The Surge was a fun surprise game for fans of the Soulslike genre, placing players in the toes of a futuristic, armour-clad warrior that spends his days hacking limbs off his enemies with a variety of junkyard-inspired mechanical weapons.
The combat was a tried and true formula that involved managing stamina, learning enemy combos, and timing attacks, blocks, and dodges. The game world was a fairly standard open-world setting with plenty of backtracking and shortcuts interspersed with medbays that function like bonfires from the aforementioned FromSoft games where players would respawn after every death, and spend the game’s currency—tech scrap— to upgrade skills. The Surge 2 is…more of the same, really, except more difficult and with a newly implemented character creator taking place in a big, futuristic city full of run-down buildings, scrapyards, and alleyways choked with enemies excited to tear your arms off.
Beginning with the actual gameplay loop, players will run through the levels trying to open shortcuts and doing battle with various enemies that range from simple goons to hulking and weighty mechanical monstrosities. Actually fighting these baddies involves a formula that at this point is so intuitively familiar that there isn’t a whole lot to learn. Lock onto an enemy, dodge and block their attacks while targeting their weak spots identified handily by a blue highlight. The reason for this being that in order to upgrade your own weapons and armour, you have to get the correct parts. Need to upgrade your helmet? Aim for the heads. Need to upgrade your chest piece? Aim for the chest. Rinse, repeat. The actual fighting has a nice sense of weight and impact to it, but definitely felt ever so slightly sluggish and delayed, leading to some frustration on my part. A fun addition to this formula is the drone system, which is a tiny flying robot that hangs out on your back and can be fitted with a variety of different upgrades ranging from EMP blasts to fire grenades or several types of firearm. This drone was actually incredibly useful at times in taking out the sentries and drones of the enemies, as the player themselves must rely entirely on a range of distinct but limited melee combat.
Players gain “tech scrap” each time they kill an enemy, which can be banked at a Med bay for future use—a mechanic I am a huge fan of, as it makes a failed “soul run” a bit less frustrating if you’ve got some bits and pieces saved up. When doing these soul runs, a timer ticks down, making each retrieval a race against time. However, once you finally get your stuff back, you are also healed, which gives a bit of relief and breathing space for something you will end up doing quite a bit throughout the game as you die over and over again. This tech scrap is used to level up your character and offers you points to place in three categories, health, stamina, and battery. The former two being rather self-explanatory, and the latter being a meter that fills up as you kill enemies and can be used to heal. Sort of like an Estus flask that can be refilled as often as you like if you’re willing to fight for it. This rather limited set of stats can be re-specced as often as you like for a fee, allowing you to change up your character and better tailor your approach to each boss fight. Having said that, it makes for a pretty limited character build variety, and while all the various weapons offer their own playstyles and attack combos, the range is basically “fast and snappy” or “heavy and slow”. It would have been nice to allow for more diversity for replayability sakes.
The implant system also makes a return, which definitely spices things up a bit in the stat category. Players can equip multiple implants, each offering different advantages like better battery recharge rates, resistance to different elements, or more health boosters. Each implant takes up a certain amount of power, which is drawn from a pool that is increased each time the player levels up. You can mix and match these all you want, provided you have enough juice to equip them, as your armour also takes up chunks of the available power supply, so managing your loadout is a constant stream of swapping bits and pieces to help you out during different encounters.
The gameplay world does suffer from a very generic, semi-dystopian futuristic city setting. While the open-world level design is rather complex, with branching pathways and shortcuts available to for the player to open up and make traversing the game a bunnyhop system of “spawn at medbay, fight bad guys, open up locked door, spawn at medbay and use the now open door to get to the next encounter or boss fight slightly faster.” The issue with The Surge 2 is the generic and messy visual design. Everything looks kind of the same, and although there is some brief implementation of different biomes, almost the entire game takes place in a visually homogenous setting. Everything kind of blurs together into one long slog of “broken down future city”, alleyways, warehouses, and cluttered streets. It would have been nice to switch things up to give the player a better sense of progression.
The story, characters, cut scenes and settings are all pretty forgettable. I just kind of zoned out during most of these sections. Combined with the rather uniform level design, this caused the entire game to feel like one long, samey mission. However, the actual nuts and bolts of the gameplay loop is satisfying enough to make you forget this. It’s also a difficult game, with some of the toughest bosses I’ve encountered in this genre in a long time. A multiplayer aspect would be super fun and add a sense of relief to some of these battles, so hopefully, Deck13 implements this at some point down the road.
On the whole, The Surge 2 is a pretty by the numbers Soulslike with solid, weighty combat and some neat twists on the genre, but is held back by a rather boring aesthetic and forgettable storyline. If you like these types of games it’s definitely worth picking up, but if you’re after something more innovative and distinct, you’ll be disappointed.