Deck13 and Focus Home Interactive make The Surge better, stronger, and faster than it was with this sequel.
Deck13 and Focus Home Interactive’s Soulslike The Surge was somewhat divisive when it came out in 2017, but I enjoyed it. That being said, the original did have several areas where things could be improved. The story and voice acting in the original weren’t the best, the environments got bland, and the bosses could be painful to beat sometimes. Deck13 took that feedback in stride when making The Surge 2, hoping to overcome the original game’s faults.
For the most part, they succeeded. While The Surge 2 is similar to the original on a basic level, the gameplay has been refined, the environments are a lot more engaging, and the story has been fleshed out even more. An obnoxious camera and some poor textures can make an otherwise solid roguelike frustrating, but The Surge 2 is a solid sequel that may win over those who were not fans of the original.
The Surge 2 approaches its story differently than the first game. Most notably, players don’t follow a preset character, they create their own. The character creator won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but it is deep enough to where players can mess around with to create themselves or a weird monstrosity. The Surge 2 follows this created character as they awaken in a prison following a mysterious plane crash in Jericho City and try to scavenge, survive, and find a girl with powers who may have caused your plane crash.
Storytelling is also a bit more direct, with there being many characters to talk to in several hubs, each with their own unique dialogue tree and sometimes side quests. My personal favorite was a gardening robot that only spoke in beeps and boops. Even if the story did not personally enthrall me, a lot more focus was put into it this time around. The characters are quirky and well-voiced acted, and the story takes some interesting twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. I definitely prefer this more straightforward, dialogue-focused take to the amnesia-based and mostly unspoken storyline of the original.
Varied environments also keep things more engaging and are by far the biggest improvement over the original. From the urban jungle of downtown Jericho City to the actual jungles and forests in the nearby Gideon’s Rock, The Surge 2’s areas are all colorful and intricately designed for players. Like the best Soulslikes and the actual Souls games, strong landmarks keep players aware of their location without a map and there are tons of shortcuts to reward progression. The Surge 2’s areas are also filled with enemies to take on, and things remain just as engaging, if not better. The Surge 2 gives this series a visual identity, which it can hopefully take in stride going forward.
The Surge 2 plays like the original with some refinement. The limb targeting system returns and feels quicker and more polished than ever before. Mauling your enemies before chopping their limbs off continues to be satisfying, and seeing one’s character grow over time thanks to the blueprints and scrap gained through combat is still rewarding. The implants and core power systems once again splice in a neat risk-vs-reward system that has players deciding which aspects of their character they want to be stronger or weaker than normal in certain areas to support their playstyle.
It’s also much easier to switch between limbs and enemies now, making crowd control easier and combat even faster than before. Combat drones are more versatile and even play into an online aspect of the game where players can tag the environment with graffiti for others, whether it be with hints or just for the fun of it. Directional parrying and blocking ensure that the players always have the tools to defend themselves. Notwithstanding any outside issues, combat never feels unfair.
While the environments and combat of The Surge 2 are improved, they also lead to its biggest downfall: the camera. Though it could be occasionally frustrating in the original, the camera feels like it is actively working against you sometimes in The Surge 2. The lock-on systems just don’t mix well with some cramped environments or fast and large enemies. For a game that is so difficult to begin with and relies on anticipating enemy attacks with the directional blocking system, this camera system proves to be really detrimental. Even though bosses are mechanically designed better now, most fights were still hindered thanks to some kind of camera issue.
The Surge 2 has made many great improvements elsewhere, so it is a shame to see a poor camera drag things down. It can also be a bit rough around the edges technically, with many textures sometimes failing to load in properly on my base PS4. The game already isn’t a looker, so these visual issues don’t help. The Surge 2 takes all lot of steps in the right direction, but the camera and overall presentation still do need to be refined further.
Though those problems can make parts of this sequel annoying, The Surge 2 is still a fun improvement over the original that will win more people over with its tight and well-designed environments and combat. The Surge series remains the uncontested champion of sci-fi Soulslikes, and The Surge 2 establishes it as a Soulslike series that players can confidently continue to look forward to while FromSoftware moves onto new things like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Elden Ring.