Around 2 years ago we were gifted a game that was on no one’s list at the time, The Surge, and while my review for the game painted it in a very bad light it did well enough for the studio, Deck 13, to attempt a sequel to improve on the flaws of the predecessor. The Surge 2 moves away from the protagonist of the first, putting us in the shoes of a player-made character waking from a coma to fight against people in exoskeletons as well as extra-dimensional monsters. Let’s see if the game got an upgrade.
Starting off similarly to The Surge, though without any wheelchair emotional string pulls, we quickly make our character from a very bare list of choices. Our character awakens from a coma as they had survived a plane crash 20 years ago, waking to a world full of crazed scrappers and monsters. Breaking out of our hospital bed, and a prison, we strap into a new exoskeleton without surgery with our first steps into the wild open world. Just ignore that portal in the sky.
While The Surge had our main objective being to escape the facility, slowly changing into a save-the-world mission, The Surge 2 has us escape within minutes to then give us a quest of reaching an octopus building. As before we try our best to do what others tell us to do, only to mess things up and go on a jolly save-the-world jaunt, though we have to sever a few hundred limbs in the process.
The Surge 2 will last you around 10-20 hours depending on your skill at these kinds of games, especially if you focused on 1 set of gear rather than experimenting. There isn’t much incentive for repeat plays, aside from some minor choices that don’t alter the world in any significant way until near the end. There is a new game plus mode with more challenges, new events and changing of enemies, alongside generally being harder.
Playing very closely to the first game, The Surge 2 is set up as an action hack n’ slash like with dark souls-esque mechanics. You have a horizontal attack, vertical, charging both up for a combo as well as a dash to avoid attacks. You can block, shoot with your robot and sever limbs if you hit them enough. Your attacks change depending on your weapons, with weapon types acting the same as one another, with each attack being a forced animation with seemingly no way to cancel.
Just like in the first game, you will have a much harder time if you use the slow weapons as you have to commit to your mistakes, with enemies being far faster than you and having insane combos to techniques that blow you away. You’re also Pidgeon holed into whatever gear you like best as scrap and components take time to gather and your stats mean a lot more than skill most of the time. Making sure you have plenty of healing items, health regen and health steal will make the game a cakewalk against someone who focused more on their headgear.
Whenever you land a hit on an opponent you will charge up your batteries, starting at 3 charges in the beginning. You use 1 charge whenever you want to dismember your opponent, to gain scrap or a new schematic, as well as whenever you wish to use your healing items. The Surge 2 rewards players for being more aggressive and fast with their attacks, as to heal you must attack and if you’re too passive the batteries will degrade. Later on, you can store more energy, bank it for later use, have it heal you over time and more.
As you progress you will gain scrap from items scattered around the world or as drops from enemies, scrap is both your experience and currency in this game, being able to upgrade at med bays or buy items at merchants. Whenever you level up you will gain more power for your suit, allowing new armour and implants to be added, as well as 2 ability points to upgrade your health, stamina or battery charge. Levelling up is crucial in The Surge 2 as a lot of great equipment is locked behind that power consumption.
Similarly to the first entry, The Surge 2 relies heavily on the atmosphere of the world as well as the sounds within it to create a cityscape soundtrack. There are times when the music kicks in, fitting with both the energy and the events occurring, though these are often reserved to either long conversations, looking at vistas or boss fights. Yet again it makes the world feel empty, with is theme fitting but doesn’t amp you up for taking on that Exosuit thug around the corner.
Yet again The Surge 2 does not pull its punches when it comes to difficulty, with the first boss fight taking me a few tries to defeat. While the game progressively gets harder, in a relatively smooth fashion, the difficulty really comes down to your gear, as a full health regen build makes normal fights incredibly easy. Like its predecessor, The Surge 2 still has death traps, hidden enemies and narrow corridors which all work against you.
The first game had a real problem with narrative and story, with most people not even discussing the problems at hand or worrying about when they’ll next eat a burger. The Surge 2 alleviates this somewhat with some more directed characters, though they take on the tropes of religious zealots and mysterious men. Your character is now mute, and player-made, so the story for the protagonist is more in the hands of the player, which makes it even weirder that we just listen to everyone and do their bidding.
Surprisingly, the sequel is more buggy and broken than the previous game. Texture/model load in is terrible, to the point where clothing is play-dough and my character’s facial hair looks like he took a sharpie to his face. AI will bug out and walk in circles, or just stand still. The game crashes often, or takes horrendously long to load areas. Objects will take a few seconds to break, with some floating in the air after being broken. Not to mention some poor lighting choices and the lighting just breaking at times, creating pitch-black rooms and hallways.
Overall, The Surge 2 gets a 6/10, a marginal upgrade over the last, it improves upon the previous entry but not by a large leap at all. The gameplay is smoother if still a bit clunky at times and unforgiving for new players, with plenty of easy exploits. The story is more of a background thought with plenty of it being miss-able or just needlessly convoluted. The modular armour is still a great system, though continues to push you in certain directions while punishing experimentation. If you liked the first game, you should like this, if you can look past the bugs or play it after patches.