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The Surge 2 Review

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

With Apologies to Players of the Original

The Surge 2, developed by Deck13 and published by Focus Home Interactive, is the former's latest addition to the Soulslike genre. Following on the heels of the previous game, you take the role of the survivor of the crash of Flight 221. Finding yourself trapped in Jericho City, you must fight your way through private military forces and religious fanatics to find Athena, a young girl who keeps appearing to you in nanite-fueled visions.

I Was Born in a Prison

””

The Surge 2 has a lot more going for it narratively than its predecessor. The crash of Flight 221 is a direct consequence of the events of The Surge. The missile-carrying Project Utopia from the first game hits your flight and brings you down in Jericho City. Two months later, with nanite swarms running amok within the city limits, the government has erected a giant wall to keep the citizens, and hopefully, the nanites contained. Following the tradition of the last game, The Surge 2 narrates through character interactions and builds its world through level design and audio logs. The main story has a few narrative twists and turns that kept me interested, namely, who is Athena, and why is she so important. Ultimately, though, it concludes with an Aesop that feels neither earned nor explored.

That said, I found the cityscape of Jericho City, and its residents, to be much more memorable than the Creo facility of the first game ever was. I rarely ever felt lost or confused when navigating its streets. Within Jericho City, you have two major factions. A.I.D. is a paramilitary organization contracted to contain and possibly cure the nanite plague. Meanwhile, the Children of the Spark are a cult that worships the nanites and sees them as the next phase of human evolution. The Children by far are more thoroughly explored than A.I.D. While each has their areas, enemy types, and audio logs, it's the Children that you wind up fighting most of the time and whose leaders make up the majority of bosses. While I would have preferred to see A.I.D. take up a more substantial role as the counterpoint to the Children, they serve their narrative purpose just fine.

With No Hope for Escape

””

Jericho City at once feels larger and smaller than I expected. The city itself is broken up into six distinct districts. Each has different enemy types that complement the environment well. Downtown Jericho has groups of gangers and convicts; the Children-controlled docks are scrappy and repurposed, matching the cult's scavenging aesthetic. Pathways twist and turn, doubling and tripling back upon themselves, so you're never too far away from a medbay checkpoint. This winding design makes each zone feel like a place rather than a linear level. Add to this the occasional side street, and hidden alleys containing secrets and characters, and the illusion of a living city is all but sold.

The level design winds up being a double-edged sword, however, in that frequent backtracking through levels shows just how small these shortcuts you're opening can make the level. Upon scrutiny, each of the areas is a loop with only one way in or out, with each zone divided by a loading screen. Couple this with how the maps break up progression by requiring specific plot-important items to interact with particular doors and paths, and you'll frequently feel hampered by the level design rather than enticed by it.

You Cannot Miss What You Have Never Seen Before

The Surge 2 plays very much like the original. While you don't play as Warren, you are still a workaday laborer with a high-powered exoskeleton. You still have to manage your health and stamina, as well as a battery bar you charge by attacking and blocking. The dismemberment system returns, allowing you to spend a charged battery to rip off any of your opponent's six target areas. Successfully rip off an arm and get the blueprints to construct a piece of arm armor, and so on. All the previous weapon types return, with the addition of a few new ones like double-duty weapons and punching gloves. Also included are a variety of easter eggs for those that played the original, such as the Stranger.

Not everything from the original is recycled here. For example, and again I apologize to those who played The Surge, Stumfol's "Prisoner" no longer plays in all of the medbay areas. Weapons all mostly have different movesets within their weapon type, and their animations lock you into them with less regularity. Instead of hopping or ducking enemy attacks, which you can still do, there is a greater emphasis on directional blocking. This operates as a sort of parry mechanic where you anticipate where your opponent will attack and block in that direction at the right time to open them up for a devastating power attack. Mistime it, however, and you will be the one feeling the hurt. Thankfully, you're afforded an upgrade that will show when and in what direction to block, though this by no means trivializes the experience.

Deep Inside You Know There Must Be More

””

Most Soulslike games make the concession that you aren’t necessarily here for the story but rather the gameplay and the challenge by including a more-difficult New Game Plus mode. The Surge 2 is no exception. After beating the final boss and watching the end credits, you can start again from the beginning. The Surge 2 does things a little differently, however. For starters, you don't start right back at the prison, but instead on Flight 221. This change is small, but adds some context to the story and serves as an epilogue in a movie. It was completely unnecessary, but ultimately a nice touch that I hadn't even considered that I would have wanted. Further, New Game Plus sees new enemies added to the mix on top of letting you upgrade your weapons and armor even further. While I found myself breezing through it, it was one of the better additional modes I've seen in the genre.

Yes, These Were All Lyrics from Stumfol’s “Prisoner”

””

Sadly, there are a handful of flaws with The Surge 2. Most of them only started to crop up in the back half of my playthrough and persisted into New Game Plus. Thankfully, they all seem to be code-related, which means that through patching, they most likely can be fixed. Most notably, my game would occasionally crash after dismembering an opponent. While it was infrequent enough to not impede me overall, it was quite the annoying bug to come across. A handful of missions, specifically late-game missions, refused to complete correctly. Most notably, after rescuing an elderly couple from a nanite beast, I returned to their escort, who had wound up abandoning them. She apologized and asked that I not inform the couple of her cowardice. After agreeing, the couple disappeared again, the quest was still in my log, and I couldn't talk to the escort again to clear it.

7

The Verdict: Great

Despite the few technical hiccups mentioned, The Surge 2 is full of small touches that results in a fantastic product. The original, though divisive, still had the bones of a good game underneath it. It's good to see a developer be able to iterate and refine their take on a genre with such polish. If Sekiro didn't quite scratch that Soulslike itch and you need something new to cut your teeth on, you could do a lot worse than The Surge 2.

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John Gerritzen
Written by
Friday, 15 November 2019 14:31
Published in Action

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John Gerritzen is a programmer by education, author by hobby, and game critic by occupation. While he usually favors RPGs, he will play anything that engages him narratively or mechanically. When he's not playing games for fun or profit, he's usually reading or watching anime.

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