself bombarded by what is essentially a Molotov launcher, leaving fiery patches on the floor that were dangerous to be around. A bit later, however, I was being shot at with an auto-rifle. Isolated, enemies with ranged weapons don’t pose too much of a threat – you can just dodge to avoid their attacks and wail upon them when up close – but as part of a group of enemies, they’re much more deadly, forcing you to think on your feet. And as you can see from promotional screenshots, players will be battling more fantastical enemies further into the game.
Mechanically, The Surge 2 feels more refined than its predecessor. Movement doesn’t feel as cumbersome, and everything seems to play out at a slightly faster pace. Some mechanics have been overhauled, too, making the game more intuitive to play – and also perhaps a little easier. Injectors, for instance, no longer seem to have limited uses. Instead, they now rely on battery, meaning that as long as you can land some hits on an enemy to gather enough charge, you can heal and stay in the fight.
The drone that follows you around seems to be much more useful in The Surge 2, too. No longer reliant on battery power, ammunition is now required to attack enemies at a distance with it, with a variety of rounds available. Got an enemy in the distance that scares you a little? Simply start shooting it and you might be able to kill it before it even reaches you. The drone is also great for taking out turrets that fire upon you when detected. There’s a caveat, however: shooting enemies with your drone doesn’t charge your battery, meaning you can’t heal if you need to and you can’t dismember them to gain any resources or parts.
Rounding off the numerous surprises I’ve had during my first few hours with The Surge 2 is the sheer number of side missions I’ve encountered. By simply exploring I’ve found a few NPCs that need my help, and I’ve also acquired more side missions by talking to various civilians in the Seaside Court safe zone. Whether you complete them is up to you, but the rewards are probably worth it. You can also buy new equipment in the safe zone, as well as graffiti tags that can be placed in the environment to communicate with other players. It’s funny how The Surge 2 has moved further away from simply being a sci-fi Dark Souls, yet has adopted a similar messaging system.
Before playing The Surge 2 I was pretty excited for it. After all, I really loved The Surge. After playing it, my expectations have been shattered: The Surge 2 is shaping up to be a phenomenal sequel. Deck13 isn’t resting on its laurels with this one; it’s not just pushing out the same game with a new setting. Mechanically refined, The Surge 2 strains the shackles of the soul-like formula, and it’s for the better: it feels more unique, more like its own game.
The Surge 2 is fairer, but it’s still tough. More importantly, it gives you room to breathe. Environments are more open, character development is deeper, and there’s simply more variety when it comes to visuals and gameplay. Come this September, I won’t be surprised if it ranks among the best games of the year judging by the few hours I’ve spent with it.
The Surge 2 launches on 24th September for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
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