It's been a couple of years since Deck13 debuted their indisputably Souls-like The Surge and we now have a very cool sequel.
I must admit; I didn't enjoy the original The Surge all that much. As I played it, the clunky gameplay, repetitive enemies, reliance on grinding, and lack of guidance made me yearn to replay any of the Dark Souls games. I know people don't like comparing games to Dark Souls for some reason but let's face it; games like The Surge and Nioh wouldn't exist without its influence so it's totally a fair comparison.
Anyway, when I started playing The Surge 2, its introductory area where you try and escape a prison didn't leave a good first impression but after I got past this rudimentary and unimpressive tutorial segment, things began to actually become fun to my surprise and delight. From then on, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in its brutal world yet things slowly start to take a turn and I'll get more into why in a bit.
The core combat in The Surge 2 is satisfying, challenging, and impressively tight. Of course, you can target body parts such as heads, bodies, and limbs but aside from that, you can parry attacks in various directions, use a drone to get a few cheap shots in, and there's a nifty healing system, too. Basically, you have a battery that you can use to charge healing stocks and perform finishing moves. Therefore, keeping your battery full will allow you to survive for longer than if you're running low. Actually fighting enemies can be quite intense as you exchange blows and try to parry attacks and I found the overall formula to be quite action-packed and enjoyable.
One mechanic that's utilized in combat is that you can target armoured parts on your enemies to retrieve materials that you can use to either craft or upgrade armour. You can also take weapons in a similar fashion although it's weird because you have to chop an arm off to receive a weapon. If you don't chop an arm off, you can see their weapon merely lying on the ground after you kill them yet you can't pick it up. That's some goofy video game logic if you ask me but I digress. Defeating the same enemies over and over again as you acquire enough materials to craft and upgrade a whole set of gear is quite rewarding, especially when you gain a sweet bonus for a complete set. You can also equip implants that provide boosts as well as different kinds of drones that can spray paint graffiti and leave banners for other players to find if you play online. These banners act as a silly hide and seek mini-game which is a fun distraction.
The Surge 2's game world is divided into separate large stages and each one is rewarding to explore as you'll unlock a ton of shortcuts and discover plenty of treasures in the nooks and crannies. There are so many shortcuts that remembering where you haven't explored yet and where each corridor leads can be difficult but it is awesome to see such a complex web of paths within each area.
Finally, let's discuss The Surge 2's less desirable traits. For starters, the whole gameplay loop of entering a new area then slowly exploring it as you grind for materials and Tech Scrap only to reach a new area and start again gets exceptionally tedious by the time you reach the third or so area. There are a few aspects that contribute to this such as the fact that each area feels very similar to the previous one and that enemy variety is lacking. Sure, some foes have guns and others are little ankle-biter robots but no adversary really stands out from the pack as you use the same techniques to take down everyone. Last but not least, you'll find yourself grinding a lot to simply make it through tough areas as well as topple certain tough bosses which becomes monotonous almost immediately.
Although The Surge 2 is certainly a better game than its predecessor, it still has a long way to go to reach the highs of similar titles.
- + Gameplay is much more action-packed and tight than the first game
- + Loads of gear to unlock and upgrade
- + Intricate stages are fun to explore
- - Gameplay loop gets very repetitive after you explore a few locales
- - Enemy variety is severely lacking
- - Necessary grinding can be a pain