Review – The Surge 2
Given how I had quite a bit of fun with the original The Surge back in 2017, I was definitely looking forward to finally playing its sequel. Not to mention discovering all of the improvements implemented by Deck13 in this short two year span between releases. E3 2018 gave me a glimpse of how impressive the game was shaping up to become, but I had to wait more than a year to finally get my hands on the final product. Thankfully, it more than delivers. The Surge 2 is a commendable improvement over its predecessor.
The Surge is notable for being a mid-tier Dark Souls clone set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic environment. It has great gameplay set around dismembering enemies and using their bionic limbs to improve your gear. I really enjoyed it, with most of my complaints revolving around issues caused by its obvious small budget. Things such as repetitive locales and an overall lack of polish. The Surge 2 ups the ante by fixing what is wrong in its predecessor, as well as adding new features to make it look less like just another Souls clone with no personality of its own.
Deck13 did hear everyone’s complaints about The Surge‘s environments looking too repetitive and devoid of life. The Surge 2 is now set in a big city with a lot more variety than I could have ever expected from a post-apocalyptic setting. From urban alleys to docklands and even a huge national park with a ton of greenery, there is a lot in here. The level design is stupendous, with lots of secret paths leading to bonus items and shortcuts that connect the map in ingenious ways. The entire map isn’t completely open per se, with some gateways acting as loading buffers to another zone. That being said, it’s expertly crafted.
The combat system was already great in the previous game and it’s even better this time around. Back at E3 2018, I mentioned that The Surge 2‘s gameplay was the Bloodborne to The Surge‘s Dark Souls. I wasn’t completely wrong, but there’s a lot more to it than just being “more aggressive”. Your character is a lot faster this time around, with a slightly bigger stamina bar, quicker dodges, and an overall increased responsiveness, even when wielding a heavy weapon. Each weapon features tons of different combos that allow you to inflict a ton of damage onto your foes with speed and style.
In many other Souls-inspired games, you do feel the burden of being a lot weaker than the enemies around you. In The Surge 2, I feel as powerful and nimble as a boss, with a ton of weapons, implants, and combos at my disposal. All of this without ever feeling too overpowered, as everyone around me has access to the same tools to try to kill me.
The dismembering system, one of the main highlights of the previous game, is still present in The Surge 2. In a great example of how to implement a risk and reward system, you can target different limbs when attacking enemies. They can either be armored or unarmored, but that doesn’t mean that aiming at a more protected limb is useless. Dismembering them results in either earning a blueprint to a brand new piece of equipment or materials to improve your current gear. It feels a bit like Monster Hunter, as you’re basically wearing the “carcass” of your enemies, and it works perfectly. This is a very fair progression system that lets you buff your gear according to your immediate necessities.
One neat addition in The Surge 2 is the drone that you can deploy at any given time. You can insert a wide variety of gadgets into said drone, allowing it to help you during battles. You can attach a rifle to it, allowing you to aim and kill enemies at a distance. You can also attach an EMP launcher to it, allowing you to briefly stun enemies and override some electronic locks. There are many other tools you can use, increasing the amount of strategies you can perform while chopping off bionic limbs left and right.
Another thing that impressed me a lot in The Surge 2 is the sound design. I’m not saying that the soundtrack is as epic as a boss battle theme from a From Software game, but the game does now how to raise the stakes with its occasional but effective tunes. Given how the amount of NPCs has skyrocketed in this game, there is a lot more voice acting, with a noticeable increase in its overall quality. Some characters do sound goofy, especially those with foreign accents, but the overall voice acting is pretty good. Way better than I could have ever expected from a game of this size and scope.
With that being said, not everything is perfect in The Surge 2. The overall amount of “jank” is a lot less noticeable this time around, without a doubt, but there are still some issues.
My first issue is a minor one: the camera. It’s not as clunky as the one featured in the first Surge, but it’s still occasionally faulty, especially when you’re fighting a boss in a big arena. There are instances in which my character completely disappeared from the screen, as the camera wasn’t following him as quickly as it should have.
My main gripe, however, lies in the visuals. The Surge 2 is a lot bigger and way more ambitious than its predecessors. Understandably, the graphic quality takes a bit of a toll in order to make everything run as smoothly as it does, especially on base consoles. The resolution isn’t as impressive and there are some annoying post-processing features like excessive motion blur and chromatic aberration. The overall color pallette and lighting effects on the base console versions are a bit underwhelming. Whenever there is a ray of light onscreen, whatever is being lit by it just becomes a big shiny blob of white, making it pretty hard to see whatever the hell is in front of you. Things are much better on the Pro and Xbox One X, as well as the PC. If I had to recommend the perfect version for you to buy, that would be the PC version.
Issues aside, The Surge 2 is a phenomenal improvement over its predecessor. It’s bigger, faster, a lot more ambitious, and above all, it’s a lot more fun to play. Thanks to its neat story, crazy setting, and fantastic combat mechanics, The Surge 2 is a great achievement by Deck13, looking less like “yet another Dark Souls clone” and more like a well-crafted action RPG that can easily stand on its own.
The Surge 2 features better animations and way more interesting environments than its predecessor, at the cost of muddier visuals and unappealing post-processing effects.
Brutal and fast-paced, it’s a noticeable improvement over its predecessor. The inclusion of the drone allows for even more creative ways to defeat enemies. The only issue in here is the occasionally unreliable camera.
It is obviously influenced by Dark Souls. For the most part, it is devoid of a soundtrack, letting the brutal sound effects and really good voice acting do the talking. The energetic soundtrack shows up during important battles.
The Surge 2 is bigger than its predecessor. It features more interesting environments and a story worth caring about. Its combat mechanics have been improved. With the exception of the muddier visuals and occasionally annoying camera, this game is the real deal.
Final Verdict: 8.5
The Surge 2 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of The Surge 2 was provided by the publisher.