Scratching an itch.
A Dark Souls clone. I saw this label a lot when The Surge was released in 2017, and I don’t think that’s a fair way to represent that game. Video games in general draw inspiration from the other titles that have come before it, and while you can see The Surge has a strong connection to what FromSoftware did with the Souls series, it wasn’t a pure copy-and-paste job that some people made it out to be. By incorporating a few interesting mechanics, The Surge managed to leave its own distinctive mark in the genre while still trying to capture the attention of players who were seeking a Souls-like experience.
With The Surge 2, once again the developers at Deck13 Interactive are trying to scratch that itch for gamers who love that brutal style of an action role-playing game. And by making some great changes to the combat while also streamlining the exploration aspect of the world, The Surge 2 is a game which does an exceptional job at filling that Dark Souls void.
Taking place a few months after the events of The Surge, the world itself is a future where technology has become so prevalent that many jobs have become redundant as they no longer require people to do them. Resources are beginning to run out and tech companies are trying to do anything that they can in order to save the planet, obviously things don’t go to plan and a nanite-based disease begins to spread. In the sequel you find your character awakening from a two month coma having survived a plane crash. Unsure of how you arrived in your current situation you begin to learn more about what is happening in this dystopian scf-fi setting, which will slowly transpire over the course of the next 25 hours that it’ll roughly take to complete the game.
While The Surge had you playing as a protagonist named Warren, this time around you’ll create a character with a few customisable options. With this character you’ll explore Jericho City, which serves as the main backdrop of the game. Almost immediately The Surge 2 starts to show you how the environment is interconnected as you begin to unlock shortcuts within the world. In attempting to teach you this the early moments of the game are quite linear, basically so that you don’t get lost. But once you’re out in the more open hub world, that’s when you can start to do a bit more exploration.
Enemies have power levels above their heads which give the player an indication of how difficult the encounter might be. That will be your general warning whether you’re heading in the right direction in relation to the where the game is trying to pull you towards. Characters that you’ll meet will give you good information regarding visual landmarks that you can look out for in the world. It does a great job at that, I never felt lost unsure of where I was supposed to be going next.
The combat in The Surge 2 has had a bit of a makeover with a few new mechanics being added into the mix. You’re still able to chain combos using vertical and horizontal melee strike attacks. Doing this will cost stamina but with each successful hit you’ll end up building your battery metre that can be used to trigger certain finishing moves or the abilities of your characters implants. Enemies will generally have some sort of armour protecting themselves, but on most occasions, it’s not covering the entirety of their body. So this means that during combat you can target specific body limbs, allowing you to be relatively strategic with your attacks.
But for the most part you’re going to want to aim for those protected regions. Once you do enough damage to that piece of armour, you’re able to spend some of your battery metre to slice off the limb, which in doing so gives you those materials as a reward. This can also change the course of the fight, sometimes the enemies will still have health on them, but if you’ve sliced of a limb; such as leg – then they won’t be able to move around anymore.
Collecting these materials is a key component of the game as you’re able to acquire a range of different armour types and weapons that you can upgrade while you continue to you battle against harder enemies. The other important thing that you get for killing an opponent is tech scrap. This is the primary currency within The Surge 2, and it’s used for levelling up your character, purchasing items, or upgrading your weapons and armour. It works rather similar to the souls mechanic from the Dark Souls, but with a twist.
As you receive tech scrap you have the choice of banking them into checkpoints spread throughout the world, known as MedBays. If you do, then it’s safe and you can use them however you like. But if you’re out running around and manage to get killed, you’ll drop all your tech scrap at the location you died in. Your character will then respawn at the last MedBay you visited, and you’ll have to work your way back to where you dropped everything. There’s also a time limit on how quickly you have to pick it up, but as long as you’re killing enemies then you’ll be given extra time along the way. If you fight through and reclaim your tech scrap then give yourself a pat on the back, but if you are killed once again, or don’t make it in time then the tech scrap is gone forever.
The game also tries to give you incentives not to bank your tech scrap constantly, by applying a multiplier to consecutive kills. Each time you visit a MedBay and bank the tech scrap then that multiplier is reset. It’s an interesting risk versus reward system to try and get you to take more chances.
Lastly, the blocking system within combat has been updated to give you justification to you use it, as opposed to just dodging out of the way. Now there is a directional blocking mechanic where you’ll have to block in a specific direction in order to successfully negate damage. Adding to that if you get the timing spot on, then you’ll have the opportunity to parry the enemy with a quick hit. It’s a fantastic change and once I got the hang of the timing it saved my skin quite a bit when I caught myself in tricky situations.
During the first half of the game I found it to be challenging in terms of its difficulty, it was exactly what I was looking for. But then it got to a point where that went completely out of the window, and I found myself being way too overpowered for the enemies I was coming up against. That difficulty I was experience was now non-existent, I no longer had to block or even dodge anymore. I was now just basically running at things, taking all the hits on the face and fighting back without much concern.
I really enjoyed the customisation aspect available, creating a character to suit your playstyle. There are a lot of different weapon types to choose from, and a range of implants that can be used to enhance your abilities. But I also like how some of these implants will affect the look of your HUD, and change the way you approach certain combat scenarios. For example, being able to remove the implant that displays an enemy health bar, or show you the direction you’ll need to block an incoming attack. You’ve got a limited amount of power to use these implants, so the choice of selecting exactly what you want on your character is fun to tinker around with.
One of the most disappointing aspects that I found about The Surge 2 during my playthrough was its performance and a host of bugs that I encountered. For the majority of my play the framerate on PC was a solid smooth experience, although every once and a while there would be some annoying graphical glitches appearing on the screen that required me to exit back to the main menu, and reload a save in-order to rectify the issue. Unfortunately that wasn’t all, in the last quarter of the game a turning point hits Jericho City, and this is where I saw some terrible framerate issues that got so low it started to have a negative effect on combat. Even with trying to turn down some of the graphical settings this didn’t alleviate any of the issues.
It was also in this last portion of the game where I began to have the game crash back to the desktop unexpectedly on a few occasions, but the game is pretty good at constantly saving your progress so luckily this wasn’t a massive issue. I also had problems where my character would get stuck in the environment and end up being instantly killed, causing me to drop all my tech scrap and having to work my way back to where I was. It’s frustrating when these things happen, and hopefully they can be resolved in future updates.
Despite some of the technical issues and difficulty scaling, The Surge 2 is a fun game that should satisfy those looking for a souls-like experience. The combat is rewarding, and the directional blocking system is definitely something I would love to see implemented into other action games. The Surge 2 shouldn’t be seen as a Dark Souls clone; instead, it’s a great game standing on its own feet that has done some exciting things to expand the genre.
The Surge 2 was reviewed using a promotional code on PC, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.
Editor’s Note: A 10GB patch was applied to the review build while playing through the last portion of the game. However, we were not able to obtain the patch notes at the time of this review going live. As such we’re not able to confirm if any of the issues experienced have been fixed for launch, and so the problems outlined in this review have been considered as if they will be there in the final product based on our personal experience with the game.