Deck13’s The Surge was one of 2017’s most underrated games.
It took the Dark Souls formula and made it its own, with features such as targeting specific limbs separating it from the competition as much as its sci-fi setting. The only thing that really let it down aside from some cheap enemies in its final area was its samey environments.
Unsurprisingly, The Surge 2 is more of the same, only bigger and better. But more importantly, it has a wider range of environments. No longer are you confined to a single labyrinthine CREO facility which is a pain to navigate when you’re deep into the game, and an absolute nightmare when you’ve not played a for a while. This time you get to explore an entire city.
City streets, a run-down fort, a park; that’s just a sample of the scenery you can expect. Some areas are open, bright and colourful; others are dark, claustrophobic and foreboding. What’s best about them is that they’re all connected in wonderful ways. It never takes long to get from one place to another once you’ve unlocked shortcuts. It makes the world of The Surge 2 one that’s a pleasure to explore. And you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny because there’s much more side content this time around.
Beyond the new setting, there’s a multitude of gameplay improvements. Implants are better implemented; you no longer need to equip multiple of the same injectable to increase the number of uses available. Instead, you now simply equip one injectable and upgrade it over time. They now rely on battery charges earned via combat, too. You can store a few charges for those emergency moments, but to keep your health topped up you need to be aggressive.
Combat itself feels faster paced. There are more weapons and equipment to discover, giving you more build options. You’ll find that weapon mastery has been thrown out of the window, meaning you’re free to experiment with new weapons without feeling like you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. And you can now put together three equipment loadouts and quickly switch between them, allowing you to easily adapt to various environments and enemies.
On that note, enemy variety has very much been expanded. From humans equipped with rifles and shields to sizeable robots emerging from statues, The Surge 2 keeps you on your toes with its encounters, especially when throwing multiple enemies at you at once. And your defensive options are no longer restricted to just dodging and blocking. Parrying enemy attacks in the vein of Sekiro is possible, throwing your enemy off balance so you can retaliate. Though parrying isn’t at all necessary – it’s just another option.
Even how you use your drone has undergone a revamp for The Surge 2. It was a bit useless in the first game, wasn’t it? Not any more. By untethering its use from your battery and instead asking you to procure ammo, it’s invaluable in many situations. It now deals considerable damage, and can be used to take out auto-turrets or rain down heavy artillery on your enemies. But it never feels overpowered because of the limited ammo you can carry at once. It can also be used to tag environments with graffiti that other players can see, and blast electric boxes with a surge of power to open doors.
The highlight of The Surge 2 is still ripping the limbs off of your enemies though. There’s just so much gear to find and upgrade that taking apart your opponents is just irresistible. Sets now have partial and full bonuses, allowing you to tweak your custom created character’s parameters to a further degree. Will you go with a complete set to get both its partial and full set bonus, or go with two half sets for the partial bonuses they offer? Or you could abandon the bonuses and just mix and match – sometimes it might actually pay dividends.
Like its predecessor, The Surge 2 is a tough game, but it feels fairer. There are plenty of MedBays dotted around that can be used to bank your tech scrap, and even more shortcuts to them. Bosses still present the biggest challenges the game has to offer, but they feel less gimmicky and better balanced. You might die a few times until you’ve learned their attack patterns, but once you know what they’re capable off you can cut them without much trouble. And they’re varied; bosses come in the forms of humans, robots and nanite monstrosities.
The only area in which The Surge 2 isn’t a massive improvement over the first game is performance. Playing on Xbox One X, I spent most of my time with The Surge 2 in performance mode. It’s silky smooth for the most part, but there are some areas where the framerate does drop, resulting in a bit of distracting screen tearing. Change over to quality mode and the visuals are definitely improved, but those areas in which the framerate dropped in performance mode become what I’d consider unsuitable for tense, brutal combat. Needless to say, you’re best off sticking to performance mode and living with its minor visual inconsistencies.
Despite some performance hiccups, The Surge 2 is a sequel done right. Meaningful changes have been made to address the criticisms aimed at the original game, new features have been added to enrich and expand the gameplay, and storytelling has been put more at the forefront. It’s definitely one of the best Souls-likes currently available, though it’s doing the game a bit of a disservice to call it one; The Surge 2 further takes the series into its own territory, enabling it to stand on its own two feet. If you like challenging action adventures and dystopian sci-fi worlds, it truly deserves your attention.
The Surge 2 is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.
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