The Surge 2 Review: This Dystopian Future Has Soul(s)

by David Sanchez September 30, 2019 @ 7:14 am

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

It becomes quite obvious pretty early on while playing The Surge 2 that Deck13 Interactive isn’t out to reinvent the wheel. That’s okay, though, because sometimes games don’t need to revolutionize a genre to create something within that genre that’s absolutely fun and badass in its own right. The Surge 2 isn’t revolutionary or evolutionary, but it’s an engaging, challenging, and rewarding Souls-like that takes you to a colorful sci-fi future that’s a blast to visit. It utilizes the genre’s best features, and offers plenty refinements, to make it feel like a special entry in its own right.

The Walls of Jericho City

The Surge 2 kicks things off by dropping you into its character creator. Here you can pick a few options to make the playable character your own. There aren’t insane amounts of options, and if you really don’t want to deal with it, you can randomize the character’s facial features and wardrobe, but you can create a pretty rad-looking guy or gal to play as if you want to.

Once you’re done creating a playable character, you’re thrust into the game’s world head-first and briefed on what’s going on. Basically, the world’s in the crapper and there are enhanced soldiers running around and ready to give you a hard time. That’s… pretty much it? There are audio logs and character interactions that provide some more back story throughout the 20-hour campaign, but honestly, the story’s hardly worth caring about.

No, what you’ll care about is the slick action that there’s to be found in The Surge 2.

Limb from Limb

From the get-go, The Surge 2 is a very difficult game. I got messed up pretty bad before even clearing what is essentially the game’s tutorial. Maybe I’m just bad at video games, or maybe The Surge 2 is just really good at kicking the player’s ass. For my sake, I’ll argue in favor of the latter.

That said, the game’s difficulty is part of its appeal. Folks play these types of games because they’re hard. And there’s no shortage of challenging encounters in The Surge 2.

At first, you fight strictly generic dudes who have some pretty basic attacks. Even then, they travel in groups, so if you’re not careful, well, you’ll get got. And no one wants that — except maybe the dudes who are doing all the killing.

You’ve got quick attacks and stronger attacks. You can dodge incoming offense and counterattack. You can target limbs and rip them off your foes. Combat has just the right amount of depth. It also feels a little faster than what you’d get in a Dark Souls game, which helps to differentiate The Surge 2 from its inspiration.

Limb targeting is one of biggest factors to take into account in The Surge 2. Depending on whether you’re focusing on an arm, leg, or torso, you’ll be rewarded with the appropriate blueprints and parts to craft armor for those specific body parts on your character. This adds an element of strategy, and it forces you to factor in what you need to deck out your character’s body armor the more you play. Couple this with the game’s Souls-like upgrade system, and you’ve got a lot to work with to make a character that’s unique to your play style.

Break the Walls Down… or Not

Unlike in the first Surge, The Surge 2 does a better job with its environments. There are more open spaces, and you’re not relegated completely to industrial zones and tech labs. You can explore, er, travel through the great outdoors and visit forests and other more organic areas. I say “travel through” because the layout of The Surge 2 relies more so on corridor-based movement and smaller rooms than actual exploration.

The game’s world isn’t massive, but it does have plenty of secrets tucked away. A lot of the time, though, you’re running through smaller spaces and encountering enemies in tight spots that force you to be on high alert. The Surge 2 likes to trap the player with enemies — this game knows what it’s doing to you.

Sometimes you’ll encounter an enemy or two. These moments are still tough, but they’re doable, and they feel fair. Other times you’ll be surrounded by up to five bad guys, and that’s when the trouble starts. It can get frustrating — tiresome even — having to dispose of larger groups. Hell, at times I couldn’t help but to throw up my arms after dying a dozen times. Still, it’s those moments when you rise above those challenge that The Surge 2 makes you feel like the baddest mother on the planet.

Unfortunately, though The Surge 2 is fairly tight and polished for the most part, the combat can feel clunky at times. This is especially evident when you’re in those big battles against larger packs of enemies. You’ll get caught in some random architecture or backed up into a corner you forgot was there because the camera isn’t on your side, and then just like that it’s lights out. This kind of happens more than you’d like, but if you’re able to move past it, you’re in store for an otherwise excellent combat system.

Souls-y, Yes, but not Exactly Dark

The biggest difference between The Surge 2 and the Souls series from which it draws its inspiration is its look and tone. It’s still very much end-of-the-world-esque, but it’s not so much a dark and brooding world as it is a vibrant dystopian setting. The various environments are bright and colorful, and they give The Surge 2 a unique tone.

The character designs are a bit bulky and generic, and their facial animations are pretty bad, but this can be overlooked in favor of the game’s otherwise solid look. Okay, maybe it can’t be overlooked entirely. Those facial animations and expressions are some early era PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 stuff.

The Surge 2 knows exactly what it is. Deck13 set out to make a Souls-inspired sci-fi RPG, and it succeeded. There are enough differences here to make it stand out, and the various mechanics — from the world to the upgrade system — have all been fine-tuned from the original game to make it a worthy title that surpasses its predecessor. No, The Surge 2 may not win too many awards for originality, but it deserves a ton of credit for just being a highly enjoyable, wonderfully challenging action-RPG that’s gripping from beginning to end.

Score: 8 out of 10

Follow this author on .