Just weeks after releasing Greedfall, Focus Home is back with another big release in the shape of The Surge 2. The Deck13-developed sequel is out now for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Whenever I heard the name Deck13, I’d always think back to their earlier niche titles like Jack Keane and Ankh – fairly traditional adventure games mostly geared towards PC-based fans of the classic Lucasarts examples. I never would have guessed that, years later, they’d be at the helm of a multiplatform action RPG like The Surge.
The Surge (the first game) was fairly well received, and received numerous updates and DLC releases over the past two and a half years. Work on a sequel also started fairly quickly though, and we had a demo for it back in the summer of 2018 – even before the last of the DLC packs for the original was out.
The Surge 2 builds on the foundations of its predecessors in terms of also providing a sci-fi alternative to the many Dark Souls-like experiences that we’ve seen over the past few years. But where the DLC add-ons for the first game were mostly just packages of new content, The Surge 2 feels like the result of a development process that also took a lot of community and critical feedback into account. Because of that, this is definitely a worthy sequel.
For one, there has been more attention on the story and backdrop for the game this time around. The basic premise is that you’re shot down while on your way to Jericho City and find yourself waking up in prison weeks later. Just escaping and surviving is your primary goal and as you grow stronger you start exploring the streets of Jericho City as well, which partly lies in ruin.
It’s still a much more vibrant environment than what we got in the first game though, with a more open feel to it as well as much better (and more) use of color. It may be a bleak vision of the future, but at least it’s bright to look at.
Character development is also better, although the first few hours of the game you’ll run into quite a few enemies that feel and act similar. On the side of the protagonist, however, there is a lot more “bad-ass attitude” to go with the visceral combat that the series is known for. You can be a real d*ck to non-player characters you encounter this time around, and it’s fun in a role-playing kind of sense.
Speaking of role playing – the RPG elements in The Surge 2 have been expanded upon to allow for far more customization this time around. Besides leveling up your core stats, you have access to way more gear and abilities – and cutting off an enemy’s (mechanical) limb can grant you access to some interesting upgrades. This gives you the option of going into battle with a multitude of loadout options, and might even entice you to start the game over again and play with a different playstyle. If that’s not your thing, then you can also dive back in using the new game plus mode, which not only lets you keep upgrading your existing characters but will also divulge more lore about the world through story details.
Using new gear that’s dropped by (or ‘severed from’) opponents also lets you try out new things in combat pretty much right away, without having to resort to a grind of a process to level up. It’s not gone and the fact that I still wasn’t fully leveled up after an 18 hour playthrough is a testament to that, but it’s nice to not feel stuck with what you have for too long of a stretch of time.
Combat in and of itself is more polished this time around as well, though the ‘lock on and strike after blocking’ mechanic is still a dominant element in The Surge 2. Mixing and matching between your horizontal and vertical attacks feels smooth and refined though, and it’s a satisfying melee combat system that works well. Get your timing right, and you can slice through most defenses with ease.
It’s a shame that a lot of combat in the first stretch feels a bit ‘samey’ because enemies are so alike. There’s a slight lack of diversity in the game’s boss battles as well, and they’re elements that keep The Surge 2 from being a really great action adventure instead of just being a good one. If the first game was anything to go by, however, we might see some post-release DLC that could rectify that.