When The Surge released in 2017, many people assumed it was just Deck13’s second stab at a Soulslike game, but this time with robots and a dystopian future. That was essentially what we got, but it was a bit more than that, as it changed up the formula a bit to give us a decent but ultimately flawed 3rd person action game.
It’s two years later and the studio sets out to improve on the formula with The Surge 2 by making it bigger, faster and a tad more ambitious. So how does that work out in the end? Well, it depends on perspective.
Much of the same, just better
The Surge 2 takes place sometime after the happenings of the first game, in Jericho City, near the facility where a huge technology company called CREO tried to save the world, but ultimately failed. You take on an unnamed person who survived a plane crash and has some sort of connection to the nanites that are now threatening the human race.
Your character is customisable to some degree where you have the option to chose a gender, an outfit and a backstory while having access to some presets on different facial characteristics. While not bad, it’s nothing to write home about, and ultimately doesn’t matter, since you will be donning some amazing armour along the way.
You start in a prison cell of a police station which is in ruins and somehow fight your way out of there as a type of tutorial. Once you’re outside, however, the game opens up, giving you access to a much bigger world than what was on offer before.
A good comparison of the combat is somewhere between the speed of Bloodborne and the precision of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Combat is pretty much the same as the previous game, but the speed of it is a tad faster, making it feel so much more satisfying. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once it clicks it easily becomes one of the most satisfying parts of the game. A good comparison of the combat is somewhere between the speed of Bloodborne and the precision of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
You can target individual limbs, which ties in heavily with how the looting and upgrade system works, which can be a bit intimidating, but also incredibly robust, and I will touch on that in a moment. The combat has this ever present risk-reward system, which allows you to target limbs of the machine/human enemy that is less protected and gets more damage, or a part with armour attached to it, which gives you a schematic for the part you cut off, or if you already have that schematic, components to upgrade that particular armour category.
To cut a limb off, you need to have a battery charged, which gets filled by landing hits on enemies. But you also use a battery charge to heal yourself, so there’s always that also factors into the risk and reward of the game. At the same time, you can block and parry attacks, but you need to block and parry in the correct direction, luckily an indicator on the screen helps by showing you where an attack came from.
Everything in the loot and upgrade system is connected, you need to level up your rig’s core power to wear better gear and improve your Health, Endurance and Battery Power, while also upgrading your gear to be better prepared against tougher enemies. Everything uses the game’s currency, which is tech scrap, so it’s always a fine balancing act on what to upgrade and what not. It’s a system that works well and is very satisfying to experiment with.
Some technical shortcoming
The gameplay of The Surge 2 is incredibly good, and the world of Jericho City is very well thought out and designed. It’s not very big, split up between different areas, it has a cool way how everything connects and intertwines with each other. The level design is solid and full of variety which is always a good thing.
It’s a system that works well and is very satisfying to experiment with.
But there’s, unfortunately, a lot holding the game back, which is a bit unforgivable in this day and age. First off, this game has some horrible graphics that just looks horribly outdated considering we’re nearing the end of the current console generation. On top of that, textures would often take a long time to load, and sometimes not load at all, and I noticed some serious drops in framerates, especially when playing for extended periods.
It didn’t matter if I was playing in Performance mode or Quality mode as it made no difference at all. This is stuff that can be sorted by patches, but it is a bit inexcusable. What really baffles me is that Deck13 made two games previously, Lords of the Fallen and The Surge, but the graphics on each got progressively worse.
As mentioned, the level design is pretty well thought out, but I did get lost a bit in some of the areas, which isn’t such a bad thing, but it can get a bit frustrating if you don’t know where you are and where you are going. Which can happen, since the story and instructions for what to do and where to go can be a bit vague. It took me a good few hours of aimlessly wandering around, trying to progress the story, which might lose some people, but thankfully the combat loop is so satisfying, that it didn’t matter. As good as the level design is, a bit more help with directions would’ve gone a long way.
Going out on a limb
The Surge 2 is definitely a step in the right direction. It improves on so many of the flaws of the original, and the gameplay is some of the best I’ve experienced this year. Unfortunately, technical issues hold the game back. Still, if you can look past the dated graphics, and the poor performance issues can be sorted in future updates, then you might be in for a serious treat here.