The Surge 2’s early areas already show that that sci-fi Soulslike is improving on the original game in many ways.
While The Surge was a bit divisive within the Soulslike community, I liked it due to its unique sci-fi setting and limb targeting mechanics. That being said, there was definitely room for improvement with a sequel so I was highly optimistic upon learning about The Surge 2. Deck13 and Focus Home Interactive seemed to be taking many of the right steps with this sequel in the behind closed doors demo I saw at E3 last year, and I was able to prove that these were beneficial changes myself when playing the opening four hours of The Surge 2.
The Surge 2 is very much in line with the original, so if you were not a fan of its formula at all then this may not entice you. Outside of an occasionally frustrating camera, The Surge 2 proved to be a welcome improvement to the original sci-fi Soulslike that made all the right adjustments to make the opening areas of the game more enjoyable.
In the demo I played, I was able to experience the three opening areas of the game: the prison Gideon’s Rock, downtown Jericho City, and Port Nixon. Before all that though, I had to create my own character. While The Surge stuck players in the shoes of the fairly bland Warren, The Surge 2 opens things up with a customizable main character. Not only can their looks be adjusted, but their backstory as well. The main character has to end up in a Jericho City prison in some way, and this backstory determines why exactly the protagonist was in a plane crash that caused them to be whisked away to a prison. Even though this backstory did not seem to have much of an impact in the early parts of the game I played, I am hoping it will come into play as the game goes on.
While The Surge 2’s storytelling is still a bit vague and environmental like many Soulslikes, the story does seem to be a bit more in the forefront this time around. A more traditional dialogue system is included, and multiple characters will give out quests to the main character a bit more frequently. Even though this is standard fare for RPGs, it makes sense that a city with some struggling survivors would have a bit more personality, like an end-times cult, within it than a mostly abandoned CREO facility. The Surge 2 is connected to the original game, with Warren outright being in some of the audio logs, so those who did enjoy the plot of the original should expect and interesting and more dynamic continuation of that story.
As for the gameplay, it is mostly the same, albeit a bit smoother and faster. Attacking, blocking, dodging, and limb targeting are all in line with the first game, and are strengthened by the variety of weapons. From heavy two-handed pieces of metal to dual-wielded defibrillators, The Surge 2 gave me quite a few options in how I wanted to play in just the first few hours of the game. Animations feel more varied than the original The Surge as well, which kept things fresh as I constantly switched weapons. As players have come to expect from The Surge games, the player can target body parts and cut them off when enough damage is done. Doing so is also necessary to get the schematics for and parts to build new augments for the playable character.
Like with the original, the limb targeting mechanics really helps The Surge 2 stand out and stay fresh with every encounter. With the smother animations and faster drone with a lot of variations, I am already enjoying The Surge 2’s combat more than the first, and I can’t wait to see where the developers take it later on with more robotic enemies and boss fights. The Surge 2 is just as difficult as a player would expect from a Soulslike as well, so this should be on the radar of those of you looking for a challenge.
The only element of The Surge 2 that did not really jive with me during this demo was the camera. Like the first game, it was not always player-friendly in tight spaces or when I was locked onto the enemies. While it was fairly unintrusive for the first part of my demo, with Port Nixon its problems really started to show. It got stuck or would set itself to awkward angles, and in the final boss fight that had a fast-moving enemy with small limbs to target, the camera would get confused and ultimately cause me to not see deadly attacks headed my way. When the camera starts to interfere with the game’s fairness, it becomes a more obvious problem. Hopefully, the developers will fix this camera so it is a bit more stable come The Surge 2’s release.
Its level design also was a step up from the original, with Gideon’s Rock, Jericho City, and Port Nixon all being more varied than most of the areas players visited in The Surge’s gameplay. While The Surge 2 is no visual powerhouse, all three areas were much more distinct visually. Jericho City itself proved to be the most enjoyable and largest locale to explore. It was also cool discovering secrets, and a new tagging system with a special drone allows for Dark Souls style messages from player to player, though it is with images instead of text. While Port Nixon was my least favorite of the three due to its brown color palette and the aforementioned camera issues, I still appreciated that it had its own unique identity from the first two areas I explored.
The Surge 2 may just feel like a refined version of the 2017 original in many ways, but that is by no means a bad thing. That title had a lot of areas where it could improve like animation, level design, and story, and The Surge 2 seems to be taking steps to improve in all of those areas. While Dark Souls 2 is the black sheep of that series, The Surge 2 seems like it will be the definitive entry in what is now a sci-fi Soulslike franchise. Please, just fix that camera Deck13.
The Surge 2 releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on September 24, 2019.