The Dark Souls Franchise took the world by storm starting with the original Demon’s Souls that was released as a PS3 exclusive all the way back in 2009. Over the past 10-11 years a lot of companies have tried to evoke the same level of challenge, particularly when it comes to overcoming seamlessly impossible foes through learning, repetition and growth. I honestly was one of those who desperately wanted to enjoy those games but struggled with the constant defeat and the need to replay countless areas only to be defeated once again. When I found out The Surge 2 was yet another Soul’s-Like game I came into it with interest but had serious reservations about whether or not I could make it through without throwing in the towel.
The Surge 2 is the sequel to Deck 13’s The Surge released back in 2017. The story is a continuation of that initial game (although since I hadn’t played it, I can only speak to the events that unfold in The Surge 2). You play as one of the only survivors of a plane that crashed in the middle of Jericho City. You wake up in a prison hospital with no recollection of who you are or the events that unfolded that ended you up here. Jericho city is a futuristic city that has become a haven for drug lords, escaped prisoners and the police all vying for control and doing their best to avoid an epidemic known only as The Defrag. As you travel through the city you will come across “visions” of a young girl with extraordinary powers who the authorities are desperate to capture. Apparently the two of you were the only survivors of the plane crash and she somehow holds the key to the epidemic and potentially the cure.
You begin in prison with only defibrillators as your weapon, and this area serves as a tutorial. You are taught how to target specific limbs of your opponents, chopping off arms and legs to acquire either their weapons or the armor that they are wearing. Almost every enemy you encounter will drop valuable tech scrap, a currency/XP, that can be then traded in for armor/weapon upgrades or used to level up your character. You will also acquire your Rig here, an exoskeleton that allows you to apply various implants you acquire along the way that give your character special bonuses and abilities. You will also acquire your handy little drone that can also be outfitted with an array of special powers which itself utilizes nano technology as ammunition. The tutorial does an amazing job of teaching you the basics, but like other soul’s type games you are left on your own to figure out where to go or what to do next.
Combat is particularly fun in The Surge 2. Since you all start as a nameless inmate and are provided with the same basic equipment in the beginning, there is no need to research which type of character class, or build will give you the greatest chance for success. Everyone learns the ropes in the same way, which puts first time players on the same level as those who have completed the game (or similar games) in the past. Each enemy’s body parts can be targets to acquire any specific equipment you might want. If you see an enemy with a new weapon you can target their arm and chop it off with a satisfyingly brutal cut scene each time. Armor is also acquired this way, so if you need specific armor (body, legs, arms and head) you simply target the body part and with each success will be granted either armor schematics that can be researched and crafted, or armor parts that can be used to upgrade your existing sets. Combat is all about observation and timing, understanding the strikes so you can better avoid or counter and do the most damage without taking any yourself.
Much like the other soul’s games when you die, you are resurrected at a medical bay, minus the technical scrap you have collected. If you make it back to where you died, you not only reacquire the scrap that was lost, but your character is healed as well. One unique thing about your pile of belonging is that standing near them will automatically heal you in small increments, which you can utilize to your advantage to heal you up when you take damage before snatching it up for the full benefit. Be aware though that you have a limited amount of time to get your body but killing enemies along your path back extends your time. If you die before reaching your body though, you will lose all the scrap you had acquired, and your new death spot will appear.
Three main stats are your focus when leveling up. Your health, which signifies the amount of damage (along with your defensive score) you can take before dying. Stamina, which is used for both dodging and attacking, and your battery efficiency. Batteries are used to power all sorts of implants that you have enabled, so implants that enable you to heal will consume battery power to activate. Battery power can be gained by attacking your opponents or dropped by numerous robotic entities around the map. Managing these three stats and upgrading your character are key to survival in Jericho City. In typical grind fashion, if you come across battles that are simply to difficult to beat, you can take on additional enemies and grind tech scrap to level you up before the next challenge.
The game map provides shortcuts that you can open as you progress through a level. So, while a door might be closed on one side, you’ll eventually find a path to open it from the other. The thing that I particularly liked about this method is that these shortcuts usually lead back to a med-bay so you don’t have to traverse the entire way should you die to get back to your body. The other thing that I feel The Surge 2 does far better than the soul’s games is the location of med-bays in proximity to the main boss fights. The bosses can be incredibly difficult, and you can expect to die a lot, however, there are usually only a couple of enemies between you and the boss you are fighting. Returning to the boss fight is typically quite easy and doesn’t damage you excessively which limits the amount of time lost.
That’s not to say everything about The Surge 2 is exceptional. The story is mostly forgotten while you battle your way through the city. I may have been more invested in it if I had played through the first title, but it’s nothing more than an afterthought in this game. There are side quests throughout that provide you with special equipment and additional scrap, but outside of the bonus they aren’t terribly interesting. The game even now after several patches still has the occasional stutter (sometimes in major boss fights that can be the difference between life and death), but nothing that I wasn’t able to overcome. I did encounter a strange Vulkan error that would randomly crash my system, which after looking online and a few frustrating experiences I overcame by completely uninstalling and reinstalling the game. I’ve played roughly 10-12 hours since the reinstall and haven’t had the error resurface, not saying that will fix it for everyone, but that’s how I was able to address it.
The Surge 2 is a fantastic take on the Soul’s Formula. Its combat is frantic and fantastic, and the finishing moves are outstanding. You can expect to spend at least 20 hours fighting your way through the city, although your mileage will vary based on your experience, and the time you’re willing to put in and learn. For those who love Dark Soul’s I certainly think this game is worth your time. If you have been intimidated by those particular games in the past, you might want to give this one a try. The combat is a bit more fluid, and there is a lot less preparation that goes into playing it successfully.
What I liked: Fun Combat, Interesting tech, Smartly placed Med-bays
What I liked less: Some Technical Glitches, Uninspired Story
4 out of 5