The Surge 2 is a door that can only be opened from the other side. Roughly a dozen hours later you will find yourself standing on the other side of this door before opening it and returning to the very place in which you began, keenly aware of how far you’ve progressed while not really traveling anywhere at all. Surge 2, Deck13’s five-year grind in that formula of tough, stamina-based combat, corpse runs and shortcuts takes another thudding step towards self-actualisation. From the sound of metal on bone as you cleave enemies in half with hulking weapons, to the joy of a perfect parry, The Surge 2 is a satisfying. it’s retained a lot of what worked in the first game, and throws in a few solid system updates and quality-of-life improvements aimed at making a better version of the original. However, there are some environmental design and storytelling decisions that eliminate some of the original’s charm and cause the story to trip over its own feet.
It has the deliberate combat, save points that respawn your enemies, tough boss fights that may or may not push you to pull some hair out. You know, the classics. Somehow, though the sequel finds its way to a more distinctive playstyle through small refinements, some of which go against genre conventions. It’s tough without being obtuse, challenging without forcing you to wrestle for every inch of progress. They see you navigate an open world, exploring vast locales battling challenging enemies while spending experience points to level up your character and upgrade your equipment.Flash forward dozens of hours, and my character stands tall like an angelic being outfitted in unified white armor, a gold halo on his back, and a staff that sizzles with magical power. This strange rags-to-riches journey is just one reason why The Surge 2 is notably better than its predecessor. Developer Deck13 Interactive sticks to its guns on what The Surge is, yet improves upon the predecessor’s systems and flow to create a thrilling pursuit of power backed by excellent combat encounters.The Surge 2 keeps the same rig system as the first game. This sees you upgrade your character using cybernetic implants and a variety of high, and low, tech futuristic weapons to dismember anything that gets in your way.
Much like its predecessor, combat in The Surge 2 is based around observation, stamina management and timing. Watch your enemies’ attack patterns, target specific body parts for weaknesses, then use those body parts to craft modular gear for your avatar. It’s a very satisfying loop.Its five main areas (technically there are nine to explore, but you’ll only really spend a meaningful amount of time in five) all have a different look and feel – the downtown shopping district, the port, the hospital/business district, etc – but aside from one or two they all feel like variations on the same “urban wasteland” template. By contrast, one of the things I really appreciated about the original was that, while the different areas of the CREO complex all had some unifying elements (corporate signage and propaganda, or the uniform design of the Science Fiction Maintenance Tunnel), the thematic design of each zone was unique.It’s a hard game in the sense that it demands patience and attention to detail, but it’s not especially punishing. Sure, when you die or rest at a medbay (read: bonfire) all the enemies respawn and many of them can kill you in a couple of hits. And sure, you have to make it back to where you died to recover your tech scrap (read: souls). But as with the Souls series and its ilk, this isn’t really a game about clearing an area and leveling up; it’s about learning through repetition and deepening your understanding of the game.This time, instead of a robot factory, swarms of nanomachines are wreaking havoc in futuristic metropolis Jericho City. As an unnamed, custom character, you wake up in a post-apocalyptic city with no memory, aside from the fact that you were in a plane crash. A trail of breadcrumbs quickly appears, leading you towards finding out more about who you are, where you came from, and what to do next.Again, every category is neatly sorted and explained in the inventory menu. From there you can load your rig with augments, which can be used to boost your character’s core skills or add injectables to your loadout. Injectables play the same role as potions in regular RPGs.
Heavy duty weapons and Goliath loadouts make it feel like you’re piloting a Titanfall mech and have a pleasing clout when you exchange blows with your foes. Nimble operators fly about the battlefield and have a distinct “sting like a bee” Ultraman feel, but get sent flying around the map when hit.You awaken months later in Jericho City, a once-thriving metropolis overrun by a CREO-produced nanite plague. Jericho is now at war – monsters roam the streets, and citizens fight to protect what is theirs. This narrative hook has more flesh on the bone than the original entry’s, which primarily explored the innards of CREO’s facilities. Jericho is a city filled with people to talk to, and far more interesting areas to explore than new sectors of a facility. The dialogue made me cringe at times, and some of the side missions are a bit strange (like planting flowers for a robot), but the overall vibe established in Jericho is engaging, which enhances exploration.It’s a key feature that can reverse the tide of battle and super important for tank characters in Goliath armour with with slow attack speeds. On several occasions I found myself using it to create openings against enemies that previously felt unstoppable.It doesn’t help that the characters you meet along the way lack nuance, a pastiche of Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic clichés, lack the depth necessary to make you care about what’s happening in the world.
You were also on the plane, yet somehow survived the crash and, at the start of the game, wake up in the medical wing of the Jericho City Police Department. Soon you’re having sporadic visions of a young girl, the granddaughter of the CEO of nanotech firm CREO Industries, who you’re sure was also on the plane and now appears to have been kidnapped by a mysterious security force.It’s missteps, however, made the sequel an overall lesser game than the original: uninspired environmental design and overly ambitious story choices rob it of the same level of satisfaction, even with the mechanical improvements. That said, if you’re just here to chop dudes in robot suits in half as you grind up to the next power bracket or craft another piece of gear made out of severed arms, you’re probably gonna have a great time.